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Historical Downtown Walking Tour

This Walking Tour of Historic Downtown Huntington Beach was written by the Huntington Beach Historic Resources Board and printed in partnership with Visit Huntington Beach.

Download the original Historical Downtown Walking Tour as a pdf or use the text below to begin your walking tour.  For a map of the tour, please use the pdf version.

  1. Begin at the Visitor Information Kiosk at the foot of the Huntington Beach Pier.
  2. Huntington Beach Pier. The Huntington Beach Pier has had a tumultuous history, from its beginnings in 1904 as a rough pinewood construction to the one seen today.  Dedicated in 1992, the current pier is the longest concrete municipal pier in the United States.  Throughout its history, storms have destroyed the pier and its buildings three times: in 1914, 1938 and 1983.  In the early 1900s, the Pacific Electric Railway building near the pier was a stop for PE's Red Cars.  Railroad mogul Henry Huntington ensured the cars ran through Huntington Beach to Newport Beach.  In 1910, a Saltwater Plunge and bath house were constructed at the current site of Pier Plaza.  The first trailer campground in the nation was located to the south of the pier.
  3. Pier Plaza.  In 1939, the Pavalon Ballroom was erected where Duke's Restaurant now stands.  In 1947, a Fun Zone complete with a ferris wheel and other attractions were added on the site of what is now the pier memorial plaque.
  4. 400 Pacific Coast Highway. In 1905, the Huntington Beach Company had offices on this block.  Headed by Henry Huntington, the company was responsible for much of the early development of the city.  By 1910, this block also contained the Ocean Wave Hotel, with the Crescent Theater located below the hotel.  The only original building left on the block, built circa 1905, now houses El Don Liquor store and Papa Joe's Pizza.  Eight original apartments on the second floor are still available for rent.
  5. The Strand on 5th Street. The entrance to Shorebreak Hotel was once the site of the legendary Surf Theatre.  Built in 1925, it was originally called Scott's Theatre before becoming the Roxie and then the Surf Theater in 1941.  The building was demolished in the mid-1970s to allow for future development.  Seats from the Surf Theatre were once on exhibit at the International Surfing Museum (seen later in the tour).
  6. M.E. Helme Antique Store. The M.E. Helme House Furnishing Co. building, built in 1904, is an example of early 20th century western false front architecture.  The great-granddaughter of Matthew Helme and her husband run the antique store there, and live in the Helme/Worthy House next door.  Both Helme buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Look down to see the rings for hitching horses still in their original place.
  7. Helme/Worthy House. Located at 128 6th Street and built in 1901 in Santa Ana, the Helme/Worthy House is an example of modified Queen Anne clapboard architecture.  Matthew Helme purchased the home in 1904 and had it moved to this location.  He was a member of the first board of trustees in Huntington Beach and the city's fourth mayor.  Helme fought for the city's incorporation and worked for the development of a fire department, street lighting, and a water system.  The building is currently under renovation by the Worthy family.
  8. 215 and 227 8th Street. Built in 1922, examples of California bungalow architecture are seen at these two locations.  Bungalows like these once filled the downtown area.  Take note of the capped-off blue oil well and oil tank behind the fence.
  9. First Church of Christ, Scientist. Located at 310 8th Street is the First Church of Christ, Scientist, constructed in 1928.  It is an example of period revival church architecture.  The grass parking lot was patterned after the grass lots at Knott's Berry Farm at the time.
  10. Evangeline Hotel. The spacious Evangeline Hotel at 421 8th Street was built in 1905.  This Craftsman-style building opened in 1906 as an elegant 18-room hotel.  Civil War veterans who attended Grand Army of the Republic gatherings often stayed here.  At the end of the 20th century, it was a youth hostel.  It is now a private residence.
  11. 504 7th Street.  Built in 1905, this property originally had a barn in the back.  The palm tree in front was also planted in 1905 and continues to thrive.  Notice the original concrete block sidewalk and the writing "Magnolia Ave" in the cement.
  12. Main Street Library.  The mid-century modern Main Street Library was built in 1951 and designed by the Los Angeles architecture firm of McLellan, MacDonald and Marwith.  It features a marble entrance, floor-to-ceiling windows, and is one of the first examples of innovative concrete tilt-up construction.  A grandfather clock in the library was built by the Huntington Beach High School Class of 1915.  Bernard Schecter, a local resident, has stopped by the library to wind the clock every Tuesday for over 17 years.
  13. Triangle Park. The triangle of grass that is home to the Main Street Library is Triangle Park.  First used as a park in 1912, it was then a baseball diamond surrounded by signboards with advertisements promoting the city.  The land was deeded to the City of Huntington Beach in 1917 by the Huntington Beach Company.
  14. 415 6th Street.  Notice the beach cottage at 415 6th Street.  The cottage was moved to this site from the oil fields in the 1930s.  At the time, many houses were moved for safety from dangerous oil fires or to make way for additional oil drills.
  15. Community Bible Church.  Originally known as the First Baptist Church, the Community Bible Church was dedicated in 1906, three years before Huntington Beach was incorporated.  This is one of the oldest churches still standing in Huntington Beach today.
  16. Beach Court Apartments. The Beach Court Apartments, located at 323-327 6th Street, and other courts like it, provided residences during the oil industry boom.  These courts, built in 1923, are examples of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture.  Silent film star Rudolph Valentino is said to haunt the Beach Court Apartments.
  17. 311 and 317 5th Street. The 1910 Craftsman bungalow at 317 5th Street has a large basement, which is quite unusual for a beach house; while 311 5th Street, built in 1931, is an example of zigzag moderne design.  
  18. 200 Block of 5th Street. 218-220 5th Street are circa 1908 examples of neo-classical commercial architecture. This building once housed the City Hall, Fire Department and City Jail.  The façade was redone in the 1930s, but the original brick exterior in the rear of the building will be visible later in the tour. 210 5th Street, now Luggatti's Restaurant, was built circa 1920 and was both the city's garage and part of an auto dealership.  Then, in the 1930s and 40s, it was a bowling alley.
  19. Shank House. The Shank House, a two-story craftsman bungalow, was built in 1913 for Dr. George Shank, one of the first doctors in Huntington Beach.  Around 1926, this bungalow was moved from its original location on 20th Street.  The City of Huntington Beach obtained the property in 2004 for use as a police substation.
  20. Jail Cells. Built in 1916, these brick and mortar jail cells are now used as freezer storage for nearby restaurants.  Notice the original brick exterior from the old City Hall, Fire Department and City Jail (see item #18).
  21. International Surfing Museum. This deco/moderne building at 411 Olive Avenue was built during the oil boom years in 1935 and was once the office of Dr. Hawes, a general practitioner who treated burns from oil fires.  In the 1980s, the International Surfing Museum was established here.  Among its previous exhibits were the original seats from the Surf Theater (see item #5). The museum has since undergone extensive renovation and now features rotating exhibits throughout the year.  It also houses the Huntington Beach Welcome Center for visitor information.
  22. Downtown Post Office. The United States Post Office, built in 1935 and restored in 1991, was the work of architect Louis A. Simon.  He also designed the Federal Courthouse in Downtown Los Angeles.  Many original features still exist in the building's interior.
  23. 200 Block of Main Street.  At 217 Main Street is the former Talbert-Leatherman Building, built circa 1904.  Originally Pioneer Feed & Fuel Company, it is one of the oldest commercial buildings in town.  This western false front building housed a number of businesses over the years, including a Japanese market.  Huntington Beach's first gas pump was also here.  The building was restored in 1990 and is currently Longboard Pub & Restaurant. At 213 Main Street is family-owned and operated Sugar Shack, built in 1918 and established as a restaurant in 1967.  This building has been host to businesses including the Huntington Beach Sheet Metal Works (1919) and Huntington Beach Electric (1924).
  24. 126 Main Street. Now part of Huntington Surf and Sport (HSS), this building at the corner of Main Street and Walnut Avenue was once the site of Standard Market (1928).  Note the plaque outside the entrance to HSS.  Around the corner is another plaque about Standard Market's history.
  25. Beach Island. Across the street at 127 Main Street, the streamline moderne building was originally Huntington Beach Cut Rate Drugs.  It was built during the city's second oil boom circa 1935.
  26. Perq's. At 117 Main Street is Perq's, originally the Pacific City School in 1905.  Around 1914 it was rebuilt as the real estate offices of Seely & Lavering.  After the discovery of oil in 1920, and the arrival of thousands of oil "roughnecks", H.F. Linder bought the building in 1922, turning it into the Palace Pool Hall on the first floor and the Palace Hotel on the second floor.  It remained a pool hall under different names until 1952, when Brennemon Photography Studios moved in.  In the 1960s, the Hall family ran a photography studio on the ground floor and lived upstairs.
  27. Pierside Pavilion. The legendary Golden Bear once stood upon the spot that is now Pierside Pavilion.  Opened in 1929, it was demolished in 1986 to make way for downtown redevelopment.  The Golden Bear was a popular entertainment venue featuring stars such as Linda Rondstadt, Arlo Guthrie, Robin Williams, The Doors, Steve Martin, and Jerry Garcia, among many others.