Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Isaias W. Hellman: A Partner in the Founding of Boyle Heights

Hanukkah begins on December 12, so this seems an appropriate time for this post, because the history of Jewish people in Boyle Heights is an essential part of the community's legacy, especially in the years between the First World War and just after World War II. Few people have known, however, that a Jewish man was one of the three founders of Boyle Heights back in 1875.

He was Isaias W. Hellman, whose involvement in finance and business was of great influence in California and the Pacific Coast. This remarkable man was born in 1842 in Reckendorf, Bavaria and emigrated at the age of 17 with a brother to Los Angeles, where two cousins had a store. After working in that business for six years, Hellman opened his own store in 1865. As successful as he was as a merchant, it was a small safe that he kept in the storeroom that directed his future. Hellman began to offer Los Angeles residents the opportunity to store their gold and valuables free of charge. This led to his establishing lines of credit with these depositors while he made use of the money--essetially, Hellman was a banker without a bank.

In 1868, he decided, as Los Angeles was undergoing its first development and growth spurt, to make banking a formal proposition. Two of his customers, William Workman (uncle of Boyle Heights' founder) and F. P. F. Temple, San Gabriel Valley ranchers and farmers, joined the enterprise of Hellman, Temple and Company, the second bank in Los Angeles. This bank lasted less than three years, however, because of fundamental managing differences between Hellman and Temple. Hellman, in fact, reputedly said that Temple's only qualifications in a borrower was that "he must be poor!" After dissolving the partnership, Hellman joined ex-Governor John G. Downey in forming Farmers and Merchants Bank, which became a powerful financial institution in Los Angeles and survived until 1956.

Along the way, Hellman also delved deeply into real estate, including his investment in land that became part of Boyle Heights. The detail (to zoom in, click on the map) above from a circa 1870 map shows some of Hellman's lands (see Block 71) before Boyle Heights was created about five years later.

Hellman's power and influence in banking and real estate expanded during boom times and he survived busts with careful management and substantial cash reserves. One notable involvement was his avid support for the creation of the University of Southern California, which was then affiliated with the Methodist Church. He also was involved in many Jewish charities and was a supporter of the University of California.

In 1890, he became the majority owner of San Francisco's struggling Nevada Bank and moved to that city to revive its fortunes and further develop his own. Three years later, he created the Union Trust Company to provide mortgages, rent collection and general investment services. Later, Hellman was a shareholder in streetcar lines in San Francisco and Los Angeles, including the latter's Pacific Electric Railway. In 1905, Hellman's Nevada National Bank merged with Wells Fargo and made him the most powerful banker in California and the West Coast.

Still, as a Jew, Hellman had to tread a fine line in terms of his public persona as anti-Semitism was still very strong at the time. In 1920, Hellman, aged 77, died of pneumonia in San Francisco, having lived from humble beginnings in a German village through sixty years in California that saw him amass a fortune of between $10 and $20 million.

As a community that has been instrumental for immigrants, Boyle Heights should be known, among many things, for having a founder that exemplifies the migrant's experience.

Note: The above map was reproduced in the book, Maps of Los Angeles by W. W. Robinson (published by Dawson's Bookshop in 1966.) A recent biography of Hellman, Towers of Gold, by his great-great-granddaughter, Frances Dinkelspiel, was published by St. Martin's Press in 2008.

Contribution by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Collections Manager, Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

John Lazzarevitch: A Partner in the Founding of Boyle Heights

In the 8 April 1875 edition of the Los Angeles Evening Express, a small article, seen to the left, announced the subdivision of Boyle Heights by founder William H. Workman and his two partners, Isaias W. Hellman (see next month's post on him) and John Lazzarevitch. This latter, in fact, had a direct connection to the Lopez family, the settlers from the 1830s of Paredon Blanco, the area that became Boyle Heights.

Lazzarevitch was born in about 1830 in Dalmatia, along the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, in what was then Austria, later Yugoslavia and now the Republic of Croatia. It is not known when he came to the United States or to Los Angeles, although he was living in the town by 1866. Four years later, he was a grocer in town and had two sons, John and Stephen by his late wife Angelica Grivich.

An employee for a time in the Lazzarevitch store was Juan Jesus Lopez, son of Geronimo and grandson of Esteban, who built a Paredon Blanco adobe as early as 1837. Juan Jesus who later was well-known as foreman of the massive Rancho El Tejon in Kern County, worked in the store in 1867 and this may be how John Lazzarevitch came to know Maria Juana (Juanita) Lopez, a cousin of Juan Jesus.

Juanita was the daughter of Jose Francisco "Chico" Lopez and María del Rosario Ramona Almenárez and was almost fifteen years Lazzarevitch's junior, being born in February 1844. At age sixteen she married William Crossman Warren, who was born about 1836 on a farm in southwestern Michigan and may have lived in Wisconsin before migrating to California. In the 1860 census, taken in June, Warren was the deputy of City Marshal Thomas Trafford and was living with Trafford. Then, came his December marriage to Juanita Lopez. The couple had three daughters, born between 1865 and 1870. The eldest, Ida, was the mother of famed Los Angeles County Sheriff Eugene Biscailuz, who served in the office from the 1930s until the late 1950s.

In 1870, Warren was the City Marshal of the town but a dispute emerged between him and one of his deputies, Joseph F. Dye, over a reward that the latter claimed was stolen by the former. During the argument in the street in broad daylight, Warren pulled out a gun and fired first, leading Dye to respond in kind. Warren was killed, being the only Marshal or Police Chief ever to die in the line of duty, and Dye tried and acquitted on murder charges based on self-defense. Dye later went on to other acts of violence and was, in 1891, gunned down in, of course, the street in Los Angeles.

Juanita Lopez, a little more than a year after her husband's death, married Lazzarevitch in January 1872 and, by 1880 when the couple lived on Aliso Street, they had three children, William, Anne, and Rosa, born between 1873 and 1879 with only the son appearing to have lived to adulthood, while also raising the Warren girls and Lazzarevitch's sons from his first marriage. Two households up on the 1880 census was Juanita's sister and brother-in-law, Sacramenta and George Cummings (who, like Lazzarevitch, was born in the Austrian Empire), the latter of whom built the Cummings Block, which still stands at the northwest corner of Boyle Avenue and First Street.

As the daughter of Chico Lopez, Juanita had an interest in the Paredon Blanco land and this must be how Lazzarevitch came to be a partner in the Boyle Heights subdivision. It is not known at this time how involved Lazzarevitch was in the management of the community, it seeming that Workman and Hellman were more directly involved. Lazzarevitch appears to have lived quietly and seems to have died either in the 1890s or the 1900s In the 1900 census, Juanita was living with her daughter, Ella Warren Bacigalupi at her home on 103 S. Boyle Avenue in Boyle Heights, but was not listed as a widow although her husband was not there or found anywhere in Los Angeles listings. Also living in the household, incidentally, was 17-year old Eugene Biscailuz, then a stationery store salesman and still some years away from joining the Sheriff's Department. In 1910, Juanita was still with the Bacigalupi family, who had moved to what is now the Koreatown area of Los Angeles near Pico Boulevard and Normandie Avenue. Ten years later, she was with her older daughter, Ida Hunter, in the same general area and appears to have lived with her until Juanita's death in 1930.

John Lazzarevitch may have been something of a silent partner in the Boyle Heights subdivision, but his connections to the Lopez family, previous settlers of Paredon Blanco, are also an interesting part of the community's early history.

Contribution by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Collections Manager, Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

William Henry Workman: Founder of Boyle Heights

As Paredon Blanco, the area that became Boyle Heights, passed from ownership by the Lopez and Rubio families to Irish immigrant Andrew Boyle, the change to the landscape was minimal. Boyle tended the vineyards that had been there before him and built a brick house, but little changed until Los Angeles began to experience its first growth boom in the late 1860s and early 1870s. In comparison to later booms, this was small, but it was a hint of things to come. One of those involved in developing the town in those years was Boyle's son-in-law, William Henry Workman.

Workman was born in 1839 in New Franklin, Missouri to David Workman and Nancy Hook. His mother was from Virginia and his father from northern England. David Workman was a migrant to America in 1817 and settled in the earlier town of Franklin (washed out by floods later, which is why there is a "New Franklin") two years later. At this time, Missouri was the end of the United States and was a year away from statehood. David Workman was a saddler by trade and had a partnership and then went solo, finding plenty of work when Franklin became the original trailhead for the famous Santa Fe Trail, which opened in 1821 and led into New Mexico.

David married Mary Hook in 1825, but upon her death in childbirth, he married his widow's sister, Nancy. The two had three sons: Thomas (1832-1863), Elijah (1835-1906), and William Henry. The family remained in Missouri for over thirty years, but David's travels on trading expeditions took him to Mexico and Gold Rush California. He opened a store in Sacramento in 1852, but a fire destroyed 7/8ths of the town, including his new business. Dejected, David ventured south to visit his brother, William Workman, owner of Rancho La Puente in the eastern San Gabriel Valley. William convinced David to pull up stakes and bring his family to live with him at La Puente. Returning home, David gathered his family and they joined a wagon train to California, leaving in April 1854. The photo shown here is of William Henry just before they left Missouri.

For a little over a year, the Workman brothers were reunited, but, in late June 1855, David was killed in an accident while taking a herd of cattle north to the gold fields. His widow and three sons moved into Los Angeles and young William Henry worked with local newspapers and hauled freight by wagon until he joined his brother, Elijah, in a saddlery they ran together, off and on, for about twenty years. Elijah also was a long-time resident of Boyle Heights, living there from the 1880s until his death.

In 1867, William Henry married Maria Boyle and they lived on Andrew Boyle's ranch and raised six children. William Henry also became involved in local politics, serving on the Los Angeles School Board and City Council throughout the 1860s and 1870s. In 1872, he went to Baltimore as an alternate delegate to the Democratic Party national convention. Three years later, he made his only attempt at statewide office, losing in a bid for a seat in the California Assembly.

Later, William Henry won election as the mayor of Los Angeles, serving one two-year term in 1887 and 1888, which happened to be the peak of the well-known "Boom of the Eighties." Among the major projects carried out during his administration was the completion of a new city hall, the creation of a new city charter, and reform of the health department. He also served three terms as Los Angeles City Treasurer from 1901-1907, during which he was involved in the financing of bonds for the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the project that allowed the city to grow far beyond the limits imposed by the local water supply. In the 1890s, Workman also served on the Parks Commission and was involved in developing Lafayette (Westlake) Park, Eastlake (Lincoln) Park, and others in the city.

His development of Boyle Heights in 1875 occurred at the peak of Los Angeles' frenzied first boom, which went bust when the bank co-owned by his uncle, William, collapsed in 1876 after the state's economy went sour amidst a national depression. For several years, the community languished along with the economy, but, in the 1880s, and especially during his mayoral stint, new life was breathed into Boyle Heights. Over the years, William Henry continued to run his real estate business, largely centered around Boyle Heights and was active until his death in 1918 at the age of 79.

By then, the community was changing. Newer communities and subdivisions on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley were drawing people away from Boyle Heights, including William Henry's widow and children, and immigrants and working-class families found the neighborhood to be affordable, close to jobs and, in the case of blacks and Latinos, one of only a few places they were allowed to live because of residential segregation.

There is actually one place where Workman family members "reside" today in Boyle Heights and that is Evergreen Cemetery, where William Henry and many of his family members are interred in a family plot marked by a large headstone.

Contribution by Paul R. Spitzzeri, Collections Manager, Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Andrew A. Boyle, Namesake of Boyle Heights: An Immigrant's Story

The naming of the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights in 1875 by William Henry Workman and his partners, Isaias W. Hellman and John Lazzarovitch, was in honor of Workman's father-in-law, Andrew A. Boyle, whose land was the basis for the community. Boyle's life was not particularly long, only fifty-two years, but he had a wide range experiences and adventures that took him from Ireland to Texas and, finally, to Los Angeles. If we think of the common thread of migration and immigration that links so many of us in the Los Angeles area, Boyle's immigrant story is certainly a notable example.

Boyle (pictured above) was born 29 September 1818 in Ballinrobe, County Mayo, Ireland to Hugh Boyle and Maria Kelly. He attended school in Galway, south of his hometown, but his mother's death led his father to migrate to America to make a living, while the eight Boyle children remained behind. In 1832, all of the children sailed to the United States to find their father, which they were not successful in doing, so they divided. In Andrew's case, he stayed in New York two years working as a lithographic map colorist. When a group of Irish colonists migrated to Texas in 1834, Boyle joined them, settling in the Mexican territory at a place called, naturally, San Patricio, on the Nueces River between San Antonio and Corpus Christi.

When the revolution started by Americans broke out, Boyle joined, in January 1836, the Texas Army. His unit was sent to Goliad, southeast of San Antonio, where that Spring, not long after the fall of the Alamo, it surrendered after an engagement with the Mexicans. Despite signed guarantees of their safety, over 400 Americans were shot execution-style, except for Boyle, whose life was spared because his sister and brother had housed a Mexican Army officer and his men at their San Patricio home during the conflict.

Soon after, Boyle left Texas for New Orleans. For a time, he went on trading expeditions to Mexico and also owned a store near Shreveport. Somehow reunited with his father, Boyle then returned to open a store in New Orleans. On 31 January 1846, he married Elizabeth Christie, a native of British Guyana in South America. There were two children, John, who died at eighteen months, and Maria Elizabeth, born in 1847.

Then, in the fall of 1849, Boyle, with 20,000 pesos to take to the eastern states, was attempting to board a steamer from a smaller vessel. The paddlewheel of the former caused the latter to capsize and Boyle lost his fortune and nearly his life. On hearing rumors that her husband had drowned, 23-year old Elizabeth Christie contracted brain fever and died on 20 October. After a short time, however, a boot and shoe manufacturer from Boston named Dunbar offered to give Boyle a stock of goods to take to San Francisco and open a wholesale store there.

Leaving his young daughter behind with his wife's family, Boyle took ship to California via Nicaragua. His journal of this exciting adventure is in the collection of the Homestead Museum, though it ends shortly before his arrival in San Francisco. Within two months of arriving, a large fire destroyed Boyle's consignment and another shipment was sent from Boston. Later, Dunbar's son-in-law, Hobart, joined Boyle in the business. Finally, in 1856, Boyle and his daughter were reunited after five years of separation.

In 1858, Boyle relocated to Los Angeles and, according to a 1919 account by his daughter, paid $4,000 to Jose Rubio for 22 acres, half on the Paredon Blanco or bluffs above and half in the flats adjacent to the Los Angeles River. It has also been said, however, that Boyle bought this property from the widow of Esteban Lopez. In any case, the vineyard had been planted in the mid-1830s to grapevines and the first grape crop Boyle harvested paid for the purchase of the property. He settled into an existing adobe house (built either by the Lopez or Rubio families), dug a well, added a windmill, and stocked about 75 head of cattle and horses. In 1859, Boyle bought 20 acres south of today's Fourth Street and planted grapes, oranges, walnuts, lemons, peaches and figs. Between 1860 and 1864, he built a brick house, the first east of the river within the city and included a wine cellar, because he'd just started making his own wine since under the name of Paredon Blanco.

Meantime, Boyle also opened a shoe and boot store in addition to his farming enterprises. In 1866, he was elected to the Common (City) Council and served three one-year terms. At the end of the third term, however, in November 1870 he developed liver trouble. After dictating his reminiscences of the Texas Revolution to the Los Angeles Daily News, Boyle's condition worsened and he died on 9 February 1871. His account of his experiences in Texas were published four months later.

To the Los Angeles Star, Boyle was "remarkable for his integrity and conscientious discharge of the office [of council member]--being conspicuous for his defence [sic] of the rights of the people, and his opposition to everything that was not for the best interests of the community." To the News, though, he was "impusive in disposition, [and] he made many warm friends and also did not fail to secure enemies." An 1889 history of Los Angeles County included a biographical sketch of Boyle and in it was "the writer of these lines has only pleasant memories of his visits to the Boyle mansion . . . Mr. Boyle was of a very genial, social nature . . ." When his only child, Maria, who married William Henry Workman in 1867, inherited Boyle's property, her husband was sure to honor his father-in-law when the community of Boyle Heights was developed four years after Boyle's death.

Almost 135 years later, few people in the neighborhood or in Los Angeles generally know anything about the namesake of this historic community.

Contribution by Paul R. Spitzzeri Collections Manager Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Origenes: The Founding of Boyle Heights

The neighborhood of Boyle Heights will mark its 135th anniversary in Spring 2010 with the founding of the community in Spring 1875 by William Henry Workman and his associates in honor of Workman's father-in-law, Andrew Boyle. There'll be more on this blog about the founders of Boyle Heights in coming weeks, but this entry focuses on newspaper documentation about the origins of the subdivision.

The April 8, 1875 edition of the Los Angeles Evening Express announced the formation of the community in a short article:

"Boyle Heights" is the very choice name given by the proprietors to the new addition to our city just laid out across the river, this side of Wm. H. Workman's place. There was seventy acres in the tract. They have been divided up into fine, large building lots, and will be put in the market on the installment plan, as soon as water has been introduced in pipes through the grounds. The pipe is now being made as rapidly as possible at the works of the Los Angeles Water Company. This tract occupies a very inviting and commanding position, with a splendid view of the entire valley, and sufficiently adjacent to the center of the city to make it valuable for residences. The promoters of the subdivision are Messrs. W. H. Workman, I. W. Hellman, and J. Lazzarovitch.

This was followed a little less than a month later by a short note in the Los Angeles Herald of May 4 that "in a short time the City Water Company will have their pipes laid to Boyle Heights, which Wm. H. Workman and others have liad out in city lots."

Another month or so brought a further update from the Express, in its June 12 edition:

Everything conspires to render the Boyle Heights addition to the city across the river one of the most desirable residence tracts yet placed upon the Los Angeles market. The Messrs. Workman & Co. have laid out a splendid series of streets, and the water will be introduyced in pipes from the City Walter Works to every part of the tract. We learn the pipe-laying will be commenced next week. The new street railroad franchise, granted by the Council at their last session, is in the hands of enterprising and capable men; and no time will be lost in connecting the tract by rail with the heart of the city. When the proprietors of Boyle Heights are ready to place their lots in market, we believe they will meet with a warm acceptance from the public.

The problem was that the public was soon confronted with crisis. Not unlike recent events in our time, 1875 was a year in which a growth boom in Los Angeles reached its pinnacle and also crashed spectacularly back to earth. Local speculation in real estate, in particular, was rampant and statewide a stock bubble centered in the silver mines of Virginia City, Nevada [near today's Reno] burst, causing the Bank of California, based in San Francisco and the state's largest bank, to collapse.

On August 24, when the thermometer reached a scorching 108 degrees, the telegraph relayed the news of the economic disaster to Los Angeles, precipitating a panic that drove depositors to the town's two commercial banks: Farmers and Merchants, run by Workman's Boyle Heights partner, Isaias W. Hellman and Temple and Workman, co-owned by Workman's uncle and namesake, William Workman. To stymie the demands of depositors, the banks suspended business and sought to regroup.

Farmers and Merchants, ably managed and well capitalized, survived and went on to flourish for decades to come. Temple and Workman, a private bank that was poorly managed and awash in bad mortgages and risky investments (hmmmm . . . sound familiar?), was unable to survive after a loan from San Francisco capitalist and Virginia City mining magnate Elias J. "Lucky" Baldwin was secured.

The failure of Temple and Workman worsened the economic malaise and, for the only time in its history, the population of Los Angeles declined. Like other mid-1870s boom towns, such as Pomona and Artesia, Boyle Heights struggled during these lean years, only to emerge with new life in the famous Boom of the Eighties, which brought another period of intense growth after a direct transcontinental railroad link to Los Angeles was finished in 1885. William H. Workman happened to be mayor of the city during the peak boom years of 1887 and 1888 and profited handsomely from the growth of Boyle Heights, even though this boom also crashed in a dramatic and emphatic fashion.

Still, for a couple of decades in the late 19th-century and early 20th-century, Boyle Heights was, in the words of the one of the articles quoted above, "one of the most desirable residnece tracts" in Los Angeles. While conditions have certainly changed, Boyle Heights continues to be a dynamic and vibrant part of the city.

The map above is from 1877 and is a detail of the area in and around Boyle Heights. The streets laid out at an angle are those of the tract and include Wabash, Brooklyn (now César Chavez), Louisiana (4th Street), Stevenson (Whittier Boulevard), and Hollenbeck (Olympic Boulevard). The double line to the left is the Los Angeles River and the straight single line at the right and at the bottom are city limits (Indiana Avenue being the easterly limit today.) The dashed line at the top is the road to San Gabriel.

In coming weeks, look for entries concerning neighborhood namesake Andrew Boyle and founders William H. Workman, Isaias W. Hellman, and John Lazzarovitch as the heritage of early Boyle Heights is explored in anticipation of its 135th anniversary next Spring!

Contribution by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Collections Manager
Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum

Monday, July 6, 2009


Welcome to the inaugural post of the Boyle Heights History Blog sponsored by the Boyle Heights Historical Society. Please join us in the exploration, celebration and preservation of the rich and vibrant history of this wonderful community.