Wednesday, August 31, 2011

830 Sierra Madre Avenue, Glendora

As we venture deeper into the book, we find more "special" pages.  Today's client, Charles Henry Converse (1856-1912), not only paid for his photo and his house photo, he had a second photo put in of his building in downtown Glendora--understanding that Glendora wasn't yet incorporated, but was already known for its pepper trees and citrus farms.

C. H.was born in Iowa City, Iowa, moving to California first in 1878 to Mariposa, then he returned to Iowa to graduate from the University of Iowa in 1882, and receive his law degree from there in 1884. By 1902 he returned to California, first in Merced, then later in Pasadena before settling on Glendora, where he remained until his untimely death in 1912. His Glendora house was located on 20 acres of orange trees, containing about 3,000 sq. ft., with 5 bedrooms. In 1909/1910 great views surrounded the home as seen by the image below:

830 Sierra Madre Avenue in 1910
He lived there with his wife Flora, two sons and three daughters. In Glendora, C.H. was part of numerous enterprises including First National Bank, First Savings Bank, Glendora Light and Power, Glendora Irrigating Company and Glendora Water Company. His office as attorney was located in his 1905-built building, the Converse Block. The two-story structure with retail below and offices above, was located in the center of downtown, next to the soon-to-arrive P.E. line from L.A. to San Bernardino. In 1910 a photographer took this view:

159 North Michigan  in 1910
Window Mystery Man
A peek at the above image shows a couple of interesting items.  The persian-type domed device out front was a water fountain, erected by the Women's Christian Temperance Union in 1909. The street side was for watering horses, the building side had a fountain for pedestrians. The upper corner office facing the photographer probably belonged to C.H. himself.  With the sign "Lawyer" in the window, and a man next to it with the window open holding a large cane or similar object out the window--it could only be our subject.

Pres. Diaz and C.H. , 1911
In 1911 C.H. was to face a new challenge. The Mexican revolution was underway and C.H.'s wayfaring son Lawrence seemed to want to be a part of it. On Sunday, February 20 Lawrence was with another man visiting a ranch very close to the border just southeast of El Paso near the small town of Tornilo. The men were resting their horses awaiting lunch when, according to news reports, three men captured them, tied them up and forced them to wade the Rio Grande river where they were turned over to soldiers hiding in the woods.  From there they were taken to Guadeloupe and then on to Juarez, where they were imprisoned. C.H. was notified of his son's peril, and immediately went to Juarez, securing admission to the prison and creating enough turmoil with the Mexican government to attract the attention of Mexican president Diaz, who invited C.H. to his palace in Mexico City to discuss it. The president volunteered to direct the general in charge to return Lawrence (and all other Americans in the prison) to C.H. This all took place just prior to the Battle of Juarez, in which the city and the prison were battered into fragments.

During this period the Converse's three daughters all attended Pomona College in Claremont. To be nearer to them, C.H. and Flora rented a cottage there. Then in 1912 disaster struck.  C.H. was driving from his office enroute to the Claremont cottage when he missed noticing a Santa Fe train on its crossing at Loraine Street, wrecking the car and pinning C.H. between the train engine and the top of the auto. He had fractured his skull and died before he could be taken to a hospital. He was later extolled in the local newspaper, the Glendora Gleaner, which recognized him as "one of Glendora's most valued and highly esteemed citizens." He is buried in nearby Oakdale Cemetery.

The house with its 20 acres of orange trees was sold. Flora moved to Pasadena, son Earnest and daughter Hazel became lawyers, son Lawrence moved to Cuba. But interestingly both the house and the commercial building survive today.  First--the house:

According to Zillow, the house has had the same owners since 1984. The surrounding acreage has long since been sold, but the current lot size far exceeds its neighbors. And the Converse Block? It has been known for years as the Nelson Building:

Train Kills a Lawyer - N.Y. Times (PDF)
(photo of Diaz courtesy of

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

2433 South Flower -- Mission Style

While your author is not any kind of amateur architect, this house's style was not difficult to figure out. Check out this side-by-side comparison:

Built in 1901, this house has the distinction of being listed in a 1906 version of the original book with one owner, then under a different owner in 1910. The first owner was Reuben G. Simons, part of a successful brick-making family. He moved in in 1901 with three sons John W., Ralph, and Harold W.  The house ca. 1905:

 (courtesy of

The house was built on an unusually large lot, with additional living in back, as well as two flats out of frame left in the photo above. 

In 1906 Simons sold the house to Wiltcie B. Ames (1869-1942), a Wisconsin-born, self-made lawyer who came to Los Angeles in 1905 via Spokane and Oregon, where he picked up his law degree at the University of Oregon.  One of his early businesses was the Ames Mercantile Agency which figured prominently in his life a few years later.

About this same time C.C. Pierce was taking many fabulous photos of the area of residences in the new areas of L.A. south of downtown along Figueroa. One of them was the Ames residence, taken between 1906 and 1908.

2433 S. Flower ca. 1907
(courtesy of USC Digital Collections)

As can be seen above, the house added a new awning and a small border for a flower bed underneath the front porch since the last "viewing". No doubt it comfortably fit Wiltcie, his wife Caroline Rachel (1873-1921) and their three children.

When Ames was approached to be in the Greater Los Angeles and Southern California book, 1910 version, someone must have promised a new photo, for this is what was posted:
Wiltcie B.Ames Residence 1910
An auto was added, the side yard was cut back, and plants now appear under the front porch and window. But a funny thing happened on the way to publishing.  Seems that in July, 1909 Ames decided to do a swap sale on the house.  He sold it to Joseph Metzler of Metzler Investment company for $48,000, which included the building next door, which seemed a bit overpriced until one reads a few columns over.  It seems that "W.B. Ames, president of the City and County bank, has added to his country holdings by the purchase of a 40-acre alfalfa and apple ranch belonging to Joseph Metzler of the Metzler Investment company, to add to his investment in a fruit farm in San Dimas. The price, $80,000, includes stock and personal property." Why would you pay $80,000 in 1909 for a ranch located five miles from Victorville? I don't know the details either, but the answer may lie in the next found article about Mr. Ames.

In August, 1910 W.B., as part owner of the L.A. Savings, Mortgage, and Trust company, was sued by the state attorney general alleging that state commissioners for the building and loans "found its business unsafe and unauthorized."  They declared the concern insolvent, and asked that no business be transacted until the court heard the case. By this time W.B. and family were living in the bay area--it must have been too hot to stay in L.A. By September W.B.'s banking business appeared to be "out of business." By 1916, W.B. and family show up at the family fruit farm in San Dimas, where W.B. lived until the death of wife Ethel in 1921.

Meanwhile Irving and Hannah Metzler (relations, no doubt to Joseph) lived at 2433 S. Flower. They move on and in 1922 Arthur and Guadalupe Wright move in, where they remain past Arthur's passing during WWII.

The Los Angeles Children's Orthopedic Hospital, established about 10 years after our house was built, slowly over time took over the block on the east side of Flower Street, changing its character. That and the Harbor Freeway were probable major factors in the demolition of the house by 1956.  Today it would be found over the Harbor Freeway just before it cuts under Flower Street.

2433 S. Flower St. today--about where you see the star.

A fanciful W.B. Ames in 1910

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

William G. Bradshaw -- 338 South Alvarado

According to his entry in Greater Los Angeles--Portraits and Personal Memoranda, William Bradshaw (1861-1911) was a  "promoter and largest owner of Wilshire Blvd. Heights, a high-grade subdivision situated in the western portion of the city, corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Vermont Ave. Has always made a specialty of first-class residence and business property; also extensively interested in oil and mining properties. By years of square dealing has created a reputation for honesty and reliability not excelled by any one in the community."

Relying on that reputation no doubt contributed to the ability for him and his family to own in 1906, this beautiful house on Alvarado Street, a few blocks from Westlake (today MacArthur) Park:

338 South Alvarado Street
Listed in the 1910 census as being in the house with William were his wife Nellie (1866- ), daughter Myrtle (1886- ), son William H. (1889- ), and younger daughter Hazel (1894- ).

But not all was roses for Bradshaw. In early 1909 Bradshaw appeared as a witness for a contested will hearing.  It seems that Robert (or Richard, depending on your paper of choice) Crawford Smith, who had done quite a few deals with Bradshaw, had added a couple of codicils to his will just prior to his death in 1907, and named Bradshaw a paid executor. So Mr. Bradshaw was brought into court to testify, listed by the L.A. Times as "one of the best-known mining men and oil operators in this city", where he spoke of his relationship with Smith. It seems that Smith's codicils provided about $17,000 to three mediums located in the city, who needed the money more than Mr. Smith's relatives. Bradshaw spoke before the court of his believing in the three seances he attended with Mr. Smith, following testimony by former mediums exposing seances as shams.

He appears to have emerged with reputation intact.

Then in the summer of 1911, Bradshaw went to Washington state, but on his return he didn't make it back to L.A. The San Francisco Call posted this headline:
July 27, 1911
According to the article, Bradshaw was alone on deck off the coast of Mendocino, when he pulled a pistol and shot himself in the heart. There were no witnesses--he was found later lying on a coil of rope on the after-deck. The article mentions he was noted as being morose, but did not accept any offer of aid.

Wm. Bradshaw in happier times
By 1915 the Bradshaw family had moved to 8th Street, a couple of blocks away. They remained in the neighborhood for many, many years, with Hazel marrying a Mr. Hallman, then divorcing, and returning to live out back at 737 1/2 Lake Street with mother Nellie along with grandaughter Larnita. Myrtle married a Mr. Joseph but she too, by 1930, was back in the house at 737 S. Lake. It appears son William never left.

That same year widow Jennie Hohmann moved in to the 338 S. Alvarado residence with her two daughters and a son. They stayed a short period, and by 1920 the house was rented to a Virginia Cobbe. She turned the home into multi-family, and rented to five others.

Then in 1922, William and Emma Blaikie, he an architect, she listed as housewife, moved in. But William dies by 1928, and Emma ran the place again as a rooming house, according to the 1930 census.

The house remained as rooms to let, right up to its demise in 1964. In 1961 there was only one roomer listed with a phone,  Mrs. Rose Gottdank--she may have been the only roomer in the building. Then in 1965 a new building is listed, the L.A. Convalescent Center which today is the Country Villa Rehabilitation and Nursing Home, a five-story apartment-type building.

Some side stories:
Lewis Austin steals Bradshaw's auto--1910
An aerial of the neighborhood in 1936--the house was out of frame by two houses to the right...(courtesy of USC digital collections)
Today at 338 S. Alvarado (courtesy of Google Maps) 
A squabble over an inheritance at 338 S. Alvarado

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

George W. Adams -- 1645 Huntington Drive

George Adams (1865-aft 1947) arrived in Los Angeles in 1902 with his family consisting of wife Iva Binford (1871-1948), and daughters Florence E. (1897-1964) and Maude (1900- ).  George and Iva knew about Los Angeles as they were married there in 1896 while they were residents of Estherville, Iowa, where George had his law practice. George had graduated from the University of Iowa Law School in 1891--the 1906 Iowa Alumnus thought George at the time was "a fruit farmer in L.A.".  Turned out there was another George Adams in Massachusetts who was very well known for his beekeeping, but that's another story.

The family settled in South Pasadena at 1645 Huntington Drive. In 1909-1910 the residence looked like the below:

The Adams Family on Huntington Drive

Florence and Maude?
The photo shows two children in the front yard--it's very possible you see a childhood photo of Maude and Florence, who would have been nine and 12 years old at the time.  Directly behind the photographer on Huntington was the Pacific Electric Railway line which went downtown to 6th and Hill, which when followed by a short walk to the Van Nuys building, one could visit George in his office as part of the Adams, Adams, and Binford law firm.  While the "Binford" was George's brother-in-law Lewis, there is no listing for any other law-partner-Adams in L.A.'s directories of the era other than George.

Life was good for the Adams family--the L.A. Herald reported that same August they were "returning home from a month in Venice, and are leaving soon for Tahoe".  No mention of which Venice... By 1915 they had moved to the newly fashionable west side at 663 South Westmoreland Ave. and then in 1920 were residing at the Garden Court Apartments and Hotel on fashionable Hollywood Boulevard.

George's work must have been mostly usual stuff, nothing that would land him in the newspapers of the day. His only easily accessible appellate appearance came in 1920. Evidently Mrs. Minnie Ong had George write up a deed of her house, which Mrs. Ong gave to her housemaid Jennie Cole, with the intention of her taking the house after her death. The house must have been worth something because the Ong descendants descended on the courts to get the deed declared void. George was called to testify. And while the account doesn't mention it, this was probably a family feud, as Mrs. Ong may have been a close relation, since Iva's mother's maiden name was Ong. Jennie got to keep the house.

Still listed as an attorney in 1946 after 44 years in L.A., George and Iva by then were living at 3614 Country Club Drive. Iva was to pass away just two years later.

And what of our house on Huntington Drive? When the Adams' moved out, the Stamps family moved in. Lucius was retiring from his Downey farming business, and Eleanor, along with daughters Addie, Pearl, and Mary, and Eleanor's mother Susan all lived on Huntington from 1916 through the early '20s.  Evidently South Pasadena did not suit them as they had moved back to Downey by 1924, where Lucius had kept a real estate office.

Below is a photo taken of the Huntington neighborhood in 1926. The house at the right behind the palm trees is 1645 Huntington--its outline has changed as after the Stamps family left, it was converted to multi-family, with a noticeable add-on at the right rear. This crossing had both a Pacific Electric line at 90 degrees to the photo, but also there is a Southern Pacific R.R. crossing from right foreground to left background at the same intersection, which continued south to run along the east side of Alhambra Park.
1926 Looking South on Marengo across Huntington (courtesy of USC digital Collections)

The house has remained throughout the years, watching as Huntington Drive became a main auto conduit to San Marino, watching as the P.E. line tracks were pulled, and watching as the S.P. tracks were yanked.  Today, it looks like this:
A recent shot of 1645 Huntington Drive
(courtesy of the author)

The old S.P. right-of-way is still visible out of frame to the left.

The house has seen a lot of change in its 100+ years of life.

Other images:
P.E. Crossing detail at Marengo & Huntington Dr. 1926
The book's photo of G.W. in 1910
A brief write-up in California of the South, 1933

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

W. K. Cowan -- Let's Go Buy a New Auto!

The older ones among us have heard of a Nash Rambler, but the auto's heritage actually came from the name of two different companies.  The Rambler was built by the Jeffery Company until it was absorbed by Nash in 1915, and was a high-end automobile brand consisting of five different models by the end of its manufacturing run. Prior to building autos Jeffery had been a bicycle company, where our next subject first ran across them (pun intended).

W.K. Cowan in the Waverley sold to S. G. Hall, 1899
William K. Cowan was a bicycle dealer for Rambler in Los Angeles in 1895. His expertise was such he had actually been awarded a patent for an improvement to a bicycle drive shaft (Patent 633,753 issued 1899). But he fell in love with the automobile, and vowed to sell them if and when they came to Los Angeles. This infatuation was to provide him the small piece of history as the seller of the first automobile in Los Angeles County.  It was 1899, and a man named Steve Hall wanted to purchase an auto. Cowan had access to the Waverley Electric, and sold one to Mr. Hall.

By 1902 the Jeffery Company began to make autos, so W.K. became the Southern California dealer for the Rambler. And when he wasn't selling Ramblers he was racing them, winning prizes for economy, speed, and reliability. His sales climbed steadily, from five in 1902, then 30 in 1903, 85 in 1904, to 125 in 1905, when Cowan was one of four to tie for first (out of 60 entries) in the Great Endurance Race to Santa Barbara. And how much of that was over paved roads, you ask? Zero miles. According to a 1917 issue of Motor West Magazine, in 1907 there were TWO miles of paved roads in all of Los Angeles County.

In 1910 Cowan moved his Rambler dealership from S. Broadway to a new garage at 1140 S. Hope Street. In what was no doubt an experiment in advertising, instead of showing his personal residence in the recently published book on successful Southern California business people, he showed his new dealership property.  See for yourself...

The new Rambler dealership garage at 1140 S. Hope St. in 1910.
We don't know if that's Mr. Cowan in the photo, but odds are good it was a Rambler sticking out the front door.

How much was a Rambler? For the new Model 53, which came in dark Brewster Green with cream wheels, a 34 h.p. motor, spare wheel included, and a much nicer than today sounding horn, list price was $1,950, about $47,000 in today's money.  It was not your Tin Lizzie type of auto. But for that kind of money, here is what you would receive:

A Herald ad by W.K. Cowan (click for larger image)(courtesy of

By 1910 things seemed to be going swimmingly for W.K., but suddenly in 1914 he sold his Rambler interest to Carlton-Faulkner-Boles, a distributor located just up the block dealing in Marmons. Papers of the day attribute his selling to "failed health", but by 1917 he returned as a truck manager for a local Chevrolet dealership.

Cowan's family residence was in Eagle Rock (first its own city--then part of Los Angeles) where he lived from about 1910 through at least 1935. A probable indicator of his later life financial success was that his house in 1930 was a rental. He passed away in 1952, with the L.A. Times noting in his obituary that he was the first seller of an automobile in Southern California.

By 1950 the South Hope building was still an auto garage, but like most things since then, it's now changed:

Today at 1140 S. Hope St.

Link to Google

But wait--could that be the same building? Maybe--quite a bit of alteration but possible.

Some additional images:
A photo of Mr. Jeffery and Mr. Cowan on their way to San Diego in 1909
The full Motor West article of 1917
A better copy of Mr.Cowan in his Waverley (

Picasa updated 11/16