Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rt. Rev. Joseph H. Johnson
415 S. Grand Avenue, Pasadena

(updated October, 2017)

Next up was a grand house on Grand Ave.  The Right Reverend Joseph Horsfall Johnson(1847-1928), along his wife Isabel (1851-1940) and only son Reginald (1888-1952), had moved in sometime prior to 1900.  In 1903 the City of Pasadena published a book extolling the virtues of the city--the Johnson's house was included.

The Johnson Residence at 415 Grand Avenue, 1903
Rt. Reverend Johnson commuted each day to his office in downtown Los Angeles near St. Paul's Cathedral--after all he was the Episcopal Bishop for Southern California, a job he took in 1896. No doubt he approved of the Pasadena Short Line, opened in 1902, which shortened his commute significantly.

In 1909 he founded Bishop's School in San Diego with the financial help of the Scripps sisters. By 1912 he was heavily involved with Pomona College, serving on their Board of Trustees. It was probably good odds that Rev. Johnson was a key link that allowed for the creation of Scripps College (also part of the Claremont Colleges).  

Around 1910 son Reginald, still living at home, began his architect career, and would go on to become well known for his designs of churches (including St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, which his father consecrated) and single-family residences.

Below is the photo that appeared in our book. The image had not changed from an earlier 1906 edition.

415 South Grand Avenue circa 1906

Rt. Rev. Johnson ca. 1910

The Johnsons in 1921
 In 1921 the Johnsons decided to take some time off.  Applying for passports to go to Europe, Rev. Johnson cited "health" as the object of his visit. At the time he was 74, and Isabella 71.

In 1923 Rev. Johnson presided at the funeral of Arthur Letts, Broadway Department Store founder. As thanks, the Letts' children donated funds to provide a new pulpit for St. Paul's Cathedral.

It appears that son Reginald designed a house in the Huntington Library area intended for his mother and father in 1927. Sadly, Rev. Johnson died in 1928 and is buried at San Gabriel Cemetery. After his death, Isabel moved out of the house to a new one designed by son Reginald, located at 1590 Lombardy Road. With her son's house at the other end of the block (1380 Lombardy), she remained at this address until her death in 1940, and was buried in the same plot with Joseph. Reginald and his wife Kathleen are buried there too.

Today's house was built in 1929 in the Georgian style, by son Reginald, and became known as the Francis House. From aerial photos the lot appears to be about the same size, with the Arroyo Seco starting behind the house, providing great views across the canyon. 

A 2010 aerial image of the property

Old Homes of Los Angeles

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I. N. Van Nuys -- 1445 West 6th Street

Updated 4/10/16

One of Southern California's earliest pioneers,  Isaac Newton Van Nuys (1836-1912) first came to the San Fernando Valley in 1871, working with Isaac Lankershim, an even earlier California pioneer. At the time Lankershim and other investors owned the southern half of the San Fernando Valley, using it to raise sheep and wool. Then in 1873, Van Nuys and Lankershim's son James Boon Lankershim joined in, creating the Los Angeles Farming and Milling Co. After a severe drought in 1875, Van Nuys tried raising dry land wheat, with such success that by 1885 the company harvested more wheat than any other in the world. Among innovations to get to a world market was the installation of a toll road over the Santa Monica Mountains--today's I-405.

I. N. Van Nuys ca. 1909

Then in 1880 Van Nuys took Isaac Lankershim's daughter Susanna's hand in marriage, eventually raising three children. With the great success of wheat farming, Van Nuys had a hotel erected in downtown L.A. (1896), and built a new, 12,500 square foot showplace residence just west of downtown.  Consisting of three floors, the top floor held a large meeting room with stage and footlights. Visitors could stay overnight in any of eleven bedrooms, adjacent to eight baths.The main floor included a library, sitting room, dining room, den, and a large formal living room.

In 1900, the newly built mansion had in residence, Isaac, Susanna, daughters Annis (known as Annie) and Kate, son James B., Susanna's mother Annis, and three servants.  

The Mansion in 1904 (courtesy of


1445 West 6th Street in 1910

The residence stood on the northeast corner of Loma and West Sixth St. Today the site is the Rampart station of the LA Police Department. But in 1909 it was pretty much on the edge of town.  This bird's eye view done that same year gives a good overview of the neighborhood. Note the Van Nuys property at center, just below the "Site of Crown Palace".

The area in 1909
(courtesy of

Today of course it's very different, as the home of a Los Angeles police department station.

The view per Google Maps:

1445 West 6th Street today

But what happened to the house?

By the time of Isaac's passing in 1912, the fashionable areas of Los Angeles were moving west, especially along Wilshire Blvd. and north. By 1914 the family had decided to move, but widow Susanna could not bear to part with the house, which held many dreams and events for the family, including a recent wedding for daughter Kate. And so it was decided the house would be moved to a site in a new subdivision called Windsor Square. A contract was let, and the house was divided into several sections, and moved over three miles.

A view of the move on a map:

The (probable) path for the move of the Van Nuys mansion
(courtesy of Google maps)

Son James Benton was in charge of the move, but both he and mother Susanna kept their address at the Van Nuys building downtown. But in 1919 Susanna took residence in Santa Monica and J. Benton (as he now called himself) was at the house in Windsor Square.

Susanna passed away in 1923, and son J. Benton continued to live with his wife Emily, and family at 357 S. Lorraine Blvd. through 1942. By 1957 he moved to San Marino, and the new owner was Dr. Stuppy, MD. William Stuppy sold in 1998 to Lucy Dahl, daughter of author Roald Dahl.

The house (as of April 2016) is back on the market, offered for $8.9 Million. Below are some recent photos of the exterior (courtesy of Brad Jones):

357 Lorraine -- Driveway Access

357 Lorraine -- Corner Entry

357 Lorraine --  East Portal

The House in February, 2022
(courtesy of MLS)

3rd Floor Ballroom in February, 2022
(courtesy of MLS)

More about the residence:


Thanks to DHM for starting me down the update path on this great house.

Monday, December 13, 2010

John Mackay Elliott -- 914 W. 28th St.

Updated 8/30/15
Elliott in 1902

Our "first home" from the early days of Los Angeles.

It was built for John Mackay Elliott (1844-1929), a successful Los Angeles banker, who first came to the city in 1870, rising to president of the First National Bank. By the late 1890's his family resided in Alhambra, but in 1900 he moved to his new home on West 28th in the up and coming fashionable West Adams district. By 1905 he was also a director of the Los Angeles Trust Co., along with his neighbor two doors east, John Norton.
Elliott was appointed to the L.A. Water Board in 1903, and worked with local notable city engineer George Mulholland and others to insure a long-term supply of water for the city, resulting in the Owens Valley Aqueduct.

The Board of Water Commissioners ca. 1905
(L-R) John J. Fay, J. M. Elliott, Moses H. Sherman, William Mead, and Fred L. Baker.

In 1910, Elliott was living on West 28th St. with all four of his children--Mary, John Jr., Alice, and Robert. His wife, Alice Ingram Peel (b. 1851), had passed away in 1902. Son John Mackay Jr. (1886-1920), and daughter Alice (1888-1920) were to die as a result of an auto accident with a streetcar in pea soup fog on the evening of November 17, 1920.

914 W. 28th St. in 1910

Elliott remained in the house until his death in 1929, still listed as Chairman of the Board of the Los Angeles-First National Trust and Savings Bank at age 85. Upon his death his son Robert Peel Elliott moved into the house, along with Robert's son John M. Elliott, a niece and her husband, and three servants. The Robert Elliotts had previously lived at 2205 S. Hobart. 

By 1934, the property had been sold to Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, and Robert had moved back to the South Hobart residence.

In 1961 the ZTA chapter closed at USC, and Phi Kappa Tau, located next door east at 904 W. 28th, bought the property and tore down both old houses to make the building you see today--current occupiers are fraternity AEPi. 

Today's view of 914 W. 28th
(courtesy of Google Maps)

AEPi moved on and around 2019 Sigma Alpha Mu moved in. It appears they too moved as of October, 2023.

914 W. 28th in Mar. 2022
(courtesy of Google Maps)

A short biography on John Mackay Elliott

Old Homes of Los Angeles

J M Elliott