Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Charles H. Windham -- 435 Cedar Ave. Long Beach

It was 1904, and Charles Windham (1871-1932) was looking for a place in California where he could get a good education for his five children.  He decided on Long Beach. On such seemingly small decisions substantial history is sometimes made.

Charles and his family had come to Long Beach from Costa Rica, where Charles had met his wife Angelica (1875- ), and where their first three children had been born. Charles first went to Latin America to work on a Nicaragua-based canal, then shifted to the railway business, where he accumulated enough monies to run coffee and sugar plantations. Success there was such that in Long Beach in 1906 he had a new 6 bedroom, 4,000 square foot house built on Cedar Avenue, just a half block from former mayor Stephen Townsend, who served 1903-1905.  Charles was elected to the city council too, and in 1909 he became mayor, serving two terms. During that time he was very involved in getting the city of Long Beach committed to building a harbor to compete with Los Angeles's next door at San Pedro.

Here's a photo of the house in the 1909 timeframe.
435 Cedar Ave.

The 1910 census recorded as living in the house Charles, wife Angelica, daughters Marta (1894- ), Clara (1896- ), and Marguerite (1904- ), sons Charles A. (1898- ) and James B. (1906- ), one servant, and a visitor from Costa Rica.

Charles believed strongly in a harbor for Long Beach, and was backed by the people of Long Beach, who had committed $245,000 in bonds to purchase land and improve harbor access. Charles even testifying in Congress for the support of the Army Corps of Engineers to help create a deeper, larger harbor and breakwater. His efforts were ultimately successful, helping to achieve the harbor we know today.  Recently the city of Long Beach mentioned that achievement as part of its 100 yr. anniversary (below).

By 1920 Charles and Angelica had moved from 435 Cedar Avenue, residing at 1622 E. 1st St. in 1922, when he was the city postmaster. Dr. Alexander Montgomery had purchased the Cedar Avenue home, running his practice, living there, and renting rooms from the establishment.

C.H. Windham in 1909
Next year Charles was asked to become city manager, after a recall of his predecessor, which he stayed with for two or so years. In 1925 he was offered the city manager job for Hollywood, Florida with a salary of $50,000.  The town was interested in developing a harbor from its shallow bays. He stayed for two years, returning to Long Beach to reside at 33 Hermosa Avenue.

In early 1932 he caught influenza, and passed away April 11, leaving Angelica and his five children. Son Charles had gone on to become chief deputy city attorney, after working in real estate.

In the mid-1980s, the house began a new career, becoming the Lord Mayor's Bed & Breakfast, which continued for over 15 years, with the owners retiring. It has since reverted to a single family house.

And lastly a current photo of the house:
435 Cedar in 2016
(courtesy of the author)
More on 435 Cedar:
Lord Mayor's website (photos of rooms)
Long Beach Historical Landmark

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Stephen Townsend -- 504 Cedar Ave., Long Beach

The Stephen Townsend (1848-1920) family first came to Southern California in 1876, consisting of wife Anna (1848-1930), two daughters Frances Maye (1872-1901) and Esther Belle (1875- ), and son Vinton Ray (1881-1929), who went by Ray. The family tried farming first (as indicated in the 1880 census), but Stephen Townsend had bigger ideas, and in 1886, as founder of the Pasadena Street Railroad (with 16 other investors), he had the first streetcar line built in Pasadena. By 1894 the line was suffering from declining revenues (due to "electric" competition), so he sold his share of the business, and relocated to Long Beach. In 1897 he began selling real estate in the small town after purchasing acreage at the east end of Anaheim Road.  How small was Long Beach? The 1900 census reported just 2,252 total residents for the city.

A Buffum's credit card from the 1980's
Besides various real estate development operations, Townsend founded the American National Bank of Long Beach.  This merged with the First National Bank of Long Beach in 1904, where he became vice president. He was probably working there when he was introduced that same year to a newcomer in town, Charles A. Buffum, who wanted to run a general store in Long Beach, as he'd done in Illinois. The store, named The Mercantile Company, started later that year with Charles Buffum as secretary and manager, and Stephen Townsend as vice president.

The store went on to become part of  Buffum's, a well-known Southern California chain of department stores that lasted 87 years. Of course as president of the Long Beach Board of Trustees (the previous title for mayors), Townsend no doubt met many people during his tenure from 1903-1905.

In 1905 he had a new, five bedroom house built on the corner of Cedar Avenue and West 5th Street. It was completed just in time so the Townsends could host a huge reception for their son Ray and his new bride Ada (Campbell). A look at the house around 1909:
Stephen Townsend Residence

Here's a similar image from a postcard of the period...
504 Cedar ca. 1909

Stephen remained very active in the community even after the grand reception.  In 1909 he was drafted to become president of the Iowa Society of Southern California. Part of his duties included that he then preside over the winter picnic and reunion on Feb. 23, 1909, held at "Agricultural Park" in Los Angeles. (We know it today as Exposition Park--back then there was no Coliseum, not even the Natural History Museum). A photo of the group's officers appeared in the next day's paper:
L to R: Stephen Townsend, pres; C.H. Parsons, secy; Charles G. Rogers, vice-pres; and F.H. Nichols, treasurer

So how many former Iowans showed up in 1909?  The L.A. Herald estimated 25,000, with each of the 99 counties of Iowa having a designated "reunion" site. Many reunions over heard a first line of "Howyadoin?" followed quickly by  "I'm glad I'm here and not in Iowa this time of year!"

Stephen Townsend 1910
Stephen and Anna remained in the house for their future years. Stephen passed away in 1920, a year after they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, and Anna passed away in 1930, living to the ripe old age of 81. They were  buried in Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles.

The house was sold and in 1932 it is owned by Mrs. Willametta Powers. By 1934 Helen Angier, a nurse, had moved into the house. By 1940 she offered furnished rooms.

The house today appears to be a rooming house. The exterior has been modified, with the 2nd floor railing above the bay window removed, the windows replaced, and stucco applied to replace the shingled upper floor. The river rock fireplace and trim appears to be intact.

504 Cedar Ave. as of April, 2016
(courtesy of the author)

 And a bit more to add regarding Stephen and Anna's son Vinton Ray...

As the house at 504 Cedar went up, so did another just two blocks south, with a "different" look. The house belonged to Jennie Reeve, another pioneer of Long Beach, who among other things was part of the Long Beach Library board. Here's an early image of her house:

302 Cedar Ave. (NE corner with 3rd St.)

(courtesy of The Greene & Greene Archives, University of Southern California
Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens)

V. Ray must have seen it many times when visiting his parents. In 1917 after Mrs. Reeve's death, V. Ray bought the house and moved it a few blocks away. By 1920 V. Ray and his wife had moved to Claremont to live in a house there that had been owned by Mrs. Reeve's daughter, Mary Darling. But V. Ray wanted to live in Long Beach, so he hired the architects who had designed the Long Beach house to provide alterations as necessary for its new home in a new subdivision in Long Beach. The architects, who had designed both houses, took the commission. The house still exists in Long Beach and has been recently restored. It is one of only two extant Greene & Greene houses in Long Beach. Sadly, V. Ray only got to live in the new house for two years, but his wife remained for at least another ten.

And today? The house appears below:

4260 Country Club Drive (courtesy of Wikipedia)

For more info:

Plans for V. Ray Townsend House--Long Beach 
Rare Long Beach Gem for Sale (2004): Greene & Greene