All the More Mann

Ahoy Hill hipster!  It‘s been an exciting time here On Bunker Hill.  Through the grace of George Mann‘s family, the other day Kim posted twenty-one images of BH in living doomed color.  One of those featured the Sunshine Apts. with the Hill Crest looming o‘er; a few days later the esteemed Jim Dawson posted all about the Sunshine, including a new Mann image that showcased a year‘s worth of growth where the Hill Crest once stood.  And now, for your edification and delectation, more.


I begin my post as did Kim not with shots of Bunker Hill, but with a George Mann image nonetheless.  This is the Sentous Block, designed in 1886 by R. J. Reeve; the same year Reeve designed the U. S. Hotel and the Phillips Block.

Louis Sentous was one of the great French pioneers of Los Angeles who‘d arrived penniless, panned for a little gold and became a successful cattle rancher, trading meat and dairy at the Plaza until he bought the nearby piece of property (bounded by Sunset, Spring, Main and Macy) that was to bear his name.

The Sentous Block is best known around noirsville as where Mike Hammer cruises over to the Jalisco Hotel in Kiss Me Deadly; it also contained the Bamba Club, which doubles as the Round-Up in Criss Cross.  (Both on the Spring St. side of the Sentous; our image shows the Main St. side.)  For more than you would ever want to know about this, go here (seems like contributor Beaudry needs a girlfriend or something).

Louis lasted until 1911; his building til 1957.  

Just goes to show.  Not everything ornate that was torn down in the last fifty years was on Bunker Hill.  You owe it to yourself to learn the names and faces of the Amestoy Block.  The Bath Block.  The Gollmer Block.  The Wilson Block.  The Stimson Building.  The Westminster Hotel.  The Martz Flats.  Ad nauseum.

But on to Bunker Hill!

Ah, the Astoria.


Nothing says deep arcaded entry and red-tiled bell tower like “Astoria”.  Yes, one can not help but marvel at the incongruity of Bunker Hill naming systems.  I wrote earlier in OBH about the red-tiled onion domed Minnewaska, the fairly Franco-Renaissance Sherwood, and while it hasn‘t been explored yet, the decisively Mission-styled 1904 Mission Apartments at Second and Olive spent much of its young life known as, of course, Castle Craig.

Astoria, the Greek word for quail, is also the part of Queens known for being full of Greeks.  That notwithstanding, at the time of its construction, Astoria connoted the Astoria, Queens that was then the “Hollywood of the East.”  Plus it had been named for John Jacob Astor.  All sorts of cachet.  Perhaps the developers thought that despite the arches and fauxdobe, the rather otherwise traditional use of the bay windows prevented naming the structure something vaguely Missiony like “Ramona Hotel” or “Portolà Apts.”

In any event, of the Astoria much has been said

Next to the Astoria is the 1916 Blackstone Apartments, with the nice Beaux Arts garlands upon‘t.  Not a whole lot happened there, an ex-cop caught violating the Wright Act, and there were some lady bootleggers; while the Widows Protective League Los Angeles Branch Council met at the Blackstone, a widow took poison and offed herself there the very same year (1929); and Ross Page, younger brother of the widely-known “Farmer” Page, was busted there by the vice squad while running two bridge games and a poker game in August of ”˜25.

I will let Matt Weinstock of the Times do the talking for me:

That din emanating from Bunker Hill these days is the relentless pounding of the jackhammers tearing down the ancient Blackstone Apartments, 244 S Olive St., next door to the top of Angel‘s Flight.

Until the demolition crew went to work on it, the Blackstone was nine stories high, counting the floors from the back entrance in the alley, which was kept locked.  However, if you entered on Olive St., as most people did, you were on the third floor, and from there it was only a six story building.  I learned this many years ago in visiting a departed colleague, J. Farrington Barrington Arrington, who lived there.

And so another quaint landmark passes and now, when I go into a building on what purports to be the main floor it will really be the main floor, not the third.  Progress marches on.

”“ July 2, 1964

The Sawyer Apts:


Not one of the gingerbreaded, parapeted wonders of the Hill.  So where was it?  327 South Hope, that‘s where.  (God bless City Directories and old phone books.)  And bless George Mann for shooting something other than the Usual Suspects.  Sure, 327 is on The Map, but this is a color pic.  And yet”¦again, one always needs more; there‘s something about placing oneself in the landscape.  So, comparing maps, and building outlines, and digging through photo archives”¦

”¦in this William Reagh photo, ca. 1955:


The tree in our color image is the tree dead center above, and the large building jutting out to the right of the frame (Richfield tower visible behind) from Hope and plunging down the hill toward Flower, that‘s the Sawyer.

I want to stress again the wonder of finding the unexpected.  Mann shot what others did not.  After Angels Flight, arguably the most photographed structures on the Hill were the Castle and the Salt Box.  Which meant photographers turned their collective back on this:


We stand adjacent to a bit of spindlework at 333 South Bunker Hill, between, of course, the Salt Box behind our left shoulder and the Castle on the other side of 333.  Whitey there on the right with the dentils is 326 South Bunker Hill, but its real address is 325 South Grand, as this is the backside of the Kenneth Apts.  Its blue neighbor with the deep columned entry is 322/318; it had a non-conjoined counterpart of 319/323 at Grand and together they were known as the Alta Cresta.  Its beige neighbor to the north with the porch is 310 and there‘s a small house behind it that‘s either 306 or 302 South Bunker Hill.

And then the white house with the cross-gabled red roof, that‘s 256 South Bunker Hill.  That one is extra cool because it‘s where Liz the exotic dancer/modern painter/serial killer (Indus Arthur) lives in Angel‘s Flight.  In fact, it‘s not two minutes into the movie when Liz commits a murder right on the benches above the Third St. tunnel, and the landlady sticks her head out and screams!  To wit:


And the big brick building behind that is the backend of the Alto Hotel, 253 S. Grand.

And last but not least”¦

Mystery House!



At least it‘s a mystery to me.  It‘s not within a gallon of Ethel of the DT, of that I‘m pretty certain.  Mann shot all over, Point Loma, Catalina”¦so here‘s this Victorian Exotic Revival that‘s going for something Indo-Moorish, though what that is I can‘t say ”“ do you know?  There‘s what appears to be a “701” on her stairs.  OBH readers are the best and the brightest:  whence came this sweetheart and whither did she go?

William Reagh photo courtesy California State Library Digital Archives

Thanks to George Mann’s son Brad Smith, and daughter-in-law Dianne Woods, for allowing us to reprint these copyrighted photographs and tell George’s story. To see George’s photos of theater marquees, visit

For a representative selection of photographs from his archive, or to license images for reproduction or other use, see

Foss/Heindel Residence – 315 South Bunker Hill Avenue


The house that stood at 315 South Bunker Hill for 80 or so years came to be known as the Foss/Heindel Residence. The Foss family possibly constructed the home, and they did operate it as a boarding house for decades, so it’s fitting that the structure bears this name in the unofficial annals of Bunker Hill history. Max Heindel, on the other hand, lived at 315 South Bunker Hill for a relatively short period of time, but his legacy as an occultist/mystic/astrologer proves that one did not have to reside on Bunker Hill for long in order to make a lasting mark on the neighborhood.

In 1939 when the WPA conducted a census of the neighborhood, the owner of the house at 315 S. Bunker Hill Avenue was recorded as having lived there for 54 years. If the census is accurate, then the Foss family were the ones who added the unique structure to the emerging area. William and Anna Foss were German immigrants who had relocated to California from Ohio in the 1880s so an ailing William could take advantage of the State’s medicinal weather. Their home, constructed around 1885 was modest in comparison to a lot of the other mansions that were going up on the Hill during the boom period.


It does not appear that the Foss family enjoyed financial stability. In 1892 Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Rubo utilized the residence for their school of voice and culture, and starting in 1894, two years before William Foss’ death, the family home officially became a boarding house. It would serve in this capacity for the next 70 years. In 1910, Anna Foss was 83 years old, still renting out rooms in her home, and her daughters Augusta and Anna, both in their 40s, were still living with her. However, Augusta’s days on Bunker Hill were numbered because she was about to be swept off her feet by one of their tenants who called himself Max Heindel.

“Max Heindel” was actually the pen name of Carl Louis Von Grasshoff, a native of Denmark, born in 1865, with royal German blood running through his veins. Von Grasshoff was a child when his father died, and he was raised in genteel poverty, meaning the family was broke but kept up appearances as Danish nobility. Von Grasshoff rejected the “noble life” when he was 16 and trained to become a steam ship engineer, eventually becoming a Chief Engineer for the famed Cunard line. By 1905, ill health and personal sorrows, including a difficult marriage, had cause Von Grasshoff, now going by the name Max Heindel, to go on a spiritual journey. He became interested in metaphysics, joined the Theosophical Society, shared his insights as a lecturer, and made his way to Los Angeles.

It is unclear exactly when Max Heindel first met Augusta Foss, but in 1910 he was a lodger at the Bunker Hill residence, which was the same year he married Augusta. She shared a lot of Heindel’s interests and turned him on to astrology. Another dominating passion in Heindel’s life was ignited during a visit to Germany where he studied under the Brothers of the Ancient Order of the Rosicrucians. Max and Augusta left Bunker Hill and relocated to Oceanside to start their Rosicrucian Fellowship which promoted Christian mysticism. The couple built a temple on Mount Ecclesia, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic places, and Heidel wrote numerous books about Rosicrucian beliefs. Max lived until 1919 and Augusta carried on his work until her own death 30 years later.

Back on Bunker Hill, Augusta’s sister, Anna, took over as owner of the family boarding house when the elder Anna Foss passed on. She played landlady to the seven unit building at least through the 1940s, and the house at 315 South Bunker Hill continued to house tenants until the 1960s. It was one of the homes that was captured through the camera lens of Arnold Hylen and the paint brush of Leo Politi among others who paid artistic homage to Bunker Hill in its final years. The Foss/Heindel house was demolished by 1967, along with most of the neighborhood.

Images courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection, California State Library Photo Collection, and Wikipedia