The Kellogg/Palace/Casa Alta—317 South Olive

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May 22, 1930

William J. Stone, 38, was a Bostonian broker who’d moved to Los Angeles and into the Casa Alta Hotel and Apartments, 317 South Olive. In what may have partly been a case of Don’t Argue with a Janitor, or partly No-One Likes a Broker in 1930, Stone managed to get into a regrettable debate with the Casa Alta janitor, one Walter Dixon.

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The argument climaxed in Dixon taking a hatchet to Stone’s head and chasing him from the building. Stone wound up in Georgia Street Receiving Hospital with severe skull lacerations, but lived to broker—or, not—another day, and Dixon landed in the stir on suspicion of ADW.

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Here’s everything you didn’t know you needed to know about 317 S. Olive, aka The Kellogg, aka the Palace, aka the Casa Alta.

First of all, there are few photos of the place. Pity the poor Palace. It was too large and utilitarian to merit the lens of a Reagh or Hylen. Sure, everybody shot its neighbor, the Ems, and in nearly every Ems image, there’s the Great Wall of Alta looming in the background:

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(Don’t look at the Ems. Look at the building behind it. We’ll talk about the Ems next week, I promise.)

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Moreover, whenever one stood on the corner of Third and Olive, the temptation was apparently too great to turn one’s back on the Kellogg/Palace/Casa Alta and shoot the upper terminal of Angels Flight.

Before the advent of 317, it was 315 S. Olive, which was ground zero for the Burning Bushers.

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Then came the seven-story, 84-apartment Kellogg. It opens in April, 1908.

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Almost immediately it becomes the Palace Hotel and Apartments; the image at the top of this post, where it’s proudly emblazoned Palace Hotel, is from a card postmarked 1910.

Looking up Olive, ca. 1915: the most prominent, in ascending order, the Auditorium, the Trenton, the Fremont, and at top, the Palace:

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In 1926 the owner puts it out to lease—it is snatched up and becomes the Casa Alta (they have cleverly renamed this rather tall house "tall house," but in Spanish!).

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The 1929 City Directory:

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Here’s what we glean from this 1939 census report: the Casa, faced in brick, has 72 apartments (ok, so the Sanborn Map says 84) in its seven floors, and no business units. There’s no basement. It was built in 1906, though that doesn’t exactly jive with its April 08 opening date. A nice two-room unit will set you back $27.50 ($406.55 USD 2007), still pretty cheap, but the Hill had begun its downturn even by 1939. Slouching toward shabby though it may have been, nevertheless, that rent was for a furnished apartment, and included heat, water, and electricity.

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The 1956 City Directory:

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…quite a few folk in the 72 apartments had ‘phones. Two basement apartments, an office, eighteen tenants had the device. For Bunker Hill, that might have been some sort of record.

By 1965, there were fewer.

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And that’s the last time it appears in the directories.

Here it is as one of the lone survivors, in its final days, ca. 1967. Angels Flight hangs on until 1969.

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The Palace of Casa Kellogg, and its events of eventful eventfulness:

blinkyIn 1914, the Palace Hotel was where fancy ladies with big diamonds lived. Therefore, of course, sharps and cons knew where to prey. But Lillian Walker was ingrained with common sense and uncommon suspicions. Despite the big car with its monogrammed door, from which stepped the elegantly dressed man and woman who came to her apartment, despite their discourse about rare gems they’d purchased in the orient, and their winter home in Santa Barbara, Mrs. Walker just doesn’t trust people who blink rapidly when they talk. The man, who called himself Mullins, eagerly wrote her a fat check for a big diamond, but Mrs. Walker, seeing his blinky eye, said no. She took a $25 check for a small gem, and agreed to meet later to discuss further sales. She immediately verified her suspicions—the checks were false, and Lillian called the authorities—but the grifters got wise to the ambush set for them, and evaded being captured in the Palace.

andthentheresmaude1916 – you may remember the Percy Tugwell case, in which the proprietor of Hotel Clayton (a literal stone’s throw east at 310 Clay), Florence Cheney, testified. Florence Cheney’s daughter, Margaret Emery, had her deposition taken at her Palace Hotel sickbed.

Margaret testified that Maude Kennedy had been in a fine and jovial mood until very shortly before her death, lending weight to the argument that she committed suicide (Tugwell eventually served ten years in Quentin for manslaughter).

palacesuicideChristmas Day, 1918, Katherine Lewis quarreled with her husband Lester Lewis. She had been despondent ever since having departed Richmond, VA for Los Angeles; the best course of action, decided Katherine, was to eat bichloride of mercury tablets in their Palace apartment. The physicians at Receiving Hospital fixed her up just enough to try another Christmas.

 

We’re all aware that every so often, people sometimes just up and go missing. Dr. Harold E. Roy was a prominent New York dentist whose crushed canoe was found in the Hudson River (it was assumed he was torn asunder by a paddle steamer); his widow moved to Los Angeles and into the Palace Apartments. Then, a year later, in February 1922, a lowly workman at the Kansas City Union Station realized, hey, I’m a dead New York dentist. Where’s my wife? deadayearHe tracks her down through her family and shows up on the Palace doorstep, and she has to give back $10,000 ($122,730 USD2007) to Bankers Life Insurance Company.

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The Palace Hotel/Casa Alta was also the center of political activity for rebel rousers from Riga. Through the late 20s the papers were peppered with small notices about, for example, the precise method of sending packages to Latvia, and if you had further questions, contact the Latvian Consulate—317 S. Olive.

defied!Now, Ethel M. Rising had a thing or two to say about marrying into Baltic bliss. She divorced her husband, H. R. Rising, left him in the Casa Alta, and the State awarded her $50 a month from H. R. to support their two daughters. But with that dictate Mr. Rising did not comply. Ethel complained to the City Prosecutor, who hauled Rising into court, October 2, 1928. There declared Rising: “I have been appointed Vice-Consul for Latvia and your courts have no jurisdiction over me.” The court conferred with the District Attorney and Rising was, in fact, correct. One can only imagine he threw back his head and added a hearty Latvian bwa-ha-ha-ha!

wershallovercomeNovember 4, 1929. George McRoy, 31, was spraying the Casa Alta with insecticide—and nearly went to exterminator Elysium, but ended up at Georgia Street Receiving.

norelief“I’ve been taking it on the chin for five years. My chin won’t stand it any longer—” and, after penning that short note, and adding three $1 bills for his daughter in Vancouver, sixty-five year-old relief client Frank W. Blumie climbed to the top of the Casa Alta, December 1, 1935, and leapt to his death.

evictedChristmas cards to Mrs. Cecilia MacKinnon Moore are being marked returned to sender this holiday season. After being told by the Casa Alta landlord to vacate her quarters, she made her way on December 23, 1947 to the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine and to the top of the Equitable Building, from where she made her own impression on Hollywood.

Two items were found in her pocketbook—a letter asking that her nephew be notified, and her eviction notice.

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thompsonandblackWhat was the relationship between Mrs. Beatrice Imogene Thompson, 23, and Sylvester Black, 34?

We may never know. All we know is that she was recently reconciled with her estranged husband, Willid Thompson. After two years she had returned to him, and for the past two weeks she and he were in domestic bliss at 317 S. Olive. That was, until, April 16, 1948.

Beatrice and Black knew each other from their place of employ, she a waitress, he a cook, at a downtown restaurant.

hamicideThe pair boarded an LA Transit Lines car at 11th and Broadway, and for a while argued in low tones. She was against the window, sobbing, and muttering “Leave me alone, please leave me alone.” When she rose to leave at 4th and Broadway, Black pushed her back in the seat and shot her four times. Also on the car was James F. Patrick, Special Officer, Metro Division, who pulled his piece and handcuffed Black at gunpoint, during which Black pleaded “Shoot me, please shoot me.”

The Thompson killing by Black, who was black, gets surprisingly little press. Perhaps the concept that this interracial killing was presaged by an interracial love affair meant that propriety demanded ignorance.

 

explodotheboilerAs mentioned above, the Kellogg/Palace/Casa Alta had its relationship with the Central/Clayton/Lorraine via the mother/daughter team in the 1916 Percy Tugwell trial. The two hotels also have cranky boilers. The Central tried to blow itself up in November 1953; the year before, in November 1952, the Casa Alta boiler felt the hands of Frank Dauterman, 43, tinkering within its works. So the boiler blew itself up, failing to kill Dauterman or take down the Alta, but sending Dauterman to Georgia Street with second and third degree burns to his head, chest and arms.

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A month later, December 20, 1952, residents heard screams from the apartment of Willie Kohl, 79. His apartment was aflame; he was found on the floor near the bed, and died en route to Georgia Street.

Kohl’s conflagration is the Casa Alta’s final appearance in the Times. The remaining tenants are relocated in the late 60s and it soon becomes a tall pile of brick.

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And atop the old site, the 1990 Omni Hotel, in which one can sense a vague hint of the old Alta. Vaguely.

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Washington hatchet from here; bloody hatchet from Hatchet; Palace postcard, author; 1910 Ems, Los Angeles Public Library; 1960 Ems, Metropolitan Museum of Art; view up Olive, USC Libraries Digital Archives; census card, USC Libraries Digital Archives; Casa Alta with Angels Flight, Los Angeles Public Library. Bottom image you remember from Subject: Narcotics.

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. 

 

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