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

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