Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Eugene E. Hewlett--1450 Hillcrest Ave., Pasadena

Frederick and Cleora Hewlett were listed as farmers in Petaluma in the 1880 federal census, but they must have been more successful than most. They were able to live in San Francisco, as well as retire after that in the Napa valley. Of their five children born, tragically only two would get past childhood--but they were both strong achievers. Eugene Elbert (1878-1946) was the younger brother of Albion Walter (1875-1925). Father Frederick moved to San Francisco when the boys were young, and they grew up going to San Francisco public schools.

Walter headed off to UC Berkeley for college, earning a B.S. degree in 1895, before advancing to Johns Hopkins University to become a doctor. With his MD degree in hand in 1900, he came back to San Francisco to teach at Cooper Medical College (today part of Stanford). In 1908 he took a position in Ann Arbor, Michigan where he joined the faculty at the University, and met his future wife Louise.

Meanwhile younger brother Eugene followed in Walter's footsteps at Berkeley earning his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1900, then headed off to Harvard for his LLB degree. It was there he became friends with Howard E. Huntington, only son of Henry E. Huntington, the latter of  Huntington Library fame. After graduation in 1903, Eugene returned to San Francisco to pick up the same law degree at Hastings, which would allow him to practice law in California, which is what he did shortly after being admitted to the bar, again in 1903. He set up practice with two other Harvard graduates, calling themselves Hewlett, Bancroft & Ballantine, with offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

On October 20, 1904 the Society news in Oakland was
Oakland Tribune 22 Oct 1904
(courtesy of
abuzz with the marriage of Eugene to Ione Fore. The description of the event (along with photos of the bride and maid of honor) took eight column inches in the paper. Ione was described...
"The bride was simply beautiful. Miss Ione Fore has always been beautiful, at all times, and she was a royally beautiful bride. The gown was of white satin, the heavy effect relieved with the overdress of fluffy tulle, and over that was the filmiest of Bruges lace."
The article went on to list Eugene's best man--brother Walter, who assisted in the event along with ushers Allen Chickering, Thomas Bishop, and Howard Huntington.

The next August Howard had found his bride-to-be and the wedding with Leslie was a society event of the season. The stag dinner for Howard was held two days prior at the San Francisco Palace, and hosted by--Eugene Hewlett. No doubt Howard's money set a high bar for keeping up, but Eugene appeared to be staying in step.

The next year was a tough one for San Francisco, with the earthquake and subsequent fire eliminating large portions of the central city. Included among the victims was Mrs. Simeon Wenban, who'd lost her Van Ness Avenue mansion in the fire--as widow of Simeon, a very successful miner in Colorado, she was indeed wealthy, but had no ready access to cash. She needed assistance in getting the insurance to pay for her house, and her daughter Eva Shaw recommended her friend Eugene, which established the beginning of a long-term relationship.

By 1907 Eugene and Ione moved to Los Angeles, taking up residence in the stylish West Adams district on west 28th Ave. It was simple to do as the law offices just added a new office in Los Angeles. It was located in the Pacific Electric Building, 3rd floor, in downtown L.A. (which was owned by Howard's father...). Howard had moved from San Francisco where he had been working at the Southern Pacific Railway, to Los Angeles where he ran the Los Angeles Railway out of the same Pacific Electric Building. Howard and Leslie had located in his father's new Oak Knoll subdivision in Pasadena, which was about a mile from Henry Huntington's new palatial home in today's San Marino, and adjacent to the new Huntington Hotel.

Eugene and Ione quickly purchased a new lot in Oak Knoll, building their new home on a 10+ acres with expansive views of the San Gabriel valley, and moved in by 1909. Now the Hewletts were just up the hill from the Huntingtons.

1450 Hillcrest Ave. in 1909

The 1910 census described inhabitants as Mr. and Mrs. Hewlett, along with two servants, and two "hired men". Interestingly Mrs. Hewlett attended a family reunion in San Francisco two weeks prior, and ended up with the distinction of being listed twice in the census. And that same year Henry Huntington divorced his long time wife Mary, Howard's mother. The world was later to find out that Eugene took on the role of managing some of her money, too.

The Hewletts were a strong part of Pasadena's society.  One article in the Pasadena Star-News described Mrs. Hewlett thus:
"...Mrs. Hewlett stopped at Hotel Huntington last year and her costumes were the admiration and wonder of Pasadena's wealthy and the millionaires who came from the east. At the tango dinners where famous professional dancers performed, she was always the most brilliant in the throng and her appearance invariably excited admiring comments. Slightly built, with perfect features and dark hair, she was always gowned in the most dazzling creations and at the charity ball, where women brought their costumes direct from Paris for the brilliant event, Mrs. Hewlett in her attire always managed to outshine the others."
Eugene in 1910
As Mrs. Hewlett delighted society, Eugene immersed himself in his passion for race cars. No doubt convincing Howard to join him, they were partners in the Pacific Coast Motor Car Co., which gained dealer rights for Fiat on the west coast, including Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.  An office was opened in San Francisco. Eugene bought a Fiat racer in late 1910, and hired a driver, David Bruce-Brown. The Fiat had just come off some successful races, and it was expected to do well in future showings. With its 175 horsepower engine, it could sustain speeds of 75 mph, so with great anticipation Eugene entered the car and driver in the FIRST Indianapolis 500, held May 30, 1911. Lo and behold the Fiat finished third, entitling owner Eugene to winnings of $3,250.

Next year 1912 was even more successful.  Eugene, with a new
The 1912 Fiat Recently
driver "Terrible" Teddy Tetzlaff, placed the Fiat second at the Indianapolis 500, with an average speed of over 76 MPH, earning $10,000 for the finish. They were one of only ten cars to complete the full 500 miles.

The successes continued throughout the year, with a win in Tacoma at the Montamarathon--and a trophy to prove it.  This was followed by a win in Phoenix with Teddy again at the wheel. A great racing season for the team.

In 1913 racing continued with Frank Verbeck as the new driver. As a former chauffeur for Hewlett, he raced under the Pacific Coast Motor Car Co. banner. He won more than one race in which he beat the famous Barney Oldfield, including the 1913 Panama-Pacific Road Race, to the point that Oldfield purchased the Fiat for his own after the 1914 season.

But not all was wine and roses. It was reported that the house at 1450 Hillcrest was sold in 1913, and rumors abounded about an impending split between the Hewletts, which was denied by Ione. Then in September, 1914 the headlines hit newspapers from Pasadena to El Paso.

Pasadena Star-News 9-11-14
(courtesy Pasadena Library)

It seems that a retired Englishman, a Reginald Gernon, had earlier contracted with Eugene to provide an annuity of $3,000 per year in exchange for $30,000 cash and some properties, totaling $34,000. Soon after Hewlett is alleged to have defaulted on the annuity, which caused Gernon to file the embezzlement suit. Hewlett was out of town the day the suit was filed--he returned quickly to California and was soon out on bail. But in Oakland the story added a new twist.  It mentioned that Hewlett had been sued "two months ago, by Howard Huntington, son of Millionaire Henry E. Huntington, for the recovery of $100,000 alleged to have been obtained fraudulently by Hewlett."

October was more bad news as the new headline read "Attorney Accused of $576,000 Fraud". Eugene was accused of fraudulently converting to his own uses client securities aggregating $576,000. The suit this time was by the Wenban estate, incorporated. The complaint stated that "Hewlett as confidential agent of Mary E. Huntington mismanaged her property, aggregating $500,000, and that when she threatened criminal prosecution, restitution was made with the estate's bonds." The complaint by the Wenban estate was tortuously slow in being resolved, eventually reaching the California Supreme Court in 1924 (Wenban v. Hewlett 193 Cal. 675). It appeared that Eugene was attempting to separate Hewlett the man from Hewlett the company, and selling the story that the bonds were taken by the company, not the man. The ruling came back that "..It is not necessary that the plaintiff prove actual fraud.  It is enough if the recognition of the two entities as separate would result in an injustice."

By this time not only had Howard's mother Mary E. Huntington died, so had the primary Wenban plaintiff, Caroline Wenban, as well as Howard Huntington himself. His obituary in 1922 read his health had declined due to an ulcer of the stomach.  In today's parlance, we would say he died of stomach cancer.

Eugene knew the writing was on the wall back in 1915, so he and Ione headed for the east coast, where he ended up in New York in 1918. By 1930 they had moved on to Chicago, where he and Ione were renting at the Briar Apartments for $100/month.  His profession was listed as "coal organizer". In 1938 the Hewletts came back to town, living in L.A. on Rampart Blvd., before moving back to Pasadena, where they could be found in 1942 at 1390 N. Arroyo Blvd.  Four years later, Eugene died on August 3rd--Ione then moved back to the bay area (probably with family), where she passed away in Alameda County on March 3rd, 1965. The Hewletts are buried in Cypress Lawn Cemetery, Colma.

And what of 1450 Hillcrest? In 1920 no one is found to be living in the house. Howard & Leslie Huntington are still living in their home down the hill at 1079 Old Mill Road. But as noted above, Howard died in 1922, leaving widow Leslie with their four children. By 1924 she becomes engaged to James Brehm, a wealthy real estate investor, and a widower with children. And their new house for the combined families? Yes--1450 Hillcrest, where Leslie and James remain until their passings, two months apart, in 1962. After their deaths, the house was demolished, the property subdivided, and today there are three houses on the site, one of the addresses is today's 1446 Hillcrest Ave. Coincidentally, one of Henry Huntington's most profitable lines on the Pacific Electric Railway (called the Oak Knoll line) ran just south of the Hillcrest Ave. property (more detail in map below).

P.E. Railway on the private right-of-way below the Hillcrest House
(date unknown) (courtesy of

And lastly--Eugene and Ione had no known children, but Eugene's brother A. Walter did.  While Walter was in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he and Louise became parents to William Redington Hewlett (1913-2001), Redington being a family name on his mother's side. And what became of William (Bill) Hewlett?  With father Walter's death early on in 1925, son Bill committed he would attend Stanford and while there in the 1930's, he hit it off with another student whose name you already know, David Packard. They went on to found their scientific instrument company, Hewlett-Packard.

Uncle Eugene and Aunt Ione--who knew?

Additional Information:
1930 Sanborn Map of the area
An interesting aerial of the Baroness Zimmerman house next door
El Paso article on Hewlett Case 1914

(Author's note: this is my favorite post in the blog)







Saturday, April 14, 2012

Arthur M. Goodhue--534 Chestnut Ave. Long Beach

Arthur Goodhue (b. 1871) was a California boy born in Sacramento, last of five children.  His father Oliver was a lumber dealer there, which would figure prominently for Arthur. By 1893 he had moved to Long Beach, and by 1899 was the owner of the San Pedro Lumber Company in that city, which he ran until disappearing from the Long Beach directories in 1925.

He married the former Lilian Everson (b. 1876) of Oakland in 1896, and in 1899 joined with other hunters to form the Greenwing Gun Club outside the then city limits of Long Beach. Around the same time he also helped in the creation of the first municipal golf links in the state, and later went on to be a member of the Virginia Country Club. In that same year of 1899, Lilian as a member of the Ebell Club of Long Beach, wrote an extended article for their monthly magazine on Sevres porcelain.

In 1904 they moved into their new home at 534 Chestnut Avenue, and had this photograph taken:

The Goodhue Residence in 1908

In 1905 Goodhue and partners founded the State Bank of Long Beach, which may have positioned him for the next really big deal in Long Beach, a new hotel.  In October of 1905, the Long Beach Hotel Co. was created. Directors of the company included Goodhue, two members of the Bixby family, and J. Ross Clark. Construction began the following January.

By summer a name had been determined for the new building--Hotel Bixby, and work continued on the $750,000 project until November 9th. That day a wooden form for one of the building's concrete columns was removed too early, which allowed the column to fail, bringing down masses of concrete to the street and basement, where 50 workers were toiling. Final death toll was eleven--the contractor was eventually held liable, and owners pledged to immediately return to building the hotel. But history tells us there never was a Hotel Bixby. Like most tragedies of the sort, names are changed so people will not link disasters to place names. The new name?  Hotel Virginia.

The hotel opened in April, 1908 and by October the Goodhues had sold
Arthur in 1910
their home and moved in to the Virginia, where they stayed through 1911, after which they moved to a house at 2204 E. 1st Street. The State Bank disappeared, other investments disappeared, but the San Pedro Lumber Co. remained under the management of A. M. Goodhue until the early 1920's. After that, no record is easily found for the pair.  They had no children. It appears that Lillian moved north to Berkeley, passing away near there in 1952.  Perhaps Arthur died in the mid-1920's. Interestingly they had the above house published as theirs, but had sold it before the book was finished.

The Hotel Virginia also disappeared from maps, as it suffered damage in the 1933 Long Beach earthquake and was subsequently demolished.

The Goodhues sold their Chestnut Avenue home to Dr. William H. Austin, an early well-known physician in Long Beach. Moving in with him was his wife Mary and son William Horace, a local architect.  Dr. Austin passed away in 1910 and Horace continued to live on in the house, marrying Marjorie, and having a son (named William!). Horace subsequently became very well-known for his Long Beach edifice designs, which included Pacific Tower, the Santa Ana Masonic Lodge, and the Press-Telegram building in downtown Long Beach.

Horace passed away in 1942 and his family stayed at the Chestnut Ave. house, which still is there.  Today the neighborhood is loaded with apartment buildings, but check out the front walk stairs from these recent photos. Maybe a piece of the past?

534 Chestnut Ave, April 2016
(courtesy of the author)

534 Chestnut Ave, Front Steps, April 2016
(courtesy of the author)
An interesting tale...

Additional Info:
The L.A. Herald Front Page 10 Nov 1906

Monday, April 2, 2012

Willitts J. Hole -- 1907 West 6th Street

Many times the short biographies written about early successful businessmen sound almost too good to be true. Take Willitts J. Hole (1858-1936) for example--here's an extract from his 1921 biography:
"While his early experience was largely along the lines of manufacturing and contracting, he has shown what amounts to a genius in the handling and developing of immense properties, especially ranches, in California, and few men could claim a greater share of credit for the immense fruit and agricultural production than Mr. Hole."
Pretty heady stuff, no doubt--but maybe he really did live up to the hype.

Willitts grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, then attended and graduated from Chattanooga University, moving to Indiana to work in a chair factory. Taking notes, he three years later began a chair factory, planing mill, and lumber yard in another Indiana city, and later expanded into the general construction business (sounds like a developer!).

In 1893 he came to Southern California due to his wife Mary's (1865-1938) health. Their only child Agnes (1890-1966) completed the family. Upon arriving in California, Willitts went to Whittier and began buying land in the La Habra Valley, paying $25 to $35 per acre. Below is a photo of Agnes outside their La Habra home ca. 1897:

courtesy of

Not exactly downtown L.A, huh? And just how much land did Willitts buy? Enough to be known as the "father of La Habra Valley"--which according to the same biography stated he "eventually became owner of all the good land in that section, including Rancho La Habra of 7,500 acres" and two other ranchos totaling another 4,500 acres. That means he paid at least $300,000 for the land--and by 1921 it was selling at up to $4,000 per acre. He also ended up owning 17,000 acres in Riverside, known as Rancho La Sierra, where he would spend a lot of his free time. And he owned a one-fifth interest in the Belridge Oil Company, formed in 1911, which had eighty operational wells in Kern County by 1918.

You couldn't really expect the family to stay out in the country (see above image)--so they moved to fashionable West Sixth Street where by January, 1906 Mrs. Hole was entertaining Los Angeles society in their new, modern, colonial-style house (shown below):
1907 West Sixth St. in 1909

Note the wood structures in the median protecting the young palm trees.

Miss Agnes Hole
In 1907 the San Francisco Call takes note of the Holes traveling "by auto" with another family to Del Monte. That other family?  The Frederick Rindges, consisting of  widow Rhoda May, daughter Rhoda, and sons Samuel and Frederick, Jr. Another auto journey in 1908 to Del Monte also noted the families traveling together.

Something clicked somewhere because by April, 1910 the society pages of the L.A. Herald announced the engagement of daughter Agnes to Samuel Rindge. The article included a photo of Agnes, shown at right.

The Holes continue to live at 1907 W. Sixth throughout the 1910's, sharing their time with another bungalow house they had built on their La Sierra property outside Riverside. 
Passport Photo 1920

In the 1920's the Holes were traveling, and Willitts applied for a new passport, to replace his missing one from earlier. He noted his address as Arlington (the bungalow house) and the new passport came with photos of Willitts and Mary. One article notes that Willitts took up sailing and deep-sea fishing, that rejuvenated his health in the 1920's.

By 1923 the Holes had left the Sixth Avenue property, and it was soon demolished to put up the new Hotel Californian. Consisting of 201 rooms, the hotel supported the area first as a hotel, then over time it was offered as apartments as the neighborhood slowly became seedy.

By 1930 Willitts and Mary had purchased a large home a few blocks away from Agnes and Samuel near the Wilshire Country Club, but they continued to also reside in Arlington, where in 1936 Willitts died from a heart attack.  Mary was to pass away two years later--both were buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Riverside.

After Mary's death, Agnes gave her parents' art collection of paintings to UCLA, where it was recognized in the '60s and '70s, but seems to be non-existent on today's UCLA web site. A reference to the collection was found in the 1976 UCLA catalog.

And what happened to the Hotel Californian?

Hotel Californian in Happier Times

By 1994 the City of Los Angeles forced the owners to close the hotel, and demolition came to the site once again.Today all that's left is a neon sign near Griffith Park .

Today (2012) at 1907 W. Sixth St. (courtesy of
 The Hole Mansion is but a memory.

An update due to an alert reader--The Paseo at Californian, a 58-unit affordable housing complex, held its ribbon-cutting ceremony in March, 2017, with the Hotel Californian neon sign now restored and present on the rooftop.

The same corner today (with the neon sign back in place)
(a tip of the hat to Google Maps street view with its updated image)

Mrs. Mary Hole, 1909 
The Back Yard in 1913
Another Article about the Hotel Californian Sign