Don’t Drink and Drive

dont drink 

Former saloon owner Joseph Gillek, 57, wasn’t a big fan of Prohibition, and like many other Angelenos he simply ignored the law. He’d spent the evening of February 25, 1928, drinking — most likely in one of the dozens of blind pigs operating in the city during that time. With the bootleg booze eroding his already dubious judgement, he compounded his unlawful behavior by getting behind the wheel of his car to drive himself home.


His muddled thinking resulted in a smash-up as he rammed his flivver into a retaining wall at his home at 201 South Bunker Hill Avenue. When his 30 year old son, Joseph Jr. came out to see what had caused the racked and saw his inebriated father lurch out of the automobile, he reamed the old man a new one. Once the shouting had died down Joseph Sr. burst into tears, declaring that he no longer wished to live.

Later that evening he went into the cellar with his revolver and shot himself to death.






Le Miserable


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?


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:










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


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


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.


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


Bow, Wow, WOW!

pompey headline


December 2, 1923

133 South Bunker Hill


Move over Rin-Tin-Tin, there”™s a new wonder dog in town, and his name is Pompey.


pompeyWe humans may be nasally challenged with our measly 5 million scent receptors, but German Shepherds have 225 million ”“ and they know how to use them all.  With that kind of super hero sniff power, it was no surprise when a German Shepherd named Pompey caught the aroma of gas fumes, desperation, and imminent death in the air. The surprise was that he was galvanized into action.


Pompey and his mistress, Mrs. Mitalzo, were out for a stroll on

South Bunker Hill Avenue
. The dog became increasingly agitated as they drew nearer to a rooming house just up the block. A few doors away from the building, Pompey began to growl. When his hair stood up on end, Mrs. Mitalzo bent over to try to soothe him. She had relaxed her grip on Pompey”™s leash for only a moment, and it was then that Pompey broke free. He ran up the steps of the building, and into the apartment of Mr. William A. Stark.


The 24 year old Stark had just been discharged from his job as an elevator operator at a downtown hotel. Management had told him that he was through because he didn”™t close the elevator doors properly. The despondent man had taken several newspapers and fashioned them into a long cone. He placed the small end of the improvised suicide device over a gas jet in his room, and he placed the large end over his face. Stark then turned on the gas and lay down to die.


When Pompey entered the room, Stark was unconscious and near death. The valiant dog dragged the motionless Stark into the safety of the hallway. Mrs. Mitalzo ran into the rooming house to search for Pompey and discovered him watching over the dying man.


Police were summoned and Stark was taken to the Receiving Hospital, where he was revived. Pompey stayed around long enough to see the ambulance pull away. Apparently satisfied with the outcome, the dog rejoined his mistress and the two continued their stroll.


Pompey vanished from the pages of the Los Angeles Times after his brief moment in the limelight, but his famed counterpart, Rin-Tin-Tin, was just beginning his film career in 1923.rintyradio


Rin-Tin-Tin was only five days old when he was rescued from a bombed out kennel in France. WWI was drawing to a close when a U.S. solider, Lee Duncan, spotted the kennel and decided to investigate. He saved two of the puppies and brought them home with him to Los Angeles


Rin-Tin-Tin (aka Rinty) was seen performing in a local dog show by movie producer Charles Jones ”“ and a star was born. Rinty worked hard and would often relax by listening to the radio.


His career lasted for over a decade and eventually earned him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Rinty passed away quietly in his sleep at the ripe old age of 14.








The Argyle: Wayward Youth, Beatings and the Slit Throat That Wasn’t

When we last visited the Argyle, it was the a first rate Bunker Hill rooming house, artists’ salon, and night spot besieged by troubled management and unpredictable closings.  This week, we turn to the Argyle’s tenants, and their various encounters with local law enforcement.

urchinsAt first, the hotel attracted the sort of person who perhaps wished for a bit more intrigue and drama than life at the Argyle provided.  And being artistic types, they were perhaps prone to overactive imaginations.

On December 22, 1887, police were summoned to the Argyle at 2:30 in the morning, and greeted at the door by a hysterical landlady who claimed that the house was full of burglars, and "one of them is standing in a guest’s room with his throat cut!"

When we last visited the Argyle, it was the a first rate Bunker Hill rooming house, artists’ salon, and night spot besieged by troubled management and unpredictable closings.  This week, we turn to the Argyle’s tenants, and their various encounters with local law enforcement.

urchinsAt first, the hotel attracted the sort of person who perhaps wished for a bit more intrigue and drama than life at the Argyle provided.  And being artistic types, they were perhaps prone to overactive imaginations.

On December 22, 1887, police were summoned to the Argyle at 2:30 in the morning, and greeted at the door by a hysterical landlady who claimed that the house was full of burglars, and "one of them is standing in a guest’s room with his throat cut!"

A small army of police officer, reporters, and curious tenants rushed down the hall, storming into the room where the fiend had been sighted.  Behind the door, however, they found a startled-looking, 100-pound man mopping up a bloody nose.  And the kicker?  He lived there.

Another early morning disturbance drew police on September 15, 1892.  When they arrived at the scene, they found another crowd gathered around a door, listening to the anguished moans of a woman.  After some heated debate, they decided to break down the door, and police were about to do just that when a man’s voice shouted, "Don’t kick that door open.  She is alright."

As the Argyle residents exchanged scandalized whispers, a half-naked man flung the door open and attempted an escape, but succeeded only in running into the arms of police officers.  Though both parties remained unnamed, the shirtless gentleman was a prominent local artist, and the woman a handsome widow "too far gone under the influence of ‘cold tea.’" 

After a few incidents like this, the Argyle residents needed to step up their game, and how better than to take a page from Dickens?  On June 29, 1901, Charles B. Howe was arrested and charged with enlisting two of the Argyle’s youngest residents to steal for him.  Howe approached Raymond and Harry Neismonger, 11 and 9, respectively, with a proposition that they steal from local department stores, and he would purchase the fenced goods at bargain prices.  Raymond was intrigued, and promptly took a job as a cash boy at the Broadway Department Store where he had easy access to all manner of tempting items.  Not to be outdone, the younger boy took to lifting watches from Tufts-Lyon.  Howe was caught red-handed with several watches, a bathing suit, and an assortment of leather goods in his possession.

Though our tale has run long, there’s room for one more Argyle crime, a sad, though routine tale of domestic violence immortalized in perhaps the purplest headline ever penned by a Times writer: 


Charles Gregory stumbled into the Argyle drunk and proceeded to beat his wife.  Police were summoned, and Gregory was locked up for disturbing the peace, though not for assaulting his wife.

Don’t know that the story lives up to the headline, but somehow, it fits the spirit of the Argyle Hotel perfectly.  

Photographs from the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

Second Street Cable Railway


Many an Angeleno has heard of the legendary Pacific Electric Railway, or Red Car system which transported passengers to locations well beyond the city limits. Those who have brushed up on their local history are probably familiar with The Los Angeles Railway (LARy), aka the Yellow Cars, whose routes journeyed within city line. However, most are probably unaware that the City of Angels briefly sported a couple of good old fashioned cable car lines that ran right through Bunker Hill. The first cable line to maneuver the hills of Downtown ran along Second Street, delighted travelers, and lead to the westward expansion of the city. Despite its fantastic success, the Second Street Cable Railway survived for only a short period of time.

During the real estate boom of the 1880s, the area just west of Downtown was what the newspapers referred to as a “howling wilderness,” largely because the hilly terrain rendered navigation by horse drawn carriage virtually impossible. This slight obstacle did not discourage local land owners who sought to make the area attractive for development. By this time, the cable cars in San Francisco had been successfully operating for over a decade and some enterprising businessman began to consider this mode of transportation as a solution to Mother Nature’s challenges.

Plans for two separate cable lines sprang up at the same time, but the Second Street Cable Railway Company was always a step ahead of the alternate line which would eventually run up Temple Street. Land owners with holdings west of the city provided much of the capital for the Second Street Line, along with business owners on Spring Street near Second, who hoped convenient transportation would boost retail in the area. Some of the main backers and promoters of the railway company included Edward A. Hall, Henry Witmer, I.W. Lord and John Hollenbeck. Lord, who would later found the city of Lordsburg (now La Verne) broke ground on the project, and the first tracks for the new cable line were laid at the intersection of Second and Hill on the morning of April 27, 1885. Five days later the first advertisements promoting real estate near the proposed line began appearing in the local newspapers.

Construction on the line continued at breakneck speed, which was no small task considering pieces of hillside were cut and removed at some parts of the line. The Second Street Cable Railroad was completed in the early fall and made its inaugural trip at 4:05pm on October 14, 1885. The line ran approximately 6,770 feet, or a mile and a quarter, up Second Street and through Bunker Hill from Spring to Belmont. A one way trip took between twelve and fourteen minutes and the line was open from 6am to 11pm. At its steepest, the cable cars ran over the hills of Los Angeles at a twenty seven percent grade between Hope Street and Bunker Hill Avenue. The total cost to construct the line was roughly $100,000.

The Second Street Cable Railway was an immediate success and did indeed spark development on the land west of Bunker Hill. Investors originally expected the line to serve around six hundred people a day, but by the end of 1886, the cable cars were carrying more that three times that number. In January 1887, Edward Hall and Henry Witmer, President and Treasurer of the Second Street Cable Railway Company, decided to get out when the getting was good. They sold their company shares to James M. McLaughlin for $130,000 and he became the primary owner of the Second Street Cable Railway.

McLaughlin had ambitious plans to connect Downtown with the area that would eventually become Hollywood, by connecting the cable railway with a steam line called the Cahuenga Valley Railroad. The plans turned sour when the Cahuenga Valley Railroad was barred from operating within the city limits because of the noise and air pollution. McLaughlin’s attempts to get the Second Street Line extended soon failed. Add to this the end of the boom times and McLaughlin soon found himself and his company in the red. By the end of 1889, McLaughlin was virtually bankrupt and the line stopped running while legal matters were straightened out. That winter, torrential rains severely damaged portions of the line and by early 1890 McLaughlin had lost the company, and the first cable line of Los Angeles was permanently abandoned.

Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection and the USC Digital Archive


Brousseau Mansion – 238 South Bunker Hill Avenue

Brousseau Mansion

Many of the Bunker Hill mansions went away without much fanfare, their existence blighted by high rises and retained only in the faint memories of former residents. Others, like the Brousseau Mansion, held on long enough to be captured on canvas by the many artists who descended upon the Hill in its final years. The graceful beauty of the Victorian residence shines not only in paintings and photographs but also in the accomplishments of a couple of its most notable residents.



Located on South Bunker Hill Avenue, between Second & Third Street, the house was one of the Hill’s earliest, built around 1878 by Judge Julius Brousseau. While many early residents of the Hill found themselves tangled up in scandals involving kidnapping, adultery and suicide, according to the LA Times, “no citizen of Los Angeles had a better reputation for integrity and good citizenship than Mr. Brousseau.” The family, including two sons and two daughters resided at the stately mansion until the death of Mrs. Brousseau, around 1901, followed by the Judge in 1903. The Brousseau boys would go on to try their hands at various vocations and daughter Mabel would become a fixture of the City as a respected music teacher. Kate Brousseau, the eldest of the Judge’s children would prove to be one of Bunker Hill’s most extraordinary residents.


Kate Brousseau began her teaching career around the age of 20 and was at one time employed as a French instructor at the State Normal School, located where the Central Library now stands. She also gave French lessons at the family home for 75 cents per visit. In the mid 1890s she began studies at the University of Paris where she was “the only woman student in a Greek class of sixty members.” Upon her return from France, Kate would frequently translate French literature which was then published in the Los Angeles Times. She would go on to earn a PhD in psychology, serve with the French Army during WWI and assist the French Army with the rehabilitation of shell shocked soldiers after the war. Kate publish numerous books with subjects including race and education and became an internationally known psychologist, teaching the subject at Mills College from 1907-1928. Although she was born in Michigan and despite her many travels, Kate Brousseau still called Los Angeles home until her death in 1938.

Soon after the Brousseau clan vacated 238 S. Bunker Hill, the residence became a boarding house like so many others on the Hill. A one time showpiece of the neighborhood, by 1939 the twenty-one room house was broken up into 13 units. Of the many occupants who came and went during the mansion’s half century as multi-housing, the most famous was probably “the funny old man with the birds.”

Brousseau Mansion
From the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

When the Community Redevelopment Agency began its scourge of Bunker Hill, many artists and photographers descended upon the neighborhood, desperate to “preserve” the buildings before they were gone. Little did these artists know that a resident of 238 S Bunker Hill had been painting scenes of the neighborhood for years. His name was Marcel Cavalla, and by 1963 he had been a resident of the Brousseau Mansion for twenty three years. A retired pastry chef, Cavalla lived alone with his pet birds and painted to “pass the time,” using the finished products as wallpaper to keep him and the birds company. Before the house was demolished, Cavalla was “discovered” by a fellow artist and his work received a month long showing at a local art gallery. Suffering from cancer, Cavalla was able to live out his days at the Brousseau residence until his death in 1966. Leo Politi would include a portrait called “Marcel” in his 1964 tribute Bunker Hill, Los Angeles : reminiscences of bygone days.

By 1967, South Bunker Hill Avenue had been wiped off the map and the Brousseau Mansion along with it.

Bad, Bad Edna Brown


edna brown headline

124 Bunker Hill Avenue

December 6, 1922 


Edna Brown, aka Edna Chaplin, aka Mabel Austin, seemed like such a nice girl. Sure, she”™d been busted by Detective Sergeants Bartley and Allen for stealing $100 ($1,271.00 current USD) from O. Johnson”™s apartment at 124 South Bunker Hill Avenue, but Edna did the right thing and confessed to the crime, resulting in her being charged with grand theft and larceny.


When she appeared in Judge Hinshaw”™s court for her arraignment, she burst into tears and appeared to be so genuinely remorseful that Guy Eddy, an attorney who was present on another matter, came to her defense and made a motion to dismiss the case. Judge Hinshaw was also moved by the girl”™s tears, and since Deputy District Attorney Orme made no objections, Edna walked.


Apparently none of the well meaning men in the courtroom ever thought to question why such a seemingly nice girl would have at least two known aliases.


A few days following Edna”™s day in court, Detective Sergeants Bartley and Allen were on the trail of a girl who had been accused by J.S. Purdy of using his name to pass bad checks. Purdy told the cops he suspected a girl named Edna. When he was shown a photo of Edna Brown, he immediately identified her as the forger. 


Note to Guy Eddy, Esq., Deputy District Attorney Orme, and Judge Hinshaw ”“ no good deed goes unpunished.

Mrs. Allen Slain By Ex-Beau

Picture 1

Location: 255 South Bunker Hill Avenue
Date: August 13, 1933

The newlyweds kept a modest apartment here at the Alta Vista. Oh, it may have been something of a step down in the world for bride Harriet Fencel Easton Allen, 25, who had attended USC and UCLA and studied art for two years in Europe, and whose father John was former superintendent of the L.A. Athletic Club and manager of the Jonathan Club, but then again, it was convenient to husband Robert Allen’s cafe at 257 South Olive.

Early this morning, Harriet woke to a knock on the door, and she answered without waking Robert, but soon she was screaming and running back toward the bedroom, "Bob, Bob, wake up! It’s Bruce!"

Yes, it was T. Bruce Moore, 42-year-old drug clerk, longtime friend of Bob’s and rival for Harriet’s affections, and he had a gun in his hand. Just a few days ago he’d gone into the cafe and said that if Bob didn’t make Harriet happy, he’d kill him, but he’d apparently reconsidered, because it was pajama-clad Harriet whose brains he blew out. She fell at her husband’s feet as he woke in confusion, then saw her assailant shoot himself in the head. Moore lingered for a few hours at Georgia Street Receiving Hospital before dying.

In the killer’s pockets were year-old seaside photos of himself with the dead woman, and on the back of one he’d penciled a last will and testament leaving his insurance, furniture and some land in Arizona, total value $2255 to his sister Elsie Bitner. But this will would be challenged in court when Mrs. Carol E. Moore came forward claiming to be Moore’s widow, as their divorce decree had not been entered at the time of his death.

Going With The Flow

Location: 255 South Bunker Hill Avenue
Date: August 24, 1937

Traffic expert Edmund C. Easton of this address spoke today before the Police Commission. Based on his fifteen years of study of automotive congestion in Los Angeles and other large cities, Easton advised the following measures for easing gridlock: street clearance through adequate design, regulation and police enforcement, trolleys given right-of-way, one-way streets, and controlling both jaywalking and automobiles "shooting" into cross-sections. The Chief is considering his suggestions, and we are certain that by 1940, traffic jams will be but a distant memory to our burg.

A Stroll Cut Short

Location: 255 South Bunker Hill Avenue
Date: January 22, 1918

Herbert Maas, 19, resident of the Alta Vista at 255 South Bunker Hill Avenue, was strolling with Alice Averill of 332 South Bunker Hill near Fifth and Fremont Streets when they were accosted by a four bandits who pulled up beside them in a car. Two of the men jumped out and grabbed Herbert, hustling him into the back seat. Then they drove away, leaving Miss Averill on the sidewalk. Near Orange and Figueroa the crooks relieved Herbert at gunpoint of $15, a gold watch and a stickpin. He must have been anticipating they’d soon release him when the man on his left, shaking from nervousness, suddenly fired his weapon. The bullet went through Herbert’s back, and next thing he knew, he’d been shoved onto the street in front of 1127 Orange Street. The wounded man made it into the Baltic Apartments, where he found aid and was taken to the Receiving Hospital, where he was listed in serious condition with a bullet through his lumbar region possibly nicking his peritoneum. A search was on for the highwayman, but there was no further news published about Herbert’s condition or any arrests. Ten years later, an Alice Averill was appearing around town as a chorus girl, in "Topsy and Eva" (a part she repeated on Broadway) and "A Connecticut Yankee."