Monday, December 5, 2011

Santa Fe Coast Lines Hospital

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, one of the main rail empires in America's railroading history, built a hospital for company employees in 1904-05 at 610-630 St. Louis Street in Boyle Heights. The facility, known as the Santa Fe Coast Lines Hospital, was razed and rebuilt in 1924.

The hospital was opened under the auspices of the Santa Fe Coast Lines Hospital Association, which emanated from an earlier model started in New Mexico in 1891 as the Atlantic and Pacific Hospital Association. After the Santa Fe acquired the Atlantic and Pacific rail line in 1897, it took the existing association and renamed it, the Santa Fe Pacific Hospital Association the following year. In 1904, another merger occurred with the Southern California Railway's hospital association, which included employees from the San Francisco and San Joaquin line.

The railroad used a dues system from its employees to keep the association self-supporting and, eventually, operating with a surplus. In 19th-century America, there were a number of associations and funds that provided services to members on a dues-paying basis, including burial expenses and financial support for injured or laid-off workers.

While the Santa Fe operated an emergency care facility at Needles (others were later added at Winslow, Arizona, Barstow and San Bernardino, while a full-care hospital was built at San Francisco), after which patients requiring longer-term care were sent to Los Angeles and cared for at the Sisters of Charity Hospital (see the 7 November 2011 post on that facility), the need (!) for a more comprehensive hospital became more pressing by the turn of the century, especially as the growth of the association through consolidation meant that care was extended to railroad workers from Albuquerque to San Diego to Los Angeles to San Francisco and points in between.

After a dozen years after accumulating the funds and five years after buying the property, situated on a little less than four acres just off the southeast corner of Hollenbeck Park, for $5,500, the Association completed, in December 1905, its Boyle Heights facility. The construction and equippng of the Mission Revival-style hospital, equipped with 150 beds, totaled just under $150,000 and the architect was Charles Whittlesey. The parcel's size also allowed for the creation of a park and gardens for patients to enjoy which convalescing. Almost ten years later, in early 1914, an annex was completed at a cost of $22,000.

As was the case with employees' work assignments, there was, however, racial and ethnic segregation at the hospital. A 1915 account noted that, "one section of the building is devoted to Mexicans, who receive the same tender care as do their English speaking co-laborers. They have attractive quarters with a pleasing outlook, and there usually is a full quota around the table in their private dining-room. " Another strange aspect was that patients diagnosed with tuberculosis were not just quarantined, but lived outside in tents, albeit ones that had lighting and heat.

About a dozen years after its 1920s reconstruction, the facility was renamed Linda Vista Community Hospital and used that name from 1937. By 1980, the Santa Fe Railroad decided that it was time to get out of the business of providing direct health care to its employees and sold the facility to a private company. The 1980s brought a transformation in Medicare reimbursements and the hospital suffered a decline in business, closing the emergency room by the end of the decade and then closing in 1991.

The site was slated for a variety of potential uses, including a new hospital, a rehab facility, a charter school, a senior care facility, and residential lofts, but designation on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as the City of Los Angeles's roster of historic-cultural monuments, in 2006 prevented its demolition. The facility does, however, get plenty of use, with 100 or more films and television shows shot there, but, as it ages and crumbles, the uses tend to be more of the horror film variety. And, of course, as an abandoned older structure, tales of hauntings are legion and such programs as the Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures" have claimed the place is infested with spirits.

For an interesting Los Angeles Times article on the site, check:

The photo above is a cabinet card photograph of the first hospital, taken probably shortly after its construction in 1905, and is courtesy of the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry, California. This post is contributed by the museum's Assistant Director, Paul R. Spitzzeri.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Los Angeles Orphans' Asylum

In 1856, the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, a society of apostolic life for Roman Catholic nuns founded by St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac in 1633 to serve the poor, took possession of the Los Angeles house of Benjamin D. Wilson, early mayor of Los Angeles, later state senator, prominent San Gabriel Valley rancher, and namesake of Mount Wilson, because Wilson was moving to his Lake Vineyard ranch in present-day San Marino.

The Daughters, also commonly known as the Sisters of Charity and "God's Geese" because of their wing-like bonnets or wimples, then opened an orphans' home, also known as the InstituciĆ³n Caratitiva, in the Wilson residence, quickly adding a second structure the following year. These structures were at the corner of Alameda and Macy streets (Macy now being Cesar Chavez Avenue.) Interestingly, the Wilson house was a frame one brought to Los Angeles in sections by New York via ship around Cape Horn. Included with the 9-acre parcel was a vineyard of some 6,000 vines and a 300-tree orchard. A school for girls also was run on the property.

The Daughters were requested for the specific purpose of creating an orphanage by Bishop Thaddeus Amat of the diocese of Monterey, which included Los Angeles. Based in Emmitsburg, Maryland, the Daughters began their work in Gold Rush California, starting in 1852 in San Francisco. Then, the society sent Sister Scholastica Logsden and Ann Gillen from Maryland, as well as three women from Spain: Angelita Mombrado, Clara de Cisneros, and Francesca Fernandez. Sister Scholastica, who joined the order in 1839, helped found orphanages in New York City and Natchez, Mississippi during the ensuing decade.

Leaving New York in October 1855, the five women, traveling with Bishop Amat, took a 25-day trip to San Francisco and were received by the sisters there, remaining for several weeks before journeying down the coast to Los Angeles, where they arrived in early January of the following year. They stayed briefly with prominent Californio Ignacio del Valle until their new home was established. Sister Scholastica was the leader of the Los Angeles contingent and became a well-known and highly-regarded figure in the city.

Notably, after she died in 1901, a paean to her was penned by Boyle Heights founder William H. Workman and published by the Historical Society of Southern California and the Pioneers of Los Angeles County. Sister Scholastica, who died at age 88, was from Maryland and was well-known to James de Barth Shorb, whose family estate there was called "San Marino." Shorb married a daughter of Benjamin D. Wilson, which would appear to explain why Wilson's home was taken over by the Daughters for the first asylum.

In 1858, the Daughters proved to be so highly-regarded, that they were asked to create a hospital, which was operated first in a county-rented adobe (the county also provided some funding for the care of patients) just north of the Plaza Church owned by Casildo Aguilar, a prominent Californio politician, and which was under the supervision of Sister Ann Gillen for almost a quarter century. For the first decade, the hospital was adjacent to the orphanage until an 8-acre site was found on the northeast edge of town and a two-story brick infirmary built there. The hospital later became St. Vincent's.

Despite the best efforts of Sister Scholastica and the other Daughters, the orphanage suffered from a common chronic condition of many Los Angeles institutions in those years: a lack of sufficient funds. Orphans' fairs and other benefits and events were held to raise money for the asylum, and there were occasional small appropriations by the state, but it was very often tough slogging.

In 1869, the orphanage, which initially was restricted to girls but by then included boys, was incorporated as the "Los Angeles Orphan Asylum" (and the hospital as the "Los Angeles Infirmary"). Part of the reason for incorporating was to provide a stable management structure for the institutions, but a significant aspect was the question of ownership of the property. Specifically, there was disagreement about whether Bishop Amat should be considered the owner, as head of the diocese, or the Daughters, as managers of the facility.

As the population of the city surged during the later 1880s, the famed "Boom of the Eighties" being in full swing, the Daughters sought a new site. In 1889, to honor Sister Scholastica's fiftieth year as a Daughter of Charity, a fund was established that initially collected $3,000 for a new home for the asylum. A new site, purchased for $12,000, was located at 917 S. Boyle Avenue at what is now Whittier Boulevard, where, in early 1890 the cornerstone was laid. The following year, on Thanksgiving 1891, the imposing Romanesque-style structure, designed by the architectural firm of Curlett, Eisen and Cuthbertson (which also designed the Los Angeles County Courthouse, which was built around the same time) was finished at a cost of $150,000 and over 400 orphans were moved to the new facility.

The snapshot photograph above is of the Boyle Heights asylum, taken in September 1925. For over sixty years the facility served thousands of orphaned children in Los Angeles. Concerns over structural integrity came about in the early 1930s when construction crews blasting the hillside next to the asylum for the extension of Sixth Street weakened the massive structure's foundations. While the building was used for classes during the day, children and staff slept at the basement at St. Vincent's Hospital in the evenings.  This was followed by damage wrought by the 10 March 1933 Long Beach earthquake, as noted by commenter Ruth Suess, which led to her and other resident children being moved from the third floor to the basement.

The damage to the building, as well as the notorious freeway construction projects that controversially carved through much of Boyle Heights years later, led the Daughters to abandon the site and move the facility to Rosemead in the San Gabriel Valley. From 1953, the facility has operated as Maryvale, but has been reconfigured as a residential home for girls from ages six to seventeen. There are also adjunct facilities in El Monte and Duarte.  According to an architecture database (click here), the Boyle Heights facility was torn down "after 1957."

For more information, see and

A very good 1997 overview by Cecilia Rasmussen in her much-missed column, "Then and Now", from the Los Angeles Times is here:

An excellent article on the history of the Daughters of Charity in Los Angeles is from Michael Engh's notable book, Frontier Faiths, and the excerpted piece can be viewed here:

The photograph is courtesy of the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry. Contribution by Paul R. Spitzzeri, the museum's Assistant Director.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rare Boyle Heights Map: Valencia Tract

In April 2010, a post was dedicated to some historic photos of the Queen Anne-style residence of Robert Wirsching and his wife, Carlota Valencia, which still stands on Brittannia Street in Boyle Heights.

Recently, the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum in City of Industry acquired a rare 1902 tract map of the area around the Wirsching house. While Wirsching originally subdivided land he purchased some years before as "the Wirsching Subdivisions," he then went and created a ten-lot resubdivision denoted as "the Valencia Tract," that being his wife's maiden name.

The Valencia Tract is an area 323 feet north of Brooklyn Avenue (Cesar Chavez Avenue), which is at the bottom of the document and covering 200 feet of frontage each of Brittania Street to the east and San Benito Street to the west with the depth between the two streets being 260 feet.

The map was drawn by city surveyor and chief engineer, J. A. Bernal, and is dated 20 September 1902. Interestingly, while the controversial carving up of Boyle Heights in the post-World War II era meant that Interstate 5 and 10 sliced through the southwest corner of the land just below the Valencia Tract, the ten lots comprising the tract remained intact.

Notably, lots 8 and 10, both fronting San Benito and each measuring 40 feet wide and 120 feet deep (4800 square feet), have the names of two Wirsching sons, Robert and Carl. The rest of the lots, while having some markings (for example, two or three foot easements in a couple of them), do not have names of owners or intended owners.

Contribution by Paul R. Spitzzeri, Assistant Director, Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Volunteers of America and the Maud Booth Home in Boyle Heights

Back in spring 2010, this blog featured a post (see on the 1882 house of Joseph M. Workman, cousin of Boyle Heights founder William H. Workman.

By 1895, however, Joseph Workman lost the house, located at 451 South Boyle Avenue, to foreclosure and the home was occupied by others, including saddler Allan Ball and his family in the 1900 census and Edward Magee and family who moved from Hanford in the San Joaquin Valley to reside in the house.

Meantime, across the street, on an East 5th Street address, George Chaffey, Jr., his wife Anna McCord and two sons, Andrew and John, lived in a large mansion overlooking Hollenbeck Park. Chaffey was born in 1848 at Brockville, Ontario, Canada to a shipbuilding (and namesake) father. He left school at the age of 13 to apprentice as a marine engineer and was known as a ship designer. In 1881, Chaffey came to California to visit his father, who had settled a few years previously in the new agricultural townsite of Riverside. By the end of the year 1886, George and his brother William established their own colonies at Etiwanda, Upland and (naturally named for their home province) Ontario. Using advanced hydroelectric systems powered by water from the San Gabriel Mountains, the Chaffeys created irrigation projects that allowed these communities to become citrus-growing centers for decades to come. The brothers also endowed a college that bears their name today and there is a public high school that is named for them, as well. By 1886, the Chaffey brothers relocated to Australia to work on irrigation projects and new colonies, but after over a decade "down under," George returned to California.

Upon coming back, Chaffey embarked on another irrigation project with the California Development Company to direct water from the Colorado River to the Imperial Valley of southeastern California. The contract was signed in 1900, shortly after Chaffey bought the Boyle Heights house on East Fifth mentioned above, and the project delivered its first water supply the following year. Subsequently, Chaffey became a banker and, in connection with his son, Andrew, opened an amazing twenty-five banks in the first two decades of the twentieth century, including the powerful California Bank. Chaffey even bought an Inyo County ranch and created the town of Manzanar in 1910 (three decades later, many Japanese-American residents of Boyle Heights and others were interned at a relocation camp there during World War II.) He continued actively working until his 80s and died in San Diego in 1932.

As to 451 South Boyle, George's son Andrew acquired the old Joseph Workman property and built a $9,000 Craftsman-style residence there in 1904. Their occupation of the house was, however, brief, as Andrew, his wife Maud and their two daughters joined George and Anna Chaffey in a new residence on Wilshire Boulevard east of Western. The early 1900s, in fact, saw a mass exodus of well-heeled residents of Boyle Heights to the newly-developing tonier neighborhoods of west Los Angeles. Later, Andrew and family relocated further west to the new wealthy enclave of Brentwood where the 1930 census reported their house to be worth $600,000.

Meantime, the Andrew Chaffey house was purchased by an organization called Volunteers of America. Founded by Ballington Booth, son of the creator of the Salvation Army, and his wife Maud, the VOA was established in 1896 to work with poor and disdvantaged Americans. Later that year, the association opened its first Los Angeles location near today's City Hall. A children's home was established a decade later in south Los Angeles, but as the work of the VOA grew, a new home for low-wage earning women was in the works. Through the efforts of local banker Newman Essick, who was on the VOA advisory board, the Chaffey residence was acquired and renovated. On 25 April 1913, the "Volunteers of America Working Girls' Home" opened with a public reception and receiving hours. The above real photo postcard shows the home at about the time of its opening.

The facility was established to serve up to forty women who earned less than $10 a week and, according to a Los Angeles Times article, provided them "ordinary comforts and wholsome [sic] food at a nominal figure to young women compelled to work on limited salaries." Rates were established at $3.50 to $4.00 a week for room, means, washing and sewing accomodations, although the Times article noted that "young women out of employment or tempoearily embarassed through sickness or lack of funds will be received." It also noted that "special attention will be given to young girls coming to Los Angeles from the surrounding towns in search of employment, who are without relatives or friends in the city."

By 1917, however, the Volunteers of America had changed the facility to the "Maud B. Booth Home for Boys and Girls." Notably, the first Booth Home was established just before the earthquake and fire in San Francisco and served to house thirty-three children displaced by that disaster. Later, there was a boys home on Vermont Avenue west of downtown, while, at some date prior to 1917, the Boyle Heights "Working Girls" facility had changed to a girls' home. A house and lot adjacent to the former Chaffey residence property became available, however, and was acquired by the VOA. With two large residences on almost three acres of land, the organization was able to shutter the Vermont Avenue facility and move the boys over to the newly expanded Boyle Heights site. Consequently, by the end of 1917, there was room for fifty boys, forty girls, and twenty infants and toddlers at the Booth Home, although there were then seventy-five children being cared for there. Interestingly, the VOA was careful to distinguish between their "home" philosophy and the institutions that typically served orphaned, disadvantaged, or delinquent children. Rather most came from households where parents were separated, divorced, or unable to work because of illness or disability.

The VOA planned for improvements over the years and, in the early 1920s, planned for a two-story annex to the facility in order to serve fifty additional dependents, improving the capacity to over 150. This annex was to include dormitories, a commissary, an auditorium for 300, offices and staff quarters and was to be constructed between the two existing residences.

The Maud Booth Home for Children was the updated name of the facility in the 1930s and it continued to function for both boys and girls through the 1950s, before becoming a boys-only home. By the time the Times ran a feature about the complex in 1957, the number of children served had dropped to only thirty, of which but eight were girls. The decline in clientele and difficulties in securing adequate public funding continued to affect the home. In October 1964, the fifty-eight year old facility closed its doors at 451 South Boyle.

Some three decades later, however, another organization working with the disadvantaged in Boyle Heights came to the site. PUENTE (People United to Enrich the Neighborhood Through Education) was founded by Sister Jennie Lechtenberg, a long-time teacher in Boyle Heights, as an educational institution for children and adults through the PUENTE Learning Center. With the old Workman/Chaffey/Booth Home property acquired by future Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan, PUENTE moved from an East First Street location to ten portable trailers on the site. In 1995, a 40,000 square-foot complex was dedicated and named for Riordan, and has been serving the Boyle Heights community ever since (the organization also has a South-Central Los Angeles branch.)

It seems an appropriate, if uninteded, irony that the word PUENTE applies to the founder of Boyle Heights, William H. Workman, who came to California in 1854 and settled with his family on the ranch of his namesake uncle, William Workman. The name of the ranch: La Puente. Moreover, William Workman's son, Joseph, who owned 800 acres of the Rancho La Puente (now the unincorporated community of Bassett) built the first house at 451 South Boyle in 1882.

Contribution from Paul R. Spitzzeri, Assistant Director, Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry. Thanks also to Joseph Workman descendants Mark Evans and Douglas Neilson for their help.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Los Angeles County Crematory Cemetery

It is little understood but, at 1st and Lorena streets at the southeast corner of the original grounds of Evergreen Cemetery, which is operated by a private company and has been since 1877, there is a separate parcel operating as the Los Angeles County Crematory Cemetery and which has served indigent residents interred at the expense of the county. It also was utilized until the 1922 opening of the Chinese Cemetery in East Los Angeles as the final resting place for Chinese-Americans (which proved controversial when the remains of Chinese-Americans were found outside the bounds of the cemetery during the construction of the Metro Gold Line extension through the area several years ago.)

Operating at an East First Street address, with a dedicated entrance created there in 1920, replacing access that was previously through Evergreen, the facility was created at the time Evergreen was organized and included five acres dedicated as a "potter's field" for indigent residents who were buried at public expense. The City of Los Angeles was the owner of the property from 1879. The Los Angeles Cemetery Association, owners of Evergreen, operated the county burial ground by contract, with the first interments occurring in 1880. In 1896, however, the county assumed direct control of the site and operations. In February 1917, this parcel, expanded to ten acres, was officially deeded over by the city to the county for $40,000. By 1922, there were over 13,000 persons interred in the cemetery, according to a county report. Thereafter, cremation became the only method of disposing of the remains of indigent persons whose remains were held by Los Angeles County.

It is also noteworthy that housing began to spring up around the cemetery during the 1920s, as the population continued to expand (and explode) in the region, so beautifying the grounds was done to accomodate the new neighbors. By late in the decade, the facility included a chapel, crematorium, garage, ash house, and two residences, one for the caretaker. In the 1960s, the county earmarked five acres as surplus property and it was sold to Evregreen's owners, the Los Angeles Cemetery Association. The county crematory/cemetery is officially 3.9 acres (though it is a bit of a mystery as to what happened to the one acre not included in that total and the five acres sold to the LACA.) Fascinatingly, Evergreen put a susbtantial level of dirt fill over existing graves in the five acres it acquired from the county cemetery and began expanding its operations with new burials from the mid-1960s. In 1993, the LACA, after 116 years in operation, sold Evergreen to International Funeral Home, Inc.

Above are photographs of some rare documents from the collection of the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum and dating from March 1896 and March 1898 that consist of two "Reports of Interments" from the latter, providing the date, names of deceased, age, sex, and name of the undertaker or person who ordered the grave site. The third item is a "Statement of Interments in County Cemetery for Month of March 1896" and lists the deceased's name, date of interment, the name of the undertaker.

The March 1896 statement involves sixteen persons interred in the county burial ground between the 2nd and 31st of that month. Only two were female, two were infants not identified as to gender, and the rest were male. In one case, that of Duane Whittaker, he was interred on the 7th, but either a mistake was made or someone claimed the body, because, five days later, the report stated "disinterment [of] the body of Duane Whittaker from the County to the Evergreen Semetery [sic] work done by the Sup. of Evergreen Semetery." Notably, one of those buried in the county section was an E. G. Graves! Also included in the document was the list of performing undertakers or, in seven cases, directly from the county hospital, as well as which received fees of $4.00 or $6.00 from the county.

The March 1898 report covers (!) twenty-two people and represented an advancement in bureaucracy, in that it was on a preprinted form, rather than the completely handwritten one of two years prior. Issued from the office of cemetery superintendent S. C. Fifield, the two-page document included the ages of the deceased, ranging from the "infant twins of C.W. Junerige" and "unknown infant" to 85-year old Henry Kathor. Only five of the persons were female and two were Chinese, including 50-year old Ah Fong and 51-year old We Chung. Seven of the dead were infants or small children, one was a 9-year old, six were in their thirties and three were older than 70. There was even one man named George Suess, who was likely not, however, a doctor. Interestingly, the column preprinted as "Undertaker" was changed to "grave order by," although it is not known the three persons listed, D. C. Barber, T. J. Stewart and George W. Campbell, were undertakers or county or city officials.

These documents are a window into the early history of Evergreen Cemetery and its lesser-known "sister," as well as that of Boyle Heights.

For more information, check:

Contribution from Paul R. Spitzzeri, Collections Manager, Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Evergreen Cemetery: The First Corporate Cemetery in Los Angeles

Although settled in 1781, the pueblo of Los Angeles did not have its own cemetery until the establishment of the Plaza Church. Prior to that, the denizens of the sparsely populated hamlet, were interred at Mission San Gabriel, ten miles east. The first recorded burial "in the cemetery of the church in the pueblo" was in January 1820, while the Plaza Church was under construction. For almost a quarter century, the plot to the south of the church was the final resting place for Angelenos. In recent months, however, a major controversy has arisen at the site as crews working on a newly-opened Mexican-American cultural center and museum discovered the remains of native aboriginal Indians (GabrieliƱos) and others on the site and museum officials heavily criticized for their secrecy and insensitivity in dealing (or, rather, not dealing) with the situation.

By 1837, a movement gathered in Los Angeles to move the cemetery, because it was deemed too small, while others expressed concern that the burial ground "is very injurious to the health" of the residents of the pueblo. Finally, in 1844, a site was chosen north of the town at the base of the hills now part of Elysian Park. On All-Souls Day, 2 November, the cemetery was dedicated and blessed, though full consecration as Calvary Cemetery did not occur until 1866. Calvary remained in operation until a new, larger site was secured on the fringes of what is now East Los Angeles and which opened in 1896, though the old Calvary continued to exist for decades and is now the site of Cathedral High School (nickname: the Phantoms!)

During the American invasion of 1846-47, a fort, Fort Moore, was established on the hill overlooking the Plaza. An explosion of gunpowder killed four soldiers and it was said the men were buried within the confines of the fort. This seems to have been why a non-Catholic cemetery was later established on the hill, after the military abandoned and removed the fort. This burying place was often called "Fort Moore Cemetery" or "The Protestant Cemetery" and its earliest use is at the end of 1853.

The following year, 1854, the Hebrew Benevolent Society established a Jewish cemetery, north of town and west of Calvary, towards the Angelino Heights area. There was also a cemetery that operated very briefly near the Staples Center, close to Figueroa between 8th and 9th streets, in the late 1850s and early 1860s, but it appeared to have only been in use for about three years.

Finally, in the mid-1870s, another movement developed to close the Fort Moore Hill cemetery and create a new burial ground. In June 1877, the Los Angeles Evening Express announced the news that Evergreen Cemetery had been founded on seventy acres at the eastern limits of the city in the newly-created Boyle Heights neighborhood. Tellingly, the writer of the article commented that private enterprise stepped in to create the cemetery because of city inaction in dealing with the cemetery on Fort Moore Hill. The founders of the Los Angeles Cemetery Association included Albert H. Judson as president; Isaac W. Lord as secretary; Edward F. Spence as treasurer and trustees Victor Ponet, Irvine Dunsmoor and Fred Dohs.

Judson was an attorney and real estate developer, Lord was also heavily invested in real estate and was the developer of Lordsburg, now La Verne, and Spence was a prominent banker and real estate investor who later went on to be mayor of Los Angeles in the 1880s. Among the trustees, Dohs was a musician, barber and real estate investor, as well as a noted breeder of horses, Dunsmoor was owner of the Dollar Store, and Ponet was a well-known undertaker, coffin manufacturer and dealer in picture molding and frames (Ponet Terrace is a subdivision in Los Feliz on land owned by him.)

The City of Los Angeles, however, was hardly receptive initially to the Evergreen plan and passed an ordinance later in June prohibiting any burials except those in the established cemeteries at Fort Moore Hill, Calvary and the Jewish facility. A committee was appointed, however, to inquire into a site for a new burial ground and a 120-acre site just north of the Jewish cemetery, in what is Chavez Ravine and Dodger Stadium today, was proposed, having already been city-owned. Clearly, some closed-door negotiations followed, because, in late August, the city reversed course and granted permission for Evergreen to proceed. In return, the Los Angeles Cemetery Association agreed to reserve five acres at the new facility as a "potters field" for poor residents buried at public expense. This latter section operated until 1917 when it was sold to the county.

In 1880, a few years after the creation of Evergreen, the cemetery was given some attention in an illustrated history of Los Angeles County (usually referred to as Thompson and West's history, part of a series covering California counties.) By then, it was reported, there were more than 4,000 trees on the site, which was laid out by county surveyor E. T. Wright, and the grounds were deemed "already attractive in appearance and promising to become more so every year." An ornate gate at the main entrance, broad walks bordered by cypress trees, a hedge border around the entire cemetery, and water pumped from an on-site well eighty feet in depth by a Halliday windmill, were highlighted. Also of note was that, among the lots obtained by some of the town's more prominent residents, there was a granite shaft built on his lot by John E. Hollenbeck of Boyle Heights that cost the substantial sum of $6,000. At the time, about three hundred persons had been interred at the three-year old cemetery.

In the latter half of the 1880s, a major land boom (the "boom of the Eighties") erupted and subsided and, after a depression and drought in the 1890s, the population of Los Angeles continued to accelerate rapidly as the 20th-century dawned. The Los Angeles Cemetery Association, owners of Evergreen, issued a pamphlet in 1901 that vividly portrayed the facility to prospective buyers of lots.

By that time, the new president of the association was J. M. Elliott, president of the First National Bank of Los Angeles, whose predecessor was Edward F. Spence. Ponet had moved into the role of vice-president. Directors included Dohs, Lord and William D. Stephens, a migrant to Los Angeles in the great boom of 1887 and who was a prominent grocer. Stephens later was a director of the Chamber of Commerce, Board of Water Commissioners, and Board of Education and served for two weeks as interim mayor of the city after the resignation of Arthur Harper in 1909. Stephens then served as a Congressional representative and was appointed California lieutenant governor and then governor in 1916 when Hiram Johnson resigned to serve in the United States Senate. He went on to win election to a full term serving until 1922. He died at the Santa Fe Hospital in Boyle Heights in 1944, but, ironically, is buried at Angelus Rosedale Cemetery.

Meanwhile, the superintendent was Captain Lester G. Loomis, who had been briefly (one month)chief of the Los Angeles Police Department in 1888. A native of Illinois, Loomis came to California as a boy and arrived in Los Angeles in 1887, working as a plasterer before joining the police force on the advice of banker and city council president L. N. Breed, another Boyle Heights notable. It was said that, while still new on the job, Loomis stopped the driver of a speeding buggy, who turned out to be Boyle Heights founder and Los Angeles mayor William H. Workman. Fed up with the rough-and-tumble (and corrupt) world of policing, Loomis decided to resign and became Evergreen superintendent in 1889, a position he held for fifteen years. Loomis and his wife Grace lived on a residence on the grounds, but he resigned in 1904 and later owned a 77-acre ranch in the San Gabriel Mountains near Acton.

The pamphlet gives much information about Evergreen, including recently-built facilities such as the Chapel and crematory, designed by Arthur B. Benton (best known for his work on Riverside's Mission Inn). The landscaping, a lake/reservoir, the monuments and markers, and other features were covered in detail.

Of interest is an alphabetical list of plot-owners, some comprising many of the well-known figures of the day in Los Angeles, including the Bixby family (owners of much of present Long Beach and other areas of southern California); oilman Charles Canfield, partner of Edward Doheny in the first oil well opened in the city back in 1892; Jose Estudillo, of an old Californio family; banker and former officer of Evergreen, J. M. Elliott; former governor Henry Gage; former mayor Henry T. Hazard; the Hollenbecks; founding cemetery president Judson; the Kerckhoff family; attorney Bradner Lee; Boyle Heights founder John Lazzarovich; developer Isaac Lankershim; cemetery founder Lord; capitalist William Lacy; Ponet, the vice-president of Evergreen; A. E. Pomeroy, developer of Pismo Beach and La Puente; San Gabriel Valley rancher and horse breeder L. J. Rose; prominent attorney and judge Albert M. Stephens; former district attorney and mayor Cameron E. Thom; former banker and mayor James R. Toberman; Joseph Wolfskill; and Boyle Heights founder, former mayor, and city treasurer William H. Workman and his family.

Of course, there were many everyday citizens, including unidentified indigents who were interred in the potter's field, who were buried there, as well, including substantial numbers of Chinese-Americans whose graves were startlingly discovered during the construction of the Metrolink Gold Line several years ago.

Curiously, the pamphlet had this to say about the future of the cemetery:

Los Angeles, though making great strides in its growth, has not enlarged in many years toward the east, nor does it seem at all likely that property situated beyond the cemetery will in the near future be selected for building purposes. Notwithstanding the nearness of the cemetery to the city, a comparison of its surroundings to the east with the western part of Los Angeles, will convince anyone that its permanency is not in doubt. It is an unexplained but well known fact that cities when enlarging almost invariably settle on one direction, and the part thus determined is rarely changed.

Naturally, the Association was dead (!) wrong in its confident predictions about the "one direction" development of Los Angeles, but it was correct about the survivability (!) of the cemetery. 134 years after its founding, Evergreen still serves Los Angeles and is a notable
historical landmark in Boyle Heights and the broader city and region.

The first image is from the 1880 Thompson and West history of Los Angeles County; the rest are from the 1901 pamphlet on Evergreen Cemetery.

Some sources:

"Evergreen Cemetery, Los Angeles," Los Angeles Cemetery Association, 1901, courtesy of Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum.

History of Los Angeles County, California, Thompson and West, 1880 [reprinted by Howell North, 1959].

Illustrated History of Los Angeles County California, Lewis Publishing Company, 1889.

Edwin H. Carpenter, Early Cemeteries of the City of Los Angeles, Dawson's Book Shop, 1973.

Captain Loomis and the Loomis Ranch:

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Historic Photos of Boyle Heights: Hollenbeck Park

Easily the most photographed and publicized part of Boyle Heights from the 1890s onward was Hollenbeck Park, a twenty-one acre City of Los Angeles park created in 1892. Following national and international trends, the city actively embarked on a park development program starting in the 188os. Hollenbeck followed such early parks as Central (created as a public square in 1866 and known since 1918 as Pershing Square); Westlake (renamed MacArthur after the World War II general in 1942); Eastlake (first East Los Angeles before that community's name changed to Lincoln Heights and, from 1917, known as Lincoln); and Elysian (1886--miraculously, no name change as of yet!)

Indeed, Boyle Heights founder William H. Workman took an active interest in improving the growing city's parklands while mayor of Los Angeles in 1887-88, during which time a new city charter was drafted and a parks department and commission were created. In the 1890s, Workman was a member and chair of the parks commission and, during that tenure, Hollenbeck Park was added to the system of city parks (a few later, at the end of 1896, came the massive 3,000-acre Griffith Park.) In fact, Workman donated two-thirds of the property, with the remainder coming from Elizabeth Hatsfeldt Hollenbeck, and the two gave this gift to the city in honor of Mrs. Hollenbeck's husband, John.

In the space of a decade (1875-1885), John Hollenbeck, a native of Ohio and raised in Illinois who came with his German-born wife to Los Angeles after many years in Nicaragua, became an influential and well-known figure in the city, amassing a broad portfolio in banking and real estate. He was president of the Commercial Bank of Los Angeles and a founder of the First National Bank of Los Angeles. His real estate empire included 3,500 acres of Rancho La Puente in modern Covina and West Covina in the eastern San Gabriel Valley, a prominent hotel and business block in downtown Los Angeles, and his home and estate in Boyle Heights. In 1880, Hollenbeck worked with former California governor John G. Downey, nurseryman Ozro W. Childs and others to convince the state to buy a section (or 160 acres) of land southwest of downtown, which had been used as an agricultural exposition grounds and was known then as Agricultural Park. Later, the site became Exposition Park.

Because of health problems stemming from his years in tropical Central America, Hollenbeck died in his fifties in 1885. In addition to donating some land for the park, Elizabeth Hollenbeck willed the couple's home and surrounding grounds across Boyle Avenue for a senior citizens' home, dedicated in 1896 and now known as Hollenbeck Palms. After her death in 1918, Mrs. Hollenbeck was interred with her husband at Evergreen Cemetery at the east end of Boyle Heights.

The above photo, from the Homestead Museum Collection, was taken during the 1920s and seems to have been shot from the landmark wooden bridge that spanned the park at 6th Street and which was, in 1968, dedicated a Los Angeles city historic landmark and then promptly destroyed. Much of the lake is captured as well as five canoes and a boathouse on the shoreline at the right. Beautiful trees of several varieties lined the lake and, far to the north, are the faint outlines of mountains (perhaps the Verdugos above Glendale or the San Gabriels.) As with all photos posted on this blog, clicking on the image provides a larger view.

One of the more controversial results of the post-World War II transformation of the city was the massive and program of freeway construction that, in Boyle Heights, bore through large sections of the working class neighborhood. The Interstate 5/Interstate 10 corridor was built right over the southern portion of the park and lake and much has been said and written about the consequences of this work in an area that has been economically and politically disadvantaged. This result is readily observed at Hollenbeck Park today, although the Boyle Heights community continues to use and support its park in its own way much as their forebears did in preceding decades.

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

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Occidental College: Born in Boyle Heights!

As Los Angeles experienced its first large-scale development boom, known as the "Boom of the Eighties", between 1886 and 1888, Boyle Heights was part of the hysteria. Though founded by William H. Workman, Isaias W. Hellman and John Lazzarovich in 1875, the community stagnated for a decade following the collapse of the city's first growth spurt during the first half of the Seventies. The economic downturn from 1876 and afterward was hastened by the collapse of the bank co-owned by Workman's uncle and namesake, San Gabriel Valley rancher William Workman, and Workman's son-in-law, F. P. F. Temple.

The completion of the Santa Fe Railroad line to Los Angeles in 1885 was a major factor in unleashing the "Boom of the Eighties." As new residents poured into the city, Boyle Heights experienced an explosion of the construction of residences, commercial structures and even an institution of higher learning.

On 20 April 1887, a group of clery and laypersons from the city's Presbyterian population received its articles of incorporation from the State of California for "The Occidental University of Los Angeles, California." The site chosen for the school was at the southern end of what was then considered part of Boyle Heights off Rowan Street (named, incidentally, for banker, county treasurer, county supervisor and Los Angeles mayor Thomas E. Rowan), but which later became part of East Los Angeles, a name formerly applied to Lincoln Heights. On 20 September, the cornerstone was laid for the sole college structure and construction commenced.

A year later, in October 1888, instruction began for the first crop of Oxy students, composed of twenty-seven men and thirteen women, who paid $50 tuition per year. Five years later, the college celebrated the matriculation of its first graduates: Maud E. Bell and Martha J. Thompson. Another landmark occurred in 1895 when Oxy played its first football game against arch-rival Pomona College, a contest won by the Tigers, 16-0.

By then, however, the development boom turned into a spectacular bust. Los Angeles not only receded into recession, it followed the rest of the United States into an extended depression for most of the 1890s. Locally, the misery was compounded by a devastating series of droughts during the decade.

Finally, the college experienced its own major disaster. On 13 January 1896, a fire destroyed the sole structure at the institution, which then moved temporarily to 7th and Hill streets in downtown Los Angeles. A new campus was built and occupied in 1898 at Highland Park. The photo above, courtesy of the Workman and Temple Family Homestad Museum, was taken in March 1900 at the site on Pasadena Avenue (now Figueroa Street) near Avenues 51 and 52. After over a decade there, another move was made, this time to Eagle Rock, where the current campus was situated in 1912.

As for the Boyle Heights (now East Los Angeles) location, it later became, in 1912, Rowan Avenue Elementary School at 600 S. Rowan Avenue, a short distance south of the Pomona Freeway (SR60). Next year, the school will celebrate its centennial. Meanwhile, there is a plaque commemorating the site as the first location of Occidental College.

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