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).

Lucinda Andrews meets the Long Beach Car

Location: 240 South Olive Street
Date: December 2, 1903

After the dust cleared on the foggy tracks of the Pacific Electric Railway and the smashed Long Beach car was extricated from its unwelcome union with the Whittier car, Motorman F.A. Brewster was asked why the heck he’d stopped dead and allowed his machine to be smashed. The cause, it transpired, was a deranged old resident of the address above, Mrs. Lucinda Andrews, who had bolted from her relatives’ home "while suffering a temporary aberration" and wandered aimlessly through the night before presenting herself "staggering about unsteadily" immediately ahead of the oncoming Long Beach car. Brewster set his air brakes and reversed, but fearing the woman had been struck, stopped and ran back with Conductor A.L. Healgon to see if they could help her. Lucinda was hiding in a nearby field and refused to come when called. Returning to their car, Brewster and Healgon heard the Whittier train approaching and went to start their own, only to hear the crackle of the "overhead" burning out. The Long Beach car was a doorstop, and the Whittier car came on inexorably. Attempts to flag it down failed due to the fog, and the crash followed. Lucinda ended up in distant Dozier a couple days later, where she caught a ride home with Conductor F.M. Bickenstein. When questioned by police she professed complete ignorance of the past days events… though when pressed, confessed the spectacle of the train crash had lingered with her. A call went out to Olive Street, and her relatives came and took the old gal home.

Residence – 221 South Olive Street


The house that stood at 221 South Olive may not have been as ornate as some of its Bunker Hill neighbors, but unlike the homes of Margaret Crocker and L.J. Rose, the residence on Olive survived from the earliest days of the neighborhood until the bitter end. Set back from the street, up two small sets of stairs, and surrounded by foliage, the fading Victorian beauty was a popular subject of the photographers who documented the Hill in its waning years.

The mansion was built in 1887 by Herman F. Baer, a real estate developer who was responsible for a number of residences in the area. The original address of the Baer home was 117 South Olive, but soon became 221 South Olive due to further development of the area and an 1889 ordinance renumbering street addresses. When the property was surveyed prior to its demolition, the American Institute of Architects noted that the house bore a striking resemblance to the design style of local architects Samuel and Joseph C. Newson.

By 1891, Baer was out and the Doran family was in. John J. Doran operated a stationary shop on Main Street which also provided the city with school supplies, fine pictures, candles, vegetable & olive oil, magazines and a well assorted stock of Catholic books. Doran passed away in 1892, but his widow Mary, their son, and three daughters continued to live on Olive and threw parties worthy of the society pages. The Dorans left Olive Street around 1905, selling the property to R.A. Fowler who unloaded it a couple of years later for $26,500 (over half a million in today’s dollars). By this time, the residence had been converted into a boarding house.


Compare to many boarding houses in the neighborhood, the Baer/Doran house witnessed very little excitement. In 1926, resident Albert V. Herndon bought a train ticket to Kansas to visit his ailing father and was never heard from again. On a less morbid note, boarder Thorsten Anderson left his Olive Street room in 1930 on Labor Day to go to the Plaza for a pro-Communist demonstration. He and seventeen other participants spent the night in the slammer when they were arrested for disturbing the peace. In keeping with the public disturbance theme, resident James C McLean was hauled out of  his room and arrested in December 1934. At that time, the City was in the midst of a transportation strike and McLean was accused of setting a streetcar at Third and Bixel on fire. Though he denied being responsible for the incident, the burns on his hands made the police think otherwise.

While the neighborhood continued its downward decline, the house on Olive street maintained its peaceful existence. By 1939, the house had been divided up into fourteen different residences. According to the WPA household census, boarders paid from six to twenty dollars a month in rent and had lived in the house for a month up to sixteen years. Unlike many of the Victorian mansions getting on in their years, the Olive house was in decent condition, only requiring minor repairs.


The picturesque mansion house survived without incident into the mid-1960s. In 1964, the Community Redevelopment Agency purchased the property from owner Louis Swiatel in order to demolish it. After fifty seven years, the house at 221 South Olive Street was no more.

Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection, the California State Library Photo Collection, and the Library of Congress

Bunker Hill Tackles L.A.’s Traffic Problem


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?


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.

2nd & Hill Block Round-Up

hillfromthezepIn that our post about the earth carvings (the Cuscans have nothing on us) at Second and Hill garnered some interest, I thought it worthwhile to detail salient features and goings-on sundry of other buildings on the block.

One notable structure looming over Hill was the El Moro. The Sanborn Maps in the Dirt Patch post show us the house at 109 South Hill was built between 1888 and 1894. This was the home of prominent Los Angeles druggist, and President of Western Wholesale Drug Company, Howard M. Sale, who had arrived from Pueblo, Colorado in 1886. Mr. and Mrs. Sale built Castle Crag in 1888 but decided Bunker Hill was the proper place to be, so sold out in ’89 to build 109 South Hill. This house on the bluff was a center of Society for some years before Mr. and Mrs. Sale decided to turn it into a hotel in 1901 (moving into a larger house at Ninth and Union in 1902).



With the Sale‘s three-story addition to the now-named El Moro, the structure extended back 133 feet and included a total of thirty-five rooms.
The El Moro‘s location, some 150‘ above the sidewalk, made firefighting a little tricky, which aided in a near-total loss of the front portion of the mansion in January 1914. There were thousands of spectators at the scene, and whether they turned out for the dramatic blaze or the sight of sixty some-odd guests in an early-morning state of deshabille is a matter of conjecture.

andatowelunderthedoorNot a lot of Postwar noirisme at the El Moro, if you‘re after that sort of thing. Mrs. Mollie Lahiff, 50, died of (what the papers termed) accidental asphyxiation after a gas heater used up all the oxygen in her tightly sealed room, February 26, 1953. Should you be so inclined, consider how drafty these places tend to be. Tightly sealed takes some doing. Just saying.

And now, for your edification and delectation, the unhappy end of a streetcar just below the El Moro, 1937.




132/134 South Olive is one of the oldest stuctures on the block, dating to before ’88. Here’s a shot of the H-shaped building, next to our old pal, the Argyle.


January 24, 1895. Mrs. Josie McGinn, a widow of 28 with a well-grown girl of 10, was sitting with her stepsister Grace in their home at 134 (in the image above, the one on the right), and Josie mentioned she was feeling poorly. Grace suggested a walk. At the foot of the terrace steps on Broadway Josie complained of feeling weak, but they continued down Franklin nonetheless. When they hit New High Street, Josie collapsed altogether. When asked what her trouble was, Josie replied, “I have taken laudanum.” She was taken to Receiving Hospital, where her life was saved, and there explained that while she was fixing her hair at the bureau in preparation for the walk downtown, there sat her glycerine and laudanum–intended for her ear condition–and in a moment of impulsive despair drank the laudanum. Such is the torment of modernity.

sneaks!A favorite phrase of Edwardian Angeles is “sneak thief,” and Bunker Hill sneak thieves were forever securing some silver coinage here and a jeweled stick-pin there; on August 17, 1903, for example, during Mrs. H. Ware‘s temporary absence from 132, a sneak thief entered and stole $10 and a gold watch (a similar burglary occurred that same day, where at 104 S. Olive a room occupied by Mrs. Case was ransacked and liberated of $20).






Mrs. Frances Valiente, about 25, lived in 132 with her two boys, Frankie, about 2, and a one year-old infant, unnamed. Frances went out one Friday night in April of 1951 and didn‘t elect to return. Frank went to Juvie and the infant to the nursery at General.








homealoneisfunnyJuly 30, 1954. Jesus Chaffino is a 2 year-old with a talent for opening doors. Apparently his mother, Maria Avila, didn‘t tell her sister-in-law that when she left her place at 121 North Hope and dropped of the Jesus at 132 S. Olive. He was turned over to juvenile officers when he was found wandering near First and Olive at five a.m.


Let’s cast an eye on the buildings around the block from the Argyle down Second (the $1.50/day and weekly rates on your left is the Northern):


In a shot obiviously taken from the Northern, we have the Argyle on our left, 425 West Second center, and 421/419 West Second on the right. (Olive Street stretches away north, left; the Moore Cliff with El Moro behind are upper right; the pile of dirt in back is where they’d put the court house.)


sneakersSneak thiefs! enter 425 in 1902 and make off with a stand cover and a fine wall picture. Is nothing sacred? The answer is no. Not to the sneak thief.

Harry Wilson was an actor who decided to take up newspaper work. He was assigned to the police news, was as such often exposed to suicides down at Receiving Hospital. This, it is thought, had a disturbing, destabilizing influence on his mind; Harry left a note for his wife on what he thought was going to be the last day of his life, October 8, 1904, and with that took the gas-pipe in their apartment in 425. He survived, and with luck returned to neither tread board nor sling ink.

shotfailsJuly 16, 1907. A burglar was detected working the window at Mrs. M. M. Clay‘s apartment house, 425, by her daughter, Clara Clay. She exclaimed under her breath to a Mr. Charles See, who kept the apartment above hers, “There‘s a man trying my window.”

So See fetched his revolver and leaned out the upper story and commanded the man to hold up his hands. With a great bound the man leapt over a tall fence some four feet away, while See fired and missed. The burglar, well-dressed and polite as could be, broke through the back screen door at the adjoining apartment house at 421, strode lightly through the hall; he tipped his hat to a young lady in the hall and she replied “Good evening.” He stepped out on to the front porch where several roomers were sitting. He bade them all a good evening and, tipping his hat, walked slowly down the street. Moments later it was Charles See, feverish and gun-waving, who threw terror into the hearts of the tenants.

July 22, 1924. Roy Shellington called 425 home, or at least he did until Federal prohibition officers noticed he was overly cautious in handling his suitcase while little doggies nipped at his heels. Shellington bunked in the hoosegow after the Feds found twelve bottles of Scotch inside, verboten in Volstead America.

Alex Markovich, 33, lived at 425, but had the misfortune of making his way down to Third and Spring on December 28, 1953. There he was jumped and beaten by hoodlums Alphonso Ruiz, Ramon Zaavedra, Gilbert Garcia, and”¦Mrs. Eleanor Talkington. Luckily, while Markovich was in critical condition at General with a basal skull fracture, the perps were charged with suspicion of robbery and ADW after having been ID‘d by eyewitnesses, who were none other than Joaquin Aquilar Robles, former Police Chief of Tijuana, and Rafael Estrada, ex-Mayor of Ensenada.

Not much to tell about 421/419, other than recommending one leap upon well-dressed gents tipping their hats with a “good evening,” as they‘re bound to be window-pryers from next door. Another piece of good advice is that once you‘ve checked in, it‘s best to never set foot outside again. Especially if you‘re an elderly gentleman. On November 4, 1944, killercarMattie Mitchell, 70, departed his apartment at 421 and was run down by an LA Railway streetcar at Fifth and Hope. Joseph Erolet, a 77 year-old news vender ventured outside of 421 on May 23, 1946, and was clobbered by an auto at Brand and Wilson in Glendale.

And so concludes today‘s report from this block, and the particular concavity that spawned the ongoing completist account of its whats and wherefores.



Images courtesy the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection and the Arnold Hylen Collection, California History Section, California State Library

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

The St. Regis – 237 South Flower

StKidnapSay “mother fixation” and dollars to donuts you mean, or are taken to mean, a fixation on your mother. Mrs. Emma Rupe was fixated on being a mother. So much so that on July 5, 1936, the Denver waitress took a fancy to John, the two year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. John Richard O‘Brien. John, it seems, looked just like Emma‘s own toddler who‘d died nine years previous. On the pretext that she was going to take the little darling out to buy him a playsuit (the O‘Briens being trusting souls, and near penniless, so how could they refuse?) Emma thereupon took John shopping”¦as far from Denver as she could get, and with as great a chance of disappearing as possible. Because clichés are born of truth, noir clichés especially, she beelined straight for Los Angeles, Bunker Hill specifically, and checked into the St. Regis.


For ten weeks the FBI combed the States until they were tipped off by an acquaintance of Emma‘s, and on September 19 the Feds descended on 237 South Flower. Emma, 30, was pulled from the St. Regis hysterical and weeping; the boy, whom she called “Jackie,” appeared impassive. Emma Rupe broke down again when a Denver jury gave her twenty to life.


The 38-apartment St. Regis opens at the end of 1904.

Much in the way a French Renaissance building might be dubbed the Sherwood, this Missionesque structure is named after a French nobleman–J. F. Regis, tireless converter of Huguenots, and advocate of lacemaking for wayward girls.




The St. Regis leads a fairly quiet life. Other than the aforementioned FBI intrusion in 1936, there was the small matter of the coppers showing up to collect Elmer Hudson, 32, and his wife Betty, 20, in 1928. When two bad guys held up a café at 200 Dillon Street and made off with $300 ($3,554 USD2007), Betty made the mistake of not keeping her bad-guy self in the shadows. Café owner C. V. Anderson recognized her as a former waitress.

What is it about these wayward gals–waitresses both–that can‘t keep their clutchy paws off money nor baby? Maybe they‘ll learn some lacemaking in the pen. Make St. Regis proud.




fireforcesfleeThe early 1960s were no more kind to this little niche of the Hill than any other. The Bozwell Apartments (which seem to shoot for Greek Revival but, oddly, come off as Monterrey) next door at 245, abandoned, burn on May 22, 1962.



The blaze, reported the Times, was believed to have been “touched off by hobos.”

While firemen kept the conflagration from spreading to the St. Regis, its days were just as numbered as if it were the Bozwell itself.

For these were heady days: the Lesser Festivals of Abandoment, The Princial Feasts of Official Neglect, and the Commemorations of Escalating Mysterious Fires. Obligatory for the observant.

St. Regis photo courtey USC Digital Archives. Smaller images from this piece of greatness.

North by Northwest: The Dirt Patch of Second and Hill


Folk will on occasion ask me what, if anything, is left of Bunker Hill. Glad you asked, I‘ll reply, answer being, nothing really, but I am awfully fond of this particular dirt contour. If they don‘t politely turn away, I‘ll commence upon a detailed discourse on said excrement-laden dirt contour in question, and then they‘ll politely turn away.

Strange as it sounds, I love this dirt. I have since I was one day idling in my auto adjacent this, the northwest corner of Second and Hill, when I saw this form and it recalled an image lodged in some dim grotto of my brain:

And I thought, I know that form. That contour. Like a beautiful woman in repose. Debased somehow, but still noble. Ingres‘ Odalisque has become Manet‘s Olympia.

So here I am in pith helmet and plus-fours, poking around the strangely stained abandoned sweatpants and taking in the stench of urine steaming away on a hot summer‘s day. My own Persepolis, only with more recent death and egesta. A remaining honest remnant of Bunker Hill, carved in dirt. There‘s an old Yiddish proverb–Gold‘s father is dirt, yet it regards itself as noble.


Let‘s take a detailed look at the block our patch of dirt calls home.


In 1888, on the 30-40′ bluff overlooking Hill there’s a large house, center, and another (with a “old shanty”, it is noted) at the corner of Second and Hill. The round structure above the house on the right reads “arbor lattice.” Note the porches on the Argyle.

1894, and 133 Hill has built terraced steps up to its manse. Our house in the corner has sadly lost its shanty. Notice the addition of the Primrose hotel at 421/419 West 2nd. At the bottom it reads “Vertical bank 30‘ high.” The house near 1st has been razed but 109 Hill has been added. 104 Olive has shown up, top right. And yes, that says “Lawn Tennis Courts.”

It‘s 1906, and much has changed: our little friend in the corner has disappeared. In its place, just to the north, two lodging houses at 411 and 409. To the west, Hotel Locke. (Hotel Locke shows up in the Times in 1897 and disappears in 1912.) Olive Court has wrapped around and filled in, and the tennis lawn has given way to our old friend the Moore Cliff. The former single family dwelling at 109 has been enlarged to become the El Moro Hotel. Note the Hotel Cecil in the upper right. Hill now has a 15‘ retaining wall; the houses average 30‘ above grade.

But now it‘s 1950 and the drastic has occured. Where once Second Street was sixty feet across, it is now 100, due to the construction of the Second Street tunnel, which opened in July of 1924. (As Mary mentioned in her post, the Argyle lost its porches.) Also lost were the two structures below the Primrose at 411 and 409, not to mention the Hotel Locke. These were even gone before the great excavation. The Hotel Cecil has, as you might imagine, been renamed, so as not to be confused with the Hotel Cecil. We even have a little gas station.

In a nutshell, ca. 1952: the Moore Cliff front and center, the bipartite El Moro, and the Hotel Gladden up the block in the corner. And there‘s the Texaco station that popped up. (Faithful Bunker Hillers will recognize the looming backside of the Melrose Annex and the Dome up top.)


But back to the “great excavation.” Remember, once Hill had, well, a great hill looming o‘er. It was true here, at our corner in question:



What happened to the giant pile of dirt (upon which 411 and 409, and the Hotel Locke once
sat) as seen in the 1932 photograph?


As can be barely viewed just below the Moore Cliff in the ‘32 shot, a lot fronting Hill has already been excavated for auto parking, and in May of 1935 the two adjacent lots at the corner were leveled by Los Angeles Rock and Gravel, removing 40,000 cubic yards of earth adjoining the tunnel ramp, measuring some 45hx82wx157d’. One lot owner, C. J. Heyler, rented the space to P. F. Drino for automobile parking; Heyler stated that construction on the lot was planned. That, of course, never happened.

This, then, is how we ended up with Hill carvings that have remained unchanged for seventy-three years.


And still fulfilling the same purpose.looknorth2H

Looking southeast at our dirt, 1967, before her Hill Steet side had her top shaved off:




A quick word about the Second Street tunnel–with the millions the CRA is again pouring into Bunker Hill, do you think we could throw a few bucks toward a new railing? To refashion the original concrete couldn‘t run that much, and if not an aesthetic improvement, would be arguably safer than chain link. Right?









Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.





In any event, such is the tale of some simple dirt on a single block. Tune in next week for tales of terror as they relate to this part of the world.



And now, you can launch into your own spiel about the dirt contours of Hill Street. I suggest a visit and have a whiff for yourself of what once was Bunker Hill. Serves to add that dose of realism guaranteeing the polite turning-away of cocktail party folk.

Images courtesy Arnold Hylen Collection, California History Section, California State Library and USC Digital Archives; special thanks of course to D. A. Sanborn, his map company, and the anonymous field men who toiled on the fire insurance maps Sanborn Co. produced.

The Door Busters of Olive Street

Location: 230 South Olive Street

Bounced from Della Davis’ rooming house for excessive drinking, William Thomas Brown (plasterer, 36) vowed to "get" her. On January 16, 1917 around noon, he broke down her apartment door. Inside, Della waited with her trusty revolver, and as William entered, she shot him three times. When Motorcycle Officer Luth came to enquire, he found Della reloading. William, meanwhile, had run down Olive Street in search of a doctor. Taken to the receiving hospital, non-fatal bullets were removed from his right breast and shoulder, and a grazed chin was cleaned. They brought Della down to the operating room, and William promptly identified his assailant. She didn’t deny it, stating "I have no regrets for shooting him. I feared him and when he broke into my room I felt I had a perfect right to defend myself. I hope he does not die, but I can’t see that I did anything wrong." She was released on her own recognizance after a stop at the Central Police Station, and we hear no more of the matter

Something about this address bred door busters. Late on November 11, 1919, resident Frank Murch was popped trying to force entry into his lady friend Ida E. Wilson’s flat at Fifth and Flower. After a day’s society, she’d simply had enough of his company. Frank was loud, obnoxious, and less skilled at the craft than William, so instead of a bouquet of bullets–though Ida did take one crack through the door with her little .22–he merely received a disturbing the peace arrest.

The Argyle: A Slow, Steady Decline, Part 1


Situated at the corner of Olive and Second, the Argyle House was built in the 1880s by a Scottish gentleman, and quickly became as respectable a salon (and saloon) as could be found on Bunker Hill. Parties, weddings, and cotillions were frequently held here, and as a rooming house, it tended to attract musical types who frequently advertised their services as voice and piano instructors in the pages of the Times.

In October 1887, the Argyle House opened its doors under new management, advertising for roomers. Almost immediately after, however, it closed them, citing a need for renovations. The hotel reopened in June 1888, boasting 61 "large and sunny" rooms, but it was an auspicious beginning for the Argyle, and not the last time it would close abruptly.

With its adjoining restaurant and parlor, the Argyle was a lively and welcome addition to Bunker Hill. The Times wrote, "A good many pleasant people stop at this establishment and they go in for a good time socially," and "The Argyle people are convivial, if anything."

But after a few years of good times, the Argyle closed suddenly in 1893, and nobody knew why until news of a lawsuit leaked out. In November of that year, the owner, W.A. Nimock, sued D.E. Barton, who held the lease on the property. Nimock sought to recover possession of the Argyle, plus $3000 in damages.

And then, there were the assault charges.

It seems that Mr. and Mrs. Nimocks had leased the property to the Abbott family, parents of renowned opera singer Emma Abbott (who had died in 1891, shortly after her 40th birthday). When the Abbotts had to return East suddenly, they transferred their lease to Barton who promptly commandeered the place and began extensive renovations without the Nimocks’ approval. He shuttered the windows, kicked out the tenants, and ripped out the carpets.

The Nimocks wanted the Abbotts running the Argyle, but when they returned from the East, Barton refused to leave. What’s more, he told Mrs. Nimock (who handled most of the day-to-day on the property) that she could not enter the building, and locked himself in.

Thus thwarted, Mrs. Nimock did the only reasonable thing, and broke in through a window, tearing off a screen in the process. Mr. Barton was inside at the time, and proceeded to throw Mrs Nimock out the window through which she’d entered.

Hence, the assault charge.

But, as neither Mrs. Nimock nor her counsel appeared in court, the charges were dismissed. Barton said he would stay until his lease expired, which he apparently did. However, by early 1894, the Abbotts were once again running the Argyle as a rooming house, throwing fabulous parties, and holding court.

Over the next five years, the Argyle would change hands three times, finally ending up the property of Chicago native John Woelke in 1899. Like those before him, Woelke said he planned to remodel it into a "first class hotel," then lease it to a "responsible tenant." Easier said than done.

By 1936, the Times was lamenting the fallen state of the building, which once had been lovely and frequented by the best sorts. Regrettably, its best features, the porches and front wing, had been taken off when the road was widened for the Second Street Tunnel, and like most Bunker Hill establishments, its residents were no longer so glittering and well-connected.

Next week: crimes and misdemeanors at the Argyle, including beatings, wayward urchins, and the slit throat that wasn’t. Stay tuned!

Photo from the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection