Monday, June 25, 2012

Ben White -- 1327 S. Burlington Ave.

To say Ben White (1870-1946) worked in real estate would be putting it mildly. From his beginnings in San Francisco, he moved to Los Angeles in 1892, and almost all of his public record is related to real estate brokerage. For example he ran thousands of daily ads in the Los Angeles Herald. Between 1900-1910 over 4,000 ads appeared. A particularly prolific day from 1905 is listed below. Of the 23 showing, 17 belonged to Ben.

The Bryson Block
after "modernization"
By 1900 Ben had set up shop in the Bryson Block on the third floor (note office 304 in the ads above). He was to stay in the building until the late '20s when he retired. His business efforts seemed to be selling or exchanging property, rather than investing himself, with rare exception.While for the most part he ran his own business, he partnered in 1901-1902 with William V. Lawlor, who had moved with his wife to L.A. from Butte, Montana in a vain attempt to improve her health. After Mrs. Lawlor died, William moved on to Seattle, then back to Butte, where he set up shop once again in real estate until his death in 1910.

In 1902/3 Ben married Anna Roes from San Francisco (b. 1871). It appeared that Ben was previously married with three children from a prior relationship. In 1907 the Whites moved into their new home on Burlington, just a block away from fashionable Alvarado Terrace. Daughter Dorothy (b.1907) and son Clarence (b.1909) show up with Anna and Ben in the 1910 census, but not sons Ben A. (b.1896) and Carroll, nor daughter Melba.

The Ben White Home in 1909

 With the mature trees out front, it appeared the house was built before the turn of the century--many grand houses from the late 1890's were built four or five blocks north around that same time.

So after going to the expense of getting listed in Greater Los Angeles, what did Ben do? Why of course he moved the family--not too far over to Washington Blvd. (then Street) where he stayed for a few years. In a different publication of 1913, an article on Ben mentioned his commercial success.

" the year 1911 in his office and on his properties in Los Angeles he had more than twenty-five employees. He has become very heavily interested in country property in all parts of California."

Ben in 1910
During that time he took a rare plunge into something other than real estate. On property in Temescal Canyon near Corona, he announced the discovery of oil, and had a well drilled. Unfortunately the well must not have produced much, as in 1921 it was reported that a try with a second well was about to begin. Nothing else was reported . Back to real estate.

By 1915 the Whites had moved once again, but this time to stay.  They bought a home at 1012 N. Heliotrope in east Hollywood, and this became their home until Anna's passing in 1943, followed by Ben's passing in 1949. Son Ben A. came "home" to be counted in the 1930 census.

After the Whites left 1327 S. Burlington, the house had a series of owners/renters until the mid 1930's. The 1920 census found Henry McGee (age 50, cabinet maker), wife Mary, son Fred, and daughters Bertha and Ada. By 1924 Miss Rachel Summerlin, saleslady for the Viavi Co. had moved in. Evidently Viavi was a system of proprietary remedies designed to increase the health of its consumers. A 400+ page book on can tell you more if you're so inclined.  By 1935, Ethel Tarter (age 51) became the owner and main resident, coming from Las Vegas. Married to Erasmus, a railroad engineer, the 1940 census doesn't show Erasmus at home, but Ethel's full-grown son Earl and his wife live there along with a young grandson. Earl worked as a mechanic, his wife was noted as a beautician.

The close to downtown neighborhood continued its inexorable slide. Nearby apartment buildings were erected, isolating the house, and by 1956 Ethel is renting rooms, living in "Apt. 2" at the address. She continues to do so through 1965, with no one appearing to be in "Apt. 1" if there was such a location. Ethel died in 1966, and by 1973 the house address disappeared from the address books, no doubt an indicator of what the site still is today--a parking lot.

1327 in the outline above (click for larger Google Map)

Thanks, Ben--there are probably not too many photos of the old house still around.

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