Burn Melrose Burn

incendiaryFebruary 27, 1911. It’s 9:30am, and Melrose Hotel manager Mark C. Bentz—nephew of M. W. Connor, owner—was in the office when stifling fumes and a dense cloud of smoke began to rise from the floor. He dashed down the stairs and into the basement where, in smoke so dense he nearly suffocated, managed at great length to extinguish the conflagration. Bentz discovered newspapers wadded up between the beams, blackened and scorched.

Bentz and Connor went searching through the house, cellar to garret, for some sign of a stranger, and were about to give up when the office again filled with smoke. Again there was a dash to the basement…nothing. This time the smokey cloud was emerging from the elevator shaft. San Bernardino papers (aha!) were extracted, smoldering, from between wooden beams therein. This time Bentz and Connor summoned the authorites.

Good thing, too, for as Sgt. Hartmeyer approached the Melrose, he saw smoke billowing from the structure…two alarms were sent to the fire department, a door and several windows were broken open, and a large clothes basket, filled with paper, blazing furiously, was doused.

No-one ever found out who the immolator of South Grand was, or what it was they were after. (Whether burning the Melrose inspired Kimberly to firebomb Melrose Place at the end of Season Three is a question, alas, for Darren Star.)
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The original Melrose Hotel, 130 South Grand, was a thirty-room, five-story structure built by Marc W. Connor (on what was then called Charity Street) in the summer of 1889. Its architect was Joseph Cather Newsom.  It was a center of fashionable goings-on, and society spectacle, and place of repose for honorable peoples.

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(The house in the foreground, 142 S. Grand, is the Robert Larkins residence, which became the Richelieu Hotel ca.1890.)

In early 1902 Connor erected the far more box-like Melrose Hotel, its architect Thomas J. McCarthy, at 120 just to the west of his cupola’d wonder, which became its annex, connected to the hotel proper by an arcade.
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The dual Melroses persevered, all ornate of railing and careful of mitering, through the decline of, well, just about everything. By 1957, time had run out for the Melrose (one could say that Melrose place had been, if you will, canceled).

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There wasn’t anything left now but for little old ladies to amble by and mutter “oh, dear” and reminisce “I remember as if it were yesterday—the time President McKinley came to Los Angeles. We all came down and crowded around on the sidewalk—right here, right on this very spot—and listened while he made a speech from the front porch…”

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Here, Mrs. Mary Connor Rasche, whose father Marc W. built the Melrose, poses before her father’s legacy some weeks before its demolition. (What’s that lurking in the background? With those clean modern lines, nary a gable or dormer to be seen? Why, it’s Paul Williams‘ LA County Municipal Court; here‘s an image from the great you-are-here website.)

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And so, it being 1957, the Melrose had to go.

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“One of the wrecking crew workmen observed that it took more than a
year to build but only eight hours of giant claw and four-ton sphere
hammering to lay the once proud building to the ground.”

Ah, the March of Progress. One can hear it goosestepping along, even now.

In any event, should you wish to visit the site of the former Melrose, please patronize this parking structure.

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Melrose ca. 1895 courtesy California Historical Society, University of Southern California Doheny Memorial Library

Melrose 1957 courtesy Los Angeles Examiner Negatives Collection, University of Southern California Doheny Memorial Library

Other images Los Angeles Times and you-are-here.com; postcard, author’s collection

Stotts Landing

AEAmong rank and file Depression-era Bunker Hill down & outers, Mr. A. E. Stotts was positive royalty among the sorry character contingent. Granted, he had the lovely Mrs. Stotts, and his apartment in the Alto Hotel at 253 South Grand, and his job over at Barraclough’s Globe Dairy Lunch, but he’s also tubercular as all get out.

Go ahead, tell him how romantic it is to be a consumptive, and he’ll tellthemissus you a different story about swollen glands and night sweats and bloody sputum. Not to mention how the wife keeps sending him out to that sanatorium way the hell and gone in Daggett, you know, for his health, which finally cost him the aforementioned job at the Dairy Lunch, and though his wife has become the breadwinner as a waitress down there at his old place of employ, she sure has been getting chummy with that oft-lunching Herman Siemers fellow.

Mr. A E. and wife had met Herman J. Siemers at the restaurant, where Herman had lunched daily, and they’d befriended him, she more than he apparently. Not that Herman’s offer to Mrs. Stotts of a moonlight horseback ride wasn’t innocent; unfortunately, it’s about the only thing in the world more romantic than consumption. This apparently riled A. E.

It’s the Friday afternoon of November 11, 1932, and Mrs. Stotts has gussied herself up in full riding gear for a gallop in Rustic Canyon—Herman Siemers was a member of the Uplifter’s Club, hoo ha! Siemers bounded up the stairs of the Stott’s Alto Hotel, with all the good health of a man not wasting away from the inside, knocked on the door, and Mrs. Stotts opened. The two were not aware of the firearm-equipped white-plague addled Mr. Stotts lurking in the dark shadows.
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Mr. A. E. lept from the depths and fired one shot into her heart. He turned on Siemers but elected not to keep to his chest shot MO: though at very close range, one bullet went through the crown of Siemers’s hat, another grazed his left temple as it tore through the hat brim, another burned a path across his right temple on taking out the hat brim’s other side. A fourth bullet struck Siemers in his right leg.

A. E., having done all he could do and with but one bullet left, dashed to the fire escape, smashed the window pane with his revolver, stepped out on the landing, placed the muzzle to his right temple and fired.

Siemers ended up in Monte Sano hospital with a broken leg, a powder burned face, and an irreparably damaged hat; Mr. and Mrs. Stotts in the grave, and the Alto with a newly vacant apartment.

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(The turreted building on the NE corner of Third and Grand was the New Grand Hotel; the entrance to the Alto is roughly where the Grand Avenue Tower Apartments’ entrance is today.)

Alto Hotel image courtesy Arnold Hylen Collection, California History Section, California State Library

Newspaper images from the Los Angeles Times

 

Suicide Writ Large at Clay Central

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Before the Community Redevelopment Association swung its scythe across Bunker Hill, one building tried to do itself in. This structure was by all evidence a living, cursed thing, and like the House of Usher disappearing into the tarn, it acted to remove itself from this world. Shades of the Overlook Hotel—someone or something used the old exploding boiler trick to force this assembly of apartments from its supramortal coil.

I speak of the Hotel Central, aka the Clayton Apartments, aka the Lorraine Hotel. Change the names all you want, there’s something wrong at 310 Clay Street. Kim’s numerous posts about the place attest to that.

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The spot was a trouble magnet even before the hotel’s erection. Back when 310 was a double dwelling, it attracted kerchief-weilding lady-gagging burglars.

By 1910 the Hotel Lorraine stands on the site and Jerome Hite elects to shoot his wife in the neck.

Come 1914, proprietor-of-the-place Claude Mathewson—gets, what, tired of watching the walls bleed? listening to the screaming faces jutting from the washbasin mirror?—elects to pop two new holes into his lovely wife and one into his own head.

Shortly after, in that room where try as one might the blood just never quite washes out, a real estate titan is taken down for sordidness.

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A year later, the establishment, now named the Clayton, has become a veritable den of iniquity. The new proprietor is a Mrs. Florence Cheney. According to her, the property is owned by Leon Levy, “about whom no one concerned could give any information.”

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Mrs. Cheney shows up again as a witness in the 1916 Percy Tugwell trial; Percy robbed and murdered Senator’s-daughter Maud Kennedy, and while Mrs. Cheney asserted that Maud may have committed suicide because she was being threatened by boxer Louis “Cyclone Thompson” Astosky, her character and thus credibility were attacked mercilessly.

Leon Levy decides to get out of the 310 Clay business after changing its name again to the Hotel Central.

Things stay quiet at 310 Clay for the next couple decades or so…acts of ill fortune befall its residents elsewhere.
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In 1922, for example, Frank Macey, son of a wealthy Phoenix shoe dealer, dropped from sight for a week after staying in the Central. He ended up as a nameless bloody pulp in County Hospital, hovering in and out of consciousness, until at last identified as the prodigal Frank.

In 1923, Sander Serrano, 22 year-old graduate of USC, was playing pool at 155 East First when he was accused of jostling another player. For this he nearly lost his arm to his penknife-wielding opponent, who severed a slew of arteries and stabbed him in the throat.

A 1936 beer parlor fight at 121 South Main resulted in the stabbing of Hotel Central resident Walter Paine.

And so it goes, until the hotel could take no more, or had claimed enough souls, or something otherwise unknowable to mere man.

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Mid-day, November 27, 1953. O. B. Reeder, a 73 year-old retired printer, was bent over a table preparing Christmas gifts for mailing. Houses of Hell hating the Christmas season and all, the boiler exploded in rage, sending Reeder’s door across the room and into his back. Directly across the hall, from where resident Gus Poulas’ guardian angel had guided him elsewhere, the room was completely wrecked, all tumbled furniture and great cakes of plaster torn from the walls.

The boiler room itself was obliterated into a mass of twisted metal and piles of timber and concrete wall blocks. Plaster from walls and ceilings was concussed to floors throughout the hotel. The windows and doors in the first three floors were cracked or blown out by the explosion, which attracted a large lunchtime crowd of spectators to the Hill Street section of the Grand Central Market. (The back of the hotel towered over a Hill St. parking lot:)
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Making the incident all the eerier is owner/manager William Ogawa’s statement that while the boilers were under repair, he was certain that gas to the boiler room had been turned off when the boilers went out of order several days previous.

In any event, everything was rebuilt, doors rehung, windows reglazed. Less than a decade later the scythe swung and all that was 310 Clay was at the bottom of a landfill, the CRA accomplishing what the Lorraine/Clayton/Central couldn’t do itself.

But remember what I said about the spot being a trouble magnet even before the hotel’s erection? Is there some sort of Poltergeist-style burial-ground whatnot at work here? Flash forward a hundred years from our tale of the simple double residence.

310 Clay at lucky number 13:

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The site of 310 on the Ghost Street that is Clay:
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On that very spot. February 1, 2001. What spanner of the underworld was tossed into the heavenly works of a newly-located Angels Flight?

This is the ground zero of Clay Street. Clay Street, the street that had to be destroyed. The street whose very name—clay—symbolizes (via Nebuchadnezzar’s dream) the division of an empire, and the end of a kingdom.

Hotel Cental photographs courtesy Arnold Hylen Collection, California History Section, California State Library

Newpaper images from the Los Angeles Times 

The Elks and Their Annex

crackerOf all the oft-pictured sites of Los Angeles, Angels Flight is certainly up there amongst them, as who doesn’t go for those Oldey-Timey images? There’s probably postcards and ceramic trivets and refrigerator magnets featuring Angels Flight from here to Toledo to Timbuktu, and people probably prefer a pre-1908, pre-Elks Club Building image of the Hill topped with the Crocker Mansion because, again, Oldey-Timey.

So what of the Elks Lodge, which supplanted the Crocker (having its 100th anniversary demolition party in a few weeks), that squarish building noted more for giving the world the Angels Flight gateway than for being, well, a squarish building?
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There were in fact two BPOE buildings. The main building fronting Clay Street, at 60×90′, contained an auditorium, dance hall, dormitories and offices; the Annex above at 300 South Olive, on the site of the June ’08-demolished Crocker (where District Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler John Whichner placed Elks Lodge No. 99 roster, and copies of the September 2, 1908 newspapers in the cornerstone), was 54×64′, and full of reading and writing rooms, plus a billiard hall and card parlors—everything a fraternal organization needed.

At least for a little while. By 1925 the Elks had built much larger and schmantzier digs over by Westlake park.

300 South Olive wouldn’t go to waste, though, as the Elks’ brothers-in-fraternity, the Loyal Order of Moose, took over the buildings. They covered "BPOE" on the aforementioned Angels Flight archway and set about putting a lot of boxers to work. 1931:
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And 1951:

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No, not that Jimmy Carter.

The Moose hung on, and kept the building til the end, despite it becoming the Royal Club:
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Nice quoins.

In September of 1962 it was just one more structure on the business end of the CRA’s bulldozers:

hallfallsIn its small theater—now roofless and with one wall gone because the workmen’s hammer— tattered remnants of a once-fancy curtain hang over the stage.

An old-timer on the hill, Austin Blackburn, 59, of 529 W 3rd St, said the building was a lodge meeting place when he took up residence at the now-demolished Cumberland hotel, across the street at 243 S Olive, 35 years ago. “The Royal, and all the rest of the hill, was a wonderful place then,” he reminisced. “They used to put on free shows and boxing matches in the theater for the folks who lived here. Later it was a dance hall, and during World War II they made a hotel out of it. At one time boxers used to train in a small gymnasium there.”

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The question being, of course, what became of the cornerstone filled with 1908 newspapers and the Elks’ club roster?

Crocker Mansion image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

Annex image courtesy Arnold Hylen Collection, California History Section, California State Library

Newspaper images from the Los Angeles Times

The Dome’s Jumping Palomino

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Monday, January 14, 1963

jumperlongBunker Hill’s final days, after its Official Designation as blighted slum, evokes not only decrepit dandified buildings like the Dome, but also its downtrodden denizens, shuffling along, infused with all the despair and longing and hopelessness you’d expect from folks in a blighted slum. It being Official, after all.

Victor Palomino, 29, was one such shuffler. He was another resident of the Dome, who’d actually been fine and dandy until Friday last when he was canned from his gig as a carpenter at the Civic Center project. He brooded over the wintry weekend and at mid-afternoon on a jobless Monday, thought to himself as had another of his carpenter brethren, why hast thou forsaken me? and decided to shuffle from the Dome a couple hundred feet to the northeast to the corner of First and Hope.

There stood the great steel frame of the Department of Water and Power building. Like King Kong, frustrated, recently out of a job, though trading Skyscraper Deco for Corporate Modern, Victor climbed fourteen stories of the skeleton and perched on a narrow I-beam 220 feet above the earth. Would the four children of his pregnant common-law wife Angie, 21, ever see him again? Would the seven children from his previous wife ever see him again? (Why is it residents of the Dome so like to leap?)

For three tense hours he screamed he was going to jump. Angie and his priest screamed back (presumably for him not to, not “Jump! Jump!”) but it was Milt Borik, project manager for Gust K. Newberg, who finally coaxed Victor down with the promise of his job back.

It was a ruse. After Victor came down, he didn’t go back to his home in the Dome, with is bays and spindles, its hands at two minutes to midnight, in direct aesthetic if not moral opposition to LA’s true Mulholland Fountain, no; Victor’s in Central Receiving under psych-ob, and he’ll be there for a little while.
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Domeite Brannon

Date: March 26, 1947

Having described the Dome to you in some detail, we figured it would be in the interest of OBH readers to be kept abreast of the hotel’s tenants. Enter Carl F. Brannon.

Carl called 201 South Grand home. He worked down at the Simon’s Drive-In at 3607 South Figueroa, as manager no less. A man of quality. And bravery, to take on such a dangerous job.

notthesimonsonfigDangerous? Yes! Brannon was held up by two men, robbed of $1,000, and slashed with a razor blade when he courageously resisted.

Detective Sgts. Lambert and Thedens of Univeristy Division quizzed him all about the incident, and that fishy smell, the one that didn’t emanate from Simon’s deep-fryer. Police Forensic Chemist Ray Pinker gave Brannon’s superficial wounds a look-see, and let’s face it, it’s hard to slash yourself.

Turns out Brannon had lost heavily in the Vegas gambling houses (running afoul of the El Rancho, Last Frontier, and Benji Siegel’s newly opened Flamingo, no doubt) and took the money to make good on his losses. $861 was found in a crock in Simon’s storeroom.

Brannon’ll spend a little time in stir before he slinks his sad-slashed self back to the Dome.

Simons Drive-In image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

Life and Death Of and In the Astoria

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The Astoria Apartmentsthe advantages of the city’s tourist hotels with the quiet of the residence section. Plus, at no extra charge to you, grewsome murder.


The Astoria contains over 125 guest rooms, beautifully furnished. Many are en suite, with parlor, bedroom and bath, dining-room and kitchen. A number of single rooms are also provided, both with and without private bath. Among the attractive features of the Astoria is the beautiful view of the city to be obtained from practically every room of the building. A spacious office and lobby, a dainty ladies’ reception-room, and a dancing hall are some the features which have been provided by E. W. Smith, the owner of the building. These are handsomely decorated and furnished, and will undoubtedly serve to make the Astoria popular.

—December 17, 1905

 

Before Bunker Hill hit its cinematic skids, t’was the place of purloinery more aligned with the tony climes of Monte Carlo than El Monte: cat-burgling jewel thieves were at purloinerywork! In October of 1911, Astoria resident Mrs. W. F. Sapp returned to her room one afternoon to find…nothing amiss. But her mother, Mrs. W. W. Loomis, of the adjoining apartment, called attention to having heard her daughter next door at her writing desk while said daughter was supposed to be absent. They opened the locked writing desk…to behold…gasp! The chatelaine bag, lockets and bracelets and the like were gone, as was the ancestral family tin box (found later in the lavatory, a can opener found on the fifth floor above) once filled with gold watches, fobs, and diamond-set pieces, now scattered to the underworld of crooked, loupe-wearing bangle merchants.

But not all crimes at the Astoria were so quaint.
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Edna A. Worden lived in the Astoria. Forty-eight, New Hampshirite, kept to herself mostly, known around the place as a woman of culture and refinement. Kept the bookshelves of her one-bedroom in the Astoria lined with Shakespeare, Milton, Dante, Dickens, Byron, Poe, the Greek philosophers, and many a Bible. She made a meager wage as a WPA worker, and with the monthly $30 sent to her by her ex-husband back east, made a good life for her and her twelve year-old daughter Marguerite.

Marguerite, a student at Belmont Junior High School who, had she made it to Monday, was to have entered a Beverly Hills school for girls.

MargueriteWSunday, April 4, 1937. Little Marguerite made a habit of always coming down to the desk to borrow the Sunday paper. This morning she did not. A concerned John Riley, the elevator operator, put an ear to the Wordens’ door and ascertained a low moan; he summoned Astoria manager J. E. Harrigan, who, with his trusty stepladder, peered through the transom. After what he saw police arrived in short order and even hardened Detective Lieutenants Ledbetter, Bryan and Lopez, after kicking in the door, had to halt in their tracks at the horror that lay in wait.

Edna lay sprawled over a cot in an array of splatter, her head against the floor. Marguerite was on the bed, her head covered with a pillow, topped with a discarded brickbat, mortar glued to its sides, sticky with blood and gore. The room was cluttered, revealing a desperate struggle during their sexual assaults and skull shatterings. Edna’s purse was turned inside-out, otherwise, the room was unrifled—Marguerite’s mute witness rag doll, her ivory-bound prayer book with a shiny dime atop, her freshly washed and ironed blue gingham dress on a nail above the bed. The fates conspired to aid their attacker; on one side of the apartment was a storeroom, on the other, the apartment of old Harry Tutin, partially deaf.

downoliveThe Wordens’ attacker or attackers had climbed the Angels Flight stairs and forced entry through the kitchen window just below Olive Street. Shoes were removed before climbing in—traces of sock wool were removed from the plaster casts. (The feet, size eleven.) The assailant is almost certainly responsible for the March 2nd rape and brick-administered basal skull-smashing of Rose Valdez, 20, attacked while her year-old baby slept in a crib by her side.
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Bunker Hill was blanketed by the entire homicide squad assigned to all-night duty, with four squads of regular detectives and fifty men from Metro combing the City for suspicious Black Men—not exactly racial profiling, since it was a black man who ran from the scene of the attempted January 25 brick-attack on Mrs. H. W. Koll in Monte Sano hospital; the February 3 Barclay hotel room skull fracturing of Elizabeth Reis (again, leaving his brick behind); and the March 28 Zoe Damrell attack in her home at 1026 Ingraham, she left barely alive by a brick-bearing assailant who bore remarkable resemblance to the large black gentleman seen lurking by the Valdez house immediately before her murder.

Assorted Los Angeles sickos—alleged—were brought in for questioning, their faces and addresses plastered throughout the papers (doubtlessly tarnishing their lives forevermore) but all were cleared, not only through their alibis, but because the Worden killer had the bad fortune of leaving something else behind besides his brickbat: before putting on his gloves, he moved a milk bottle. Fingerprint central.

So if the killer skipped town, there’s a good chance he could have, would have never been caught. But a certain Robert Nixon just had to kill women. With bricks. This time in Chicago, on May 28, 1938, the nineteen year-old Nixon brick’d Mrs. Florence Johnson, wife of a Chicago city fireman, and gets popped for it, and confesses. A little digging revealed that during the time of the Worden and Valdez killings, he lived at 803 South Central Avenue.

Nixon initially denied involvement with the crimes, but after LA Police Chief Davis announced that comparison of fingerprints made positive identification of Nixon, Nixon admitted to the whole brick-laden shebang—the Wordens and Valdez, plus the Chicago murders of Mrs. Florence Thompson Castle in her hotel room in 1936, and the rape/murder of student nurse Anna Kuchta in August 1937, and assaults on at least seventeen other women.

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In June 1938, Howard Jones Green, Nixon’s sometime accomplice, was shipped from Chicago to view the murder scene at the Astoria. He admitted to beating little Marguerite on the head (with his pistol butt, and not the brick) but denied partaking in the sexual assault, and admitted they grossed all of eight dollars from the venture. He ‘fessed up to the March ’37 Zoe Damrell attack and for that was given five to life; what became of his Marguerite trial we’re not told.

On June 16, 1939, Robert Nixon went to the chair at the Cook County Jail. Thus, he did not live to read 1940’s smash lit-hit Native Son, which explained that his predicament was destiny, a societal byproduct of racist racial conditioning. So argued the lawyer for Native Son‘s protagonist Bigger Thomas, accused of killing a white woman in Chicago, as penned by Richard Wright, who made great use of the sensationalistic Robert Nixon newspaper reporting at the time.

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Less than a decade later, plans were underway to remove every trace of Bunker Hill’s 136 acres from existence. After a four million dollar increase in annual taxes, and a grant from the federal Urban Renewal Program, oil tycoon William T. Sesnon Jr. finally began his twelve-year-in-the-making dream of wholesale land acquisition in October 1960. Nine thousand persons were eventually displaced, and the first building to be demolished was the Astoria’s neighbor, the Hillcrest, in September 1961. The Astoria went soon after. The land sat barren for eighteen years until the federally subsidized, Dworsky modular prefab Angelus Plaza (designed with a 1200′ People Mover) broke ground in 1979.

 

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Astoria images courtesy of the Arnold Hylen Collection, California History Section, California State Library

Shot between Astoria and Hillcrest courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

Newspaper images from the Los Angeles Times 

Angels Flight and the Flickers

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As an addendum to my Angels Flight post, below, I got to thinking about AF’s relationship to cinema after OnBunkerHill’r John wrote to the other contributors:

How many of you have seen the 1965 film, "Angel’s Flight"? Here is how the program of the Egyptian Theater’s 2006 Film Noir film festival described it:

ANGEL’S FLIGHT, 1965, 77 min. Dirs. Raymond Nassour and Ken Richardson. A Super Rarity! Listen up lovers of Los Angeles Noir! Be here for an unprecedented screening of this long-lost, locally-made feature. This oddball noir-horror-crime hybrid concerns a psychically scarred stripper (Indus Arthur) who turns homicidal whenever she gets horny. The real attraction is the seedy splendor of pre-development Bunker Hill and the focus on the famed funicular trolley that gives the film its title. Shown off of digital format, as 35mm and 16mmprints no longer exist! Starring and produced by the original "Marlboro Man," William Thourlby. NOT ON DVD. Discussion following film with writer, Dean Romano.

…and I realized, jeez, there’s a picture named after Angel(‘)s Flight, but whenever our Flight is mentioned vis-a-vis film, everyone is quick to mention Criss Cross, and rightfully so. Any picture in which a sultry Yvonne De Carlo skulks around Bunker Hill should win the Oscar for, you know, Best Use of Everything.

So on the assumption that You Our Reader were at the Egyptian for Angel’s Flight, and dutifully have the Betamax of Criss Cross on your shelf, you still might appreciate a heads up about Indestructible Man and The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?

Indestructible Man stars Lon Chaney Jr., who so masterfully skulked around El Mio in Spider Baby. You can actually watch the movie in its entirety right here, right now.
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See! Marian Carr want off Angels Flight!

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Thrill! In screaming blood terror as master of horror Lon Chaney walks past beer neon to get on Angels Flight! Then get off!!! (To be fair, he does throw a guy down some stairs by the Hillcrest. It’s pretty cool.)

And of the wonders and glories of TISCWSLABMUZ there’s simply too much to say. Many have heard of yet few have actually viewed this spectacular (I was lucky enough to see it in a San Francisco picture-house when a knife-brandishing Jello Biafra & Boyd Rice exploded from the screen—in gore-soaked living 3-D!). The only other people known to have seen this film are Joel Hodgson, Tom Servo, and Crow T. Robot:
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Jerry has just tried to strangle his girlfriend. Because she spun an umbrella. Don’t ask. Suffice it to say, he has to go here:

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And for that we are thankful.

Dome Denizen Smith

July 14, 1949

Grace E. Smith made the Dome her home. From there she made the trek to work down to the Belmont Grill. It’s 1949. She’s a B-girl.

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Vice has been coming down on prosties of late and joints like the Belmont that run B-girl operations are a thorn in the side of decent society. The racket is simple: the gals chat up the fellas, and as a gal mingles with the patrons she induces them to buy more drinks. Her bourbons are colored water or ice tea; she gets a commission of those sales. And if she takes off with her new friend, we’ll call him, oh, John, the tavern owner gets a cut of her earnings. Repeat.

After a while Vice gets tired of dealing with pimp beat downs, or customers given the mick finn, so it’s time to round up the ladies. Grace E. Smith, 28, won’t get to go home to her little room at the Dome tonight, popped as she was at the Belmont for violating the municipal B-girl ordinance. Tomorrow morning she’ll be out on $100 bail.

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Grace’s boss Nathan Bass, owner of the Belmont, has been supbeanoed to testify before the county grand jury in its current vice inquiry into the Brenda Allen police pay-off probe. (Bass had been in the news last month when he, as a pal of LAPD Lieutenant Wellpott, had wiretaps of his phone calls played at the PD/Allen vice hearings.) Bass went on to testify that famously dirty Sgts. Stoker and Jackson would meet in the Belmont.

The next mention of Grace E. Smith—one wonders if it’s she and the same—is in 1953: a Lena S. Reed, 72, was to leave her $8,000 estate ($61,857 USD 2007) to her family but just before her demise opted to bequeath it to Mrs. Edna W. “Mail Fraud” Ballard (aka St. Germain, aka Joan of Arc, aka Lotus Ray King), cofounder of the I AM religious movement. A judge blocked probate when the family filed contest, accusing Mrs. Ballard of “exerting undue influence on Mrs. Reed while she was in ill health and mentally disturbed.” The same accusations were made against the secretary of the organization’s St. Germain Foundation, and executor of the will, one Grace E. Smith.

No mention as to whether this Grace E. Smith lived in the Dome.

Angels Flight

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Angels Flight—everybody’s favorite FUNicular—is there a more iconic piece of Bunker Hilliana? All aboard! proclaims the city of LA!

But don’t get too excited. It’s not open, so you’re not riding it today. Despite what you may hear, you’re not riding it anytime soon.

Toodle down Hill Street between 3rd and 4th and eavesdrop on the guy with the clipboard, yelling at the zinc oxide’d folk, and get the five-cent explication:

earlyaf“Up there’s Bunker Hill, folks, and what a pain it was to shlep from your gracious home down to the Grand Central Market below, there, behind you. But then came riding up lawyer, engineer, friend of Lincoln, Colonel James Ward Eddy, who was sixty-nine when he convinced the city that it needed a funicular in the 3rd street right-of-way between Hill and Olive. Eddy built ‘The Los Angeles Incline Railway,’ known to all and sundry as Angels Flight, no apostrophe thank you, complete with a hundred-foot observation tower that housed a camera obscura. Mayor Snyder made the inaugural 45-second journey on January 1, 1902. The cars were biblically named ‘Olivet’ and ‘Sinai’ and were painted a saintly white, though later orange and red, and a trip up the 325 feet of 33% grade was originally a penny, though they jacked that up to a nickel. What’s with the BPOE arch, you ask? Did the Benevolent Protective Order of Elk have a hand in all this? Not really. A hundred years ago the Elk’d go nuts during ‘Elk Week’ and spend lavish sums all over the city with fireworks and aflatercarnivals and since their lodge replaced the Crocker mansion at the top of Angels Flight in September 1908, they elected to donate this swell gate here around 1909. The BPOE lettering on the arch was actually covered up for many decades when the building above became a Moose lodge in 1926. Anyway, as the city moved west, the gingerbread private homes of the 1890s were cut up into rooming houses, and Bunker Hill took on all that charm we now call shabby chic. In 1950, large insurance companies, the Building Owners and Managers Association, and the Community Redevelopment Association proposed the razing of Bunker Hill to develop 10,000 rental units. In 1959 the City Council declared Bunker Hill blighted, a slum to be cleared and redeveloped. The Elks Lodge/Moose Lodge gets wiped away in 1962. In 1969 Angels Flight was finally removed and stored, with a promise to return it shortly. It was reinstalled here, half a block down, a mere twenty-seven years later, though a tragic accident in 2001 has closed it temporarily.”

These are the nuts and bolts to be sure, though what they don’t add are the drops of blood that oil the gears of doom and the cogs of death!

That may be a bit dramatic. There is the small matter of the 1913 derailment, of course.

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Everything was running smoothly during a September evening rush hour, when the control shaft connecting the safety winch leaphostetterleaphoist busted, sending Sinai plummeting down the incline. The worst injury was actually a Mrs. Hostetter (of the Lovejoy Apartments at Third and Grand) who, had she not elected to leap from Sinai, wouldn’t have broken her collarbone. All other injuries were comparatively minor.
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Subsequent death and (near) dismemberment wasn’t the Flight’s fault—in 1937 Jack Claus, 54 year-old salesman, decided to take a midday siesta on the tracks.

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When a car traveling down the incline suddenly stopped, the operator had to amble down, reverse the motors, and find Sleepy Claus. Claus had been dragged fifteen feet, his clothing torn from his body, but luckily no limbs; he survived with a crushed chest. Less fortunate was the sailor who in 1943 decided to walk up the tracks:
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There’s no such repeat incident in the remaining twenty-six years of our hero’s tenure. Dismantled in 1969, reinstalled in ’96, she returns to kill after a scant five years. Why? The Germans, who have a word for everything, have a word for what happened here. Schlimbesserung. Which roughly translates to “the farther ahead we go, the further behind we fall.” It was just this sort of “worse bettering” that has put Angels Flight out of service. In the seventy years Angels Flight did its thing, 1913 notwithstanding, all was fine: it was a funicular like any other, and you don’t improve upon perfection—counterbalance, a cable, a safety cable. It’s not rocket science. But then: as is always the case with people, who feel like they have to do something when they have a job, and therefore complicate matters (if this wasn’t a case of trying to "save money," then it’s got to be nepotism), some City someone crashhired an entity absurdly ill-suited to the task of restoring Angels Flight: Lift Engineering. Lift Engineering built ski lifts. Ski lifts that killed people. This character Kunczynski worked on Angels Flight, added a whole system of independent cables with brake drums interlaced with various gears, which stripped and made the drums useless, and guess what folks, if we’d retained our Edwardian technology, we’d have a surviving survivor (Leon Praport, RIP, survived a Polish death camp, only to be taken out by another piece of ultra-modern cleverness). Kunczynski has fled to Mexico with a briefcase full of your tax dollars.

When will she return? It’s instructive to recall the 27 years she was gone after having been promised a speedy boomerang.

In 1962 taxpayers gave the CRA $35,000 ($240,000 USD2007) to “buy” Angels Flight, so that the CRA could, according to its chairman William T. Sesnon Jr., relocate the railway in Griffith Park or the Hollywood Bowl.

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CRA officials change the plan slightly when they announce in September 1968 that Angels Flight would have to come down—temporarily—to be stored for two years, and then replaced at the same site (shortened, of course, given as they were grading thirty some-odd feet from the Hill). By the time of the CRA’s brief civic ceremony “dismantling event” held in May 16, 1969, they’d already realized the railway would have to be stored until the Hill was completely developed. Surely that wouldn’t take so long.

clatterclatterCertainly many breathed a sigh of relief. Gone was that clattering anachronism, garbed in the orange and black of an Edwardian Hallowe’en, which could no longer connect the downmarket quaffers of cheap chop suey with the newly ensconced deadbolted seniors and senior bankers and the like.
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But still, a promise was a promise, and in a scant twenty-seven years, the CRA did in fact make good on its promise. With the needling of one John Welborne, and the Conservancy, and some other interested parties.
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Waiting for their return, once more:

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Many long for the return of the cars and restoration of the Flight, and demand that the City get involved—again. Granted, that Angels Flight is privately run (Welborne’s Angels Flight Railway Foundation) can mean problems, as anyone who’s ever passed a hat can tell you. Fears of an MTA takeover appear to have been unwarranted, however, and apparently, the long road toward repair may be at an end. People can take all the potshots they want at Mr. Welborne, or execrate the heavens for the very existence of delays in general, but if it takes another ten years, the fact that we’d have Angels Flight in Los Angeles at all would be nothing less than a miracle.

Photo credits:  from top, author’s collection; courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection; author’s collection; courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection; author’s collection; (grouping of three) William Reagh Collection, California History Section, California State Library; author’s collection; all newspaper images from Los Angeles Times