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

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