Monday, May 2, 2011

J. Ross Clark

James Ross Clark (1850-1927) followed his older brother William A. Clark into Montana, where for 20+ years he worked in mining and banking, becoming successful in copper mines, as well as delving into railroads. In 1892 he moved the family, consisting of wife Miriam (1858-1951), daughter Ella (b.1879), and son Walter(1885-1912), to Los Angeles, where he became heavily involved in railroading and sugar beets, owning a large operation in Los Alamitos. J. Ross envisioned a railroad between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles (as did E.H. Harriman of the Union Pacific) that would allow for Montana mining materials to be more quickly shipped to Los Angeles. Brother William agreed, and along with Harriman formed the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad in 1902. An area in southern Nevada appeared to be a good mid-point for the railroad, supplying water and crews, so in 1905 Las Vegas was born, with J. Ross auctioning off 600 plats (at the direction of Harriman).

Meanwhile the family was enjoying the new house at 710 West Adams Street, part of a growing high-end neighborhood, with families such as the Dohenys mere blocks away, Stephen Dorsey a few doors to the east, and William Kerckhoff second house to the west (you UCLA grads who think you've heard that name--yes it's THAT Kerckhoff). The house as it looked in 1906:

710 W. Adams Street
 Living in the house during the 1910 census were J. Ross and Miriam, son Walter and his wife Virginia Estelle, daughter Ella and her husband Henry Carlton Lee, along with four servants.

In early 1912 it was decided that Walter and Virginia would travel out of the country and return on the maiden voyage of the world's soon-to-be most famous ship. Walter filled out the passport paperwork in January, 1912 and all was set to travel.

J.Ross Clark witnesses son Walter's signature on his passport application Jan. 31, 1912

Ross Clark and grandparents J. Ross
and Miriam--courtesy of UNLV Collections
Virginia survived the Titanic, but Walter died in the tragedy. She returned to Los Angeles, and the house at 710 W. Adams, in grief. That fall Virginia took a "vacation" to assist in recovery, only to notify the Clarks that she had remarried to a man named Tanner. The Clarks, taking care of their grandson, immediately filed for custody of the child, which was awarded, then taken away, ending in Virginia's presence in the Clarks living room with two lawyers and two sheriffs in order to pick up the two-year old.
Interestingly, by 1920 the Clarks had the boy at their house during the census, and took little Ross with them when trips permitted.

In 1913, Homes and Gardens of the Pacific Coast Volume II Los Angeles had this to say about the Clark house on West Adams:

"The home of Mr. Clark shows many interesting English features, notably the brick and half timber construction. The training of the vines over a large portion of the exposed surface, the placing of the small trees and shrubs, and the fine old palms, give the home an air of quiet seclusion. The grounds are well laid out, and are enclosed with wrought iron fences supported by heavy cement posts, over which vines have been trained in a very pleasing manner."

Clark Mausoleum
(Note Date on steps at left)

J. Ross died in 1927, and was laid to rest in a large private vault at today's Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Miriam and James Ross II stayed in the house until after 1944, when it was demolished to make way for an expansion of the Auto Club of Southern California headquarters.

Reference: William Andrews Clark; PBS profile

710 West Adams Boulevard