Bunker Hill: A Desperate Race of Men

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Hats off to those contemporary “pulse-pounding” pictures what depict early-fifties dope and/or early-fifties Los Angeles for they are certainly the tingliest of films, though, let’s face it, they will never match the breathless, depthless pleasure of going straight to the source, of going straight to the Subject: Narcotics.

Subject: Narcotics. Though no movie critic has ever heard of it, Subject: Narcotics is the Greatest Film Ever Made. Do not confuse this film with Narcotics: Pit of Despair (also the Greatest Film Ever Made) or even Narcotic, which is no slouch either.

Let me say at the outset, unless you are a representative of our law enforcement community, you are not allowed to view this film:

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So feel especially naughty in watching it, like sneaking into an R-rated picture when only sixteen. (Believe me, if the Narcotic Educational Foundation of America and their pal Lt. Ray Huber of LA County Sherrif’s Narcotic Detail were asked if the general public should be allowed to view this in fifty-eight years, they’d say no. No.)

This picture has everything—prosties, junkies, pushers, neon signs:noblegas

LA: one big shooting gallery.
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He lives from fix to fix and if he is lucky, he dies early, maybe from an overdose, maybe from an infected needle.

Shifty characters plan nefarious deeds on Court Street:

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Til the coppers roar upon the scene:

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The last part of the picture concerns a hype that gets sprung from stir, only to wander the rain-slicked streets of Bunker Hill (and be passed by a Roadmaster fastback):

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He passes by the industrial heart of the Hill, Fourth and Olive

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And we turn and look behind him up to Third and Olive. Looming large and tall in the far distance The Palace Hotel, aka the Casa Alta, aka the Kellogg, at 317 S. Olive; below that, just at his shoulder, the Ems, at 337, and to the far left, the Olive Inn at 343.

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Narcotics have weakened his character. Ninety-nine out of 100 slip back.

Alright already. Go watch Crime Wave.

And don’t tell Ray Huber what’s going to become of society.

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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

Keep them Medical Advancements Rollin

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Thomas Major Jr., 34, a logger by profession, down from Vancouver to take in the town. He was in the barroom at the Rollin Hotel, Third and Flower, when the cops came in to investigate a brawl, January 24, 1960. They have a funny way of doing things up in British Columbia, apparently, for as the bulls were bracing some other bar patron, Major pulled out a gun, pointed it at the cops’ backs, and began pulling the trigger. The cops heard the click-click of two empty chambers, turned, and fired seven shots at Major.

Major was hit seven times, taking four in the abdomen. Detectives Pailing and Buckland, with Municipal Judge Griffith in tow, made a visit to Major’s bed in the prison ward at General Hospital, where they charged him with two counts of assault with intent to commit murder and one of violating the deadly weapons control law.

The GH docs had pulled all sorts of lead from Major, but there was still the matter of the bullet in Major’s heart. Yes, normally a slug from a Parker-issued K-38 in the ticker is going to put you down for good. But this one found its place there in an unsual way; one of those bullets to the abdomen apparently passed through the liver, entered a large vein and was pumped into the upper right chamber of the heart, passed through the valve to the lower left chamber, an in that ventricle there it sat. Apparently you can’t just leave well enough alone, so someone had to go in and get the damn thing.

Enter Drs. Lyman Brewer and Ellsworth Wareham, of the College of Medical Evangelists. They’d removed plenty of bullets from hearts using the old “closed-heart method,” but here thought they’d try something new—having a heart-lung machine on hand, they thought they’d throw that into the mix. No more working without seeing what you’re doing: with the heart-lung machine, the heart could be drained of blood, and the surgeon can see and feel what’s transpiring.

Dr. Joan Coggin, who assisted, also noted that they’ve established a new approach to heart surgery in that they incised the heart on the underside, and not in the front; the electrical pattern of the heart, as evidenced by their electrocardiogram, has shown that this method results in far less serious consequence to the heart during surgery.

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All this medical breakthrough, and all because some liquored Canuck on Bunker Hill decided to blast away at the heat! Should you wish to know more about this miracle of science, why don’t you ask Ellsworth?

A bit on the Hotel Rollin, as long as we’re here. Its building permits are issued July 9, 1904. Its two and three room suites are each furnished with bath and kitchen.

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Those of you with the eagle eye will notice the Bozwell and St. Regis just in the background:

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(Of course, the Hotel Rollin had a musical combo that entertained guests, and to this day many people remember the Rollin’s band.)

Hotel Rollin image, USC Digital Archives 

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

Journey to the Center of 1909

Back when the New Year turned 2000, some sort of promised computronic glitch was supposed to send us back to 1900. Remember that? I booted up everything I could find, sat in a room full of Coleco Adams, VIC 20s and TI 99/4s, wearing a high starched collar and waiting for President McKinley to send wire that all was well. It never happened.
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I won’t say that I go through the same ritual every year, but it was hard not to plummet, turning as we were to 2009, deep into the wonder of 1909. You may lose yourself in the limpid pools of your lover’s eyes, or the majesty of your maker’s sunsets; I was transported to the world of Los Angeles, 1909, courtesy the Western Lithograph Company. Unfortunately, I came back. So I’ll plop down in front of my beloved Apple Lisa, which once failed to transport me to 1900, and try and take you around a bit to Bunker Hill, 1909.

Our journey involves a map. There are in fact two versions of the beast-in-question: one published by the Birdseye View Publishing Company, which included a legend at the bottom. Another variation without the legend, commonly known as the "Worthington Gates," as it names its compiler, was published the same year by Birdseye (or "Birds Eye" as they’re called on the WG; it as well identifies itself as product of the Western Litho. Co.). For the record, contrary to popular belief, these are not entirely the same map. For example, here’s the corner of Fourth and Hill. The Birdseye-View map:
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Now note the Worthington Gates—which we should note was also printed smaller, and in and of an overall brownish hue, as opposed to the verdant greens of Los Angeles in the Birdseye above—apparently published later: while the buildings have remained untouched, their naming has altered slightly (the LAP building) and some names have been added (note Danziger and University Club to the north of the Wright-Callender).
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Very well. We commence our journey through the interstices of space-time!

From the get-go, let’s get a feeling for just how high the Hill once lorded over downtown:

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Starting with our western edge:

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Fifth and Olive, of course, the unassuming future site of the Auditorium Hotel, a mere year away. In the future. Heading up Olive into the Hill there’s our old friend the Trenton.

Swinging around to our southern border:

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Third and Grand at upper left, Third and Olive center, Third and Hill bottom right. The Nugent stands proud at 3&G; there’s the Elks, the Astoria, the YWCA and of course perennial favorite Angels Flight. Note that what’s usually known as the Mission Apartments over at Second and Olive is called the Castle Craig.

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A couple more you should recognize above—Zelda at Fourth and Grand, over her shoulder, the Touraine.

Of course no account of BH would be complete without an image of the Second/Hill area:

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…covered of course to an absurd degree here and here. In this depiction one gets a feeling for the majesty of the Hotel Locke, and of the ornate nature of those façades lopped off due to Second Street’s widening during construction of the tunnel (say goodbye to the Argyle turret!).

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The Rose Mansion at the bottom corner of Fourth and Grand (closest to the Fr in Fremont). Kitty-corner across from the Rose are the towers of the Hershey/Castle; next to her, the magnificent Brunson Mansion. The Fleur de Lis you’ll remember as the blink-of-an-eye Bryan Mansion. Upper right, looming large at Third and Bunker Hill Avenue is the Alta Vista; behind, on Flower, the St. Regis.

While we’re on the subject of Buker Hill Ave., let’s take a closer look-see:

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…heading up the street we’ve got the Salt Box, 333 South Bunker Hill, the Castle, the Lady McDonald, and the distinctive tower of the Foss/Heindel all on the east side of the street.

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A bit further north is Hill standout The Dome (aka the Minnewaska) at Second and Grand; the Majestic, top, at First and Hope, later became the Rossmere; our turreted pal in the upper left is at First and Flower.

Bunker Hill north of First tends to get the short shrift around here. (For that we apologize and look forward to remedying this injustice in the coming year.) Not that we haven’t poked around up there a bit:

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Here for example, center right, is the St. Angelo, up on North Grand. Lurking behind would be the Larronde residence.

And that’s just a taste of the Hill. (Where, you ask, are the Melrose and Fremont, to name but two?) And the map stretches from West Lake Park to the river. But don’t take my word for it. Whether you cleave to the Worthington Gates, or cotton to the Birdseye View, there’s no better way to spend the better part of, oh, the rest of your life than poring over these maps. You’ll find as well that a quick internet search will reveal no lack of suitable-for-framing reproductions to be had of both kinds.

Now then. Having applied quantum gravity to traversable wormhole metrics, and stuff, I’m pretty sure I’ve constructed a time machine by affixing a Powerbook 180 to the Worthington Gates.

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See you in the lobby of the Cumberland, Kip Thorne!

Truck Amok

rubbishamokWhen it rains, it pours. Which is probably a good thing, since rain will put out all that pesky fire.

Corner of Fourth and Olive, August 29, 1962.

Van R. Alexanian, 23, was loading a barrel of rubbish into the scoop on the front of his trash-truck when the parking brake gave way. The truck ran into an electrical pole, and the live wire caught the truck debris on fire. The pole then fell onto a Mrs. Helen Stairs, 50.

The flaming truck went on to take out a traffic signal and a lamp post before crashing into a garage. This much was fortunate; the garage attendant was equipped with a fire extinguisher.

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Officer L. S. Rasic commented that had the truck continued through the intersection, it would have crashed into eight cars waiting for the signal to change.

The question remains as to what garage the garbage truck plowed into, as there were in fact three at Olive and Fourth: the 1923 Mutual Garage at the NE corner, the 1919 Hotel Clark/Center Garage at the SE corner, and the 1923 Savoy Garage at the SW corner. Here’s a picture of all three, 1966:

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1outof3Remarkably, the Savoy still stands. The 600-car Mutual at left in the image above is now the foundation for Cal Plaza Two. The Hotel Clark Garage, center (along with that tall white building, ironically named the Black Building) is still an empty lot, site of what was to be Cal Plaza Three. (The parking lot at foreground right was the former site of the Fremont.)

 

Should you wish to learn more about garages, please do so here.

Garage pic, William Reagh, Los Angeles Public Library

 

The Old Switcheroo

May 6, 1915. Mr. H. J. Robinson, of 210 South Flower, met long-time acquaintance Ernest Lightfoot at another house Robinson owned at 121 South Flower. While the two were inspecting 121—Lightfoot had proposed Robinson trade him the house for some land in the Imperial Valley—Lightfoot slugged the elderly Robinson, knocking him unconscious.

Robinson recovered consciousness enough to feel someone tugging at his diamond ring—which he’d never been able to get off himself, though Lightfoot was able to do enough of a number on Robinson’s finger to effect removal.

While Robinson recovered in Westlake Hospital, suffering contusions of the head and a concussion of the brain (and a bruised finger), Lightfoot was picked up by detectives. Turns out this Lightfoot was the same charmer who in 1910 was charged with rape and given five years probation, and who in 1914 was arrested for child abandonment.

…210 South Flower?1922Stan

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From the collective neuron firings of OBH readership comes the query where have I heard that before?

 

Why, you read about that just the other day, in Miss Joan’s wonderful tale of the Fry Cook Killa.

Yes, 210 South Flower, which we know as the Stanley Apartments, as pictured here and here.

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jimandbunkerIn November 1979, the Times ran a piece about Angelus Plaza, Bunker Hill’s subsidized housing project for seniors. For the article they dug up one of the original uprooted persons, a Jim Dorr, 73, who’d been sent a notice by the CRA to vacate the Stanley Apartments on November 15, 1965. He’s glad he saved those displacement papers all these years: HUD will give him priority in the otherwise random lottery.

Sez Jim:

“I’ve been around Bunker Hill off and on now for forty or fifty years. They say it was nice once. But they let it run down for years. The Stanley was a very old place, well kept, but they didn’t spend much money on it.”

(Just for the record, despite what it says in the caption at right, the Bunker Hill Towers are not on the spot of the Stanley. The Stanley is at the red hatched box below; Dorr’s standing at the blue dot.)

 

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Looking down 2nd toward Hope. (Needless to say, Bunker Hill Avenue has removed itself from the equation.)  (But then, so has pretty much everything else.)

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Walker Evans visits First & Flower

A glance at mid-century America reveals it emblazoned with the familiar totems: military might, industrial supremacy, cultural imperialism. These were carved by fervent if not blind progress, and you’d be given a funny look (if not worse) were you to dare question that.

Nobody would dare bat an eye as freeways forever cut up cities, and huge swaths of our collective memory were lost to parking lots and well-intentioned developments. Funny old buildings were the realm of mutants, after all.

But even in the glory days of unquestioned, unfettered forward movement—before, say, Dallas ’63 and Watts ’65—there was a small rumbling of (not unpatriotic) discontent. Landmarks were lost hand over fist but when in 1962 it came time for Penn Station to become so much New Jersey Medowlands landfill, eyebrows were raised. This was Penn Station, after all. Somebody at Life magazine (somebody who ambled through Penn Station to the Life offices at Rockefeller Center, most likely) realized that losing our common heritage would make a nifty nine-page spread. And so Life called upon heavyweight photojournalist Walker Evans to do the immortalizing.

Walker shot in New York, as well as Norwalk, Conn; Boston and Amesbury, Mass; then out to California for Nevada City, San Francisco, and, in October of 1962, Los Angeles. Where he made a beeline to Bunker Hill. He shot all over the Hill but curiously took his greatest number of shots of 101 South Flower, and it was 101 South Flower that made it into the magazine:

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What can be said of 101-109, aka 101-111 South Flower? Precious little. We know that it is announced in February of 1904, to run $16,000 ($364,809 USD 2007).

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But a thorough check of its various addresses shows that nothing of consequence ever there occurred.

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The southwest corner of First and Flower:

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cliffthenogoodSure, there was the small matter of Clifford Gooding, who’d married his gal Marie and had a daughter with her, only to disappear after a few years. Marie heard Clifford was dead, and so she remarried, only Clifford wasn’t dead, just…disappeared. To Bunker Hill. She lived down on 37th Street; Bunker Hill may as well be the moon. After six years of Clifford being “deceased” she caught wind that he wasn’t, had him tracked down, and he was popped at our First & Flower apartment house in November 1925 on a deadbeat dad charge. That’s about as racy as it gets; that, and the residents of this particular place had a terrible habit of stepping off of this curb and that into fatally well-built oncoming automobiles.

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Fortunately what we lack in drama we make up for in image quantity. It was captured of course by the incomparable Arnold Hylen:

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Today, of course, the building is demolished, but one isn’t always expecting to find the same thing to have happened to the street. Where has all the Flower gone?

In each of the two images below: First at the top, Second at the bottom, Figueroa at the left (yes, I know Fig is a Street and not an Avenue, that’s Baists for you) Hope on the right. In the top image, Flower runs down the middle, and there’s 101 in orange, with “Labarere Tr.” (for Labarere Tract) written across it. In the modern image below, well Flower just went away.

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doooomedA few final words about Life’s Doomed Architecture article, published July 5, 1963, and which noted that “some 2,000 buildings classified by the government as major landmarks of history and beauty have vanished in the past 25 years.”

Penn Station, of course, is demolished. This action is largely credited for impregnating America with preservation consciousness. This isn’t true, of course, but that’s ok.

In writing about the Amesbury, Mass. Rocky Hill Meeting House Life notes that a proposed expressway is taking down three 18th-century buildings and coming within yards of the structure, which is in a state of miraculous state of preservation. This writer does not know if the 1963 worries about blasting and vibrations undermined the building, or played havoc with the 1780s glazing, but I do know that the 495 is now a stone’s throw away, and I call that wrong.

Nevada City, best extant example of a Gold Rush town, was to be partly lost when the four-lane CA-20/49 bisected the little burg. But the “outraged local groups” apparently persuaded authorities to shift the highway, saving the most historic buildings, which thus now stand to this day.

After the Mathews Mansion was foolishly given to the City of Norwalk, Conn, the City embarked on a period of Official Neglect until they could plead “It Can’t Be Fixed!” and set out to demolish it for a city hall. After a three-year battle, citizens saved the mansion by referendum; the city ignored this and set out to build the city hall on the mansion grounds again. Eventually, though, the mansion was saved, we hope for some time.

The 1874 Greek Revival San Francisco Mint was also a victim of Official Neglect; the city thought it a swell place for a parking lot, and had let it deteriorate to the point of its roof collapsing. Its demolition was slated for 1965; as can be seen, that did not happen.

And so while the vast majority of the subjects in Life’s article survived to see another millennium, 101 South Flower did not. Nor did any of the any other structures shot by Evans that Los Angeles October.

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Le Miserable

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Joe Chavez was busted down on Bunker Hill. ’Twas late in the Decembertime (the holiday season, for the Love of Mary), and Joe, 50, hungry, hunkered down in his pad at 221 South Bunker Hill, went and thought, I’m going to go liberate a little something from a nearby market to ease my gnawing gut. What’s the worst that could happen?

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December 29, 1954. Joe exits 221, heads down to a small grocery at 108 South Broadway. Unfortunately for Joe, somebody called in his little lift, a 484, as a 64 (that’s a petty theft blossomed into an armed robbery to the KMA367). So the coppers arrived a-blazing, but store owner Carl Johnson, 28, already had things handled. Johnson, evidently an ex-footballer, hit Chavez—ham neatly tucked under one arm—with a flying tackle.

Joe rang in the New Year at City Jail, after a trip to Georgia Street Receiving; his tackle resulted in a broken nose.

So what do we know of 221 South Bunker Hill? That it appeared between the 1888 and 1894 Sanborn maps. That it changed comparatively little between 1894 and 1955:

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221 was photographed as having a wall in front in the mid-1950s:

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Which it lost in favor of this lacework-laden thicket theme:

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GC221About which Bunker Hill photographer Arnold Hylen described as “a touch of old New Orleans along the sidewalk.” He’s right not only about that wrought iron, which lends a decided Royal Street flourish. This is a shockingly New Orleans house in general. Granted, the steep cross gables are more Gothic Revival than archetypal Crescent City, but this style of roof treatment is seen frequently in New Orleans. The two-tiered porch with full-length windows are a Gulf Coast hallmark. Doubly remarkable is that this house, with its gingerbread at the upper gallery, choice of board over shingle, and single light in the center gable—evocative of the Creole cottage—was constructed contemporary to New Orleans’s residential blanketing via the shotgun house (the four-bay arrangement of this home mirroring the double shotgun, though the door placement lends and air of the famous New Orleans centerhall villa). Granted, it’s a little out of place here; those tall windows are intended to dispel mugginess, hardly a chief concern in the realm of Ask the Dust. Nevertheless, this wasn’t a celebratory tribute to quaint olde New Orleans—it was built by and for Victorians.

Sad to think that as Disney was building his homage to all things bayou down in Anaheim, this little piece of oddball Angelenism was ground up for landfill.

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Color image by Walker Evans, shot in October 1962 for the Life magazine piece “Doomed…It Must Be Saved” published July 15, 1963.

B/W image courtesy Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, U.C. Los Angeles

Image at right, courtesy Arnold Hylen Collection, California History Section, California State Library