Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Homer Laughlin - No China Here

A quick scan of the internet for Homer Laughlin(1843-1913) results in tens of thousands of hits for Homer Laughlin China Co., at one time the largest china plate maker in the world. Located at a large source of clay deposits in East Liverpool, Ohio, it was indeed named by Homer Laughlin for himself, after he bought out his brother's interest in 1877. The company established itself with world-class products, as exemplified by being the only gold medal winner for ceramics at the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

By 1896 Laughlin was ready to retire.  He made some real estate investments in Los Angeles, and after his son Homer Jr.(1876-1932) graduated from Stanford that same year, they went into real estate development together in Los Angeles, living in various hotels and temporary residences.

In 1897 they'd completed the first steel-reinforced concrete fire-proof structure in the city at 315 S. Broadway, named aptly enough the Homer Laughlin Building (father or son?).  Homer sold the business in Ohio in December, and concentrated his new efforts in L.A. real estate. In 1901 father and son moved to the St. James Park area, where Homer found a suitable house a couple of blocks east at 666 West Adams Boulevard. As a long time friend of fellow Ohioan William McKinley, Homer led the reception committee for the President's visit in the summer of 1901, one of the last before his assassination later that year in Buffalo. In 1905 a new, concrete-reinforced addition was made to the Laughlin Building, which now went completely through the block to Hill Street. To prove the building strength, a test was made of applying up to 56 tons of pressure to the building. The building addition is most noted for housing the Grand Central Market since 1917.

By 1904 everyone in the family had arrived in L.A. and they moved in to 666 W. Adams--Homer, his wife Cornelia (1846-1907), daughter Guendolen (1886-1942), and son Homer Jr. An older daughter Nanita (1883-1891) had died previously in Ohio.

 A ca. 1906 photo of the house below:

 666 West Adams Street in 1906

A sample of the Keeley Cure
(courtesy of
The house was not new when it was bought by the Laughlins. It turns out that it was owned by Mary Keeley, young widow of Dr. Leslie Keeley, inventor and franchiser of the "Keeley Cure" for alcoholism and drug addiction. This was a winter home for the Keeleys. Interestingly the 1899 Los Angeles street directory makes no mention of his occupation, while posting in bold print a few lines above the Keeley entry, the local franchise address for his "cure". The house was new in 1898 after a severe fire had burned down the previous house.

The house was probably planned to be a temporary stop for Homer, as in 1905 he purchased property between Los Feliz and Franklin with a prominent hilltop, planning to build his retirement home in the country.  Something happened to create a change of plans and the area, known today as Laughlin Park, became an upscale, gated development that housed celebrities such as W.C. Fields, Charlie Chaplin and Cecil B. DeMille (who picked off that lot at the top of the hill).

In early January, 1913 Homer came down with appendicitis, and as a result caught pneumonia and died that month at age 69. His estate was equally split between son Homer, Jr. and Guendoline. According to the L.A. Times, they split $1.7 million before estate taxes.  Guendoline kept the house and lived there until moving to the Biltmore Hotel in the late 1920's. Homer Jr. lived a few blocks south at the same house number on 28th street with his family. He continued his real estate development career for the next 18+ years. There was a Homer Laughlin Theatre in Long Beach, completed in 1915--but as yet I've been unable to tie it to Jr.

By 1951 666 West Adams had been demolished. Today the AAA Club buildings expanding west from Figueroa have usurped the former property.

A few other photos:
ca1904  USC Collections 2516
ca1904 USC Collections 202
ca1900 USC Collections 1944
A short bio and image of Homer Laughlin (1915)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Henry Newby -- Ford Place, Pasadena

Ford Place Ad 1903

It was 1905 and sales at the exclusive subdivision Ford Place (with entry posts and chains to denote the private street within) were heating up.  An ad from 1903's Pasadena Star noted:

"Destined to be the most desirable and exclusive residence portion of Pasadena. A perfect park in itself. From nowhere within our city limits can such a view of the glorious mountains be obtained. There is a building restriction on each lot, which is a guarantee of elegant surroundings. But five minutes walk from the business center, and within 400 feet of the car line. Ford Place is connected with water, gas, electric lights and every other convenience. Prices no higher than surrounding property."

Ford Place--Herkimer (Union) St. Entrance ca. 1908
B.O. Kendall was well known for his realty services in Pasadena, and Henry H. Newby (1868-1928?) was ready to make a move to something grand, now that he was President of the Pasadena National Bank. Life was good.  He'd come to Pasadena in 1887, and went to work at the First National Bank of Pasadena, staying there until 1900, working his way up to Cashier for the bank.  Brother Luther and sister Alberta came out from Indiana too, and all resided in Pasadena. Living in Ford Place with his wife Pearl (1868- ) and daughter Marjorie (1897- ), the new house turned out to be a brief stopping point in a multitude of Pasadena addresses over the next 25 years.

The  Newbys moved in to their beautiful new house at 95 Ford Place, from only a few blocks away at 397 N. Marengo. Note the entry pillars in the new house photo below as their lot bordered the north edge of the private subdivision.
95 Ford Place in 1906
At the right rear of the photo a large building appears--it was labeled as Pasadena High School in the 1905 Sanford maps--LAPL has a photo but calls it John Muir High. It was located on Walnut between Los Robles and Euclid and was demolished by 1951.
They didn't stay long. In 1913 the Newbys moved to 946 S. Madison. They were probably renting as they awaited the completion of the new, very grand home being built at 1015 Prospect in the new west side addition overlooking the arroyo. This Prospect addressed home still exists, and is a registered Pasadena Landmark.  Here's a quick peek at that house ca. 1915.

Newby Residence in Prospect Park
The 6,000+ sq. ft. house was even part of the Pasadena Craftsman Weekend in 2010. Life was still good in 1915, it appeared. Newby even joined the board of directors for the Tournament of Roses with our old friend B.O. Kendall.

In 1914 J.B. Coulston, owner of two other Pasadena banks, leads a takeover of Pasadena National, resulting in a merger creating one bank named National Bank of Pasadena. Coulston is named president of the bank. E.J. Pyle, who has followed Newby in his career, is named Vice President, and Herbert Holt (Newby's brother-in-law) is named Assistant Cashier. Newby seemed to have no active, day-to-day role in the bank, being named president of the board of trustees.  The article noted that "Newby eventually sold his interests to Coulston and retired from the banking business—with a host of well wishers and a rare personal popularity behind him."

Newby in the hotel business

But even if Newby was well-liked, his personal life took a significant turn. In February, 1919, the announcement at right showed up in the New York based Financier publication. It seems a rare change of career to move from bank president to hotel assistant manager, but that is what the article quoted.

By 1920 Newby, Pearl, and Marjorie are all living with sister Alberta and brother-in-law Herbert.  Henry's occupation in the census is listed as "Mgr. Hotel".

In 1922, Pearl and Marjorie have moved to 491 Center St. without Henry. Later in 1924 the family all show up at 2930 N. Holliston in Altadena. The next year a financial advertisement proclaims Henry as director of the Pasadena Building and Loan Association. Next year Henry is shown on the Annandale Golf Club course with the president of the Pasadena Golf Club. (J.B. Coulston was a member at Pasadena--I'm betting Henry belonged to Annandale).

By 1926 Henry is now living at the Huntington Hotel, working there as assistant manager for his former business associate J. B. Coulston, while Pearl and Marjorie reside at 20 Ford Place. Henry's last reference is at the Huntington Hotel in 1928, while Pearl and Marjorie are at 619 S. Los Robles (which was on the same block with Alberta and Herbert).

The 1930 census shows Pearl and Marjorie (now age 34) renting at 619 S. Los Robles for $60/month. They did have a housekeeper in the house with them.

And what happened to 95 Ford Place? Well in the late '20s it changed addresses to 175 Oakland, and has ended up as part of the Fuller Theological Seminary campus. The building on the lot appears to be a commercial building used for rental businesses--it has a new address--490 East Walnut. Today (thanks to Google):
Today's 95 Ford Place

Link to Google

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

B.O. Kendall -- 210 S. Los Robles, Pasadena

Arriving in Pasadena in 1886 with his wife Jennie (1859-1888), Bela Otis Kendall (1862-1942) was just in time for the great real estate boom in Los Angeles.  He jumped in beginning in August of that year and never looked back. Next year was the bust, but B.O. evidently did O.K. as by 1896 he had commissioned a new building at 61-69 N. Raymond to house his business (and others.)  This was one of the very few Greene & Greene commercial commissions done, before the Greene brothers rose to fame in the world of Arts & Crafts residences (can you say Gamble House?). Today it still stands on the northwest corner of Colorado Blvd. and N. Raymond Street (although the building was altered significantly in 1929). B.O. was to keep his real estate office at this address for his entire career--which ended around 1936.

65 N. Raymond, courtesy of
Link to Larger Image

Wife Jennie W. passed away in 1888 shortly after a daughter Jennie was born in 1887, and by 1891 B.O. had married Belle Rigg, daughter of Dr. Thomas and Elizabeth Rigg, a well-known family in Pasadena. They had two children, Jackson (b. 1896) and B.O. Jr. (b. 1909) and in 1900 the family was living across the street (213 S. Los Robles) from their soon-to-be long-time house, probably awaiting the new house to be finished. They moved in shortly thereafter to 210 S. Los Robles and were to stay there for 25 years. The house as it looked in 1906 awaiting the arrival of B.O. Junior:
The B.O. Kendall Residence at 210 S. Los Robles
With the arrival of B.O. Jr. a new wing was added--the gable on the right above was extended another 15-20 feet, providing more space for a growing family.

The Electric entry of 1911
Double Delight Rose
B.O. stepped up to Pasadena community service too, serving first on the board in 1915, then in 1917-1919 as President of the Tournament of Roses Association. Son Jackson got in on the parade action one year with his electric car "float" in the 1911 parade, earning a Third Place in Class W - Electric Autos!

Next door to the south of the Los Robles home stood the Shakespeare Club, one of the oldest women's clubs in Southern California, and of course Belle was a member when in 1924 the club added a new auditorium by buying the next lot to the south of them. The club finally moved to new digs in the 1970's but still exists today with a building on Grand Ave. in Pasadena.

The Kendalls in 1923
In 1922-23 B.O. developed one of his best known neighborhoods, Oak Knoll Gardens, a development of 23 upper-middle class cottage style homes at El Molino near California.  No doubt he used some of those profits to create a new personal residence, for in 1926 B.O. and Belle decided to move to a more upscale area of Pasadena, creating a 6,000 sq. ft. house at 500 Linda Vista Drive near the Rose Bowl. Built on a 47,000 sq. ft. lot, the house contained seven bedrooms and six baths.  Their daughter and son-in-law moved into the old house on Los Robles, and B.O. Jr. moved to the new house.

Around 1936 B.O. (who was now 70+) decided to retire.  He and Belle bought a home in Avalon, Catalina Island (but maintained their voting residence at the old Los Robles house), where B.O. subsequently passed away in 1942. He was interred alongside his first wife Jennie in Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena. The Los Robles house was noted as apartments in 1951 on the applicable Sanborn map.

So where is the Los Robles house today? Well, if you stand in the middle of the street facing east at the intersection of Cordova and Los Robles, you'd have about the same view as the original photo of the house above. Sometime after the sale of the Shakespeare Club, the city came through creating a new east-west corridor (Cordova). So all traces of the old house are gone.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Shobal P. Mulford -- 1056 South Hill Street

Born in Cincinnati, Shobal Patton Mulford (1850-1922) was known as S.P. to all who knew him.  Passing the Ohio bar in 1878, his ill health convinced him to move to Los Angeles in 1883, where he continued to practice law his entire career. He married Helen B. Farrar (1856-    ) of Cambridge, Ohio in 1885 (he'd met her while they both went to law school in Ohio), and in 1888 they moved into their new house on the northeast corner of Hill and 11th Street.

1056 South Hill Street in 1906.

Along with his law practice, he invested heavily in the banking sector in Los Angeles (including the First National and Commercial National Banks of L.A.), and devoted significant efforts to the Methodist Church and the YMCA and YWCA. The Mulfords donated $1000 in 1906 for a new YMCA building, and Helen was an Officer of the YWCA in 1908 (along with Mrs. W.C. Patterson--who lived less than a mile from Helen, Mrs. W.J. Hole, and Mrs. Homer Laughlin, Jr.)

In 1904 S.P. formed the firm of Mulford & Dryer (along with George Dryer), which still exists today after multiple mergers, specializing in corporate and probate law. In 1905 S.P. took on a no-doubt pro-bono case which resulted in his name in headlines, when a Sunday school teacher at the nearby church was arrested for forging checks. She was allowed to plead guilty and given probation, even though similar crimes of the era were usually given jail time.

The area of South Hill Street matured into multi-family residences, with many of the larger homes on the street being converted to rental rooms. So in 1913 the Mulfords moved west to 5th and Westmoreland. Ironically, that house is still there today, but not 1056 S. Hill.
By the mid-1920's that side of the block had been converted into the Mayan and the Belasco Theaters, changing the whole look of the area.

S.P. in 1906
S.P. passed away in January, 1922. An obituary article in the L.A. Times mentions his interment at Sunnyside Cemetery, Inglewood, which is now part of Inglewood Park Cemetery, where Mr. Mulford's tombstone is present today.  Helen Mulford continued to live in the Westmoreland house past 1934, where the 1930 census determined she was living with her a maid, chauffeur, and a guest.

The Belasco Theater still stands on the site of the Mulford residence. Closed for 20 years, it reopened in 2013 as a dance club and concert venue.

1056 South Hill Street today (courtesy of