Huntington Beach loves its history.
Since my column a couple of weeks ago about my goal to locate old buildings as the first stage in trying to create a historic marker program around the city, I have received some truly fascinating emails from people regarding sites I had little or no knowledge about.
I wanted to focus on one this week because it's a terrific example of how we regularly pass places that hide their histories well. For me there is always something compelling about a building or structure that has led different lives over the years, and here we have one that truly fits the bill.
It began with this note: "Hi Chris, my name is Chris Gruber and I work as a firefighter for Huntington Beach." He told me the Subway sandwich shop on Beach Boulevard between Warner and Slater used to be Mario's Mexican deli and liquor store and has served as the Ocean View Fire Station. "I have some old pictures and a little narrative information about it. Let me know if you would like the information."
So, thanks to Mr. Gruber, I'll never be able to pass that Subway again without thinking about the building's interesting history.
It was constructed in 1953 and is considered post-World War II architecture. It was included in the Huntington Beach 2009 survey of historic buildings.
On July 1, 1964, it opened as the Ocean View Fire Station. Ocean View was obtained from the then-Orange County Fire Department in a trade. Chief Bud Higgins traded two older fire engines to Orange County for the property with the agreement that it would become a city station staffed with two paid personnel and volunteers.
It remained in service until 1972, when Murdy Fire Station opened.
Since 1972, various businesses have occupied the structure, at 17211 Beach Blvd. Until recently it housed Mario's Mexican deli and liquor store but since 2011 it has been a Subway sandwich shop.
Gruber also included some photos taken the last day that Ocean View Station was occupied. They appear to show the firefighters painting over the station name. The people in the pictures are Bob Baker, Brett Morehead and Mike Brown.
When you stand there today with an old photo, you can clearly line up most characteristics of the building on the outside. But inside, things are radically different.
Still, the structure holds a special history here in Huntington Beach. Relative to the rest of the world, an early 1950s building may not seem like much. But in a youngish California culture that sees the destruction of, in my opinion, far too many vintage buildings, it is refreshing to know that this one has managed to stand for more than 60 years.
To me this is a great example of a site deserving of a marker to explain its history to anybody passing by or having lunch there. If you can imagine dozens of these markers placed throughout the city to help us learn about our interesting buildings, then you begin to get an idea of just how informative a program like this might be.
I would encourage you to please keep the information coming in as I continue to build a database that I hope one day will result in a Huntington Beach historic marker program. Thank you in particular to Chris Gruber for this information, and thanks to him and his fellow firefighters for their dedicated service.
On another note, I'd like to add a personal message here to my mom, Louise Epting, who turns 82 on June 27. Like my family, she also chose to make Huntington Beach her new home not too long ago. And she is always the first to read this column when it pops up online early in the week. So thank you mom for everything. Happy birthday and I love you very much.
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 19 books, including the new "Baseball in Orange County," from Arcadia Publishing. You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at http://www.facebook.com/hbindependent.