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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bunker Hill and the Crib Wars

They called it the red light district, the tenderloin, Little Paree, Hell’s Half Acre, and my favorite, the crib district.

From the late 1800s until the turn of the century, prostitution in Los Angeles was more or less legal, and centered in a district that included Alameda, New High, Main, and a few other streets in the area east of Bunker Hill.  Most of the classier parlor houses that catered to wealthy and well-connected Angelenos were located on New High Street, including the one belonging to Los Angeles’s first storied madam, Pearl Morton.  The brothels on Main Street were more modest, mostly rooming houses.

cribsHowever, the most notorious eyesores were the single-story, ramshackle cribs on Alameda, long rows of narrow rooms that prostitutes could rent by the night, at exorbitant rates, designated here on the Sanborn maps as "female boarding."  The Alameda cribs were visible from the nearby Southern Pacific line, and rail passengers on their way to Los Angeles would gawk out the windows at prostitutes soliciting business from the sidewalks.

The prevailing line of thought among civil leaders and Los Angeles’s many, many police chiefs during this period was that prostitution was a social evil that could not be eradicated, but could be contained and regulated.  Better to have vice located within a few city blocks rather than scattered throughout the city where it would be impossible to police.

Los Angeles residents, however, felt differently about it.  In a June 1895 article, the Times reported that Police Chief John Glass had received numerous complaints from Bunker Hill residents complaining of the crib district’s proximity to their tony neighborhood.

And since the prostitutes were making fairly good money, and since crib living was both expensive and unpleasant, many prostitutes managed to pay the rent on their cribs and also rented lodging in nearby Bunker Hill hotels and rooming houses.

Due to its proximity, Bunker Hill would serve as a staging ground for the movement in the early 1900s to clear out the crib district.  The social purity crusaders included the Reverends Wiley J. Phillips and Sidney Kendall, as well as Friday Morning Club founder Caroline Severance.

In 1903, about 200 Angelenos met at the First Congregational Church at Hill and Third to discuss building a halfway house for prostitutes who wished to reform.  The facility, called the Door of Hope, opened on Daly Street in East Los Angeles later that year, around the same time that the movement was successful in getting the Alameda Street cribs shut down.

That mission accomplished, the social purity crusaders turned their attention to the parlor houses, a tougher nut to crack, partly because they kept a lower profile, and partly because they counted no small number of politicians, attorneys, and other civic leaders among their clientele.

The crusaders put these houses, including Morton’s at 327 1/2 New High Street, the Antlers Club, Stella Mitchell’s, and Viola’s Place, under surveillance, and pestered the Mayor and Police Commission until finally winning a small victory.  At the end of March 1904, the parlor houses would be shuttered.  Almost all of them went along with the ordinance, and the Times reported that "the keepers of dives did not wait for the police to call, but quietly folded their tents and departed."

All but one.  All but one that had been operating right on Bunker Hill, not a block away from the First Congregational Church.

parlorhouseOn March 31, 1904, police raided an establishment at 355 South Hill Street, operated by Ethel Wood.  She was arrested along with three women, Mabel Stone, Dolly Long, and Hattie Jones.  The  four appeared in court the next day, all wearing long black veils to frustrate the looky-loos.

Wood was fined $100 for selling beer without a license, and the three women were "vagged," or charged with vagrancy, the usual charge for prostitutes until the charge of "offering" came into use in the 1920s.

After the raid, the other parlor houses reopened quietly, and would remain open for another four years.  Pearl Morton, famed for her lavish parlor with two Steinway pianos, as well as her hourglass figure, flamboyant style, and hennaed hair, would be shut down in 1908, and move north to re-establish her operation in San Francisco.

The last quasi-legal parlor houses would close down in 1909, in tandem with the recall and subsequent resignation of Mayor Arthur Harper, a frequent brothel client.

And after that, prostitution did exactly what city leaders in favor of a containment strategy had predicted all along.  It scattered throughout the city and into residential neighborhoods, before falling under the jurisdiction of organized crime in the 1920s.

Of Munsters and Bunker Hill

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

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

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

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

HousedAddams

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

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

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

Wreckers arrive:

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Herman reasons with them to great effect:

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

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

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

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

Kaboom!

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November 15, 1904

Harry L. Redd was crawling around beneath the city streets attempting to repair a telephone wire, but it was so dark he couldn’t see a thing. He’d been catching a whiff of gas fumes for the past few days in the same location, yet without thinking he fumbled around in his pockets until he found a match. He scraped the match across his trousers and, KABOOM!

explosionHarry’s world caught fire, leaving him dazed and in excruciating pain. The force of the explosion hurled him back against some pipes. The injured man was snapped back to his senses when a second blast thrust him out of the manhole and into the street. He was so violently tossed around that he rolled for a few feet, and then fell backwards through the manhole. Unbelievably, although badly burned, Harry survived.

Several bystanders were hurt, including a small boy named Albert Adams who had been attracted to the site moments before the blast. He’d been walking down the street when he noticed the open manhole. Albert was curious and had poked his head into the hole to see what was going on when the first detonation occurred. The lucky young man escaped with nothing more serious than singed eyebrows.

The eruption was so powerful that a heavy iron manhole cover at Fourth and Hill Streets flew up into the air and flipped over several times before returning to Earth. The only building to suffer damage was at 331 South Hill where the windows were shattered.   To avoid this kind of accident in the future, maybe we’d better review a couple of childhood lessons: don’t run with scissors, don’t put anything bigger than your elbow up your nose, and never light a match if you smell gas.

The Salt Box – 339 South Bunker Hill Avenue

Bunker Hill Avenue was probably the most picturesque street in the neighborhood of the same name. The avenue was much more narrow than the other streets and was lined with some of the most impressive mansions on the Hill. Compared to most of its neighbors, the house that stood at 339 South Bunker Hill was farily modest and came to be affectionately known as the Salt Box. Despite being considerably less grand than the other Victorian beauties on the street, the Salt Box was saved from the wrecking ball and moved to a new location to stand as a tangible monument of the rapidly vanishing community. Unfortunately, the charming structure that stood for eighty years on its original location, only lasted a few months at its new home.

1888 & 1906 Sanborn Maps showing construction of homes, and finished products

The Salt Box was built on Lot 14, Block L of the Mott Tract, which was two doors down from a grand mansion that came to be known as the Castle. The 1888 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps shows the two buildings as being constructed, as well as the residence between them. Since Rueben M. Baker owned the lots, he was probably responsible for the construction of all three houses. Baker resided at the Castle until 1894 and possibly rented out the Salt Box until selling it to Ada Frances Weyse and her husband Rudolph in 1892.

The Weyses also rented out the Salt Box, which appeared to have been converted into a muti-resident boarding house as early as 1891,with rooms constantly being advertised in the classifieds. Joseph L. Murphey and his wife, Augusta, purchased the home in 1902, but it is unclear if they lived in the house or merely took over landlord duties.

In 1900, the house at 330 S Bunker Hill was home to two households. By 1910, the Salt Box had been divided up into seven separate units which housed families as well as single tenants. In 1920 there were ten units and by 1939 the house had been further divided into thirteen separate residences. Those who called the Salt Box their home came from all walks of life and included painters, nurses, waiters, and of course pensioners who could afford rents that were as little as $9.75 per month.

Compared to the shenanigans taking place at other boarding houses on Bunker Hill, the Salt Box had a rather serene existence. With the exception of resident Annie Prendergast, who was hit by a car at the corner of 4th and Grand and killed, the residents of the Salt Box lived quiet lives, until the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) came knocking.

By 1968, all of the once proud Victorians of Bunker Hill Avenue had been demolished, except for the Castle and the Salt Box. The two structures that had been constructed at the same time had been spared.  Once the CRA began pushing forward with their grand redevelopment plan in the mid-1950s, the writing was on the wall for the mansions in the neighborhood, and in an attempt to save a couple of the structures, the Salt Box was declared Historic Cultural Monument #5 in October in August 1962. Designation was soon bestowed upon the Castle which became HCM #27 in May 1964. The rest of the decade was spent trying to figure out a way to spare the two structures from the wrecking ball.

At the end of 1968, the decision was finally reached to move the Castle and Salt Box to Highland Park in an area called Heritage Square. The pair of structures were relocated to their new home in March of 1969 and awaited restoration. These grand plans for the faded beauties were never realized because in October of 1969, vandals torched both houses and eighty years of history were wiped out in a matter of minutes.

Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.

 

Only Angels Have Wings

It is said that the Lord protects drunks, fools, and children, and it would seem that He had his hands full keeping watch over the residents of 316 Clay Street, known variously as the Patterson Hotel and Luckenbach Estate over the years.

fivestoryplungeIn the wee hours of August 31, 1934, one of its residents, a 31-year-old mechanic named Herbert Stockwell, decided to live out the sort of feat that is irresistible in daydreams and drunken hazes.  I’m speaking, of course, about stealing a car and attempting to drive it down the steps of Angel’s Flight.

It was a bold plan, but things soon went very ill for Herbert Stockwell.  Police were summoned to the scene by a loud crash, and discovered the vehicle wrecked on the steps, and Stockwell sprawled on the ground nearby.  His front teeth were knocked out, but he was otherwise unharmed.

A few years later, another resident at 316 Clay would require divine intervention as she toyed with the boundaries of human frailty.

Maryan Ellis was a 27-year-old waitress at a S. Hill Street cafe, and a relative newcomer to Los Angeles.  She was homesick, missed her mother, and was despondent that she couldn’t raise the money for a trip home to San Antonio.

When Ellis returned to her fifth story room at the boarding house on July 18, 1940, her roommate, Jerry Bills, decided to give Ellis a few moments of privacy.  Shortly after she left the room, however, she heard a scream, and returned to find that Ellis had thrown herself out the window.

Astonishingly, Ellis survived the fall with relatively minor injuries.  She fractured both heels and her pelvis, and had a few cuts and bruises, but it should have been much worse.

Presumably, Ellis got to see her mother after all, and hopefully, a trip back to Texas.

 

“Otto Liebman Is Alive and Well Instead of Being Burned to Death”

George Roughton’s boarding house at 324 Clay Street was advertised as possessing a "most healthful locality" and "very fine view."  However, it’s unlikely that it appeared that way to tenants who were awakened at dawn on July 2, 1894 to find the place engulfed in flames.

The fire was caused by an oil stove explosion in the basement rooms of "a colored family named Phoenix," and destroyed the entire building within minutes.  Roughton was only partially insured for the loss, which was estimated at between $3000-$4000 ($76,000-$102,000 2008 USD), and most tenants lost all of their possessions.

After making their escape, the residents of 324 Clay did a head count, and discovered one among their number to be missing.  Otto Liebman was recalled by his neighbors as elderly and a semi-invalid who had lived on the third floor for only a few months.

When Liebman failed to turn up, and his remains could not be found in the ashes, a concerned neighbor reported his disappearance… two weeks after the fire.  Within a day or so, however, the mystery was solved.

In perhaps the greatest understatement ever to find its way into print, the Times reported, "Otto Liebman is alive and well instead of being burned to death."  It turns out that on the morning of the fire, Liebman woke up choking from smoke inhalation, and crawled down the stairs to safety.  As soon as he reached the street, he passed out until he was discovered by a friend, who carried him home.  Liebman remained in bed for a week, recovering from the shock.  After his recovery, the friend did him a solid and found the penniless and now homeless man work in a fruit and tobacco shop.

But as for the good neighbors at 324 Clay, not only did they fail to report his disappearance for two weeks, they also gave police an entirely inaccurate description, Liebman being neither elderly nor gray-headed as they’d reported.

Angels Dictate at 355 South Grand Avenue

Location: 355 South Grand Avenue
Date: 1922-?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He’s Alive! Alive!

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March 1, 1922

Death is a very dull, dreary affair, and my advice to you is to have nothing whatsoever to do with it.           W. Somerset Maugham

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No, the title of this tale doesn’t refer to the 1931 film version of Frankenstein; but rather to the experiences of Harold E. Roy, DDS of New York.

Dr. Roy had been canoeing in the Hudson River during March of 1921, when he mysteriously disappeared.canoes  Broken bits of his canoe had been recovered, but there was no sign of the dentist, and it was assumed that he had drowned. Mrs. Roy struggled to adjust to the loss of her husband, but the grieving widow found it impossible to continue living in New York – reminders of her husband were simply too painful, so she moved out to Los Angeles to stay with relatives.

Nearly a full year passed when suddenly Dr. Harold Roy, the man whom everyone thought was dead, was miraculously reborn in Kansas City. It was as if a cloud had lifted – he remembered who he was, but had no idea where he was, what he’d been doing, or how much time had elapsed. He looked down at his clothes and found himself in rough workingman’s attire.  He emptied his pockets and discovered some Canadian money.  When he finally looked at a calendar, he saw that he’d lost an entire year of his life!

mark twainThen came the biggest shock of all – he found that he’d been reported dead!  The same thing had happened to Mark Twain in 1897 when it was erroneously reported that he had succumbed to an illness in London. Twain wrote to a friend and told him that: “…the report of my death was an exaggeration.”  

Dr. Roy wrote to the Swathmore Alumni Association President, David Dwight Rowlands of Sheboygan, Wisconsin and said:  “Dear Dave: Sit down here before I knock you down with the news I am writing you. This is neither a ghost, nor story writing, but my own hand; just me – Harold E. Roy, Swarthmore, ’09."

The dentist had a fairly recent scar on his head, and pain in his right temple, but otherwise seemed to be none the worse for whatever he’d gone through in the year that he’d spent as a dead man. Roy went on to tell his friend Dave that since he had regained his senses and returned to life, he had telegraphed relatives and located his wife at her new home at 317 South Olive Street in Los Angeles. Dr. and Mrs. Roy had been reunited, and the couple was happy to be together again.

However, while Dr. Roy was speedily recovering from his ordeal, poor Mrs. Roy found it difficult to adjust tovillagers her spouse’s unprecedented resurrection. Perhaps it was the strain of being constantly on the lookout for torch-wielding villagers.