Love(joy) and Death — 529 W. Third

youthadmits!1947project readers may remember this addition that King of Historians Larry Harnisch made to the blog back in its earliest incarnation. It’s the story of Gerald Richards, and, because you can read the story in full in the link, I’ll just toss out the particulars:

Gerald Richards is 19, and he hasn’t much in the world. He has a .25 auto that he picked up in Japan during his tour in the Maritime Service, and he’s got George Kirtland, 24, who he picked up in New Orleans during his postwar wanderlust. It’s 1947 and they’ve landed in Los Angeles—George is from Gardena, Gerald an Illinois boy—and George goes to visit Gerald at his digs in the Biltmore. Gerald should have probably chosen somewhere less tony, because his argument over the $32 hotel bill resulted in his shooting the assistant manager in the lobby. Once nabbed, he also copped to two more slayings—a Tom Nitsch in New Mexico, and LA’s own 52-year-old tailor Charles Vuykov, whose nude body was found on the floor of his room, 529 West Third.

In the 47p post, Larry made mention of the manner in which the Times heads off homosexual implications in Richards’ Kirtland relationship; but then, what was 19-year-old Gerald doing in the apartment of a 50-something tailor? Especially a nude one?

And let’s not let this particular address of Vuykov’s slip by…529 isn’t just any spot on West Third. That shot reverberated across the four corners of Third and Grand. That’s the Lovejoy Hotel.

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The Lovejoy is announced May 1903:

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142 rooms, divided into 78 apartments, it opens in November.

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It is immediately the scene of many a large society wedding, and home to the known (William O. Owen lived at the Lovejoy when it was finally decreed, in 1927, that it was in fact he who first reached the summit of the Grand Teton).

The Lovejoy is also a hotbed of lefty activity. It’s a center for the Equal Rights League and magnet for suffragists of various stripe. It’s where Professor Flinn’s “physical culture” class met in 1904. It also serves as the 1930s home for the American League Against War and Fascism.

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Above, looking north/east on Grand. (Nice crenellated parapets. Despite being against war, its residents were probably glad for defensible battlements.)

Now you see Angels Flight Drugs:

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Now you don’t:

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This being Third and Grand, the Lovejoy was also across the street from the Nugent. Below, the Nugent is on the left, and we peer down to Olive…there’s the top of Angels Flight, its neighbor the Elks Lodge, and the Edison/Metro Water Bldng at Third and Broadway in the distance.

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And, in our continuing effort to get you oriented, endless maps.

From the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, 1906:

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From the Birdseye:

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From the Baists Real Estate Atlas, 1926:

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And of course, the WPA model from 1940:

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Above, the Nugent has lost the top of its tower. And is also apparently falling over.

The Lovejoy stands strong, though painted yellow, as per its reputation for hosting pacifists.

The 1960s saw its demolition, and in its place, in the early 80s, the erection of a similarly formidable fortress, Isozaki’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Through true to the Hill, it’s styled less like a castle than it is bunker-like.

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Lovejoy images, from top to bottom: author; William Reagh Collection, California History Section, California State Library; Arnold Hylen Collection, California History Section, California State Library; William Reagh, Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection; William Reagh, Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

A Poor Choice

The Holy Trinity of Noir: the Tough Hood, the Tougher Cop, and the Dame. The Dame—in peril, and perilous to know.

Tonight’s tale takes this Trinitarian shape, but contains, oddly, but two players.

Our first adherent is Mr. X., aka Tough Hood. He heard the clip-clop of heels reverberate throught the misty night air of February 7, 1944. He followed his prey—the Dame, in peril, to her pad, and once she was inside, he attacked!
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Unfortunately for Tough Hood, Dame in peril, true to form, was perilous to know. She was playing double duty as Tougher Cop. Tough Hood had unwittingly attacked Miss Margaret Maguire, a deputy sheriff. Mr. X ended up with only a purse strap, and a heart pumping blood and terror; Maguire chased him all the way out of the neighborhood.

Maguire lived at the Carleton (across the street from the St. Angelo).

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With a nod to its severe symmetry, Corinthian columns, and pointy pediment, Hill chronicler Hylen made sure to photograph Carleton’s backside as to juxtapose Neoclassical majesty with good old American tenement living:boweryboyz
Some quick views of the east side of the 200 block of North Grand:

fromthebe1909At left, from the Birdseye, the block in 1909; it’s a bustling part of the world.

Below, the Sanborn Map, 1906.

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In 1950, most of the block was gone. Only the Carleton, and a paltry few other structures, remain:

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By 1952, they’d broken ground on the Hall of Administration. So the 1953 Sanborn Map would have nothing to show for the Carleton’s time on Earth.

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Carleton Apartments images courtesy Arnold Hylen Collection, California History Section, California State Library

The Musical Cure and the Dead Girl – 240 South Grand

Location: 240 South Grand Avenue
Date: September 14, 1904

For about a year, from summer 1902 to spring 1903, Broadway strollers might hear exquisite sounds of healing emerging from the windows at 529 South Broadway, where the "skilled physicians" of The E. M. M. Curative Company practiced their pseudoscientific arts with electrical devices, x-rays, and gizmos that gave off heat, light, musical waves and faradic emanations (gals, you may be familiar with these last if you own a portable massage unit).

Standing for Electro Musical Magneto, and using a unique patented device created by Henry Fleetwood, this interesting agency regrettably failed to leave any evidence of customers satisfied or otherwise. Incorporated in March 1902 with $200,000 in capital stock, the company was run by Fleetwood, D.W. Stewart, Herbert M. Pomeroy, lon [sic] L. Clark and Walter Rose.

It was a partnership quickly marred by tragedy, with treasurer and medical director Pomeroy, 38 and a drug addict, committing suicide by morphine in July 1902, out of an overwhelming urge to flee the world of the living and be with his dead mother again. Pomeroy, of 950 West Washington Street, left a note to his partner and personal attorney Rose asking him to cover up the cause of death and to be kind to the wife and babe he left behind. Rose and Pomeroy’s personal physician O.D. (you can’t make these names up) Fitzgerald tried to honor Pomeroy’s wishes, but in stealing the body away to a private mortuary before the authorities were called so incensed Coroner Holland that he had the contents of the suicide note released to the press.

We next hear of the practitioners of Fleetwood’s methods on September 14, 1904, when young Frederick B. West, a physician who was formerly a prominent fixture at The E. M. M. Curative Company before relocating to San Diego, was arrested at his sister’s home 240 South Grand Avenue on a murder charge relating to the death of Isabella Camello, 19. The girl was alleged to have gone to West in San Diego to procure an illegal operation, the incompetent performance of which resulted in her death. West insisted that while he had treated the girl for a stomach ailment, perhaps with a vibrating wand that gave off flashes of light and musical tones, he had not performed an abortion. The case was not reported on further, leaving us just the briefest glimpse of the world of quack medicine in Edwardian L.A.

The Nugent/New Grand Hotel – 257 South Grand

TheNugeOne cannot help but be enamored of the Nugent. Maybe it’s the big spooky tower. Maybe it’s the Nugent’s corner site at Third Street and Grand Avenue…3rd & Grand just purrs off the tongue, which only seems to further imbue that location with the status as Ground Zero, Bunker Hill.

But truth be told, the Nugent was never a hotbed of vice, should you be perusing our OBH blog to sate your currish needs. Heck, a 1905 article about the original White Ribboners who fought demon drink back in the early ‘70s mentions that crusading Quaker Josephine Marlatt chose the newly-opened Nugent as her home.

thatlllearnherThe Nugent’s most notable resident was a Southern Pacific brakeman by the name of Walter J. Dean. It was March 10, 1935, and Dean was busy plying his honest trade out in Pomona at a railroad right of way while a train crew was switching freight cars in the local yards. Then some woman, as high and as mighty as they come, decided to drive her automobile across said railroad right of way; this enraged Dean, who pitched his lantern through her car windshield. Unfortunately the woman was Mrs. Lois Browning, wife of Desk Sergeant Browning of the local police force, which might give some insight into her high-and-mightiness.

1940And so, while I’d like to say that every resident was a pill-pushing pedophilic grave-robbing ghoul (or at least you’d like to read such), we’ll just have to content ourselves with pretty pictures. I must admit, my inclusion of the Nugent (which became the New Grand some time in the 1940s, to be pulled down in the mid-1960s by the CRA, naturally, ad victoriam) is due in larg1961e part to the wonderful color image I am fortunate enough to here include.

 

August, 1903:
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Sanborn, 1906:

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Sanborn, 1950:

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(If you really must read of murder most foul, note the Alto [at 253] having been built just the other side of the New Grand.)

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Bunker Hill had, without question, the highest per-block concentration of Corinthian capitals in Los Angeles.

 

 

One does have to wonder as to whether the two-story Corinthian columns were always broken up by those fire escapes.

 

 

"Housekeeping/Sleeping ROOMS by the Day-Week or MONTH Phone MA 5-0507"

 

 

 

 

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The deli has become a KooKooRoo. I had half a mind to march in there and say yeah, gimme a couple of your Landjäger, and a Csabai Kolbász, and a half pound of something Italian, Sopressata maybe, sliced thick, and something Jewish for the wife, say a pound of brisket, then let me have a fist-sized thing of herring, in brine not cream, and a pickled egg to go but of course like the rest of Bunker Hill, there was no-one there.

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With the New Grand gone, the 1970s and 80s thrilled to this hole in the ground. (Here, we are facing the other way down Grand from the image above.) At left, the 1982 Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Crocker Tower II and at right, the 1973 AC Martin Security Pacific National Bank Plaza tower, butting up against Third (the road in the foreground would become  Thaddeus Kosciusko).  Then West-LA Nadel Architects (who are at present in charge of designing two thirty-story towers at Third & Beaudry) showed up in 1988 and said here:

 

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And in went the Grand Promenade Towers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But that’s not why we’re here. Not really. As I alluded to earlier, this post is really all about the Nugent/New Grand, 1952—in color:

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Which now looks a lot more like this.

 

 

 

 

 

Images 1 & 2, Arnold Hylen Collection, California History Section, California State Library; Images 3 & 4, William Reagh Collection, California History Section, California State Library; Images 5 & 6, California State Library; color image of the New Grand, Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection.

(The IU Archives were very kind in granting us permission to publish their images here on On Bunker Hill. You are advised to go to the Cushman temple and worship accordingly. Exempli…South Main on a Sunday…peering down Harlem Place at City Hall…a length of Broadway, including the Mason Opera House, before it was wiped out by a 1957 parking garage [which itself was recently razed]…and the corner of Wilshire and St. Paul, hardly changed a bit.)

Hershey Residence/Castle Towers – 350 South Grand/750 West Fourth

When the Castle and Salt Box were physically moved from Bunker Hill to Heritage Square in Highland Park, it was probably a sight most residents had never seen. However, this was not the first time a home on the Hill was relocated. Almira Hershey outdid them all in the early 1900s by not only moving her Bunker Hill home, but by also splitting it in half and transforming it into a massive and majestic apartment building.


Almira Hershey, better known as Mira, is a name that was once prominent in Los Angeles, but is now pretty much (and unfortunately) forgotten. She was a relative of Milton S. Hershey, founder of the Pennsylvania chocolate empire, and the daughter of Benjamin Hershey who amassed a fortune in the lumber and banking industries. Mira inherited a substantial sum when her father died and she relocated from Muscatine, Iowa to Los Angeles in the 1890s.

Hershey purchased real estate on Bunker Hill and commenced construction on a number of residences, including her own home at the NE corner of Fourth and Grand Avenue in 1896. The elegant structure sat across the street from the Rose Residence, and cost $5,000 to build (around $123,000 in today’s dollars).

After living at 350 South Grand for ten years, Hershey decided she needed a change. Instead of merely redecorating, she physically had the house moved to 750 W. Fourth Street and commissioned architects  C.F. Skilling and Otto H. Neher to split the residence in half and turn it into an apartment building. The renovations on the new building were completed in December of 1907 and the finished product included one and three bedroom suites complete with patented wall beds, artistic wall decorations, and interior wood finishings. Because of the structure’s resemblance to a European castle, Hershey’s new apartment building was christened the Castle Towers.

As for the prime lot on the corner of Fourth and Grand, Hershey had plans to build a hotel on the location of her former residence, and again hired Skilling & Neher. The concrete foundation had been laid by March of 1908, but plans were halted a couple of weeks later when the architects filed a lawsuit against Hershey for nonpayment of fees. The hotel was never completed, and the concrete foundation was turned into a parking lot that would remain until the neighborhood was completely redeveloped in the 1960s.

Mira Hershey did go on build her hotel called the Hershey Arms on Wilshire Boulevard. She also fell in love with the famed (and former) Hollywood Hotel, which she purchased and lived in until her death in 1930. She was so enamored with the building at the corner of Hollywood and Highland that she commissioned a replica, the Naples Hotel, be constructed in a Long Beach neighborhood.

 
The Hershey Residence at the corner of Fourth & Grand (1906 Sanborn Map)

Mira Hershey was always quick to share her wealth, but kept her philanthropic activities private after the Los Angeles Times attacked her for donating money for a hospital to be built in her hometown of Muscatine, Iowa instead of her current home city. One of Hershey’s most significant donations came after she died and her will revealed that she left $300,000 to UCLA for the construction of the school’s first on-campus dormitory. Countless students would call Hershey Hall home for decades.

The Castle Towers on West Fourth Street (1950 Sanborn Map)

As for the former residence-turned-apartment building, the Castle Towers and its residents lived a peaceful existence and until the mid-1950s when the Community Redevelopment Agency came a callin’.

Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection. Postcard from the personal collection of Christina Rice.

Of Munsters and Bunker Hill

1313They were eastern European immigrants, utterly integrated into the ways of American society. They were doting, loving parents; rarely does television depict such a highly functional family. They were the Munsters, and they existed to teach us valuable, eternal lessons: build hot rods out of hearses and caskets. Let your home be overrun by the Standells and their beatnik buddies. And see that your house is the biggest and spookiest on the block.

Aside from these eternal lessons, the Munsters also represented something particular to their time—to be exact, Sept.’64-May ’66. (No, I’m not talking about that despite their status as affable, upstanding citizens, the average American really didn’t want to live next door to someone whose skin was a different color.) For our purposes I want to look at another member of the Munster clan, the house itself: 1313 Mockingbird Lane.
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lightningflashThe Munster manse is important to our topic at hand because it represents the attitude toward Victorian architecture at the time the CRA was in its wholesale frenzy of demolition: in a world blooming with Cliff May and Eichler knock-offs, 1313 was an ungainly, awkward embarrassment. It was, to many, nothing if not downright frightening. And those who would live in such a place? They must be odd in the extreme. Beyond curious. Again, frightening: those who dare knock on that door usually end up vaulting themselves over the gate and running down the street in terror. Besides having skin of a different color (in this case, green), the dwellers therein are, in fact, monsters.

The Addams Family also had a big creepy house, though it was more a museum (as noted in theme song, of course) than mired in decrepitude. If the Addams examination of landed gentry’s eccentricities has any bearing on Bunker Hill, it is only in illuminating the Bunker Hill of yore—therein lies no bearing on the Bunker Hill of 1965. (Interestingly, the shot of the Addams house in the first episode was filmed down at 21 Chester Place [and is now, sadly, demolished].)

The house at Chester Place, and its matte-painted addition:

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001CemeteryRidgeNevertheless, while one could view Gomez as a demented Doheny, or a cracked Crocker, perhaps because (Charles) Addams’s work is so associated with the New Yorker, there’s something rather East Coast about the Addamses. After all, the Italianate Addams place was modeled after a house from Chas’s New Jersey boyhood, or a building at U-Penn, depending on whom you ask.

There’s something uniquely Angeleno about the Munsters—when you take the Koach out to Mockingbird Heights drag strip, you can smell the Pomona. The Munsters went to Marineland. Herman hung with Dodger manager Leo Durocher.
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1313 was every bit Bunker Hill—dig the deep central Gothic-arched porch, the extensive use of shabby shingle, the patterned chimney. The asymmetrical double porches and widow’s walk are a nice touch. Its most notable feature might be the spook-faced gable. And inside; no well-intentioned postwar updates there—all spindlework and heavy drapes and art-glass lamps. The crumbling stone gates, the overgrowth…this was disrepair in all its Gesamkunstwerkiness. The gag, of course, was that 1313 was the one and only of its kind on the block. The standout. The sore thumb. Bunker Hill was a nest of these things.

Making matters worse, a Munster stood for something. A Munster stood for his home, protecting it with his or her life (undead though they may be). In “Munster on the Move,” (Season 1, Episode 27, airdate March 25, 1965) Herman gets a promotion at the parlor whereby the family must sell the house and move to Buffalo. Grandpa inadvertently sells to a wrecking company; when the Munsters find out the house’s fate, they put the good of the house before their own self-interest. When the bulldozers show up, the family is out front, cannons packed with Grandma’s best silver. The head of the wrecking crew shakes his head in disgust, but not disbelief; says it reminds him of the little old ladies who threw themselves in front of the bulldozers when they were tearing down their homes for the freeway system. “Look Jack, I bought this place to wreck it and put in a parking lot. Now move it, because we’re coming through.” After the wreckers see that Herman can swing a wrecking ball around, they turn tail and flee.

Wreckers arrive:

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Herman reasons with them to great effect:

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Bunker Hill had its Frank Babcock, but even he was no Herman Munster.

One last thing. In “Herman Munster, Shutterbug,” (Season 2, Episode 4, October 7, 1965) Herman inadvertently snaps a photo of two bandits running out of the Mockingbird Heights Bank. And where do these bank-robbing low-lifes lay low? We see in an establishing shot that they’re staying at “The Grand”—

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—which we of course we know as none other than the Dome.

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Dome Image, Arnold Hylen Collection, California History Section, California State Library; postcards, author; everything else courtesy the beneficent glow of the CRT

CRA Relocation Offices – 232 South Grand Avenue

By the spring of 1968 only three of the great mansions on Bunker Hill were still standing. The Castle (325 South Bunker Hill Ave) and Salt Box (339 South Bunker Hill Ave) were soon to be moved to their new home, Heritage Square in Highland Park (and subsequently burned down by vandals).  The days were definitely numbered for the Victorian beauty at 232 South Grand Avenue and smaller house behind it whose address was 232 ½.  The only reason the residences on Grand Avenue stood as long as they did is because the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) made the front house the location of their Bunker Hill Relocation Project Office. Once the residents had been removed from the neighborhood and the CRA no longer had a use for the mansion, it too was removed.

The mansion at 232 South Grand Avenue and its backyard neighbor at 232 ½ were built in 1894 by Bernard Sens, a German immigrant who came to Los Angeles and set up shop as a tailor on Broadway. He had initially been residing a couple of doors down at 224 S. Grand, but apparently needed a more suitable dwelling for his wife, four sons, and six daughters. He held onto his former residence and began renting out its rooms, and presumably did the same thing with the house at 232 ½.  

Sens was a well respected tailor about town and had provided the city’s police force with their uniforms. The business was a family one, with the Sens sons contributing at one point or another. Matriarch Kate and her daughters received mention in the society pages and the Sens were a typical Bunker Hill family of the Victorian era. Bernard passes away in 1903 and his widow and their daughter Emma resided in the mansion until Kate’s death around 1923.

Like most of the other neighborhood mansions, in the mid-1920s, 232 S. Grand Ave became a boarding house. Unlike many of the Victorians that were divided into numerous single room residences, the division of the former Sens home provided lodging for only four separate households. Around 1928, Dr. James Green, his wife Elizabeth, their three daughters, and two grandchildren moved in and had enough room for the doctor to also set up his practice.

Dr. Green, who had been born in England and spent time in Colorado before moving west, would serve Bunker Hill residents as their physician for nearly thirty years. Dr. Green seemed to have done a fine job taking care of his patients, with the exception of sixty-five year old Theresa Dawson who, while under the doctor’s care, strangled herself with her own bandages at her home down the street. By 1939, the mansion had once again become a single family home with the Greens as its sole tenants. The doctor was paying a whopping $100 a month (around $1,200 in today’s dollars) to live in and run his business out of the ten room mansion. Dr. Green lived and worked on Bunker Hill until his death in 1956. His wife, Elizabeth, continued living on Grand until her death a few years later.

Since the house was not inhabited by numerous boarders, it proved to be an ideal place for the CRA to set up its relocation headquarters in 1963. It was here that Bunker Hill residents, some of who had lived in the neighborhood for decades, received their walking papers. When the dirty work was completed in 1968, the houses at 232 and 232 ½ South Grand Avenue went the way of the rest of the grand mansions of Bunker Hill.

 

Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

The Girl Who Knew the Numbers

Location: 220 South Grand Avenue
Date: June 18, 1929

It is a thirsty Bunker Hill that laments the arrest of the bright and brainy Shirley Winters, 23-year-old resident of 220 South Grand, on suspicion of conspiracy to violate the Volstead Act.

Shirley was popped in a South Hill Street hotel room after Georgia Street vice squad Detective Lieutenants Shoemaker and Kearner overheard her take two telephone orders, one for two and another for three quarts of hooch. (In case you’re wondering, it’s $3.50 each for two quarts, and just $3 more for lucky number three.)

Shirley was paid $50 a week, and not just for her lilting telephone voice—her specialty was keeping the day’s orders (including delivery addresses!) in her head until she could convey them to the bottling plant on West Seventh Street. She would have gotten away with it, too, but her boss got popped and spilled everything, and the cops have been picking off the little fish for weeks. Today they caught a live one, the gal with the million dollar hippocampus. She pled not guilty, and in November was sentenced along with other small fry in the gang to  eleven months (suspended).

Bunker Hill Tackles L.A.’s Traffic Problem

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In January 1924, inventor Raymond Ragsdell of 202 South Grand wrote a letter to the Los Angeles Traffic Commission about his idea for a collapsible car that would fold down to the size of a go-cart. "With an automobile of this type it will be possible to park millions of cars where we are now able to park but a few hundred."

At around the same time, Eugene Egbert Dobbs of 303 South Hope Street wrote a letter of his own, proposing that all automobiles and street cars be barred from the downtown area (he laid out Sunset, Pico, Los Angeles, and Figueroa as the perimeter). In the letter he stated, "The only objection to this plan would come from those who are too lazy to walk. Now, our modern race is unhealthy due to lack of exercise. This barring of all transportation in the downtown district would force Los Angeles people to exercise, whether they wanted to or not, and thus, increase the length of life of the average citizen."

Sure, Bunker Hill residents may have had a vested interest in the issue, but in fact, the Traffic Commission received hundreds of ideas for congestion relief that month from people all over the city. Were they an invested citizenry? Untapped urban planners? The ancestors of the City Council that would ban fast food franchises in South Los Angeles over 80 years later?

No.

Unfortunately, they thought they were entering a contest.

An ad had appeared in local publications erroneously stating that the Traffic Commission would give a prize of $10,000 ($128,633 2008 USD) to the person who could solve Los Angeles’s burgeoning traffic problem. There was apparently some confusion, as the $10,000 in question had actually been appropriated by City Council for the formation of a Traffic Commission committee to look into issues of street parking and congestion.

The Los Angeles Traffic Commission was formed in 1922 in response to concerns about the city’s increasingly snarled and woefully inadequate roads. The group’s chairman said, "It is time for Los Angeles to solve her traffic problem… One can but guess at the conditions which will exist here within a few years unless relief is forthcoming."

Preliminary solutions to the problem were eerily similar to today’s: restricting parking in congested areas, requiring vehicles for hire to operate from private property, more one-way streets, and a subway system.

Following a report that traffic congestion on many Los Angeles streets was worse than New York City’s, a traffic relief ordinance was placed on the 1924 November ballot, allocating $5 million for the implementation of numerous streets projects and congestion relief programs, including the extensions of Figueroa and Olive from Bunker Hill into Elysian Park. It passed, but Mayor George Cryer vetoed it, and I promise, you will never guess why.

Actually, Cryer liked the ordinance a whole lot and thought it would be good for the city, but he vetoed it because he said it didn’t provide enough protections and accommodations for pedestrians.

Within a year, a new traffic plan was underway, and the city grid began to look a great deal more like it does today, but it does my Metro-riding heart good to know that even in 1924, someone was looking out for the walking man.

Angels Dictate at 355 South Grand Avenue

Location: 355 South Grand Avenue
Date: 1922-?

When the Angel Michael spoke to Ruth Wieland in 1922, she was a Spring Street taxi dancer living on Bunker Hill. She first heard him as she walked along Broadway, then three days later in her room at 355 South Grand Avenue. Over the next 42 months he dictated the "Lamb’s Book of Life" to Ruth and her mother May Otis Blackburn, speaking occasionally, night and day–but only if they stayed inside and away from the bustle of everyday life.  In time, the handwritten book comprised such vast bulk that, at least according to May, it would have taken sixteen stenographers six months to transcribe it.

Much later, after the women were arrested for hustling oil man Clifford Dabney and their strange tale splashed across the papers, one Arthur C. Osborne appeared to announce he was Ruth’s bethrothed in those heady early days, when he loaned the girl $1500 to help finance her divorce. He told her she was too delicate to work, and that he would pay the bills while she and May worked on the holy book, also known as the Sixth Seal. Then she and mama vanished. He came to see Ruth in jail, but she was cold and told him to talk to her lawyer.

For by 1929, pretty Ruth’s tastes had moved far beyond sad sack guys who loaned cash to taxi dancers. She was the priestess of The Divine Order of the Royal Arms of the Great Eleven, perhaps the wackiest in an era of wack-a-doodle cults and alternative faiths the likes of which continue to color California’s reputation for peculiarity to this day. With Mother May, Ruth commanded a small army of true believers who inhabited "Harmony Hamlet," a retreat in the Santa Susanna mountains, near Moorpark (later the haunt of the Manson Family), where about 100 cult members lived like hermits after driving their cars into the mountains and leaving them to rust as a sign of devotion. But who needs wheels when you have nude, interracial dancing? Not you, mister.

The Great Eleven began on Bunker Hill and found its first faithful there. Ruth and May couldn’t spend all their time taking dictation from aetherial beings. They were social butterflies, the pair of them, and enjoyed sharing philosophy and bossing people around. Before long, both had found new husbands, Ruth with the doomed Sammie Rizzio, likely murdered in 1924 for the sin of striking his bride, May with weird Ward Blackburn, he of the Chinese moustaches, prodigious claws and fondness for collecting rainwater in a coffee can at the corner of Wilshire and Western. And it was likely on the Hill that Clifford Dabney found the ladies and became convinced that their holy book, once finished, would give him the power to discover hidden mineral wealth within the earth, to hold the power of life and death, and to reanimate the corpses he created while chugging along down Broadway in his customized human reaping machine and calliope. He began writing checks, which Ruth and May were only too happy to cash.

After several years, when all the money was gone, Clifford Dabney’s wealthy uncle Joseph took a break from berating his boozehound employee Raymond Chandler to offer his nephew a bail out, if he’d take those looney women to court. He did, and the story that came out ultimately included the symbolic exorcism of all the madness in the world via abusing a batch of crazy quilts, grandmas happily chained to their beds, ladies baked in brick ovens, poisoned sands, the abiding mystery of the Lord’s Furniture Set and the ritual mummification of a teenage priestess and her seven pet puppies.

But these odd tales take us far from the Hill, and this is not the place for them. If you are curious about the Great Eleven, join us on the Wild Wild West Side crime bus tour, when we will visit the grave of the young mummy and talk at length of the practices of this most original downtown faith.

Photos courtesy the Los Angeles Times and the UCLA Library Digital Collections.