Huell Howser's 'Gold' archives preserved by Chapman University
In 20 years of traversing the state for his program "California Gold," Huell Howser took his viewers to the Mojave Desert to learn the story of the world's tallest and oldest Joshua tree, to the Eastside of L.A. to explore the history of mariachi and to the small Kern County town of Wasco to see and smell acres and acres of rosebushes.
And now, years' worth of Howser's work has been digitized and made available to be viewed for free online, which he requested when he donated his "California Gold" archive to Chapman University in Orange.
Howser -- a California television icon described in a Times obituary as "traditional and unflashy -- highlighting familiar and off-the-beaten-track" locales for his public television programs -- died Sunday night at 67.
"Huell Howser was a beloved California icon, a true original and a truly good man," Chapman President James L. Doti said in statement issued Monday. "He loved California so very much, and above all he loved people: their life stories, their interests, their passions. And, of course, people adored him with equal intensity."
In recent years, Howser donated several pieces of real estate and his personal art collection to the university, in addition to the video archives. Among the real estate is his "Volcano House," a Midcentury Modern domed structure that sits atop an ancient cinder-cone volcano in the Mojave Desert. The university plans to use the home for study tours and projects by faculty and students in such disciplines as environmental science, astronomy and film.
Chapman planned to award Howser an honorary doctorate and will do so posthumously at its May commencement.
The university has also organized a showcase of Howser's artifacts on the main floor of the Leatherby Libraries, as well as set up a memorial wall online alongside the video archives.
"His passing," Doti added, "leaves a California-sized hole in our hearts, but his legacy will always live on here at Chapman."
-- Rick Rojas
Photo: Huell Howser kayaking past the tufa towers on Mono Lake. Credit: Cameron Tucker