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


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