Saturday, December 29, 2012

Gilbert D. Munson -- 2717 West Eighth Street

Gilbert Dwight Munson (1840-1911) traveled to Southern California in 1900 after a successful career as a judge and lawyer in Ohio. Upon arriving he joined up with local lawyer Henry A. Barclay (who got him admitted to practice law in California) and hung out his shingle as the firm Munson & Barclay, specializing in civil matters in superior court. Coming to L.A. with Gilbert were his wife Lucy (who went by the name Lulu)(d. 1926) and only child Sarah(d. 1911), who married an old flame from Zanesville after returning there to help him heal from a lingering sickness. They came back to California and settled first in Los Angeles before moving to the Santa Barbara area.

L.A. Herald, Oct. 1903
By 1903 things were going well as can be seen by the notice at right in the Los Angeles Herald of a new Munson house to be built out on West 8th St. The $3,700 planned price tag works out to be around $95,000 in today's dollars. It appears that real estate in L.A. was a good bet even then. Houses in the same block today are valued in the $700K range according to

Sarah and Lulu joined in the society of the times--in one article they were noted as signing up for annual dues to the new Children's Hospital. Other donors included Arthur Letts, Niles Pease, Mrs. W.C. Patterson, and Mrs. Homer Laughlin.

Below--a photo of the house ca. 1910:

The Munson Residence in 1910

Sadly, Gilbert passed away soon after in May, 1911. His law partner Barclay continued his practice after that alone. Then in October another death--daughter Sarah dies, leaving three children with husband Ernest.

Gilbert in 1910
By 1913 Lulu left the house, moving to then Santa Monica, now Brentwood (quite out of town for the day), settling in on Cliffwood Drive. The 8th Street house was then rented for awhile to Moses P. Brown and family, a bookkeeper at the German American Trust and Savings Bank.

Supposedly Ernest came from an upper-class background in Zanesville, but his relationship with Lulu didn't seem to be a great one, as in May, 1913 a judgment against him is posted in the Oxnard Courier followed ten days later by a notice of him transferring a 1/4 interest in a large acreage in the Montecito area.

In 1926 Lulu passed away, and was buried with Gilbert back in Zanesville.  Daughter Sarah, husband Ernest, and their three children were all buried in Santa Barbara.

And the house on West 8th Street?  It disappears from the listings after 1915, and when the area next showed up in a 1951 Sanborn map, the corner east to Hoover including the Munson lot is a commercial L-shaped retail area, as it appears today. And here's a look courtesy of Google:

The "Max" sign is where the house had been.

More Info:
G. D. Munson Biography

Sunday, December 9, 2012

William S. Bartlett -- 2400 West Adams Street

Golden Spike, gift of David Hewes
to Stanford Univ.
When William (1844-1915) and Franklina Gray Bartlett (1855-1934) moved to Southern California in 1881, it was for a common reason--warmer climate to improve health. But it wasn't for them.  Franklina's mother Matilda Gray Hewes, suffered from bronchitis. She arrived first with husband David (Franklina's stepfather)  and settled in Tustin.

David Hewes was a successful capitalist, well known in San Francisco.  Good friends with the Big Four of California railroad fame, he was originally offered a chance to participate in the transcontinental railroad, but he dismissed it as "too risky". He did however, celebrate the railroad's success, providing the golden spike for the railroad meeting ceremony in 1869 in Utah. When the spike was cast, the "sprues" (leftover metal edges) were used to create souvenir gold rings, one of which passed down to Franklina after Matilda's death in 1887.

Franklina Gray Bartlett, 1876 William Bartlett, ca. 1881
Upon Matilda's death David returned to San Francisco, and subsequently married again to Anna Lathrop, sister-in-law to Leland Stanford. Tragically, she passed away in the mid 1890's, after which David returned to Orange County and created a large citrus ranch, which he ran until his death in 1915 at 93 years of age.

While in Tustin, Franklina started the Ebell Society of Santa Ana Valley, modeling it on the Oakland society, where she was its first president. William continued with his banking career, starting multiple banks in Orange County, including the Bank of Tustin. Both were involved in the local Presbyterian church, where father-in-law David had donated monies for a new building. The Bartletts knew the pastor James French well, as he was related to Franklina. By 1898 the Bartletts moved to Los Angeles, first settling at 322 W. 27th Street with their three children Lanier (1879-1961), Matilda Franklina "Lina" (b.1886), and Gordon (b.1894). William worked downtown as president of the Union Bank of Savings, which was easy to reach on the West Adams St. Line to downtown ending next door at Arlington and West Adams.

In 1904 the Bartletts moved west to the city limits, out on fashionable West Adams.  Across the street in the brand new neighborhood were the Fitzgeralds, while directly east was the Childs family, and Dr. E.A. Bryant, chief of L.A. County Hospital surgery, to the west. Their property on the south side of West Adams sat on a ridge with an excellent view south to the bay.

West Entry Drive to
2400 West Adams (later 3200) ca. 1910

German-American Bank
W.S. in 1903
Soon after moving into Fenton Knoll (as it was named), William's bank, the Union Bank of Savings, was merged into the German-American Savings Bank. William continued as president of the  combined institution. The bank closed the old German-American location, and continued to do business at the Union Bank location at 4th and Spring Sts., albeit with a new, large sign (see postcard image).  The bank continued to grow, and by 1912 they had leased space in the new A. G. Bartlett building at 7th and Spring Street. A.G., not apparently related to William, made a lot of his money in the music business, which is chronicled in an article about his successor, John Fremont Salyer.

By 1910 son Lanier had struck out on his own, moving to the Hollywood area where he became a successful writer. His best known work, Adios, authored with his second wife Virginia Stivers, was made into a successful movie in 1930, entitled The Lash, starring Richard Barthelmess and Mary Astor.  The rest of the Bartlett family (W.S., Franklina, Lina, and Gordon) celebrated with a round-the-world cruise, which began in February in San Francisco on the S.S. Cleveland.

East Entry Drive ca. 1912
(courtesy USC Digital Archive)

Lina in 1908
Sadly, in October, 1914 the Los Angeles Times reported William's "sudden death" on Saturday the 10th. A funeral was held on the 12th at the West Adams Presbyterian attended by "many neighbors and friends". It was reported that William left most of the estate to Franklina.

One of the "friends" attending may have been James H. (Jim) French, son of Reverend Junius French from the early days in Tustin, who was in fact a second cousin of Lina.  Jim was listed as a teller at the German-American Bank in 1915, and the directory showed his residence as one and the same as Franklina and daughter Lina.

Jim went on to marry Lina later that year, with the wedding and reception taking place in the rear garden at Fenton Knoll. With Jim's father Junius officiating, the family captured the moment on film and we are fortunate to present a brief video of the event below.

In the late 1910's son Gordon perished in a drowning mishap. Son-in-law Jim became an auto dealer.  He and Lina are still in the house with Franklina and house maid Anna Zackrisson (who was listed also in the 1910 census). In 1929 James is listed as an insurance agent. Their children Franklina (b.1921) and James H. Jr.(1924-1944) have now joined the family--and of course Anna is still there.

On Christmas Eve, 1934, Franklina died. The house ended up with Lina and Jim, who continued to live there with their children and Anna. The 1940 census now showed Jim's occupation as a real estate broker. That may have been because in 1941, the house was sold, and the Frenches moved to Santa Monica.  The buyer was the Armenian Apostolic Church, which named their new church St. James.

The parish dedicated a new sanctuary building in December 1957, which could be used as an unofficial end date for Fenton Knoll.
The new sanctuary ca. 1958 for St. James

In 1963 the church sold and moved to new quarters on Slauson Ave.  The buyers were the Apostolic Faith Home Assembly Church. 

A not-too-far-in-the-past shot of the property at 3200 West Adams
A large addition in the back lot stretched the church financially, resulting in the eventual purchase for its current use, Frederick Douglass Academy High School, as an effort by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to improve education results through the use of charter schools.
The Frederick Douglass school closed in June, 2015. It became a LAUSD charter school focused on math and science preparation.

A 2018 photo of the school (courtesy of Google Maps)

More info:

1903 biography on Mr. Bartlett

Link checked 8/29/18

Friday, November 30, 2012

Herbert P. Barton -- 1013 South Westlake Ave.

As a great-nephew of Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross, Herbert Parks Barton (1866-1925) settled into the health profession after his graduation from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1890. He served on the New York City Board of Health for two years, then moved to Denver for two years to practice.

An ad for Montezuma Stock, 1900
In 1897 he moved to Southern California, where he settled in Ontario, setting up his practice while helping that city form its Board of Health. Brother Clarence came out to Riverside, where he was listed as a publisher in the 1900 census. That same year Herbert and his family, consisting of wife Frances (Vasseur) (1867-1922), and one son Chandler (1894-1952), moved to Los Angeles. He and Clarence made an investment in the Montezuma Oil Company, which tried drilling in Riverside County, which had had one low-producing well to that point.  They sold out a year later to Minnesota interests, without finding oil.

By 1904 Herbert had changed direction back to health, forming the Clara Barton Hospital near downtown. Starting in a small location at Pico and Hope St., they grew quickly and by 1906, had moved to 447 S. Olive Street, where they were to remain until Herbert's passing in 1925.

The success of the hospital no doubt contributed to the family's reason to move to a new house on South Westlake. Previously they had lived in a smaller place on South Flower closer to the hospital, and that neighborhood was changing from residential to business.

The Barton Residence in 1909

In the Westlake house according to the 1910 census were Herbert, Frances, son Chandler (now 15), and a house servant Hannah Mathson.

Besides the main hospital, a nurse training school was formed, providing skilled nurses to Los Angeles hospitals. Under various names the school continued through 1989.

In 1910, an additional wing for the hospital was begun, adding seventy additional beds on six floors to the facility. Advertising in the annual street directory provided this view of the hospital in 1915:

A 1915 Ad for the Hospital (from

Chandler in the UC
Berkeley Annual in 1916
Son Chandler went off to college at UC Berkeley, with a short break for service in WWI, receiving both an A.B. and M.A. degree with a major in Philosophy.  No doubt if Chandler were alive today, he would be surprised to find his Master's thesis "Individualism and the State: Hegel vs. Plato", available on today's world wide web.

He returned to Los Angeles after college to his parents' home now at 715 S. Ardmore, where he is listed in the 1920 census as a "magazine writer". After a brief marriage around 1930, Chandler ultimately ended up in San Francisco, where he passed away in 1952. He is buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno.

It is believed that in 1922 Frances passed away, as in the following year both Herbert and Chandler are noted as residing at the University Club downtown. Herbert is still there in the 1926 directory, but it is believed he passed away the year prior, since in 1926 the hospital merged with Hollywood Hospital, closing the doors at the South Olive location. By 1929 the name Clara Barton Hospital had disappeared from the directories.

Meanwhile back at 1013 S. Westlake, the next recorded occupant is Del Nethercott, a carpenter who was there in 1927. By 1930 he is gone. Then in 1952 Walter C. Eismann (1914-2001) and wife Eleanor arrive, with Walter's father and mother (W.C. Sr. and Margaret) living next door at 1015. By 1965 Walter and Eleanor have moved on, but Margaret remains next door through at least 1973. Addressing hints at a house now subdivided. By 1987 the site has become what it is today.

Yes, it is the parking lot for a McDonald's. Now that's progress.

Further info:
bio of Herbert Barton
burial site of Chandler Barton
picture of Herbert Barton, 1910

Monday, November 12, 2012

J. Nehemiah Blackstock -- 109 W. Avenue 54

Nehemiah ca. age 65
Born in Asheville, NC in 1846, Nehemiah Blackstock (1846-1928) served in the Confederate army for four years, before moving to Tennessee where he passed the bar in 1868. About the same time he married Abigail (Abbie) Smith (1848-1930) of Newport, Tennessee. After spending a few years in Missouri, they along with their three children Mary Belle, James, and John, moved to Los Angeles in 1875. They stayed a short time before moving to Ventura (then known as San Buenaventura, which can still be seen over the City Hall doors), shortly after the organization of the county.  Nehemiah practiced law there for about 30 years, fathering seven more children, including Charles (1876-1966), Lillian (b. 1879), Laura Mabel (1880-1968), and Edward (1892-1941). In 1897 Nehemiah was appointed to the State Railroad Commission, serving for four years. The Commission held the responsibility to set freight rates throughout the state.

In 1905 Nehemiah was appointed State Banking Commissioner, which involved a move to Los Angeles. He chose to live in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles. In 1910 living at the house on Avenue 54 were Abbie, now 62, son Edward, 18, and one servant. Daughter Lillian had lived there for awhile but was gone during the census. Son Edward was listed as being a newspaper reporter. Son Charles remained in Ventura County, first teaching school, then becoming the City Attorney in Oxnard. Older son James ran a grocery store in Ventura. Daughter Mabel had married Oliver Dunn in 1906, an early resident of the Oxnard area, and was living in Camarillo.

109 W. Ave. 54 in 1909
With Nehemiah's connection as State Banking Commissioner, he became associated with Merchants Bank & Trust Co. of Los Angeles as a Vice-President and Trust Officer. By 1911 he had left and formed a new company, the International Indemnity Company, located downtown.

In 1912 Mabel's husband Oliver Dunn contracted a blood disease and died two months after diagnosis, resulting in Mabel and her two children moving from Camarillo to a house in Los Angeles around the corner from Nehemiah and Abbie (then known as 5409 Pasadena Ave.).

Now when one went on international travel in the 1910's, one passport was usually enough. The only time more than one was made was when the owner had lost the original one. Mabel appeared in the passport records in both 1917 and 1919 for a different reason. As she stated for an affidavit in  applying for her new passport in 1919:

"...that while she was gone on the said trip the said passport was handled so often and so much by various officials of said countries, that when she returned the same was practically worn out and destroyed; and that not deeming it necessary to retain the same, she completed the destruction." 
...which of course required a new passport. (I liked the first photo better, I think. ;-)

Nehemiah continued on as president of his International Indemnity Company, which offered casualty insurance, from his office at 347 S. Hill St. Son Edward continued to live at home, noted as an artist in the 1927 street directory of Los Angeles. The next year Nehemiah died, and was buried at Forest Lawn, Glendale.

Abbie followed in 1930, after declaring the house being worth $50,000 in the federal census. In the house besides Abbie (listed as 82 years of age) were Mabel, her two sons Oliver and Gerald, Edward (now a commercial artist), and a housekeeper.

Mabel continued to live in the house until 1967. She died the next year, and was buried in Forest Lawn next to Nehemiah and Abbie. Sometime later the house came down. Today at the corner of Avenue 54 and Figueroa:

109 N. Ave 54 (today's address)
(courtesy of Bing maps)
Son Charles, the City Attorney of Oxnard, went on to become head of Ventura County schools, then a judge in Oxnard. In 1965 a new Charles Blackstock Junior High School was named for him.  He passed away the next year.

More info:
Bio of Nehemiah Blackstock
Grave at Forest Lawn

Thursday, October 18, 2012

William H. Code -- 1729 Whitley Ave. Hollywood

Born in Michigan in 1864, William Henry Code (1864-1951) attended the University of Michigan for special courses in engineering (1888-1890), and ended up in Cheyenne later that year working for the Union Pacific. The next year he became Assistant State Engineer for the brand-new state of Wyoming.

In 1892 a new offer appeared. In Arizona, Alexander Chandler (for whom Chandler, Arizona is named, and who had previously lived in Michigan), convinced Dexter Ferry and C. C. Bowen (both of Ferry Seed Co. fame) to invest in a new canal company which would provide irrigation water to the southern half of the Phoenix Salt River valley. William was named as engineer, and worked for the Consolidated Canal System for the next ten years. His irrigation experience, knowledge and political connections came together in 1902 when he was named Irrigation Engineer for the Office of Indian Affairs. At the same time, the Reclamation Act of 1902 had passed in Congress, which now provided federal largesse for irrigation projects on federal land throughout the western U.S.

W. H. in 1909
An immediate need lay in the Gila River valley, where the Pima tribe, consisting of 800-1000 people, had long used the waters of the lower Gila to irrigate their fields. Over the preceding decade, however, settlers upstream in the Casa Grande area, had ignored water rights for those downstream, siphoning off water until there was no longer enough to support the Pima. As Irrigation Engineer, William was to represent the various western tribes for dealings with agencies of the federal government. In 1899, the San Carlos dam site on the Gila had been surveyed and appeared suitable, but land speculators and settlers in the Phoenix area were much more organized. First the Reclamation act was altered to include irrigation to private lands. Then with this change now in hand, Phoenicians backed a dam for the Salt River instead, at the confluence of the Salt and Tonto Creek. The Pimas at first were to be recipients of water from a canal at the new dam, but Code argued instead for electric well pumps along the Gila near Sacaton.  He stated that he believed Pima water rights could not be restored and using pumps would be the only reliable source for water. What he did not say is that the canal planned to be built from Roosevelt Dam was charted along a higher elevation than needed for the Pima, but would provide ample water for a large acreage abutting Alexander Chandler's 18,000 acre ranch. The Pima feared the pumps would provide alkaline water, proving unsuitable. You can guess the outcome.

In 1905 Code was promoted to Chief Irrigation Engineer for the Office of Indian Affairs, formalizing a position he already held. The job's residence was to be in Los Angeles, so William and wife Martha moved to Hollywood, purchasing a new residence at 1729 Whitley Ave. The house was on a very large lot of approximately 120 ft. by 185 ft. which no doubt played into the house's future. It was a large house for someone with no children, a trait he shared with Alexander Chandler. Martha no doubt loved being in California, as she is often mentioned in society blue-books of the era. And besides his government position, Code also remained involved in Arizona business, notably as a vice-president of Mesa City Bank.

The Code Residence in 1909
William probably was thinking ahead when he had his name added to Burdette's book in 1910, as we are about to see.  The next year was the zenith for his Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) position, with a March full-page article in the San Francisco Call, extolling the munificence of the federal government for the "Red Man", led by William. In an excerpt regarding "Rebuilding Pima Civilization".

"Already eight of these pumping plants have been installed and are now in operation. They will furnish an abundance of water eight thousand acres of land, and this alone is enough to keep the tribe prosperous. But so great was the success of the first of these plants that the government has decided to put in nearly as many more. This will supply water to some fourteen thousand acres and the despised Pimas will become landed gentlemen to be envied by farmers the country through."
But the article was far off the mark. By summer the next year it had gotten so bad, Congress convened hearings on the debacle. Being deposed in this excerpt below was Herbert Marten, Financial Clerk of the Pima Indian Agency:

"Mr. Marten. The point is that the reservoir [Roosevelt Dam] which is now constructed was constructed at an enormous expense, and by selling electricity they hope to be able to reimburse themselves more or less for that expenditure. The Government has spent or contracted to spend, $500,000 in buying electricity, and, as I have said, the white farmers have water for the money they pay. Now, there are two points to the question; the first is that water is reserved for idle speculative lands, and the other one is that not only is the water reserved, but $500,000 is gathered in for that electricity bought in place of water.

Senator Curtis. You mean that the Government is using the electricity to pump the water out of the wells, instead of getting it from the reservoir?

Mr. Marten. That is the point.

Senator Curtis. What Senator Page wanted to know, as I understood his question, and which I do not think you did, is: Why did the Government put down those wells if it was going to be such an expensive and such a useless proposition?

Mr. Marten. They should never have done it.

Senator Curtis. Why did they do it--that is the point?

Mr. Marten. I think all the evidence seems to show that the reason why it was done was that these idle speculative arid lands which were not supplied with water should have the water that ought to have gone to the Indians.
I can give you a case in point. There is a large estate of 18,000 acres of land bordering on the Indian reservation, with nothing to divide the two but an imaginary line run by the surveyors. There is evidence to show that those 18,000 acres of public land have been illegally secured from the Government, and the water which should be running over the Indian lands, and which used to overflow this land from a canal in times of high water is now running on this 18,000 acre tract of speculative land.
Senator Page. It has been diverted wrongfully?

Mr. Marten. It has been diverted in place of being put on the Indian lands.

Senator Curtis. It is appropriated by the other lands?

Mr. Marten. Yes, sir.

Senator Curtis. How many wells have been put down by the Government?

Mr. Marten. Ten.

Senator Curtis. How much have they cost?

Mr. Marten. The cost of those wells is about $900,000 at the present time, including contracted indebtedness.

Senator Curtis. How many of them are working?

Mr. Marten. Seven.

Senator Curtis. Satisfactorily, I mean.

Mr. Marten. Well, not all of the seven are working satisfactorily.

Senator Curtis. Three, is it not?

Mr. Marten. There are three or four working satisfactorily; seven are working more or less satisfactorily.

Senator Curtis. How many acres are being irrigated by those seven wells or from the seven wells?

Mr. Marten. There can be about 4,200 acres irrigated.


Senator Owen. Under whose direction was that done?

Mr. Marten. I believe it was done chiefly under the direction of the former chief engineer of the Indian service, Mr. William H. Code, in connection with the Reclamation Service. Mr. Code has now resigned from the service.

Senator Owen. That is rather an expensive service.

Mr. S. M. Brosius (agent of the Indian Rights Association). I should like to say that Mr. Code resigned from the service after there had been quite an exposition of the transactions in the irrigation matters last summer."
 But the hearings did not seem to damage Code's reputation.  He along with two others formed Quinton, Code, and Hill civil engineering consultants, in late 1911 before the hearings. Code remained an active part of the business well into the 1930's.

A 1924 ad for Code's consulting business
(UCLA Annual)
The Codes moved from Whitley Ave. by 1917 to 7231 Hillside, where they remained until their deaths in 1951. After a short ownership change the Whitley Ave. property was purchased by a Nebraska couple with the owner intending to build "bungalows" on the lot, no doubt following the trend next door to the south, which was filled with bungalows in 1919 as seen below.

Whitley Avenue in 1919
(courtesy of Sanborn Maps)

And by the mid 1920's the house is gone from the directories.  Bungalows were installed on the back half of the property. Known as "Corte Riviera", they are still there today.  And in the 1940's, the apartments in the front half were built.

Looking west across the old 1729 Whitley property
(courtesy of Google maps)
And the federal government in the 1920's built Coolidge dam, with the hope of providing reservoir water to the Pima. Control by the BIA of water usage led to a loss of native crop farming skills as Pimas were now required to plant "cash" crops. 

A 2004 settlement between the government and the Pima will hopefully bring the issue to final resolution.

Additional Info
The Native American Water Rights Project
A history on Gila River Water

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Richard V. LeGrand -- 149 N. El Molino Ave., Pasadena

Richard Virginius LeGrand (b. 1860 TX), after attending Georgetown College in Washington D. C., pursued the mining business for 20+ years. With a large silver vein coming in at the "Mountain King" mine in the Lucky Boy, Nevada area, he decided to leave Texas and settle in Los Angeles, where he formed the Alamo Mining Co. to work various mine properties in Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico.

The family settled in Pasadena around 1906, purchasing a home just a block north of Colorado Blvd. The 1910 census showed quite a crowd at their new Pasadena house. Along with wife Dixie (b. 1863 AR), many of their seven children lived with them, along with a few grandchildren. The house's occupants included son Joseph (b.1886,  TX), his wife Ethel, and their granddaughter; son George W. (b.1890 TX); son Richard V. (b. 1893 TX); daughter Edith V. (b.1896 TX); daughter Annie W. (b.1899 TX); daughter Myrtle N (b.1904 TX); and Dixie's older sister Georgie. No doubt the large number of people in the house was a premonition to its major use later in life.

149 North El Molino in 1909
  It appears that R.V. had everyone who was at home come out on photo day.  Here's a close up of the front porch.

Picture Day
From left to right a guess of the family would be Dixie, Annie, Richard Jr., Edith, R.V. holding granddaughter Heriot's hand, and Myrtle sitting on the step.

But Pasadena was unable to keep the LeGrands and by 1915 the family had packed up and moved to West Adams, moving in at 640 West 21st St. The street directory for that year, which only recorded adults, showed that along with R.V. (and presumably Dixie), sons Claude, George, Joseph (now known as J. Mastella), and Richard V. were in residence.  R.V. was listed as a mining engineer. The family moved again by 1920 to 2118 Oak Street, where ten people were recorded for the 1920 census.

Clinton C. Clarke
(original fm
Meanwhile back at 149 El Molino, the Jay C. Hills family had moved in, seeking relief from Chicago winters.  Their son Gerald attended Occidental College, while spouse Myrtie was a member of the nearby Shakespeare Club, where she no doubt knew the B. O. Kendalls, who lived next door to the Club. By 1930 the Hills had moved to the new Vista Del Arroyo Hotel overlooking the Colorado Street Bridge.

Interestingly it was also the home of Clinton C. Clarke (1873-1957) and his wife Margaret, who were soon to be involved with the El Molino property, which by now had become the Altadena School for Girls, a private boarding school that listed two teachers and five students in residence in 1930.

Clinton C. Clarke was listed as "retired" in the 1920 census, when he was 46 years of age. In 1910 his occupation was "own income". It appears inheritances from his Chicago lawyer father and his mother's family allowed Clinton to pursue his own agenda. A recorded lawsuit in 1898 appears to have provided 2/24ths of his mother's father's estate, which was ample.  He married Margaret in 1906, and from 1920 on, they lived in hotels.

In 1924 the Pasadena Playhouse built their historic building at 39 South El Molino, just two blocks south of the  house. While Clinton was its first President and on the founding Board of Directors, Margaret was keenly involved with the Playhouse too, as indicated by numerous articles in the Pasadena Star-News of the '20s and '30s. One 1926 headline stated:

"'You and I' is poignant comedy : Margaret Clarke, Samuel Hinds, Lois Austin and Maurice Wells lead : Are favorites at Playhouse : Credits charm of new production to skill of entire cast"

 By the 1930's the Playhouse was a major force in Southern California, attracting would-be actors in droves. In order to house the many students wishing to participate, the Playhouse purchased three houses on El Molino Ave. and named them in honor of their major patrons.  One of these places--149 North El Molino Avenue --was appropriately named "Clarke House", and was a female dormitory through the early '50s, before becoming mixed in the 1960's. Actress and former Playhouse student Joan Taylor, who was in the movie Rose Marie and TV's Rifleman series, stayed in the houses during her early career. Here's an excerpt from a 2007 interview with her discussing the topic of Playhouse dorms:

"It was very special. I lived in a Playhouse 'dorm', an old Pasadena house that had been taken over by the Playhouse; there were two or three of these marvelous old homes that they took over."
USFS Plaque
for Clarke
In addition to supporting the Playhouse, husband Clinton had a love of hiking, and is given credit for first proposing the Pacific Crest Trail in 1932. Along with sponsoring multiple activities supporting the trail, he also advocated politically for the trail, continuing until his death in 1957, twelve years before the actual designation. In honor of his long-time efforts, a plaque was placed by the U.S. Forest Service in Soledad Canyon along the trail in 1998.

By the end of the 1950's, the Pasadena Playhouse was slipping, as evidenced by its 1963 sale of the three dorm properties to supporters, and then leasing the properties back from them. After founder Gilmor Brown's death in 1969, the Playhouse entered bankruptcy. Clarke House was in the hands of Playhouse supporters, but ultimately all three houses (127, 139, and 149) were demolished, resulting in the building and parking lot of today.

Approximate view of 149 N. El Molino today
(part of Ironworkers Office Plaza)

Additional Info:
Photo of R. V. LeGrand (1909)
Clinton Churchill Clarke obituary (1957)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

John A. Murphy -- 419 West Washington Street

419 West Washington was the last space on the block to have a house built.  In 1894, the corner lot was just an empty space on the map, but by 1904 it had filled in. It may have been built for James D. Schuyler and his wife Mary around 1899 or so, as James and Mary are listed as owners in the 1900 census.  James by 1900 was a world-renowned hydraulic engineer, working on multiple water projects in California including the Sweetwater and Hemet Dams.  In 1903 he was involved in early plans for the Owens Valley Aqueduct, the largest water project in Los Angeles city history up to that time.

Engineers planning the L.A. Aqueduct to Owens Valley, 1903. (L-R) John R. Freeman, James D. Schuyler,
J.B. Lippincott, Fred P. Stearns, William Mulholland.
(courtesy of
By 1905 the Schuylers had moved out. Perhaps the new Polytechnic High School across the street made the block a bit too noisy. Instead it was occupied by the Oren D. Brown family, who celebrated with a wedding reception there for their daughter Cecile that year.

Meanwhile John A. Murphy (1856-1931) with a partner named Crook (honest...), was working in his career as a contractor while living nearby at 118 W. Pico. In 1906 he retired from contracting, and joined in the incorporation of the National Bank of Commerce as a Vice-President. In 1909 the family had moved to the new house at 419 West Washington Blvd. At home included John, his wife Alvina (1855-1949), and their son Gustave (b. 1889). Gustave is listed as a hardware store clerk, while John is noted as President, Costa Rica Rubber Co. in the 1909 street directory. The house stood on the northeast corner of Washington and Flower Streets.

419 West Washington Street (viewed from Flower St.)
(could be John & Alvina in the photo)

John and Alvina stayed in the house through the mid-1920's. As can be seen from the photo, apartments are next door on Washington Street, and by 1925 the block of Flower Street was mostly apartment rentals. They moved to the newer Los Feliz neighborhood to 4626 Finley, where they were at the time of the 1930 census. Daughter Loretta had come back to live with the parents too. She had married, had a daughter Esther who was now 19 and working at the phone company, and also living on Finley. Meanwhile back at 419 W. Washington, the house was now cut into multiple apartments, with the census showing three families at the residence.

By 1942 the house is no longer extant, replaced with a service station owned by General Petroleum, a then subsidiary of then Mobil Oil. It remained under the General or Mobil brand, and in 1987 was recorded as being "Fred's Mobil Service".

Today a transport of another sort has intruded on the property.  The service station is gone, and part of the property is park space used by the L.A. Trade Tech College, now located across the street where the high school had been.

419 West Washington -- today's aerial view
And this is pretty close to a then and now photo--
A 2012 view from Flower Street
Thanks to John--another house photo retrieved from the past...

Further info:
John A. Murphy in 1909

Sunday, September 9, 2012

John W. Whittington -- 2801 Budlong Ave.

L.A. Herald in
Jan. 1909
The National Life Underwriters convention at long last had come to Los Angeles.
And it was there due to the efforts of John Whittington (1867-1943). An Englishman turned U.S. citizen, John settled in L.A. in the 1890's, and parlayed his employment as Southern California's general agent for Aetna Insurance into president of the Life Underwriters Association of Los Angeles in four short years, leading the Association in 1907-1908. In 1908 he was successful in bringing the national convention to Los Angeles.

A 1909 article on his retirement from office in the L.A. Herald was important enough news to hit the front page. The article spoke of "traveling the country", which probably helped him in his run for president of the National Association of Life Underwriters (NALU) later that year.

At the 1909 NALU convention in Louisville, the delegates elected John to be the president for 1910. John engaged in considerably more travel, criss-crossing the U.S. that year, giving addresses to conventions where he urged for better state underwriting laws to protect consumers from "get-rich quick" schemers.

Life's fortunes were going well on the home front, too, as the family had recently (in 1906) moved into a new, large, airy, house at 1801 Budlong. Living there were wife Ina May (1868-1922), children Wayne (1896-1989), Wentworth (b. 1901), and Dorothy (b. 1904), as well as a live-in servant. Son William came later in 1910.

The Whittington Residence in 1909 (including the dog)
(That may be Dorothy on the porch)

(As an aside, the photo appears to have a large antenna mounted on the roof, but nothing could be found connecting John with the then new-fangled notion of wireless.)

John in 1910
(portrait by Marceau)
After a gracious writeup in 1913 in Notables of the West, things turned decidedly at home.  In 1914 John is out of the house and residing at the Sierra Madre Club. In 1915 he changes employers--he now works for Southern California National Life Insurance Co. of USA. His residence is not shown. Two years later, Ina and the four children have moved out of 1801 Budlong to lodging on Dalton Street, about 2 1/2 miles south. Son Wayne, who files a draft card for WWI, asks for exemption from service for "support of mother, brother, & sister". John, meanwhile, is now employed in Phoenix for the Inter-Mountain Life Ins. Co., living in town at the Hotel Jefferson. From there John has a short return in 1920 to the house on Dalton, according to the street directory. He joins another new resident Mattie Murphy, Ina's mother. Son Wayne has left to open a tire store on Vermont, and married a girl named Louise.  He was soon to leave that business and begin one that all of Southern California would eventually know about.

By 1922, John had departed for New York, as a partner in investments with local entrepreneur Garson J. Kahn. Known as Whittington & Kahn, Investment Specialists, they disappear from the street directory by 1925. Meanwhile both Ina and her mother Mattie die in 1922. Youngest son William was just twelve. John remains out of the public record until his death in 1943, when he is interred next to Ina and Mattie.

In 1920 the house is shown as being rented to an iron works engineer. The census for the neighborhood shows many other houses in the neighborhood as now being rented. By 1926 the property has suffered a common fate to large, older properties.  The front yard now has six additional apartments in two buildings, while the main house has been segmented into two apartments. In the 1909 photo the door on the left is the entry for one, while the large awning out front shelters the door for the other. All the housing is rented according to the 1930 census, with three separate families living in the north half of the main house.
2801 Budlong in its new configuration (1926 and later)

Meanwhile son Wayne started a new business in the nearby Exposition Park area, calling it "Dick" Whittington Studio after the 14th century tale of a young man and his cat. Wayne's business logo was a cat.

In the beginning Wayne and Louise rented a place at 3845 Wisconsin, living in part of the building. By the late 1930's they had remodeled, employed 20+ employees, becoming the largest photography studio in Southern California. Brother William was recorded as working at the studio in 1936.

Dick Whittington Studio in the 1930's
(Ebay via skyscraperpage forum)

The studio outgrew the Wisconsin street location, moving to Olympic Blvd. The business continued until 1987. Wayne passed away in 1989, and his son provided many of the studio's 500,000 photos to USC (which Wayne attended in his youth) and Huntington Library.

And the house?  It's still there, albeit hidden behind the six apartments which remain out front.  Judging from the Google Maps view below, it's a real standout.
The neighborhood today.

The main house second story is viewable from 29th Street, but the front of the property is gated and barred, as is much of the neighborhood. Rents appear to have gone up from $35/month in 1930 to around $1200 today.

(Updated Apr. 2022)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Joseph D. Radford -- 1124 West Adams Street

Born in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, Joseph (1857-1918) married childhood sweetheart Mary Pinney (1857-1901) in 1881. Soon after they moved to Bozeman, Montana as Joseph continued his career in banking. In 1887 his only child Ruth was born there. Mary's health was not holding well, so in 1896 the family moved to California in search of better climes.

San Jose News, Nov. 1901
Joseph continued in the banking business in California, finding a position as assistant cashier at the National Bank of California in Los Angeles. He also became a director of the bank, along with another gentleman of mention, Nathan W. Stowell, a local iron pipe manufacturer, whose wife Florence (known as Flora) was active in Los Angeles society.

In 1898 the family moved to San Jose, where Joseph had been promoted to cashier at a bank there. Sadly, in 1901 Mary passed away due to her poor health. The Radfords were so well-known in San Jose that her death made the local paper.

Participating in statewide banking conventions, Joseph became well-known throughout California in the banking community, so it was no surprise when in 1907 he was named as Vice-President of the German-American Bank in Los Angeles. Ruth and Joseph moved back to Los Angeles, where they took up residence on West Adams.

Their new, eleven-room home on West Adams had been purchased in 1906 by investor Charles Pregge, who had paid $16,500, buying it from the estate of Charles & Melissa Clarke, he a retired distiller from back east in "cold" country.

1124 W. Adams in 1909

Joseph engaged himself in many charitable organizations around town, including the YMCA/YWCA, where he may have crossed paths again with Flora Stowell, who was also active with the YWCA. Flora was now divorced, coming off an ugly parting from her  husband. It appears that in 1905, Professor William and Mrs. Wilkinson of Chicago were visiting Los Angeles, where their daughter Evelyn became ill from smallpox. Flora, who was immune, volunteered to care for Evelyn, age 20, as her parents needed to return to Chicago. Staying in the Stowell home, she and 58-year-old Nathan fell in love. Nathan divorced Flora while in El Paso, providing a settlement of $150,000 and a house to Flora as he went to Chicago and married Evelyn despite her parents' disapproval. The disapproval became public with a news article in June, 1905 published in the New York Times, as well as the local L.A. Herald, in which the Wilkinsons disowned their daughter.

In October, 1908 widower Joseph married Flora at the home of Flora's mother, surrounded by a small group of relatives and friends, according to the article. The wedding was officiated by the Reverend Robert J. Burdette, who edited the book from which these blog house photos were taken.

The Banks of Los Angeles in
the Celebration Booklet
By 1910 daughter Ruth had married and moved to the Imperial valley. Joseph continued with banking, leaving the German-American Bank for a position as vice-president at Hibernia Savings Bank.

Joseph in 1913 in
the Celebration Booklet

 In 1913 Joseph led the commission charged with celebrating the new Owens Valley Aqueduct. Along with the celebration ceremony itself, a 50-page booklet was produced by the Commission, which was provided to invitees of the formal celebration. Besides photos of the aqueduct, the booklet extolled the virtues of the chief engineer, William Mulholland, as well as providing self-adulation of population growth, the post office, Exposition Park buildings, and growth of overall business in the area. Interestingly, one of the pages featured banking, and of the five images shown, two were banks that Joseph worked in.

In 1914, doctors advised Joseph to step down from his banking positions, so he retired, but continued in public service as President of the Los Angeles City Board of Playground Commissioners, which he joined in July, 1913. He served as its President for three years, followed by additional service until December, 1917 when he resigned, probably for health reasons. He passed away the next year, and is buried at Forest Lawn, Glendale. In 1919, the Commissioners added a new city-owned camp in the Big Bear Lake area to its holdings, naming it Camp Radford in honor of Joseph.

Flora remained at the house at 1124 West Adams, joined by her niece Ethel Rivers Hopkins in 1920, along with Ethel's son Vance. Flora passed away in 1943 at age 82, and is buried alongside Joseph. Ethel remained in the house, with Vance coming and going. Their last recorded mention of being in the house was in 1954. By 1956 there is no listing for the house, which was purchased by the Sisters of the Company of Mary, who own the house and lot next door at 1100 West Adams.

From aerial photographs, it is apparent that today's apartment building was erected prior to 1972. It is known today as the St. Joseph Residence.  Ethel passed away in San Bernardino in 1960, while Vance died in San Diego in 1968.

Today's 1124 W. Adams

The orientation of the front apartment building aligns with the former house located on the lot.

Additional info:

Joseph Radford photo/bio in 1910

Link Checked 2/2/20