Two New Mann Images — Final Days of the Flight!

Hillzapoppin‘ in the OBH!  A couple swanky new color images emerged from the greater Mann grotto and the good people at the archives wanted to share them with you.  Ain’t they the best?

AF1

This image is later than the other Manns (Menn?) we’ve seen.  (Given the specific progress made on the Union Bank tower, I’d peg this photo at September 1966).  By comparison, here’s one of late-50s vintage you’ve seen before:

AF2

The Community Redevelopment Agency got their wreckers and worked from top to bottom; started with the Elks in the autum of 1962, then hit the Hulburt (middle) and finished the Ferguson on Hill in ’63.

With Angels Flight’s Western Wall removed, you then see these two characters in images of the Flight, but they were chewed up pretty quickly.

theseguys

But back to our original Mann photo up top.  To the east of the flight on the other side of the tunnel, the Royal Liquor’s still there, and so’s the McCoy house above.  

Royal Liquor–AKA St. Helena Sanitarium–always amuses because before Los Angeles became last refuge for the hunted and the tortured, it was just a sunny place to go for salubrious living:

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Now let’s cross the intersection, down Hill a bit…

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…turn to see that Olivet and Sinai have passed each other.  The Hill Crest and the Sunshine, of whom we’ve spoken quite a bit recently, gone, again, the CRA working down from Olive to Clay, the HillCrest lost in the autumn of 1961 and the Sunshine goes ca. 1965.  There’s the McCoy House and St. Helena, although now the latter, known as My Hotel for some time, became the Vista Hotel between 1942 and ’47 (and the actual full name of its corner booze boutique, despite what the neon read, was Royal Gold Liquors).  Vaguely visible looming behind in the mist, the Belmont.

The former front door of the Ferguson Café apparently a swell place to park your faded yellow jalopy.  In September of 1966.  Now, not so much.

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Hey, at least the light pole and fireplug are still there. 

Thanks to George Mann’s son Brad Smith, and daughter-in-law Dianne Woods, for allowing us to reprint these copyrighted photographs and tell George’s story. To see George’s photos of theater marquees, visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/brad_smith

For a representative selection of photographs from his archive, or to license images for reproduction or other use, see http://www.akg-images.co.uk/_customer/london/mailout/1004/georgemann/

St. Helena/Vegetarian Café, USC Digital Archives; Ems & Casa Alta, personal collection 

Hotel Belmont — 251 S Hill

BelmontLinen
The Belmont was a behemoth at the base of Bunker Hill, its situation on the southern center beckoned folk who—were we to paint in purely lurid hue—simply sought a thieves den, or that final refuge before the big self-snuff. Was there more to this big, beautiful building? Why, naturally.

It all began with the YWCA, an organization that sought to harbor white Christian women from the williwaws of urban iniquity. And where better to do so than that hillock of high-mindedness, Bunker Hill?

A colony of civic-minded women formed the LA-YWCA in 1893 in two rooms at 212 S. Broadway, then moved into the Schumacher Building at 107 S. Spring in 1894. They then shuttled off into the shelter of the old City Hall at 211 W. Second, and finally took over a whole floor of the Conservative Life building at the NE corner of Third and Hill in ’06. They were renting out a small building as their annex, on the same side of Hill, forty feet north of Third, and decided enough of this penny-ante gynoprotection, we’re purchasing that property and erecting an sky-scraping HQ.

Higher

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They dropped cornerstone in 1907 and moved in aught-eight. Its basement held an auditorium for 500, a gymnasium, and a 30×50’ swimming pool. It was most noted for its gargantuan light well, which formed an open-air patio famous for its flower boxes filled with color-coordinated flora cascading to a fancy tile floor.

 

 

 

 

 

YWCAFacade

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YWCAteens

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4,000 women, including 1,600 students engaged in the study of the domestic sciences, swam and ate and sewed and so on and all was fine and good until 1919, when the Y gals sold the building, deciding “to be nearer the shopping.”

(In 1926 they opened their grand Y-hotel at 939 S. Figueroa, moving their offices into this building on the right [now the site of the Hotel Figueroa’s pool].)

 

251 South Hill was purchased by the Union League Club of Los Angeles, where the Republican Women’s Club (the incipient CFRW). often met.

The Union League held on to 251 until 1924; its conversion into the Hotel Belmont begins in April of that year. Alexander Mayer spends $400,000 ($4,812,791 USD2007) in the remodel—remaking 200 rooms, all with shower and bath, all with hand-painted furniture.
BelmontCa1939
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One of the Belmont’s most notorious residents was Santa Claus. Motley Flint, Los Angeles Postmaster and Illustrious Potentate of the city’s Al Malaikah Temple (our local Shriners, AAONMS), arranged with postal authorities to have all letters addressed to Santa (which theretofore had gone to the dead-letter office) sent to the Belmont Hotel, as that was where the Shrine set up their annual Christmas relief drive. The basement would fill with donated toys, clothing and fruit cakes; everyone could come and receive yuletide relief at the Belmont. And the Shriners special Santa squad found each and every letter-penning tot and saw to it that the hoped-for toy made it from the Belmont basement into their needy hands.

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Another fun member of the Belmont clan was Walter Maloof, 55, a familiar sight among the Downtown shuffling class, a gent who spent his days peddling watches and other odd articles on street-corners. Apparently there’s good money in the odd article, as after he died in his Belmont hotel room in February 1963, his bankbook showed he had some $19,000 ($127,399 USD2007) squirreled away.

Of course, the Belmont also harbored the likes of Achilles N. Bororas, 41, whose not only knocked over markets and service stations up and down California in 1954, but robbed churches and nabbed narcotics from drugstores.

You don’t mess with the Belmont when it comes to committing crimes. James Rader, 28, led a gang of hotel robbers. His accomplices were Gordon Edwards, 18; Frank Darrow, 22; Miss Margie Petrie, 18; and a sixteen year-old girl. They’d knocked over fifteen downtown hotels when they thought they’d take on the Belmont, March 9, 1957. The gang were in mid-rob when Edwards was clobbered by 71 year-old Belmont dontmesswthebelmontelevator operator William Patterson, who struck Edwards with his stool (that is, the small stool he sat on in his elevator) and knocked the knife from his hand. Rader struck Patterson with the butt of his gun; the robbers then tangled with 65 year-old Belmont desk clerk A. B. Cramer and eventually fled the scene empty handed—even more so than they came in with, as one of the crew lost their wallet, and they were all easily traced to a downtown roominghouse and arrested.

And there are always those who seek permanent solutions to temporary problems. They, as such, instead of waiting for God to fire them, will raise their fists to the heavens and yell “I quit!”
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On March 29, 1936, employees of the Belmont were alarmed that Jeanette Stevenson, 45, wouldn’t answer her telephone. The note she left described domestic difficulties; she’d decided a bottle of poison was the antidote to that particular issue.

foiledagainIn January 1938, Mrs. Veronica De Shon Miller, 47, recently of Kansas City, divorced, despondent over the death of a friend, and an out-of-work beautician to boot, soaked a towel in ether and smothered herself in her Belmont flat. She was saved there by a friend. Fearing that the Belmont was conspiring to keep her alive, she left a note regarding the disposition of her belongings and made her way to the building at Fourth and Broadway where she once operated a beauty parlor, and flung herself to the concrete floor at the bottom of the light well.

leapingdentistsSeptember 28, 1942. Dr. Robert E. Hunsaker, 45, was due in court to face a hearing in a suit filed by his third wife for divorce. So he got a room at the Belmont. Top floor. Desk clerk Bernardo Sargil noticed Hunsaker on the window ledge and called the cops; when they got there they found dancer Ruth Rex in his room, pleading with him not to jump. The cops tried to grab him but Hunsaker ordered them back; finally he said “So long boys, this is getting tiresome,” and loosened his grip, falling the length of the building to meet Hill Street below.

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November 1, 1942. Anne Kennedy, 18, was despondent over ill health, or so letters left in her Belmont hotel room indicated. Nevertheless she was still gaily dressed in her black-and-yellow Halloween party costume when she leapt, or fell, from her sixth-floor window at the back of the hotel.

Third and Hill, 1906, pre-YWCA: Angels Flight “inclined cable tramway” at far left; the St. Helena Sanitarium (perhaps you’ve noticed the “Vegeterian Café” signage in images of Angels Flight?—that’s these folk); and some residential structures at 251 and beyond (including one labeled “old & vacant”). The shingled structure in the vintage image above (that’s a “Berlin Dry Cleaning” truck in front), seen below as 247, was the Kensington. Above, the Astoria.
3rdHill1906

Belmont19501950: Behold, the 1907 YWCA, though it’s been the Belmont now for twenty-five-some years. St. Helena’s was redubbed “My Hotel” and has a liquor store in its corner. The structures to the east have been wiped for parking; the Kensington is now the Belmont garage. Above, the Astoria has a neighbor, the 1916 Blackstone Apartments.
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A close-up from an image in last week’s post. A glimpse of Angels Flight heading down to the corner of Third and Hill. There’s the Belmont and her giant light well. Behind, the Hillcrest, Astoria and Blackstone face Olive Street.

The Belmont is leased to hotel chain operators Porter and Knapp in 1941, who sink scads of dough in her, reopening the pool, enlarging and refurbishing the roof garden, refurnishing and redecorating the rooms. But all that money couldn’t stem the decline of the neighborhood.
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Two codgers stroll Hill in the early 60s; they’ll cadge together enough for a fifth and head to Pershing Square to argue Bay of Pigs for the afternoon. Then it’s back to the Belmont for a nap.

fireatthebelmont67A fire that would have felled a lesser building broke out November 3, 1967. The sixth-floor room of John Riles, 69, believed to have been smoking in bed, went up in flames, engulfing a good bit of that floor and part of the seventh, and all of the late John Riles.
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What fire couldn’t do to the Belmont, the CRA could; the summer of 1971 saw the Bunker Hill Redevelopment Project at the tail-end of its demolitions and the YWCA/Union League/Belmont, one of the last standing Stalwarts, tumbled under wreckers’ hammers.

geriatriccheeseFind the big red awning—across from the MTA bus parked at the Third Street curb—jutting out from Angelus Plaza: that’s 255 S. Hill, once the address that marked the western edge of the Belmont. As can be seen, near the site of the Belmont, there’s a building of vaguely similar size and shape. Close, but as a gal from the YWCA might point out, no cigar.
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Photos from the USC Digital Archives, save for the “old codger” pic, William Reagh Collection, California History Section, California State Library; Belmont and lobby postcard, author; the image of the YWCA interior court borrowed from this page of A Visit to Old Los Angeles. As always, mad props to the Sanborn surveyors.

2nd & Hill Block Round-Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

132/34SO

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

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

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Mrs. Frances Valiente, about 25, lived in 132 with her two boys, Frankie, about 2, and a one year-old infant, unnamed. Frances went out one Friday night in April of 1951 and didn’t elect to return. Frank went to Juvie and the infant to the nursery at General.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

homealoneisfunnyJuly 30, 1954. Jesus Chaffino is a 2 year-old with a talent for opening doors. Apparently his mother, Maria Avila, didn’t tell her sister-in-law that when she left her place at 121 North Hope and dropped of the Jesus at 132 S. Olive. He was turned over to juvenile officers when he was found wandering near First and Olive at five a.m.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

North by Northwest: The Dirt Patch of Second and Hill

TheOlympia

Folk will on occasion ask me what, if anything, is left of Bunker Hill. Glad you asked, I’ll reply, answer being, nothing really, but I am awfully fond of this particular dirt contour. If they don’t politely turn away, I’ll commence upon a detailed discourse on said excrement-laden dirt contour in question, and then they’ll politely turn away.

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

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

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

SculptedbytheMaster

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

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

2ndHill1894
1894, and 133 Hill has built terraced steps up to its manse. Our house in the corner has sadly lost its shanty. Notice the addition of the Primrose hotel at 421/419 West 2nd. At the bottom it reads “Vertical bank 30’ high.” The house near 1st has been razed but 109 Hill has been added. 104 Olive has shown up, top right. And yes, that says “Lawn Tennis Courts.”

2ndHill1906
It’s 1906, and much has changed: our little friend in the corner has disappeared. In its place, just to the north, two lodging houses at 411 and 409. To the west, Hotel Locke. (Hotel Locke shows up in the Times in 1897 and disappears in 1912.) Olive Court has wrapped around and filled in, and the tennis lawn has given way to our old friend the Moore Cliff. The former single family dwelling at 109 has been enlarged to become the El Moro Hotel. Note the Hotel Cecil in the upper right. Hill now has a 15’ retaining wall; the houses average 30’ above grade.

2ndHill1953
But now it’s 1950 and the drastic has occured. Where once Second Street was sixty feet across, it is now 100, due to the construction of the Second Street tunnel, which opened in July of 1924. (As Mary mentioned in her post, the Argyle lost its porches.) Also lost were the two structures below the Primrose at 411 and 409, not to mention the Hotel Locke. These were even gone before the great excavation. The Hotel Cecil has, as you might imagine, been renamed, so as not to be confused with the Hotel Cecil. We even have a little gas station.

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

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

2ndHIll1932

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

excavation

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

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

2ndHill

And still fulfilling the same purpose.looknorth2H

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

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HStunnel

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

TunRail1950

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CRABunker

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.

 

 

 

 

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

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patchfromzeparchaeologizing

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

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

Major Undertaking at the Moore Cliff

novelplanMarch 31, 1912

That the Moore Cliff has glorious views, no one can debate. From her lofty perch sixty feet above Hill Street, midway between First and Second, she gazes over the business district, and every room commands a panorama extending to Boyle Heights. But her grand position is also her undoing; since she was built in aught-four, her inhabitants have had to trek up that dang’d winding six-story staircase set into the retaining wall. Even Dr. S. G. Moore, who apparently added cliff to his eponymised hotel just so you’d remember how high you were, has tired of scaling the thing. No view can compensate for the loss of revenue occasioned by those with an aversion to shlepping.

Dennis and Farwell
were veteran architects—and what’s more of a no brainer, in a rapidly growing city, than adding stories to a structure? D&F designed the Moore Cliff, and now here comes Moore again, wanting to convert her from a four-story apartment building to a nine-story hotel. But don’t add these floors to the top, says Moore, massaging his aching feet—add them to the bottom.
tolet
No problem, say Dennis and Farwell. All we need to do is remove a body of earth fifty-five feet in width by sixty feet in height, and fifty feet in depth. This will stretch under the present building which we’ll prop up until our five story steel-and-brick structure, with a façade to resemble the one up on the hill we designed eight years ago, gets slid in there. Dress the new lobby in mahagony-stained birch, throw on an iron marquise, and there you have your nine-story hotel, right there at terra firma, all blessed as it is with sidewalks and rail lines.
asitwillappear
Everyone’s quite excited that the length of Hill south of the tunnel is bursting with plans. (A stone’s throw from Hill up Second, Braun’s ten-story reinforced concrete hotel is pouring fourndations.) Judge Stephens intends to erect a substantial building of brick and steel just to the south of the Moore Cliff; and plans are afoot to build on the southwest corner of First and Hill, where a large cut was made years ago. “It is freely predicted that all of the frontage on the west side of Hill street will have been reduced to grade level within the next year or two.”

MC1932What do you notice here, from this 1932 image of the Moore Cliff?

It didn’t happen.

(Nor do we witness Judge Stephens’ proposed structure; no-one ever built on the SW corner of First & Hill, either.)

MooreCliffLooms

As can be seen, the Moore Cliff’s cliff has been almost, but not quite, brought down to grade level. (The tunnels up Hill were flattened something fierce, though.)
mooreclifffromheavens

theascent

And the jurors who park there command a terrific vista of that building.

Hill Street image courtesy USC Digital Archives

 

Angels Flight and the Flickers

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As an addendum to my Angels Flight post, below, I got to thinking about AF’s relationship to cinema after OnBunkerHill’r John wrote to the other contributors:

How many of you have seen the 1965 film, "Angel’s Flight"? Here is how the program of the Egyptian Theater’s 2006 Film Noir film festival described it:

ANGEL’S FLIGHT, 1965, 77 min. Dirs. Raymond Nassour and Ken Richardson. A Super Rarity! Listen up lovers of Los Angeles Noir! Be here for an unprecedented screening of this long-lost, locally-made feature. This oddball noir-horror-crime hybrid concerns a psychically scarred stripper (Indus Arthur) who turns homicidal whenever she gets horny. The real attraction is the seedy splendor of pre-development Bunker Hill and the focus on the famed funicular trolley that gives the film its title. Shown off of digital format, as 35mm and 16mmprints no longer exist! Starring and produced by the original "Marlboro Man," William Thourlby. NOT ON DVD. Discussion following film with writer, Dean Romano.

…and I realized, jeez, there’s a picture named after Angel(‘)s Flight, but whenever our Flight is mentioned vis-a-vis film, everyone is quick to mention Criss Cross, and rightfully so. Any picture in which a sultry Yvonne De Carlo skulks around Bunker Hill should win the Oscar for, you know, Best Use of Everything.

So on the assumption that You Our Reader were at the Egyptian for Angel’s Flight, and dutifully have the Betamax of Criss Cross on your shelf, you still might appreciate a heads up about Indestructible Man and The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?

Indestructible Man stars Lon Chaney Jr., who so masterfully skulked around El Mio in Spider Baby. You can actually watch the movie in its entirety right here, right now.
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See! Marian Carr want off Angels Flight!

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Thrill! In screaming blood terror as master of horror Lon Chaney walks past beer neon to get on Angels Flight! Then get off!!! (To be fair, he does throw a guy down some stairs by the Hillcrest. It’s pretty cool.)

And of the wonders and glories of TISCWSLABMUZ there’s simply too much to say. Many have heard of yet few have actually viewed this spectacular (I was lucky enough to see it in a San Francisco picture-house when a knife-brandishing Jello Biafra & Boyd Rice exploded from the screen—in gore-soaked living 3-D!). The only other people known to have seen this film are Joel Hodgson, Tom Servo, and Crow T. Robot:
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Jerry has just tried to strangle his girlfriend. Because she spun an umbrella. Don’t ask. Suffice it to say, he has to go here:

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And for that we are thankful.

Angels Flight

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Angels Flight—everybody’s favorite FUNicular—is there a more iconic piece of Bunker Hilliana? All aboard! proclaims the city of LA!

But don’t get too excited. It’s not open, so you’re not riding it today. Despite what you may hear, you’re not riding it anytime soon.

Toodle down Hill Street between 3rd and 4th and eavesdrop on the guy with the clipboard, yelling at the zinc oxide’d folk, and get the five-cent explication:

earlyaf“Up there’s Bunker Hill, folks, and what a pain it was to shlep from your gracious home down to the Grand Central Market below, there, behind you. But then came riding up lawyer, engineer, friend of Lincoln, Colonel James Ward Eddy, who was sixty-nine when he convinced the city that it needed a funicular in the 3rd street right-of-way between Hill and Olive. Eddy built ‘The Los Angeles Incline Railway,’ known to all and sundry as Angels Flight, no apostrophe thank you, complete with a hundred-foot observation tower that housed a camera obscura. Mayor Snyder made the inaugural 45-second journey on January 1, 1902. The cars were biblically named ‘Olivet’ and ‘Sinai’ and were painted a saintly white, though later orange and red, and a trip up the 325 feet of 33% grade was originally a penny, though they jacked that up to a nickel. What’s with the BPOE arch, you ask? Did the Benevolent Protective Order of Elk have a hand in all this? Not really. A hundred years ago the Elk’d go nuts during ‘Elk Week’ and spend lavish sums all over the city with fireworks and aflatercarnivals and since their lodge replaced the Crocker mansion at the top of Angels Flight in September 1908, they elected to donate this swell gate here around 1909. The BPOE lettering on the arch was actually covered up for many decades when the building above became a Moose lodge in 1926. Anyway, as the city moved west, the gingerbread private homes of the 1890s were cut up into rooming houses, and Bunker Hill took on all that charm we now call shabby chic. In 1950, large insurance companies, the Building Owners and Managers Association, and the Community Redevelopment Association proposed the razing of Bunker Hill to develop 10,000 rental units. In 1959 the City Council declared Bunker Hill blighted, a slum to be cleared and redeveloped. The Elks Lodge/Moose Lodge gets wiped away in 1962. In 1969 Angels Flight was finally removed and stored, with a promise to return it shortly. It was reinstalled here, half a block down, a mere twenty-seven years later, though a tragic accident in 2001 has closed it temporarily.”

These are the nuts and bolts to be sure, though what they don’t add are the drops of blood that oil the gears of doom and the cogs of death!

That may be a bit dramatic. There is the small matter of the 1913 derailment, of course.

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Everything was running smoothly during a September evening rush hour, when the control shaft connecting the safety winch leaphostetterleaphoist busted, sending Sinai plummeting down the incline. The worst injury was actually a Mrs. Hostetter (of the Lovejoy Apartments at Third and Grand) who, had she not elected to leap from Sinai, wouldn’t have broken her collarbone. All other injuries were comparatively minor.
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Subsequent death and (near) dismemberment wasn’t the Flight’s fault—in 1937 Jack Claus, 54 year-old salesman, decided to take a midday siesta on the tracks.

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When a car traveling down the incline suddenly stopped, the operator had to amble down, reverse the motors, and find Sleepy Claus. Claus had been dragged fifteen feet, his clothing torn from his body, but luckily no limbs; he survived with a crushed chest. Less fortunate was the sailor who in 1943 decided to walk up the tracks:
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There’s no such repeat incident in the remaining twenty-six years of our hero’s tenure. Dismantled in 1969, reinstalled in ’96, she returns to kill after a scant five years. Why? The Germans, who have a word for everything, have a word for what happened here. Schlimbesserung. Which roughly translates to “the farther ahead we go, the further behind we fall.” It was just this sort of “worse bettering” that has put Angels Flight out of service. In the seventy years Angels Flight did its thing, 1913 notwithstanding, all was fine: it was a funicular like any other, and you don’t improve upon perfection—counterbalance, a cable, a safety cable. It’s not rocket science. But then: as is always the case with people, who feel like they have to do something when they have a job, and therefore complicate matters (if this wasn’t a case of trying to "save money," then it’s got to be nepotism), some City someone crashhired an entity absurdly ill-suited to the task of restoring Angels Flight: Lift Engineering. Lift Engineering built ski lifts. Ski lifts that killed people. This character Kunczynski worked on Angels Flight, added a whole system of independent cables with brake drums interlaced with various gears, which stripped and made the drums useless, and guess what folks, if we’d retained our Edwardian technology, we’d have a surviving survivor (Leon Praport, RIP, survived a Polish death camp, only to be taken out by another piece of ultra-modern cleverness). Kunczynski has fled to Mexico with a briefcase full of your tax dollars.

When will she return? It’s instructive to recall the 27 years she was gone after having been promised a speedy boomerang.

In 1962 taxpayers gave the CRA $35,000 ($240,000 USD2007) to “buy” Angels Flight, so that the CRA could, according to its chairman William T. Sesnon Jr., relocate the railway in Griffith Park or the Hollywood Bowl.

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CRA officials change the plan slightly when they announce in September 1968 that Angels Flight would have to come down—temporarily—to be stored for two years, and then replaced at the same site (shortened, of course, given as they were grading thirty some-odd feet from the Hill). By the time of the CRA’s brief civic ceremony “dismantling event” held in May 16, 1969, they’d already realized the railway would have to be stored until the Hill was completely developed. Surely that wouldn’t take so long.

clatterclatterCertainly many breathed a sigh of relief. Gone was that clattering anachronism, garbed in the orange and black of an Edwardian Hallowe’en, which could no longer connect the downmarket quaffers of cheap chop suey with the newly ensconced deadbolted seniors and senior bankers and the like.
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But still, a promise was a promise, and in a scant twenty-seven years, the CRA did in fact make good on its promise. With the needling of one John Welborne, and the Conservancy, and some other interested parties.
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Waiting for their return, once more:

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Many long for the return of the cars and restoration of the Flight, and demand that the City get involved—again. Granted, that Angels Flight is privately run (Welborne’s Angels Flight Railway Foundation) can mean problems, as anyone who’s ever passed a hat can tell you. Fears of an MTA takeover appear to have been unwarranted, however, and apparently, the long road toward repair may be at an end. People can take all the potshots they want at Mr. Welborne, or execrate the heavens for the very existence of delays in general, but if it takes another ten years, the fact that we’d have Angels Flight in Los Angeles at all would be nothing less than a miracle.

Photo credits:  from top, author’s collection; courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection; author’s collection; courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection; author’s collection; (grouping of three) William Reagh Collection, California History Section, California State Library; author’s collection; all newspaper images from Los Angeles Times