WASHINGTON — During an unforgettable, transformative year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation unveils its much-anticipated list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
The good news is that these potential losses are wholly preventable, if we decide to take action to save 11 places that have made a lasting impact on American culture.
One of the sites on the list, and one of only two in California, is Harada House in Riverside, a significant part of Japanese American history.
“It is at times like these,” said Paul Edmondson, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “when cultural treasures mean the most. They remind us of what we have accomplished as a people during other periods of struggle, they mark the pathways we have traveled as a nation, and they remind us of who we can become if we work to realize the promise of our society.
“When so many are questioning the way forward, historic places have the power to reveal the possibilities of our future. These 11 places are all endangered, and all need our help to save them.”
Annually, this list spotlights important examples of our nation’s architectural and cultural heritage that, without applied action and immediate advocacy, will be destroyed or face irreparable damage. Due to the passionate work of preservationists, trust members, donors, concerned citizens, government agencies and businesses, placement on list is often the saving grace of important cultural landmarks.
In the 33-year history of this 11 Most Endangered Historic Places List, more than 300 places have been declared under imminent threat of destruction, and 95 percent of them have been saved by the advocacy and attention brought to their plight by their placement on this list.
“I am particularly proud,” Edmondson continued, “of this year’s 11 Most Endangered List because it so ably demonstrates the trust’s commitment to tell the full American story. We believe that diversity in preservation can help change false narratives that can lead to misunderstanding and division in our society. This year’s list underscores that many cultural perspectives have helped define what it means to be American.”
“These 11 Most Endangered Historic Places demonstrate that there is a great urgency to ensure that we preserve and revere the places that tell the full, true history of the United States,” said Katherine Malone-France, the trust’s chief preservation officer. “In a time of challenge in this country, preservation represents a kind of optimistic reinvestment in our nation that can give hope to communities and bring people together.
“Preservation is a way of reaffirming our commitment to each other because it is a tangible way in which we demonstrate respect for one another’s contributions to our shared heritage. As dedicated supporters seek to restore vibrancy and vitality to these places, they enrich our communities, our economy, and our culture.”
Many of these sites offer important opportunities for concerned citizens to take action and to advocate in favor of saving American heritage. To learn more about this year’s list and find out what you can do to help preserve them, go to: www.SavingPlaces.org/11Most
The 2020 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places (in alphabetical order):
Alazan-Apache Courts, San Antonio, Texas
Hall of Waters, Excelsior Springs, Mo.
Harada House, Riverside
National Negro Opera Company House, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Ponce Historic Zone, Ponce, Puerto Rico
Rassawek, Columbia, Va.
Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, Chicago
Sun-n-Sand Motor Hotel, Jackson, Miss.
Terrace Plaza Hotel, Cincinnati, Ohio
West Berkeley Shellmound and Village Site, Berkeley
Yates Memorial Hospital, Ketchikan, Alaska
History of Harada House
Harada House on Lemon Street in Riverside was the focus of a landmark court case brought by the State of California against Jukichi Harada, a Japanese immigrant living in Riverside. The case tested the constitutionality of laws preventing immigrants, primarily from Japan, from owning property in California.
Around 1900, Harada emigrated from Japan to the U.S. and in 1903, was joined by his wife, Ken, and their son, Masaatsu. The family settled in Riverside, eventually having several more children and leasing and operating a rooming house and a restaurant. After his five-year-old son Tadao died of diphtheria while they were living in the rooming house, Harada began to look for a single-family home in a nice neighborhood near the children’s school and the family’s church.
In 1915, he bought a house on Lemon Street five blocks from the family restaurant. The purchase of the house paved the way for the landmark court case The People of State of California vs. Jukichi Harada, Mine Harada, Sumi Harada, and Yoshizo Harada.
At the time that Harada bought the house, California’s Webb-Haney Act (also known as the Alien Land Law of 1913) barred “aliens ineligible for [U.S.] citizenship” from owning property in the state. The Webb-Haney Act drew, in part, on the Naturalization Act of 1870, which had expanded naturalization (the ability to become a citizen) to people of African descent or those originally from Africa, but not to other non-white immigrants.
These other immigrants, primarily from Asia, were considered ineligible for U.S. citizenship and could not become U.S. citizens. This meant that Harada could not legally own the house on Lemon Street.
Knowing that he was barred from owning property, Harada placed ownership of the house in the names of his three American-born children – Mine, Sumi, and Yoshizo – who were all U.S. citizens. He had bought a small piece of land in Mine’s name a few months before and there had been no issues with the ownership, so Harada probably felt safe placing the house in his three children’s names. In addition, he wanted to ensure that the children would always have a home.
After the purchase, several of Harada’s neighbors in the predominantly white community formed a committee to persuade him to sell the house. Harada refused, saying that it was owned by his American-born children and that he had no legal interest in the property. The committee then approached the California Attorney General’s Office and asked that Harada be charged with violating the Webb-Haney Act.
Although the house had been purchased in the names of Harada’s three U.S.-born children, the committee argued that the real purchaser was Harada, who had provided the money to buy the property.
The state’s first complaint was filed in Riverside Superior Court in October 1916, and the first hearings in the case were held in December 1916. The case attracted local, national, and international attention. This was due in part to the relationship between the U.S. and Japan, an emerging international power.
In 1907, the two countries had entered into a formal “Gentleman’s Agreement,” which said that Japan would not issue any passports to Japanese laborers trying to enter the U.S., and the U.S. would not restrict other Japanese immigration. The Agreement was a result of rising anti-Japanese laws and sentiments in California and was meant to reduce tensions between the two countries. The immigration provisions in the agreement were formalized in a 1911 treaty.
Because of the treaty and the fact that the U.S. had entered World War I in 1917, with Japan as one of its allies, the Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. followed the trial closely, feeling that it should not be ignored by the Japanese government.
The trial lasted for two years, with numerous hearings, continuances, and postponements. On Sept. 14, 1918, Judge Hugh Craig of the Riverside Superior Court ruled in favor of the Harada children. He upheld the Alien Land Law of 1913, reiterating that aliens ineligible for citizenship could not own land, but ruled that American-born children of aliens were entitled to all the constitutional guarantees of citizenship under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, including land ownership. This meant that the Harada children were the legal owners of the house on Lemon Street.
In his opinion, Craig stated, “They [Mine, Sumi, and Yoshizo] are American citizens, of somewhat humble station, it may be, but still entitled to equal protection of the laws of our land…The political rights of American citizens are the same, no matter what their heritage.”
After the conclusion of the court case, the Harada family continued to own and live in the house until May 23, 1942, when, because of their Japanese ancestry, they were uprooted and sent to three different U.S. government camps — Tule Lake (California), Poston (Arizona), and Topaz (Utah).
The family had six adult children at the time – Masaatsu, Sumi, Yoshizo, Mine, Harold, Clark, and adopted son Roy Hashimura. While the family members were incarcerated, Jess Stebler, a family friend, lived in the Lemon Street house, cared for the property and managed all of the Haradas’ business affairs.
In 1943, Harold, Sumi, and Roy successfully petitioned for a transfer to join their parents at Topaz. Ken Harada passed away in 1943, a few days after her three children were transferred, and Jukichi Harada passed away in 1944. Also during the war, Harold and Yoshizo served in the U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team, one of the most decorated units of World War II.
After the war only Sumi, the youngest daughter, returned to the house in Riverside. She opened it to displaced Japanese American families and provided a place for them to rebuild their lives. Sumi continued to live in the house until 1998, when she moved to a nursing home. She owned the house until her death in 2000, at the age of 90.
After Sumi’s death, her brother Harold inherited the house. Following his death, his heirs transferred the Harada House in 2004 to the City of Riverside under the stewardship of the Riverside Metropolitan Museum.
The house that Jukichi Harada bought in 1915 was a single-story “saltbox” cottage with a front and back yard. Harada remodeled the house in 1916, adding a second story with four bedrooms, a bathroom, an open front porch, a small garden with vegetables and water plants, and a small concrete fishpond. In the 1940s, the dining room was modified, resulting in a lowered ceiling.
Today, the Harada House looks much the same as it did when it was remodeled in 1916. Some of the interior features remain in place, including the note Harold Harada wrote on a bedroom wall when the family was forced to leave the house – “Evacuated on May 23, 1942 Sat. 7 am.”
In addition, artifacts from the house and collections of papers and articles have been inventoried and preserved by the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, which is in the process of preserving the house and plans to open it to the public.
The Harada House, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 3356 Lemon St. For more information, visit the Riverside Metropolitan Museum website: https://www.riversideca.gov/museum/haradahouse/