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Fair Board OKs moving Memorial Gardens Building

About $112,000 is set aside to relocate the structure, first to a temporary site until a permanent home can be found.

August 22, 2013|By Bradley Zint
  • The Memorial Gardens Building at the Orange County Fairgrounds, pictured here in the 1960s, was formerly known as the Orange County Memorial Garden Center. Around it was a memorial garden dedicated to veterans, those who died in war and those who served at the Santa Ana Army Air Base.
The Memorial Gardens Building at the Orange County Fairgrounds,… (Courtesy COSTA…)

The Orange County Fair Board on Thursday approved spending an estimated $112,000 to relocate the once-threatened Memorial Gardens Building.

Work is scheduled to begin Monday toward moving the World War II-era structure to Lot G on the eastern side of the 150-acre fairgrounds, near the 55 Freeway, said Gary Hardesty, the fairgrounds' chief technology and production officer.

The former barracks, once part of a large Army base that comprised about 1,300 acres of modern-day Costa Mesa, had been slated for demolition this month to make way for a new Pacific Amphitheatre entrance plaza.

Though fairgrounds officials said they intended to salvage some of the building's historical aspects, preservationists from the Costa Mesa Historical Society and others protested the move out of concern for veterans and local history.

Lot G will be the 4,800-square-foot, two-story building's temporary location before a permanent spot is found, Hardesty said. Fairgrounds officials hope to have the job done by Sept. 23. They also anticipate being able to move the building in one piece.

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Historical society President Bob Palazzola, who attended Thursday's meeting, said he was told last year that the building couldn't withstand relocation.

"All of a sudden, with different people looking at it, including [Orange County Supervisor] John Moorlach ... he thought, 'This could be moved,'" he said. "Then everybody started jumping to the other side."

Still, Palazzola said, it's a good thing that the Memorial Gardens Building has been saved, though Thursday's move is "barely the first step" toward the building's final destiny.

"There's a long journey ahead," he said. "I'll be happy to see it moved out of harm's way."

Historians have said that during the building's nearly 70-year history, it served as a barracks and an infirmary. In the years after the war, it underwent various structural improvements.

For decades, the Fair Board conducted its meetings there. During this summer's fair, the building hosted Dr. Entomo's Palace of Exotic Wonders.

The Orange County Wine Society, which regularly uses the building, will be relocated to another facility, fairgrounds officials have said.

The Fair Board voted in July to have staff look into moving the building. Since 1970, the site around the Memorial Gardens Building has been a California Point of Historical Interest, though the designation would not have been powerful enough to prevent the building's demolition.

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