Monday, October 31, 2011

W. D. Longyear -- 3555 Wilshire Boulevard

The career of Willis Douglas Longyear (1863-1941) shows what is possible if you start at the right place and work your way up in a good company. W.D. was born in Jackson County, Michigan, and after working at the Kalamazoo National Bank for five years, arrived in Los Angeles in 1889 to seek his fortune. He signed up with Security Savings Bank and was their bookkeeper and teller, moving up to Cashier and Secretary in January, 1895, a position he held for more than 20 years. Married to Ida Mackay of Nevada in 1893, they had a son Douglas (1893-1947) and a daughter Gwendolyn (1892-1982), both of whom lived in the L.A. area their entire lives.

The bank was growing rapidly, and with it W.D.'s fortunes. In 1906 the bank bought the Southern California Savings Bank (which included J.H. Braly, J.M. Elliott, and W.C. Patterson as owners and directors). In 1908 a large advertisement for one of W.D.'s side investments was published in the Los Angeles Herald--The Tourist Auto Vehicle Company--Made in Los Angeles:
November 15, 1908 ad in Los Angeles Herald
This was the same brand that was part of a deadly accident involving Mrs. Sherman Pease a few years earlier.

W.D. was also investing in real estate in the Wilshire corridor, and in 1907 he chose to build his new home on a lot there. As it looked in 1907:
3555 Wilshire Blvd. (at the corner with Ardmore)
In 1918 he became President of the California Bankers Association and gave an address at their 25th convention, held on Santa Catalina Island. And in 1922 the family (now including Douglas's wife Mary) took a tour of Hawaii. The next year he was promoted to Vice President at Security Trust & Savings.

By 1925 the family moved to a new home in Beverly Hills. Located at 721 North Beverly Drive, it became a part of Beverly Hills' social scene. One major celebration occurred on Armistice Day in 1925. A statue "Hunter and Hounds" purchased by Mr. Longyear while vacationing in France in 1924 was unveiled on the front lawn. The statue honored WWI veterans at the Second Battle of the Marne. For years afterward, city visitors came to see the statue--tour buses made it one of their stops. The statue was later donated to the city and relocated to Beverly Garden Park along Santa Monica Blvd.

W.D. in 1910
In 1929 the bank merged with Los Angeles First National Trust and Savings bank to form Security First National Bank, with W.D. continuing as Vice President. Security First became a very prominent Southern California bank through the 1950's and 60's.

Longyear was also an early backer of Douglas Aircraft, taking a significant stake in the company in 1927. At the time the main aircraft plant was just a few miles away in Santa Monica.

When Longyear sold the Wilshire Blvd. house, it was then occupied by Milnor Inc., a company known primarily for its Chinese rugs. Interestingly in 1936, a Los Angeles directory lists W.D. Longyear as a vice-president of Milnor, Inc.

Son Douglas went on to be an automobile dealer--he held the Packard franchise in Beverly Hills. W.D. and Ida passed away with a week of each other in March, 1941.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sherman Pease -- 640-646 S. Hill

Sherman Pease (1869-1950) arrived in Los Angeles with his parents in 1884.  He and brother Herbert joined father Niles Pease's furniture business, helping to create a very successful downtown enterprise.

A family at Eastlake Park, 1908, enjoying their "Tourist" automobile
(USC Digital Collections, Calif. Historical Society)
In 1895 Sherman wed Nellie Smith (1870-1905), and began their family, consisting of daughter Anita (1897- ) and son Niles (1904- ). By 1900 they were living on South Hope Street. Things were going so well that in March, 1905 Sherman purchased a new Tourist automobile, a locally manufactured brand, and the following Sunday, took Nellie for a drive, along with friends Mr. and Mrs. D. E. Welcome.  They traveled up today's Nichols canyon, then returned south back to Hollywood Blvd. The L.A. Herald described what happened next...

"The party turned just south of the Miller house, late yesterday afternoon, after a trip to the canyon, into a private road and started, toward Prospect  Boulevard. The road lay straight for nearly a mile, and the great machine responded with a burst of speed on the level stretch. To the left a clear view for some distance could be obtained, but a grove of lemon trees on the right obstructed a view of the track from Hollywood to the canyon. 
Mrs. Pease was in the tonneau and had no chance to escape. She was seated on the side toward the [street]car, and was hurled directly beneath the front trucks. Her body was carried down the tracks for nearly fifty feet." 

She died instantly.  Sherman was unconscious for two days, while Mrs. Welcome broke multiple ribs. Mr. Welcome, who was in the right front seat, saw the oncoming car and dove from the vehicle to the side of the tracks. He was uninjured. Sherman's father Niles returned immediately from a Mexico vacation to be at his side.
Sherman recovered.

In 1904 father Niles sold his interests in the furniture business and in February, 1905 formed Niles Pease Investment Company, with sons Sherman and Herbert as directors, along with oldest child Grace, and Sherman's mother Cornelia. In March, 1906, Sherman along with brother Herbert, severed connection with Niles Pease Furniture. Sherman in the article stated he needed rest and planned "to make a trip to the Orient".  Less than 40 days later they announced "the construction of an eight story steel and concrete building at 640 S. Hill, frontage 75 ft, and 145 ft deep." This was to become the new furniture business, Pease Brothers Furniture, who would rent the building being built by the Niles Pease Investment Company. That same year Sherman purchased a lot and residence at 1036 S. Alvarado for $7,500. The residence is still standing. A recent photo is below.

1036 S. Alvarado

Sherman (but not Herbert) decided to have himself added to the 1910 edition of Greater Los Angeles and Southern California. Father Niles had been in both the 1906 and 1910 versions. But Sherman, as president of Pease Brothers Furniture Company, decided to go with a photo of the new business building on Hill Street instead of his residence.  And so it was:

640-646 South Hill St. ca. 1910

Business appeared to be good. Sherman remarried.  The family changed residences to 1015 S. Western by 1915. Meanwhile around the corner from Pease Brothers at 7th and Broadway, Bullock's department store was growing by leaps and bounds. And so it was in 1917, when the Investment Company was offered $25,000 per year in rent for the building for each of the next 40 years, they took it.  Pease Brothers was no more. And $25,000? That works out to about $420,000 per year in 2010 dollars which was paid each year until 1958!

Pease Bros. 1913 w/ Bullock's around the corner

It is unknown how the money was divided. Sherman and Mary Ida moved on to Ocean Park Street in Santa Monica. By 1932 Sherman was a salesman at "The Furniture Shops".

And for you conspiracy theorists: Sherman, his older sister Grace, his older sister Jessie and his younger sister Anne ALL died in 1950. All but Sherman are buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

The furniture building, however lives on.  Today it's a part of St. Vincent Jewelry Center.

More info:
The building today (courtesy of flickr) --it's the one in the middle


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

E. H. Lahee -- 1018 South Magnolia

Mr. Lahee ca. 1895
Eugene Horace Lahee (1845-ca.1928), came to the Los Angeles area in 1898 from Chicago, deciding on Covina and purchasing a successful fruit farm. He was originally from Utica, New York, but attended Shurtleff College in Alton, Illinois (now part of the Illinois University system), where he probably met his wife Louise Clawson (1845-ca. 1928), who was born in Alton.  He was an active member in Sons of the American Revolution, where he had the small photo at right taken.

E. H. was elected mayor of Covina for six years, and as the head of the Pacific Electric right-of-way committee, he was critical in convincing landowners to provide right-of-way through El Monte to Covina. (Not everyone was happy though, as indicated by this lawsuit in 1909). As president of the local library association, he led the committee for Covina to procure a Carnegie Library for Covina (which they did), and went on to lead as chairman of the California Library Association.

So what did the Lahees do after all of this Covina success?  They retired to Los Angeles, of course, and settled in this lovely home on Magnolia Street.

1018 S. Magnolia St. in 1910

Odds are good that the Lahees are the ones in the image above. In 1910 the census lists the Lahees, a cousin and one servant in the house.

By 1920 though, retirement must have changed, as the Lahees have moved to 5th Avenue, and then again to 2119 1/2 South 3rd Avenue, where they're both last found in 1928.

And the house? By 1932 four people with different last names are to be found there--indicating it had become a rooming house. The house is found with people through the late 1980's, then the listing disappears from the directories.

Today the lot is the part of the playground for Leo Politi Elementary School, noted for its after-school program.

Today's neighborhood--the green arrow shows the approximate location of the old house.
(courtesy of Google Maps)