Sailing, Sailing — Off to City Jail!

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October 30, 1920

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“A sailor’s life, it is a merry life…”
Fairport Convention

K.W. Cross (19), C.J. Terry (20), and R.P. Cullison (18), had been sailors for only two months when they came to the conclusion that a sailor’s life wasn’t so damned merry after all. In fact, each of the swabbies was positively desperate to get out of uniform and back into civilian life, so they hatched a plan to get themselves discharged from the service.

The young men had heard that if they were arrested for a crime, their naval careers would come to a screeching halt – so they burglarized a small tobacco store at Fourth and Hill Streets. They made no attempt to flee following the crime, and were busted at the scene by Police Detectives Simpson and Jarves.

It’s possible that Cross, Terry, and Cullison were naive enough to believe that once they’d committed a crime, they’d simply be cut loose from the Navy and put back on the streets to pursue merrier lives. If so, they must have been very disappointed. Although they were immediately discharged at San Pedro as expected, all three youths were then taken into custody, and confined in the City Jail for six months each on the burglary rap.

We hope that the former mariners embraced Samuel Johnson’s philosophy, and enjoyed their stints in the city slammer…

“No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned… a man in a jail has more room, better food, and commonly better company.”
Samuel Johnson

Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys — Or Train Robbers

 “Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.
Don’t let ’em pick guitars and drive them old trucks.
Make ’em be doctors and lawyers and such…”

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September 23, 1892
401 South Hill Street

Eight year old Willie Fisher waited until the early hours of the morning, then lifted $3 from his mother’s purse and disappeared.When Mrs. Fisher realized that her boy was missing, she immediately contacted police. She told them that she believed that the child had boarded a northbound train to become a cowboy, or maybe a lawman.

Detectives combed the city for the budding cowpoke – finally following up on a clue that put the runaway in a vacant lot near Eighth and Spring Streets.  At last, a cop spotted two small boys trying to hide behind an old fence. Sure enough, it was Willie and his best friend, Bob. The youngsters were examining an air gun, and deep in conversation. The detective crept up behind them until he could pounce. The boys were surprised to learn that they were wanted at the police station. On the way to police headquarters, the detective asked Willie why he’d run away from home and what he intended to do. 

“Well”, said Willie, “me an’ Bob here has been readin’ all about them robbers, Evans an’ Sontager, and we made up our minds to get a gun what they couldn’t hear shoot an’ go an’ kill ‘em.”  Then the bantam weight buckaroo went on to explain his plan, “Don’t you see we’s nuthin’ but kids, and they would never take us fur Smithsonian detectives…we’ve got this thing studied out.”

The officer saw Willie’s point, but marched the wee manhunter home anyway, where he was met at the door by his mother. She was slapping a mean looking slipper against the palm of her hand.

It’s just as well that Willie and Bob never got the chance to put their plan into action, as Chris Evans and John Sontag were wanted for train robbery and murder, and they were unlikely to have been felled by an air rifle. In fact, they’d already survived a shoot out with one posse, and it would take at least one more to bring them to justice. Due mainly to the support of people in the San Joaquin Valley, both robbers had managed to evade the law. Southern Pacific Railroad had cut a ruthless swath through California, displacing people and gobbling up their land, so when Evans and Sontag struck out at the much despised company, people cheered. 

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John Sontag near death as posse looks on.

Neither children nor Pinkerton Detectives ended up capturing Evans and Sontag. On May 28, 1893, the bandits were surrounded by a posse of local lawmen, and a furious gun battle ensued. Both men were wounded. Sontag died of his injuries, but Evans managed to escape. He came upon the home of Mrs. Parsons, who invited him in, and then dressed his wounds and put him to bed. Evans knew that his career as a train robber had ended, and he agreed to let Mrs. Parsons turn him in to the law if she would agree to split the reward she received with his wife – which she promptly did. 

While Evans was awaiting trial, his wife and daughter were contacted by a San Francisco theater company. The girls were offered money to appear as themselves in a production about one of the train robberies. Both mother and daughter agreed, putting the money they’d earned in a defense fund for Chris.  It was to no avail however, and Evans was sentenced to prison for life.

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The story doesn’t end there. Evans managed to escape from jail before he could be transported to Folsom Prison.  After a brief taste of freedom, he was recaptured. Evans served his time and was released in 1911. He died in a state hospital a few weeks later.

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Here’s hoping that young Willie chose to become a doctor or lawyer, or such.

 

 

Zelda — 401 South Grand

SeeZelda!
Accursed rings! Hammer-mad Japanese! Arms-manufacturing Baronesses! Welcome to Zelda.

Somewhere in Los Angeles there’s a burglar who’s made off with more than he’s bargained for…a maharajah’s curse. Somebody stole into the Zelda Apartments in March of 1941 and there into the room of Mrs. F. S. Tintoff, making off with a 400 year-old ring that held two large stones, a ruby and an emerald, surrounded by small diamonds.

DeathCurse!

“It was given to me by my husband, a jeweler, who purchased it from a maharajah. The ring formerly adorned an East India princess, and was supposed to have been given a mysterious Oriental curse which would bring death to the person who stole it,” said Mrs. Tintoff. The burglar took other jewelry which with the ring had a value of $560 ($8,196 USD2007), and two other tenants in the apartment building reported similartly burgled jewelry losses to police, but nothing thereof with a curse upon’t. The Tintoff ring thus joins other bloodstained jewels of the East, like the Dehli Purple Sapphire, the stolen-from-the-Eye-of-Sita Hope Diamond and the similarly snatched Black Orlov. And that deadly ring of Valentino.

Did our housebreaker lose this cursed thing to the ages as he writhed in some forlorn torment somewhere? Were his last days exactly like this? Or perhaps the curse was purely legalistic.

What, or who, is Zelda? Zelda La Chat (née Keil) was born in 1870, arriving in Los Angeles some time in the 90s. She builds the eponymous Zelda, a modest bargeboard affair at the southwest corner of Fourth and Grand, here, about 1904:

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steamfitting1907…which suffices only until she can fashion a thirty-nine unit brick apartment complex in 1908. She lives therein until she dies of cerebral hemorrhage in 1926; she leaves an estate valued at $300,000 ($3,521,554 USD2007).

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baronesstodustZelda wasn’t the only wealthy woman to die in the Zelda—Baroness Rosa von Zimmerman, who with her husband the Baron were second only to Krupps when to it came to weapons manufacturing for various Teutonic scraps, lived at the Zelda and died there, an alien enemy, in 1917, leaving Rosamond Castle, on fourteen acres, across from the Huntington Hotel; eleven acres in Beverly Hills; and thirty-four acres in the Palisades near Santa Monica; and about $2.5million in mortgages, bonds and securities. Nine year-old Beatrice Denton, to whom Baroness von Zimmerman was benefactress, was supposed to be a beneficiary of the estate, but the Baroness never got around to those formalities. Foundling Beatrice became once again an orphan and was likely returned to the asylum from which she was plucked.

assaultsuccessorYes, there’s never a lack of excitement at the Zelda. Take by example the May 1916 discharge of Zelda’s porter George “an erratic Japanese” Nakamoto. Having been sacked by La Chat, and replaced by one K. Kitagawa, Nakamoto saw fit to return to the Zelda to seek out his successor. There was Kitagawa, crouched low, tacking down oilcloth in a cubbyhole beneath a stairway; Nakamoto grabbed a riveting hammer and struck him repeatedly on the head, injuring his skull, and sending him to Receiving hospital in critical condition.

damestooAnd then there was the night of March 10, 1939, when vice squads in Los Angeles in Beverly Hills came down on bookmaking establishments; seventeen were arrested, including James Adams, 48; George Taylor, 24; James Roberts, 26; Mrs. Agnes Meyers, 36, and Yvonne Lucas, 21, whom Central Vice took offense to the making of book in an apartment at the Zelda. (Interestingly, across Hollywood and Beverly Hills, the pinched bookmakers more often than not had names like Murray Oxhorn and Morris Levine and Saul Abrams and Joseph Blumenthal; could our Zelda perchance have been a bit…restricted?)

Postwar Zelda was full of fun too. Joseph M. Marcelino, 21, was just another ex-Marine who worked in a box factory. When he got nabbed on October 4, 1950, while burglarizing an apartment in the Gordon at 618 West 4th, he copped to having set fire to the Zelda, aflame at that very moment. He admitted as well to torching another hotel at 322 South Spring. He was freed without bail pending a psychiatric examination. But come April, when he broke into a factory at 1013 Santa Barbara Ave. and stole company checks, which he made payable to himself and cashed, the police came knocking.
andforgeryMarcelino had also attempted to lift a safe and had lost part of his fingernail in the process—the cops found they had the perfect match.

But the winds of change blew foul in 1954. Sure, people waved their arms and preached the evils of gingerbread ornament and its relationship to tuberculosis, but when you came right down to it, The Hill impeded traffic flow. A new project, known as the 4th Street Cut, began that Summer, involving a 687-foot viaduct shooting eastward from the Harbor Freeway, carrying four lanes of one-way traffic above Figureora and Flower, then biting into the hill and passing beneath bridges at Hope and Grand before dipping down into the business district. Through the early 1950s there was much controversy over this plan—proponents of a tunnel argued that a cut would “hopelessly bisect” Bunker Hill. What they didn’t realize was that soon enough, there’d be no Bunker Hill to bisect.

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Fourth Street, in becoming a cut, and Grand, in becoming a bridge, meant one thing: the surrounding buildings would have to go. And so they did. The Zelda was razed in August of 1954:

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Seen being demo’d next to the Zelda is the Gordon at 618 West 4th (you remember, the place Marcelino was nabbed in in ’50); the Gordon, the Bronx at 624 and the La Belle at 630 West 4th were all torn down to make way for the Cut—a trio built by the sons of Dr. John C. Zahn.

All this brought a twinge of regret to Percy Howell, the veteran city appraiser who spent two years tramping the Hill, working out fair payments for displaced property owners. Howell remembered his young bachelor days on Bunker Hill back in 1909, when he moved into the Zelda, “batching it” with three other gay blades. “I never dreamed then,” said Howell, “that I would live to see the day when I condemned the Zelda for the city.”
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The 4th Street Cut opened May 1, 1956.

A new an improved 4th St., looking east ca. 1964, foundation excavation for the Union Bank in the foreground:

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Another shot of the viaduct (I know, why-a no chicken?) ca. 1973, during erection of Security Pacific Plaza.

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For twenty-five years after Zelda’s demolition, nothing could stem the march of progress:

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It has filled in now, to be fair.

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And so goes Zelda La Chat, her Zelda, and 4th Street, though all we have to show for the former glory of 401 South Grand is the pointy backside of 400 South Hope.

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Photographs courtesy USC Digital Archive

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

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Mrs. Clark, landlady of the rooming house at 421 S. Hill Street, thought she had seen it all. But she hadn’t – not by a long shot.

 

It was May 27, 1905, and Mrs. Clark was tidying up around the place. She may have been reflecting on the odd assortment of lodgers currently in residence, particularly Professor J. Maclane. The so-called professor advertised himself as a spiritualist, and Mrs. Clark and her renters were treated to the nightly spectacle of his devotees floating about the premises, seeking to commune with deceased spirits.

Prof Maclane 

While she mused about the spiritualist fakir, it’s unlikely that she gave any thought at all to Mr. and Mrs. Harry Holley, a pleasant married couple who had moved into the house a few days earlier.  They had been occupying a room on an upper floor, but when the larger room adjacent to them became available, they’d jumped at the chance to rent it. 

 

Because the Holleys were out for the day, the landlady decided to do the couple a favor, and began to move some of their belongings into their new room.  It was probably the last time in her life that Mrs. Clark would act on a generous impulse. When she swung the door open and entered the room, she nearly stepped on an enormous slithering reptile!  Quickly looking around to assess any further danger, she spied another, even larger snake coiled up in a chair across the room. The serpent met her gaze and began to hiss, and that was enough for the landlady. She slammed the door and careened down the stairs, screaming for help.

 

The only lodger who didn’t immediately come out to see what all the ruckus was about was the bogus professor.  When he finally poked his head out of his room, his only comment was “It isn’t a snake, it’s the spirit of a dear departed sister”.  Mrs. Clark didn’t want to hear it. Departed sister or not – all she wanted was to get the snakes out of the house.

 

The panic stricken woman phoned the local precinct house, saying “Send some policemen and a patrol wagon quick, my house is full of snakes!”  To which the jaded desk sergeant replied “Snakes, eh, you say you got’em?”  If she could have done so, the exasperated woman would have reached through the telephone lines and throttled the cop into unconsciousness.  Finally, after what must have seemed like an eternity to the anxious Mrs. Clark, the desk sergeant said that he’d connect her with the police surgeon, Dr. Quint, whom the bluecoat declared was an “…authority on snakes”.

 

Across the crackling telephone wire, Dr. Quint heard someone say “Is that the snake doctor?” Dr. Quint told the shaken woman that he’d been called many things in his time, but never a snake doctor. Mrs. Clark then recounted her tale of serpents, fakirs, and terror – oh my. The good doctor suggested that she simply wait for her snake handling lodgers to return, and then demand that they remove the creatures at once.

 

The Holleys arrived home to find all of the inhabitants of 421 S. Hill Street milling about in the yard, except for Professor Maclane, who was no doubt busy communicating with spirits of the dearly departed.  Mrs. Clark strode up to the couple and demanded that they remove the reptiles from the premises at once. Mr. Holley admitted that there were dozens of serpents sharing his room, but firmly stated that he would do no such thing. He’d paid for the room for one week in advance, and he flatly refused to budge.

 

For the next few days an uneasy silence fell over the Hill Street boarding house.  The residents remained behind locked doors in mortal terror, fearful of every little sound. Mrs. Clark stayed in her room to keep a close watch on her three kittens. She was convinced that the Holleys were plotting to feed the adorable little mousers to the nefarious vipers.

 

We can only presume that the uncomfortable situation resolved itself peaceably, and that neither kittens nor humans were harmed, for there were no further reports of snake activity at the house on Hill Street.

 

Hollywood Comes to The Sherwood

Bunker Hill has had many landmarks, but perhaps none so little remembered as the massive foundations lain at 431 South Grand many years ago. They were great concrete things, poured about the time of the Great Panic, or the Lesser Panic, and served as Hill touchstone and reminder of ambitious building projects halted by devious economies. But L. H. Mills and J. G. Talbott have come along and said fooey! We reject these in their totality and all they represent, and with that utterly destroyed the foundations and have, in the style of all that is great and noble of the year 1912, set out to build from the ground up the finest apartment hotel available.

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The building is 75×176’ and contains 160 rooms. Despite its vaguely
French Renaissance air, it is named the Nottinghamshire-evoking
Sherwood.

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The lobby is 50×41’, finished in mahogany, its inglenook containing a large fireplace. Each Sherwood apartment contains a private dressing room with built-in dresser and mirror. Whereas law stipulates the minimum space for apartment living rooms as 120 square feet, the Sherwood’s are 190; where the legal minimum for hallways is three feet six inches, Mills and Talbott see that theirs will be six feet across. Just because.
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In June of 1915, the Sherwood hosted the wedding of P. C. Hartigan and Peggy Hart, in the apartments of their pal, Sherwoodian Mrs. Dick Ferris, and in the company of Judge Summerfield and many a jolly Hollywood pal.
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Soon after, however, the quality of Hollywood Type there began to decline. Even in our TMZ era that abjures accomplishment and rewards reprobation, dag, that Helen Lee Worthing gave society a run for its money. And surely set Sherwood tongues a-wagging.

HLWWorthing was a statuesque Bostonian-by-way-of-Kentucky who’d become a Ziegfeld Follies girl—the toast of New York, and lady-friend of a New York mayor, it was said. Darling of the rotogravure section, it was then on to Hollywood, where she made pictures galore while at the same time gracing nightly Ziegfeld’s well-known assemblage of pulchritude.

She’d always had a tempestuous time of it…in 1922, after a Hearst paper described in detail Worthing’s New York catfight with another chorus girl—including a cartoon depicting the biting and clawing—she elected to end her life by swallowing bichloride of mercury. Ended up in Bellevue.

Once in Hollywood she made the papers in more light-hearted ways; in 1925 she drove her car off a cliff and from there atop the roof of a house in Whitley Heights.

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But her career continued to blossom; Mary Pickford called her the most beautiful woman in the world, and Harrison Fisher adjudged her the most beautiful profile in America. In 1926—the year she starred with Barrymore in Don Juan—she demanded $100,000 from a perfume company that had used her image.

But 1927 was to change all that. In April she was the victim of a violent beating, administered by an intruder, which left her with a broken nose, knocked-out tooth and discolored eyes. And five days of delirium. Her colored maid called Dr. Eugene Nelson, noted Negro physician, to see after her famous employer.

And it was love! They threw society’s strictures aside (it was still forty years before Loving v. Virginia and eighty til Seal n Heidi) and set about on a whirlwind romance that resulted in a secret Tijuana wedding in June. The fact that there was no intruder, and Nelson had to care for someone in a mad fit of drunkenness (or, more precisely, a drunken fit of madness) should have given him pause.

helooksasblackasIdoThey keep the wedding secret but is revealed to the world late in 1929, after their estrangement becomes known. His philandering, cruelty, jealously, and threats of confining her to some sort of institution are apparently too much for her.

In 1930 she returns from a New York “Neurological Institute” where she’s been treated for…the blues. She is outted by a reporter as being shacked up at the Mayfair, and she moves into an unnamed apartment-house; likely The Sherwood, as she turns up there in short order.

Divorce proceedings stretch through the early 30s: she complains that he beats her and drugs her and forces her outside wearing only her negligee; he replies that they didn’t fulfill Mexican residential requirements and, as they’re not therefore legally wed, doesn’t owe her monthly monies. By November 1932 she’s hallucinating that objects are being thrown at her, and is threatening suicide, and lands in the psychopathic ward of General Hospital. The marriage is annulled in January 1933.

In June of 1933 she disappears from an eastbound Santa Fe train—it is assumed she jumped, or fell. A three day search ensues. Turns out she just got off at Pasadena, abandoning her bags and tickets.

sherwoodarrestOn August 16, 1933, the coppers come to The Sherwood to collect Helen Lee Worthing on violation of her parole to the psychopathic department. In a statement from her psych ward bed at General Hospital, Helen declared that she had been living quietly in her apartment, attempting to increase her income by writing poetry and short stories. “I can’t understand who would complain and have me returned here,” she said. “I have only been trying to get a start on my own ability. Incidentally, I have fallen in love with a man who has been typing my poetry, but that has nothing to do with this.”

If only the story could end with her returning to the Sherwood, marrying the typist, and living long enough to move into the Bunker Hill Towers. But it was not to be.

In 1935 she is arrested on a drunk charge in Venice, and can’t come up with the $5 bail, or even the pals to post the bail for her; she spend ten days in Lincoln Heights jail.
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In September 1935 she’s living in the Big Sister League Guest Home, when she again takes poison, this time over unrequited love.
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In 1939 she’s sentenced to five months in County on a narcotics charge—passing forged morphine scrips and carrying a hypo in her purse. In 1940 she’s given a year for the same MO. (Interestingly, while in stir, going about her duties as a trusty in the woman’s ward of County, only three flights below was her ex-husband Dr. Eugene Nelson, awaiting his murder trial—not only was he practicing without a license, having lost that—but he killed a girl while aborting her fetus.)

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In October 1942 she’s popped for public drunkenness outside a downtown roominghouse; she fails to appear in court for her hearing, but sends a note: “I am leaving the State. I do not feel I can get fair treatment in California courts.” Needless to say, she does not leave the state. Radio car officers were called to the scene of her beating by some “boyfriend” in her Centennial Street apartment in April 1944, and took her to Georgia Street Receiving where she was treated for half-inch laceration on the chin and a 1+1/2 inch cut on the back of her head; she does not press charges.

uhohIn 1946 she’s found downed and dazed at Portia and Sunset, and examination fails to find injury or illness. She talks vaguely of trying to obtain rest by “self-hypnosis.” Uh-huh.

Some would see this as a red flag; others as the checkered flag…the race is over. In any event, people will sit in the stands waiting for a spectacular crash. Most of the time, the car sputters and dies. It’s just a matter of time, now.

August 25, 1948. She dies of barbiturate poisoning, in a tiny house (1062 North Serrano, since wiped out by the Hollywood Freeway) surrounded by expensive scrapbooks bulging with clippings from her golden age. Inside were penciled notes: “I can’t stand another straw—it would be too much.” Say hello next time you’re in Inglewood.

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The Sherwood is now occupied roughly by the back side of the Welton Becket’s 1981 Mellon First Business Bank, and some miniaturized version of a street called “Hope Place.”
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For anyone who may gripe that the majority of this page deals more with Hollywood than it does with Bunker Hill, believe me, brother, this isn’t the last you’ve heard of The Sherwood.

The Touraine Apartments – 447 South Hope Street

The Touraine

In an era of spacious Victorian mansions, one could argue that the Touraine Apartments on Hope Street were 100 or so years ahead of their time. Erected in 1903 and opened in 1904, the units of this neoclassical building were designed to squeeze in a maximum number of tenants at market rates while presenting the illusion of roomy living quarters. At one point, residents were forcibly driven out in favor of higher renters. Before being demolished in the mid 1960s, the Touraine had survived a couple of fires, a colorful cast of characters, an amnesia inducing accident, and at least one suicide.


Designed by architect A.L. Haley, who was also responsible for the Higgins Building on Main Street, the Touraine’s columned facade stood three stories high, while the rear of the structure was eight stories, sloping with the natural terrain of Bunker Hill. Aimed at attracting wealthy renters, the Touraine’s elegant grand staircase lead up to a large rooftop garden and sun room. Unlike other boarding houses and mansions on the Hill which contained spacious muti-roomed residences, the Touraine’s apartments claimed to have all the functions of seven rooms squeezed into two, plus a kitchen.

 

According to the Los Angeles Examiner, the floor-plan “shows a parlor, a living room, a kitchen, a private hall, a private bath and a storage closet. Apparently there are no bedrooms or dining room.” The beds actually folded into the wall. One could be disguised as a mantle during the day, the other as a large plate glass mirror. A writing desk and bookcase were built into a door that concealed a large closet and the dining room table could be folded and hung up. The kitchen contained swinging doors with the stove attached, so that once the cooking was done, the door could be swung out into the living room and the stove used as a heater.

The building, which would have traditionally housed six or seven units contained twenty eight. The inventors of the floor plan were so impressed with their design that they patented the plan, as well as the built-in appliances. The gimmick of having the comforts of seven rooms in two was successful, and the Touraine Apartments became a fashionable residence for many wealthy patrons. Apparently, they were not wealthy enough.

The Great Touraine Siege of March 1906 began when hired landlady Estella Palmer collected rent and utility payments from all the tenants and promptly skipped town. Despite having proof of payment, part owner, F.W. Marshall demanded that the residents repay the full amount. Looking to replace the current tenants with higher paying ones, Marshall had no problem turning off the electricity, gas and telephones when the residents refused to double pay. Holding their ground, the tenants lived by candle light and hired lawyers, proclaiming to the Herald newspaper that the landlords “are only waiting the chance to cut off our heads.” When the water was cut, many residents found they could not tolerate the unsanitary conditions, caved in and moved out. For those who refused to move, Marshall took to breaking into their apartments when they were out and removing all their personal belongings. By the end of the weeklong confrontation, all the residents had been forced out. Apparently, tenants rights had not been established at the turn of the century. A local apartment building sought to capitalize on the stand-off by advertising that residents would not be “Tourained” at their establishment. Two months after the incident, the remodeled Touraine re-opened and the owners advertised in the Los Angeles Times for five straight months trying to lure wealthier renters.

 

During its six decades the Tournaine suffered two fires. The first in 1905 was caused by what the Times described as an “immense pile of rubbish in the storeroom.” The second in 1932 was started when a jilted boyfriend decided to enact revenge on his ex by setting her entire building on fire. Both blazes were minor and resulted in no injuries.

 

Like any good Bunker Hill boarding house, the Touraine had its fair share of shady dealings. In 1931, a prospective renter parked his car in front of the building while he ran inside to make lodging arrangements, only to have the auto stolen from under his nose. Dr. John Klutho provided the building with its token suicide by shooting himself in his room in 1934. A few months later, Effie Laurelle Doll sued the owners when a routine fumigation made her violently ill. The judge and jury decided they need to visit the building before making a final decision. By 1956 the Touraine’s residents were not as elite as they had once been. This was demonstrated when two tenants were arrested for knocking over a local liquor store.

But, of all the goings on at the Touraine, the most bizarre was the case of Miss Ruby Jester.

 

Ruby Jester was a Southern Bell who in August 1911 announced her engagement to local aviator and academic Sigurd Russell. Shortly after the announcement, Miss Jester, while living at the Touraine, was knocked unconscious after she fainted at the top of the grand staircase and tumbled down it. When she came to, Ruby was struck with amnesia, and claimed to have forgotten all of 1911. She believed that she was still in Atlanta, didn’t recognize her surroundings or neighbors, and, even worse, had no clue who her fiancee was! Less than a month after getting engaged to Sigurd Russell, she was indeed married…but not to Russell. Instead, she wed Jack Tilford, her childhood sweetheart whom she clearly remembered. According to the LA Times, dejected Russell “holds no ill will towards his successful rival. He wished them both all happiness.”

By 1939, the 28 efficient apartments had been divided into 56 units. By 1964 the Touraine was gone.

Top photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

The Zahn Family – 427 South Hope Street

Zahn Residence

From the time Bunker Hill started becoming a fashionable residential neighborhood in the 1880s until it fell out of fashion and started being razed in the 1950s, countless residents filtered in and out of the area. Pioneers like Beaudry and Bradbury are memorialized with their names emblazoned on street signs or buildings. Most have been forgotten. Others, like the Zahn family of Hope Street are a faded memory of the city they helped develop, but whose contributions can linger in the minds of those chasing the ghosts of Los Angeles.


Dr. Johann Carl Zahn was born in Austria in 1822 and made his way to Australia when he was in his mid 20s. A deeply religious man, the small fortune he amassed as a successful physician was donated to a mission he helped found. In 1871, Dr. Zahn and his bride, Frances, sailed to San Francisco. The couple originally planned to continue on to Chicago, but the Great Fire killed those plans and they stayed in California where Zahn again built up his bank account as a physician and his wife gave birth to three sons; Oscar, Oswald and Otto.

Zahn Residence

In 1874, the family moved to Los Angeles, where Dr. Zahn, now going by the name John instead of Johann, began purchasing real estate. By 1878, the family had added two more sons; Lorenzo Paul and Hector. Early on the family resided on Spring Street near a church Zahn had built because, according to the L.A. Times, “the denomination with which he had been accustomed to worship had no church.” In 1890 the Zahns decided to relocate to Bunker Hill and had a house built at 427 South Hope Street.

The residence on Hope Street was a large building, yet simple and elegant with far less ornamentation than a lot of the other painted ladies in the neighborhood. Behind the house was a small pasteur where horses were kept and the Zahn boys would sometimes amuse themselves by careening down the grassy hills in the area on homemade sleds. Lorenzo Paul Zahn later became friends with artist Leo Politi and recounted learning to swim at a pond at Second and Beaudry which “was formed by a brook that ran down from Echo Park.” Despite the pastoral setting of the family home, Dr. Zahn prophesied to his five sons that one day they would be able to walk from Downtown to Santa Monica on concrete sidewalks.

Zahn Residence

 

Dr. J.C. Zahn became a beloved member of the community, treating anyone in need regardless of income or social standing, and contributing to countless charities. He always supported street work in the ever growing city, even if damage was done to his property. Dr. John Carl Zahn passed away after a long illness at the age of 79 in October 1901. In his lengthy obituary, the Times pointed out that “he was never affiliated with secret organizations. His church was his lodge.” His family would continue living in the Hope Street residence for another eleven years.

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While the elder Zahn kept busy with his patients, two of his sons became, of all things, expert homing pigeon trainers. The birds were trained to deliver messages to and from Catalina Island and their pigeon “Big Jim” once made the trip from the island in fifty minutes. The Zahns would frequently organize pigeon races from Santa Monica where five of Oswald’s birds once set a local record by flying in a flock and making the trip in 16 minutes 20 seconds. The brothers also bred and sold homing pigeons until technology made their usefulness obsolete.

LA Times Headline

In 1903, scandal struck the squeaky clean family when Hector Zahn was sued for “$25,000 damage for winning away the wife of Grant Burkert, a drug clerk.” Burkert and his wife had been hired by Otto Zahn to work at Rancho Angelleno near Hemet where Hector frequently resided, training race horses. While Burket was attending to his duties, Hector Zahn kept busy in the house “sparking” Mrs. Burket and would “take her driving with the speedy nags to Hemet and San Jacinto, sometimes returning late at night.” Zahn would continually coax the young woman into the barnyard and other cozy places on the ranch and talked her into filing for divorce by lavishing her with “jewelry, candy, slippers, toilet articles, perfumes and a racehorse named Bead’s Orphan.” Mr. Burket also claimed that the widow Zahn encouraged the adulterous behavior by suggesting her son and his new squeeze move into the Hope Street house, despite the objections of the rest of the family. Young Hector eventually made an honest woman out of the divorcee by eloping in Arizona.

 

Board of Library Commissioners
Mrs. Otto Zahn and the Board of Library Commissioners

Otto Zahn brought renewed respectability to the family name by marrying Frances Sproston, who had resided in Los Angeles since 1896. Frances Sproston Zahn would serve on the Board of Library Commissioners from 1914 until her death in 1944, and became the first female to be elected President of the Board in 1936.

Mrs. J.C. Zahn continued overseeing the family real estate holdings after her husband’s death, and in 1912 had the family home demolished in favor of a three story brick building which was to be called the Zahn Apartments but ended up going by the name Rubaiyat. In 1930, the building was remodeled and renamed the Wickland Apartments and in its last few years was known as the St. Leon until it was demolished around 1963.

The Zahn Brothers

By 1937, Dr. Zahn’s prophecy had come true, and the green pastures of Los Angeles had become a concrete jungle. To celebrate their father and his prediction about sidewalks stretching from Downtown to Santa Monica, the five Zahn brothers got together and walked from the Evening Herald and Express Building to the sea. It probably took them a little bit longer to make the trek than Oswald’s homing pigeons.

All photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

Where’s the Munny?

behindbarsMay 23, 1905

Walter Jackson gave A. J. Munn due pause, back in mid-aught four, when he approached Munn seeking a position at Munn’s hotel. (You can’t be too careful when hiring for an establishment that bears your own name, e.g., the Hotel Munn.) You see, Munn detected liquor on Jackson’s breath, but, some highly-placed hoteliers had recommended Jackson, so Munn engaged him with and on the distinct understanding that Jackson would foreswear liquor and gambling. Any On Bunker Hill reader knows the story won’t end there.

Jackson was a gay and debonair fellow, and quickly rose to the rank of manager. But Mr. Munn began to have his doubts about Jackson as the hotel took in less and less money. Jackson proved to be a skilled tactician (and statistician) and evaded detection; it didn’t help Munn that the Jackson-hypnotized hotel residents declared they still owed accounts, when in fact they had paid them and secretly held receipts signed by Jackson.
hotelmunn
Jackson’s undoing came in the form of an Examiner reporter, resident of the Munn, who went against the touts at the Ascot, and skipped town after losing everything. (The Ascot Park was a one-mile oval track for horse racing built in 1904, and closed in 1910 after betting on horses became illegal in California.)

ascot

ascotstands

The Hotel Munn held a claim against the reporter for $48.15 ($1,094 USD2007) and Munn wrote the reporter’s mother in the East. After a long and patient wait, he wrote again. Oh no, said the mother, I immediately mailed you $50 to cancel the obligation.

Thereafter Munn began digging in earnest and found someone to whom Jackson had issued a receipt for the money—uncredited in the books. With said evidence of cash appropriation, Jackson was summarily fired. Proprietor Munn was able to come up with shortage of about $100, and Mrs. Jackson, ever faithful, wired her own mother for the money. Then Munn agreed to take a note from Jackson for $200, due in thirty days and stipulating that no criminal prosecution would result provided the shortage did not exceed the amount of the note.
hotterthanapeppersprout
Alas, as the matter became public around the hotel, a dozen or more guests came forward with receipts for money paid that had not been credited, and the shortage quickly jumped above $600 ($13,680 USD2007). Jackson is presumably less gay and debonair behind bars in County this morning.

Rose Mansion – 400 South Grand Avenue

Rose Mansion

Old Bunker Hill can evoke images of Victorian grander and prosperity, as well as faded glory and great loss. While many associate the history of Bunker Hill with the buildings that once decorated the landscape, the riches to rags stories of the neighborhood also belong to many of its inhabitants. The Rose Mansion at Fourth Street and Grand Avenue was once one of the most picturesque homes on the Hill and its builder and namesake a highly regarded pioneer of Los Angeles County. Despite a celebrated beginning, the house would be demolished long before the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) razed the neighborhood, and its original owner would meet his end in a most macabre manner.

Leonard John Rose (L.J.), was a native of Bavaria who immigrated to New Orleans when he was twelve. He received an education in Illinois and engaged in early business ventures in Iowa before organizing a party, including his wife Amanda and two children, to travel to California in 1857. After crossing the Colorado River, the group was attacked by a Native American tribe, incurring losses of life and supplies. Rose and his family survived and temporarily settled in New Mexico. The family made it to California in 1860 and established themselves in the San Gabriel Valley.

Sunny Slope Ranch
Sunny Slope Ranch

Sunny Slope was the name of the renowned ranch Rose acquired shortly after arriving in Southern California. Located in what is now the eastern end of Pasadena, the 1,900 acre property contained countess lemon, orange and olive trees, but became famous for its vineyards. Vines were imported from Spain, Italy and Peru, and the wine and brandy generated from Sunny Slope made L.J. Rose a household name and a very wealthy man. He also found success as a breeder with a horse ranch named Rosemead (where the city of the same name now stands), and eventually became a State Senator.

Rose Mansion

In 1887, the somewhat secluded neighborhood of Bunker Hill attracted Rose, and he purchased land at the corner of Fourth and Grand (then called Charity) to build a palatial home for his family that now included nine children. Construction on the house was such a massive undertaking that a scathing editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times criticizing the builders for piling up so much lumber in the streets that carriages could not pass through.

Designed by architects Curlett & Eissen at a cost of around $50,000 and completed in 1888, the Rose Mansion was a gleaming gem among the jewels of Bunker Hill. The L.A. Times ran a piece dedicated solely to the stained glass widows, designed by Rose’s son Guy, who would become a respected Impressionist painter. The Los Angeles Evening Express was so impressed with the stately structure that an extensive article appeared in 1890 describing the interior whose “first and second floors are finished in hard woods and the third in white cedar.” The dining room had a “heavily paneled ceiling” and a bay window with an “elaborately carved arch of oak supported by dragons.” A “heavily carved giant staircase” ran through the house and frescoes by [Attilio] Moretti of San Francisco adorned the ceilings. The home also included a plush library and music room, but the most talked about part of the house was the wine cellar where Rose stored an impressive selection of wines and spirits. On the outside, the most distinct feature of the property was the granite retaining wall surrounding the house with polished steps leading up to the entry.

Headline

Despite his tremendous success, by 1899 bad investments had left Rose deeply in debt with properties so heavily mortgaged that selling them would have been fruitless. On May 17, a despondent Rose told his wife he was going to Ventura on business and would be returning the next day. Instead, he returned to Los Angeles that night and drafted a suicide note addressed to the his wife at the Mansion, and mailed it. At 10 o’clock the next morning, Mrs. Rose received the letter with Rose stating financial ruin as the reason for taking his own life. He continued the letter by bidding an affectionate farewell to his family.

Also included was a postscript stating that his body could be found in the backyard of the Mansion.

Family present at the time “were too overwhelmed with apprehension to go to the yard to see whether his dead body was really there.” Mrs. Rose’s son-in-law was summoned from his office Downtown and upon arrival found “his father-in-law lying face downward in a little hollow at the rear of the lot. His head reclined on his hat, and in one hand was clasped a bunch of carnations.” Miraculously, Rose was still alive and was taken to a hospital where his stomach was pumped to remove the 65 morphine pills he had swallowed. Despite the efforts to save his life, too much of the drug had been absorbed into his system and Leonard John Rose died at the age of 72. The official cause of death was morphine poisoning.

Headline

L.J. Rose was heavily eulogized by the county he had called home for nearly 40 years and the “courageous pioneer” was laid to rest in Evergreen Cemetery. In the meantime, his wife Amanda was left with a ruined empire and the Mansion was soon lost to foreclosure. After a mere 11 years, the Roses no longer reigned over the house at Fourth and Grand.

Rose Mansion
Rose Mansion (lower right side)

The Rose Mansion was briefly occupied by real estate investor Albert W. McCready. In 1903 the residence was purchased by Colonel Albert B. Hotchkiss, creator and editor of the local publication Public Economy, with his wife Mary. Mrs. Hotchkiss , one of the few women in early Los Angeles to make a name for herself in real estate. A colorful character, Mary Hotchkiss at one time owned a large chunk of Main Street and was once accused of abducting a neighbor’s parrot named “Dude.” Colonel Hotchkiss died of natural causes inside the mansion and Mary wasted no time in landing husband #3, Dr. J.T. Jauch.

SERA Headine

The Jauches resided at the former Rose Mansion until 1928, when they took up permanent residence at the Fremont Hotel on Fourth and Olive, which Mary owned. The building appears to have remained vacant and in 1935 the State Emergency Relief Administration (SERA) proposed using the residence to house transients. The Health Commission turned this idea down.

Sanborn Map 1906 Sanborn Map 1950

Sanborn Maps in 1906 and 1950

By 1937 the Rose Mansion was supposedly in such disrepair that it was no longer inhabitable. In the biography L.J. Rose of Sunny Slope, the pioneer’s son claims that the heavy wood paneling was salvaged by 20th Century Fox and used to decorate sets on the Alice Faye/Tyrone Power feature In Old Chicago. When the CRA began its invasion of Bunker Hill in the 1950s, all that remained was the garage and the ghosts of the Rose Mansion and its owners.

All photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

Scandal on Bunker Hill Avenue

 scandal headline

Bunker Hill Avenue and Fourth Street

February 26, 1889 

 

When thirteen year old Lizzie Fryer failed to return to her home on Bunker Hill Avenue for supper, her parents began to fret. As the evening wore on, they became so concerned that they decided to search for her. 

 

At first they thought that Lizzie might be in the company of a young man named Zens. Lizzie was a popular girl, tall and well developed for her age, and she had been allowed to go to parties with Zens because he was related by marriage to a good friend of theirs, Mr. Clearwater. Because of the congenial relationship between the two families, the Fryers had always felt comfortable allowing Lizzie to spend much of her free time with the Clearwaters.

 

The Fryers were confident that they’d find Lizzie at the Clearwater home in East Los Angeles.  However, upon their arrival they were given some very disturbing news. Mrs. Clearwater said that she had not seen Lizzie – and coincidentally, her husband, father of their several young children, was also missing!

 

Suddenly Lizzie’s mother remembered a strange conversation that she’d had with her daughter just a few days earlier. “What would you do if I left home and never returned?”, Lizzie had asked.  Believing that Lizzie was only joking, she hadn’t paid much attention to such fanciful speculation. However, in retrospect she found their conversation alarming, particularly since Clearwater and Lizzie had always seemed to be extremely fond of each other. 

 

The frantic parents continued to search for their missing daughter, but things took a turn for the worse when they spoke with local shopkeepers and learned that Lizzie had been seen with Clearwater at about noon. According to witnesses, the couple had been headed toward the Southern Pacific Depot.  When the Frys discovered that a northbound train departed after 1 pm, it was enough to convince them that Lizzie and Clearwater were on the run together and headed north.  They immediately went to the police station and asked Chief Cooney to send a wire asking that the train be searched when it reached Tulare. The wire was sent, and the train was scoured for the missing couple, but they were nowhere to be found. The distraught Fryer’s swore out a complaint against their former friend. 

 

If the runaway girl and her married lover were ever found, it wasn’t reported in the LA Times.