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Memorial Gardens Building hits the road

Subject of a preservation effort is rolled away from longtime site to a temporary spot enroute to, eventually, a permanent safe home.

September 24, 2013|By Bradley Zint
  • The Memorial Gardens Building is moved from near the Pacific Amphitheatre to Lot G, a temporary location, within the Orange County Fairgrounds on Tuesday morning. The structure is a former Army barracks and is nearly 70 years old.
The Memorial Gardens Building is moved from near the Pacific… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

A little more than a year ago, Bob Palazzola was worried that a piece of Costa Mesa history was doomed to meet the business end of a bulldozer.

But on Tuesday morning, the Costa Mesa Historical Society president watched as his once cautiously optimistic hopes became reality.

Starting at 7 a.m., the Memorial Gardens Building was slowly moved from its longtime home next to the Pacific Amphitheatre to a temporary location elsewhere on the Orange County Fairgrounds. Officials plan to keep the former Army barracks in Lot G on the eastern edge of the 150-acre property until its permanent location and purpose are finalized.

Palazzola, camera in hand, couldn't help but grin as the building rolled in his direction, supported by beams and no less than 32 wheels.

"I still can't believe it. It's surreal," he said, the moving truck's deep growling within earshot. "It's nice to see talk become action in something like this, really. I thought we were really against the odds."

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Palazzola was told last year that the 4,800-square-foot Memorial Gardens Building was going to be demolished, with its historical elements salvaged and somehow repurposed. In its place would be a new entrance plaza for the Pacific Amphitheatre that fairgrounds officials said would better connect the outdoor concert venue to the summertime fair.

But the nearly 70-year-old building — one of the few remaining Santa Ana Army Air Base structures left at the fairgrounds property, which was once a small part of the 1,337-acre base — held a symbolic place of honor in the hearts of many veterans and preservationists. They protested the idea of it being turned to rubble.

After the Daily Pilot reported the concerns, also noting the building's history and Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach's interest in the matter, the Fair Board voted in July to save the building. The board later allocated an estimated $112,000 toward the job.

"Be careful. Because it's an old building, it might fall apart," Cornell Iliescu of the Noble Cause Foundation, which honors the sacrifice of World War II veterans, told the Fair Board this summer. "I don't want to be without it."

The chosen contractor, Cen-Cal Heavy Moving, kept the building intact throughout the nearly two-hour relocation. To accommodate the move, however, parts of the structure had to be taken off when the Montclair-based company lifted the building off its foundation earlier this month.

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