Friday, January 25, 2013

Samuel I. Merrill -- 669 South Union Ave.

In 1900 the census stated that Jeremiah (Jere) B. Badgley (b. 1846) was a traveling salesman, living in San Diego. Not just any traveling salesman, as there was a servant in the house. By the next year he had transferred to Los Angeles, moving to Bonnie Brae Street with his wife and three children, working for M.A. Newmark, the largest wholesale grocery in California. Then in 1904 he moved into a new family house at 669 South Union Ave. Daughters Clara and Cecil held and attended card parties, participated in society balls, and generally enjoyed the society life of Los Angeles. Then in 1908 the family moved on to the new Westside, settling at 1245 St. Andrews Place.

Samuel in 1909
The next purchasers were Samuel (1856-1932) and Sarah (1857-1921) Merrill.  Samuel had come to California as far back as 1876, then to Los Angeles in 1881, where he started a hardware business, Merrill & Babcock. The next year he was a leading organizer of the Los Angeles YMCA, and was installed as its first president, serving for four years. During his time in Southern California he helped start Baptist College, the Union Rescue Mission, McKinley Industrial Home and the New Testament Church of Los Angeles, among other charitable pursuits. Businesses after his hardware store included Director, Western Gas Engine Co., Merrill Oil Co. and Merrill-Jensen Land Co. A member of the Chamber of Commerce in 1908-1909, he traveled to Japan, China, and the Phillippines with four others to report on trade there.

The Merrills were parents of two sons Wallace (b. 1893) and Charles Arthur (1890-1977), and a daughter Grace (b. 1889). In 1910 both sons lived at home, working for their father at a rolling mills factory.

669 South Union Ave. in 1909

In late 1914 the Merrills pulled up stakes and moved to Rio Bravo, a small settlement west of Bakersfield. Sons Charles Arthur and Wallace followed. All were listed as farmers in the 1920 census. Sarah passed away in 1921, and was returned to Glendale for interment.  In 1932 at age 75, Samuel died from an auto accident, and is buried beside Sarah at Forest Lawn.

Meanwhile at 669 S. Union, many tenants passed through the house.  Christian Science practioner Lillian Ruddick in 1915 was followed by Clyde J Cheney (1916), Albert J. Klunk (1917), and Arthur G. Reis (1921).

The area was going multi-family and in 1929 the new President Apartments were built, replacing our dutch colonial and the house to the west (at seen at left in the photo above).  In 1930, the census listed over 130 people in various apartments at this address.

The President at 669 S. Union ca. 1935
(courtesy of USC Digital Collections)

The apartment building still stands on the corner of Ingraham and Union, though Ingraham has been closed for many years, and is used mainly as a parking lot for the area. Today it appears from an aerial view of Google maps that there is no single-family house within two blocks of the building.  Two large, expensive-looking public schools reside to the east and west of the apartments.

Aerial View today

A big change for 100 years.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Dr. Leon Elbert Landone -- 2054 Holly Avenue

It was quite a house...built on 15 acres, definitely out of town...then. Articles announcing the new home mentioned it was "a couple of blocks east of Vermont near Los Feliz Road," which was just east of as yet undeveloped Laughlin Park. The house itself was built in 1904, and was a definite showplace for its first owner, William H. Hoegee.

A postcard of the house in a 1905 photo

Here is how the L.A. Herald described the house.

 "Across the west front and along the sides of the two-story residence is a wide veranda bordered with columns and arcade effects. The first floor has a wide reception hall, a large living room, a dining room and breakfast-room, and at the rear of the living room is the conservatory, also a den, a diningroom [sic] and the usual conveniences for home life.

"On the second floor are six large bedrooms, with dressingrooms [sic] and baths. From the second floor a broad stairway leads to the roof garden. The residence is supplied with furnace heat and a private gas plant."
1898 Hoegee ad in the L.A. Herald
(courtesy of
Hoegee was a successful sporting goods dealer--his family was well known for its camping gear, especially tents, operating on South Main St. in central Los Angeles. The company still survives today, albeit in Gardena instead of downtown Los Angeles, and they concentrate on custom awnings, but early ads for their tent products can be seen on their website. Not too many companies in L.A. alive today can claim they started as early as 1886.

In March, 1907 a series of small weekly ads appeared in the Herald. They were all similar in character and style, and mentioned of lectures by a Dr. Leon Elbert Landone (1857-1945), "an English scientist and brain building specialist." He was beginning a "course of three lectures on Awakening Man's Dormant Brain Centers and Unconscious Possibilities. ", speaking each Thursday and Monday throughout that Spring at the Auspices Metaphysical library, 611 Grant bldg., course ticket $1.00, single admission 50 cents. He also advertises other lectures, including The Works of Luther Burbank, Do We Know Just What the Soul Is?, and Cosmic Consciousness.  Those small, classified ads were the very first mention of Dr. Landone. Searches of earlier publications in California and other states, as well as census records failed to turn up a Dr. Landone, or a Leon or Brown Landone, in either the U.S., Canada, or England.

Another photo of the Hoegee Mansion

A close-up of the house from the photo above

The lectures must have been a success, as he took them on the road, resulting in multiple mentions in local papers. By November he had shifted gears, speaking of the value of Luther Burbank's new spineless cactus, which would provide great fodder for cattle. Next month he was back in L.A. touting his new spineless cactus diet, which was based on a new cactus variety (and for which he had purchased ownership rights to). He received notice in the papers on this in both San Francisco and the Imperial Valley. A third article mentioned his plan to climb Mt. Wilson as exercise while on the diet, as he had kept all his energy.

His fame expanded. In January, 1908 he spoke as an invited science lecturer to a meeting of the Ebell Club of Los Angeles, speaking on the topic Individual development through vibratory processes--tone, color, electricity and thought.

Then in May, 1908 came the big announcement.

Making two consecutive days with front page headlines, Landone announced his purchase of the Hoegee Residence, including the acreage, for his great experiment in a "proposed school of evolution and institute of child culture. Children will be selected from various centers throughout the United States, and these will be used as the subjects for evolutionary experiment." He was further quoted "[These children] will be simply the examples of the best physical body combined with the best mental qualifications", while purposefully disavowing the use of "artificial marriages". He mentioned his independent study abroad "for years, at such institutions as Padua, the University of Paris, at two or three English institutions of learning" and went on to state "what was of more value to me than all the rest combined [was my] three months of study under Herbert Spencer."

In January, 1909 it was announced that Dr. Landone had returned from his trip back east, and selected twelve children "upon whom to apply his theories of race development through the improvement of the individual." It was also announced that Dr. Landone had personally assisted in the selection of tints for the bedrooms in the extensive remodel of the house.

Dr. Landone in 1910
(photo very similar to the 1908 one?)
By now he had caught the eye of Lillian Baldwin, widow (as of March, 1909) of early L.A. pioneer E.J. "Lucky" Baldwin (of Santa Anita and L.A. Arboretum fame), and who held a strong interest in this method of teaching children. In June the New York Times mentioned a rumor of marriage between the two, which was not denied by either party. The article noted "The couple have appeared frequently at musicales together, and Mrs. Baldwin is always one of the guests when Dr. Landone entertains at his big home."

But he did not marry, for in 1910, the federal census noted Dr. Landone as single, and living in the house at 2054 Holly Avenue with a housekeeper, a gardener, a chauffeur, and a maid. His occupation was recorded as general lecturer, age 52, born in Canada, father born in Wisconsin, and mother born in New York.

And for the Burdette book of 1910, he is more than a "general lecturer", he is now degreed with an A.M., M.D. PhD. Usually below the photo of an entry in the book there would be a short biography, showing the background, schooling, work experience, and typically the spouse of the entrant.  Interesting reading, though, for Dr. Landone's entry. Past locations for him are non-existent. He is noted, however, as being "Executive Secretary International Committee of New Educational Movement and President Institute of Applied Science and Art." No mention of where his degrees are from, however.

The house in its 1910 glory
Sometime in 1911, Dr. Landone left--a D.A.R. book from 1911 listed Mr. & Mrs. J. Edward Fairbank as now living in the house. An article about an art colony in New Hampshire appeared in Harper's Weekly that year and was authored by a Dr. L. E. Brown-Landone, the first mention of the name in print. By 1915, Dr. L. E. Brown-Landone made accusations from France about the American Red Cross being influenced by the Germans. He returned later that year to New York 20 years younger than when he left. In 1918 Leon Elbert Brown Landone, a lecturer, resided in Queens. In 1920 Brown Landone, a book editor, was found by the census renting in Queens, New York.

By 1940 Brown Landone had moved to Winter Park, Florida, and was noted as a health author in that year's census. He passed away in 1945, and is buried in Palm Cemetery in Winter Park.

After 1911 the house's residents become fuzzy. With the large property surrounding the house, the potential resident pool was no doubt small. By 1919 the house had changed addresses, becoming 2124 North Commonwealth, and in 1923 it was occupied by Hollywood director Maurice Tourneur. The next recorded mention of the property was a sale in 1927 by John H. Fisher, a noted real estate investor, to the Bank of Italy, who subdivided the acreage. The main house area was then purchased by Phillip and Frances Hunt that same year, and the Hoegee house was demolished to make way for a new residence. (Others have made statements that Tourneur built the current residence.) In 1928 the house, now known as The Cedars, was inhabited by actress Madge Bellamy, who interestingly was the star of a Maurice Tourneur film of 1922, entitled Lorna Doone.  Two early photos of the much larger house seem to be available on the web. One is shown below.
courtesy of

Following Ms. Bellamy's stay it has been the home of multiple business persons and Hollywood personalities, culminating with Sue Wong, fashion designer, who purchased the property around 2004 and restored it.

With the assistance of Sanborn maps and today's technology, it is possible to view the acreage change from 1919 to 1950. Cedarhurst Circle outlines the hill.

Animated map showing from Landone Park to The Cedars
Today's address for the site of the old mansion is 4320 Cedarhurst Circle.

More Information:
Further reading on Brown Landone
A few books written/published by Dr. Landone
Los Feliz Improvement Assn. document on the property (new link)
Developer Xorin Balbes--the owner who sold to Wong

Updated 12/28/17