The Kellogg/Palace/Casa Alta—317 South Olive

washingtonaxe

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.

hatchetwielder

axehimagain

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.

palace

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:

Ems1909

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

WalkerEvansEms1960

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.

sanborn1906

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

openingad

birdseye

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:

lookingupyourolive

palacead

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!).

1926leaseme

The 1929 City Directory:

casaaltadirectory29

sanborn1950casa

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.

1939casacensus

The 1956 City Directory:

56directory

…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.

deathkiss65

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.

lookingupatthebeast

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.

fromHill

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.

hereitcomes

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.

fatalistic

 

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.

thecasaandAF

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

fromSubjectNarcotics

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.

Walker Evans visits First & Flower

A glance at mid-century America reveals it emblazoned with the familiar totems: military might, industrial supremacy, cultural imperialism. These were carved by fervent if not blind progress, and you’d be given a funny look (if not worse) were you to dare question that.

Nobody would dare bat an eye as freeways forever cut up cities, and huge swaths of our collective memory were lost to parking lots and well-intentioned developments. Funny old buildings were the realm of mutants, after all.

But even in the glory days of unquestioned, unfettered forward movement—before, say, Dallas ’63 and Watts ’65—there was a small rumbling of (not unpatriotic) discontent. Landmarks were lost hand over fist but when in 1962 it came time for Penn Station to become so much New Jersey Medowlands landfill, eyebrows were raised. This was Penn Station, after all. Somebody at Life magazine (somebody who ambled through Penn Station to the Life offices at Rockefeller Center, most likely) realized that losing our common heritage would make a nifty nine-page spread. And so Life called upon heavyweight photojournalist Walker Evans to do the immortalizing.

Walker shot in New York, as well as Norwalk, Conn; Boston and Amesbury, Mass; then out to California for Nevada City, San Francisco, and, in October of 1962, Los Angeles. Where he made a beeline to Bunker Hill. He shot all over the Hill but curiously took his greatest number of shots of 101 South Flower, and it was 101 South Flower that made it into the magazine:

FirstFlowerLife

What can be said of 101-109, aka 101-111 South Flower? Precious little. We know that it is announced in February of 1904, to run $16,000 ($364,809 USD 2007).

comingout

But a thorough check of its various addresses shows that nothing of consequence ever there occurred.

towardfront

The southwest corner of First and Flower:

Sanborn

 

cliffthenogoodSure, there was the small matter of Clifford Gooding, who’d married his gal Marie and had a daughter with her, only to disappear after a few years. Marie heard Clifford was dead, and so she remarried, only Clifford wasn’t dead, just…disappeared. To Bunker Hill. She lived down on 37th Street; Bunker Hill may as well be the moon. After six years of Clifford being “deceased” she caught wind that he wasn’t, had him tracked down, and he was popped at our First & Flower apartment house in November 1925 on a deadbeat dad charge. That’s about as racy as it gets; that, and the residents of this particular place had a terrible habit of stepping off of this curb and that into fatally well-built oncoming automobiles.

101SFautos

Fortunately what we lack in drama we make up for in image quantity. It was captured of course by the incomparable Arnold Hylen:

hylen101SF

Today, of course, the building is demolished, but one isn’t always expecting to find the same thing to have happened to the street. Where has all the Flower gone?

In each of the two images below: First at the top, Second at the bottom, Figueroa at the left (yes, I know Fig is a Street and not an Avenue, that’s Baists for you) Hope on the right. In the top image, Flower runs down the middle, and there’s 101 in orange, with “Labarere Tr.” (for Labarere Tract) written across it. In the modern image below, well Flower just went away.

1926fighope
2008fighope

doooomedA few final words about Life’s Doomed Architecture article, published July 5, 1963, and which noted that “some 2,000 buildings classified by the government as major landmarks of history and beauty have vanished in the past 25 years.”

Penn Station, of course, is demolished. This action is largely credited for impregnating America with preservation consciousness. This isn’t true, of course, but that’s ok.

In writing about the Amesbury, Mass. Rocky Hill Meeting House Life notes that a proposed expressway is taking down three 18th-century buildings and coming within yards of the structure, which is in a state of miraculous state of preservation. This writer does not know if the 1963 worries about blasting and vibrations undermined the building, or played havoc with the 1780s glazing, but I do know that the 495 is now a stone’s throw away, and I call that wrong.

Nevada City, best extant example of a Gold Rush town, was to be partly lost when the four-lane CA-20/49 bisected the little burg. But the “outraged local groups” apparently persuaded authorities to shift the highway, saving the most historic buildings, which thus now stand to this day.

After the Mathews Mansion was foolishly given to the City of Norwalk, Conn, the City embarked on a period of Official Neglect until they could plead “It Can’t Be Fixed!” and set out to demolish it for a city hall. After a three-year battle, citizens saved the mansion by referendum; the city ignored this and set out to build the city hall on the mansion grounds again. Eventually, though, the mansion was saved, we hope for some time.

The 1874 Greek Revival San Francisco Mint was also a victim of Official Neglect; the city thought it a swell place for a parking lot, and had let it deteriorate to the point of its roof collapsing. Its demolition was slated for 1965; as can be seen, that did not happen.

And so while the vast majority of the subjects in Life’s article survived to see another millennium, 101 South Flower did not. Nor did any of the any other structures shot by Evans that Los Angeles October.

fadingaway