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.

Love(joy) and Death — 529 W. Third

youthadmits!1947project readers may remember this addition that King of Historians Larry Harnisch made to the blog back in its earliest incarnation. It’s the story of Gerald Richards, and, because you can read the story in full in the link, I’ll just toss out the particulars:

Gerald Richards is 19, and he hasn’t much in the world. He has a .25 auto that he picked up in Japan during his tour in the Maritime Service, and he’s got George Kirtland, 24, who he picked up in New Orleans during his postwar wanderlust. It’s 1947 and they’ve landed in Los Angeles—George is from Gardena, Gerald an Illinois boy—and George goes to visit Gerald at his digs in the Biltmore. Gerald should have probably chosen somewhere less tony, because his argument over the $32 hotel bill resulted in his shooting the assistant manager in the lobby. Once nabbed, he also copped to two more slayings—a Tom Nitsch in New Mexico, and LA’s own 52-year-old tailor Charles Vuykov, whose nude body was found on the floor of his room, 529 West Third.

In the 47p post, Larry made mention of the manner in which the Times heads off homosexual implications in Richards’ Kirtland relationship; but then, what was 19-year-old Gerald doing in the apartment of a 50-something tailor? Especially a nude one?

And let’s not let this particular address of Vuykov’s slip by…529 isn’t just any spot on West Third. That shot reverberated across the four corners of Third and Grand. That’s the Lovejoy Hotel.

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The Lovejoy is announced May 1903:

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142 rooms, divided into 78 apartments, it opens in November.

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It is immediately the scene of many a large society wedding, and home to the known (William O. Owen lived at the Lovejoy when it was finally decreed, in 1927, that it was in fact he who first reached the summit of the Grand Teton).

The Lovejoy is also a hotbed of lefty activity. It’s a center for the Equal Rights League and magnet for suffragists of various stripe. It’s where Professor Flinn’s “physical culture” class met in 1904. It also serves as the 1930s home for the American League Against War and Fascism.

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Above, looking north/east on Grand. (Nice crenellated parapets. Despite being against war, its residents were probably glad for defensible battlements.)

Now you see Angels Flight Drugs:

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Now you don’t:

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This being Third and Grand, the Lovejoy was also across the street from the Nugent. Below, the Nugent is on the left, and we peer down to Olive…there’s the top of Angels Flight, its neighbor the Elks Lodge, and the Edison/Metro Water Bldng at Third and Broadway in the distance.

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And, in our continuing effort to get you oriented, endless maps.

From the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, 1906:

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From the Birdseye:

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From the Baists Real Estate Atlas, 1926:

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And of course, the WPA model from 1940:

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Above, the Nugent has lost the top of its tower. And is also apparently falling over.

The Lovejoy stands strong, though painted yellow, as per its reputation for hosting pacifists.

The 1960s saw its demolition, and in its place, in the early 80s, the erection of a similarly formidable fortress, Isozaki’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Through true to the Hill, it’s styled less like a castle than it is bunker-like.

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Lovejoy images, from top to bottom: author; William Reagh Collection, California History Section, California State Library; Arnold Hylen Collection, California History Section, California State Library; William Reagh, Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection; William Reagh, Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

Fry Cook Killer

lindsay headline lindsay headline

It was a quiet February day in Seattle, Washington when Frank Lindsay ended the argument that he was having with his wife Audrey by bashing her over the head with a hammer, slashing her throat, sewing her body into a burlap bag, and then burying her behind the barn on their property.

pearl talksGrabbing his 12 year old foster daughter Pearl Grant, and a few hastily packed bags, Frank fled his home and high-tailed it south.  He would later say that he took the girl with him because he thought that traveling with a child would give him a better cover story.  It wasn’t long before he realized that being on the lam with Pearl was a bad idea, and he subsequently abandoned her in a rooming house in Oakland. 

Frank finally landed in Napa, where he befriended the parents of 11 year old Beatrice Dellamore . He picked fruit alongside the family for several days, eventually convincing the couple to turn the girl over to him. Mr. Lindsay said that he knew a woman with money who could provide Beatrice with everything that she lacked as the child of itinerate laborers. In truth, he kidnapped the girl and took her with him to Los Angeles, where he checked in at the Hotel Cecil for a few nights.hotel cecil

Then Frank did what so many other fugitives had done before him – he sought refuge in a Bunker Hill rooming house.

Representing himself as Mr. R.F. Williams, he told people that Beatrice was his daughter.  Lindsay kept the girl for two weeks in the rooming house, and then decided to put her on a bus back to Napa. Upon her return home, Beatrice was able to provide information about Frank, but the elusive spouse slaughterer continued to evade capture.

Audrey’s brutal slaying and speculation about Frank’s whereabouts were big news up and down the west coast.  However, it wouldn’t be professional law enforcement officers who would eventually locate Frank, it would be an amateur detective named William Sanborn.

sanbornFor a few of the months he was on the run, Frank had worked as a fry cook in the restaurant that Sanborn managed on Vermont.  When Frank left the job, William lost track of him. William continued to devour his favorite true detective magazines, and in one of them he read a lurid tale about the grisly murder of a Seattle housewife. In the same magazine he found a description of the missing husband who was being sought for the killing – and William strongly suspected that the wanted man was none other than his former cook!  

It was by chance that William bumped into Frank at another restaurant on Vermont where the absconder was again employed as a fry cook.  Fueled by the spine tingling exploits of the detectives he idolized in his beloved magazines, Sanborn vowed that he would apprehend the killer on his own.  During their past conversations, the restaurateur had learned that Frank was a jack of all trades. Not only was he a cook, he was also an accomplished plumber. Sanborn told Lindsay that he needed some work done at his home and, sweetening the pot with the offer of some under-the-table cash, Sanborn was able to get his plumbing repairs completed before he dropped the dime on the wife killer.

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As an upstanding citizen and detective wannabe, Sanborn needed to be absolutely sure that he was pursuing the right man. He contacted the homicide squad and was handed a photo of Lindsay, which he immediately identified as an image of his former employee.  In a move that was dangerous at best and completely insane at the worst, Sanborn then confronted Frank with the photo at the restaurant where he was working. Frank took the picture and held it in his fingers, thereby conveniently fingerprinting himself. When cops ran the prints, they matched those of the runaway murderer.  Detectives turned up at the Stanley Apartments at 210 South Flower later that evening, and took Lindsay into custody without incident.

There were many facts about which Frank hadn’t been forthcoming – like his real name, which was discovered to be Charles E. Murphy, as well as his place of birth, which was not Massachusetts as he’d claimed, but rather someplace in the UK. We should give the devil his due though, because at least he was truthful about having served in both the British and U.S. armed forces. However, what he’d neglected to reveal was that he had deserted from both.  And if all of those lies weren’t enough, it was uncovered that Frank was already married when he met and married Audrey!lindsay on plane

Because Frank had lied about most of the details of his life, police were skeptical of his claim that it was Audrey’s nagging that had compelled him to spontaneously murder her. And the authorities also didn’t buy his alternate version of Audrey’s murder in which he was not the attacker, but instead was valiantly defending himself from certain death at the hands of his enraged wife!  His story may have been more credible if he hadn’t pre-dug the grave into which he’d dumped Audrey’s corpse.

It took them a while, but police finally untangled Frank’s web of lies. They concluded that when Audrey had accused him of the criminal assaults on several young girls in the Seattle area (including attacks on their foster daughters), and then threatened to turn him in, Frank snapped and murdered her.

Frank was shackled and extradited from Los Angeles back to Washington, where he was tried and convicted for Audrey’s murder.  He was sentenced to 65 years in Walla Walla Prison.

The sound of the prison gates slamming shut behind him should have signaled the end of the story, but Frank would make news again in 1947.

Frank was on his best behavior in prison and would eventually earn trustee privileges. By January 1947, he was working as the cook in the warden’s home.  One day, Frank simply walked away from the prison and vanished. On the run for most of the year, he was finally recaptured in a restaurant in Denver, Colorado, where he was found plying his usual culinary trade.After his unsuccessful escape from prison, Frank would disappear from the newspapers entirely.

 

The Monarch

GARAs has been noted, when it comes to Bunker Hill, there is no image as iconic as Union Bank Square—the Redevelopment Project’s first great endeavor—towering over remnants of antiquated Los Angeles. (One could argue there are few sights as telling when it comes to defining Los Angeles in general.) But while we’re all familiar with those 42 stories of mid-60s glory, who remembers what stood there before? It was that hitherto unsung monument of Los Angeles deco: the Monarch Hotel.monarkedelic

The Monarch opened in mid-October, 1929. It contained sixty-six hotel rooms, fourteen single apartments, twelve double apartments, a five-room bungalow on the roof, three private roof decks planted rich with shrubbery, and a lobby embellished with hand-decorated ceilings. It was entirely furnished by Barker Brothers with furniture of “modern type and design.”

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From the outset, crime dogged the Monarch. Sort of. The first occupants of the bridal suite, in November 1929, were Motorcycle Officer Bricker of Georgia-Street Traffic Investigation and former Miss Losa Pope (the now newly-minted Mrs. Bricker, a purchasing agent at Forest Lawn).
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They met when he had arrested her for speeding. On their first morning together as Man and Wife, breakfasting on the roof garden outside their bridal suite, they were mobbed by twenty some-odd members of the Force who decided to burst in and make merry with fellow officer and his tamed scofflaw.

Real crime did, in fact, visit upon the Monarch. (This may have had something to do with opening two weeks before the Crash.) For example:

betrayalNight clerk H. N. Willey was behind the desk at the Monarch when, just after midnight on June 16, 1930, a bandit robbed him of $26. Willey phoned Central Station. Meanwhile, officers Doyle and Williams, on patrol, observed a man hightailing it through an auto park near the hotel. Deciding that he wasn’t running for his health (this being some years before the jogging craze), they gave chase and caught him in an alley. They next observed a patrol car flying to the Monarch. Putting two and two together, they took their prisoner to the hotel, where he was id’d by Willey. Turns out he was George H. Hall, 24, a recent arrival in Los Angeles.

H. N. Willey continued to ply the night clerk trade, and was doing so when two men entered on the early morning of August 31, 1931. When Willey showed them to their room, they pulled out a gun and tried to lock him in the closet. The attempt failed because the door had no outside lock, so the hapless crooks ran downstairs, recovered the $2 they had paid for the room and fled.

H. N. makes the papers again in November of 1931, when on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving Los Angeles is hit by a massive crime wave, in which over a dozen brazen robberies of hotels, groceries, theaters, pedestrians, folks in autos, etc. are shot at and robbed; Willey looks down the barrel of a large-bore automatic and forks over $25.

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One thing that’s nice about the Monarch? It’s nice to have a bar downstairs. Edgar Lee Smith lived, and drank, at the Monarch.

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August 23, 1946. Smith, 51, had been drinking in the Monarch bar but neglected to keep to the cardinal rule of always keeping on the good side of one’s bartender. This resulted in an after-hours duel that left his bartender, James Donald Chaffee, 28, stabbed to death. When the Radio Officers Hill and Finn found Chaffee’s body on sidewalk, they went to Smith’s room, where they found him changing his clothes, and seized a penknife with a one-inch blade.

The fight began when, according to Smith, “Jimmy got sore because I stole his girl.” Smith added that barkeep Chaffee, in retaliation, cut Smith off. Smith, in counter-retaliation, cut Chaffee.
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Smith plead guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to one to ten in San Quentin.

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Gilbert Carvajal was a 17 year-old Marine stationed at Del Mar, part of Pendleton. He was at the Monarch on May 9, 1957, with his 45 year-old lady-friend Frances Nishperly when it all began. It was 1:15am and he decided it wise to hold up night clerk Frost E. Stacklager (H. N. Willey having retired, apparently) and make off with $22 and jewelry. A few minutes later the two robbed the Trent Hotel of $57.50; despite holding the clerk at knifepoint, the two next fled the Floyd Hotel empty-handed, but snagged $45 from the till at the Auto Club Hotel minutes later. At 23rd and Scarff Sts. the police began shooting into Carvajal’s car—he tried to make a run for it but was shot down in the street, taking one to the chest. Ms. Nishperly insisted Carvajal had kidnapped her from the corner of Pico Blvd. and Hope St., but police elected to discount this story.

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Now, people are forever plunging off the precipices afforded by tall structures (a quick peruse of On Bunker Hill proves that) and that’s a person’s right and due. But it’s different when it’s an excited doggy.

Buddy was one such excitable pooch, who went nuts and ran right off the top of the Monarch Hotel! Of course the Hand of God intervened, and Buddy—a 2 year-old fox terrier–fell one hundred feet, landing atop an auto roof, but emerged without a scratch, May 1, 1931. (Apparently Buddy had landed on one of the small unbraced portions of the auto top; parking station attendants ran out when they heard a windshield smash and found a confused dog standing on top the machine, looking for a place to descend.)

Buddy’s daddy, Jimmy Van Scoyoe, was looking frantically for his pooch and had no idea of his aerial adventure when he peered off the roof and saw his Buddy surrounded by a puzzled crowd. Jimmy is reported to have tightly clasped Buddy in his arms and vowed to never let him out of his sight again “even if I have to keep him in bed with me when I go to sleep.” Damn straight!

 

 

motoronCWLead architects on the Monarch are Cramer & Wise, who did pioneering auto-culture work with their 1926 “Motor-In Markets”—one at the NW corner of First and Rosemont (above, demolished 1962) and another at the NW corner of Sunset and Quintero (still there, vaguely recognizable):motorin

One can also go visit Cramer & Wise’s Van Rensellear Apartments,
SE corner of Franklin and GramercyVanRad…of course, what they’re best known for is La Belle Tour.

Consulting architects on the Monarch were Hillier & Sheet, probably best known for Beverly Blvd. landmark the Dover.
NewAlohaWhile Mediterranean in manner, their 1929 complex on the NE corner of McCadden and West Leland Way is mysteriously named the Aloha.

 

This 1929 31-unit Mediterranean complex in the Wilshire District still stands: 837ssandrewz
But this one on El Cerrito was demolished; an 80s building of unusual blandeur has taken its place. elcerritodemo

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Hillier & Sheet announce this height-limit Norman job will go up at Fountain and Sweetzer; it does not materialize.

S. Charles Lee’s El Mirador, though, does.

 

 

 

 

Who loves the lost Monarch? People are quick to fetishize the felled Richfield Tower, and with good reason (I, too, am an ardent obsessive—even owning parts of it); but isn’t it a bit…New York? Doesn’t it owe a major debt to Hood’s American Radiator Building? Sure, some might argue that the Streamline Moderne is more natively Angeleno, but not only was that industrial-inspired application an Internationalist movement, but one also feels in its nautical element a particular evocation of our neighbor to the north, San Francisco.

What is elementally endemic to the land, here, is the Ziggurat Moderne of the Monarch Hotel—that there is something in the setback style that elicits a feeling for the indigenous, the “really” American, in that the mock-Mayan comes closest to the true architecture of this part of the world. The core of this argument comes, of course, from Francisco Mujica’s 1929 History of the Skyscraper, where he hints at just that—that pre-Columbian pyramids are the correct expression of modernity, and vice versa (hence the natural evolution of the 1916 New York setback laws…glorious mother of what Koolhaas termed the Ferrissian Void).

Thus—where one might see the Monarch as somewhat squat:
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…we should take that as monumentality in its most impressive (if not oppressive, if that’s what reverberates in your Incan blood) form.

1906, the NW corner of Fifth and Figueroa at bottom right:

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1950, twenty years after the installation of the Monarch:

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1953, with the addition of the Harbor Freeway:

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After fifteen years of Sturm n Drang, on February 3, 1964, the $350 million Bunker Hill Urban Renewal Project got its first bite—Connecticut General Life offered $3.3 million for the block-square site that housed the Monarch Hotel.

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CRA Chairman William T. Sesnon Jr., expressed his elation: “The sale is virtually completed. We are overjoyed by this development. It’s our hope it will serve as the real kickoff for the entire Bunker Hill project.”

Thirty days later—March 4, 1964:
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On March 30, 1965, red-jacketed attendants ushered dignitaries under a white-fringed canopy, where they watched a bulldozer tear up some concrete. “Welcome to Bunker Hill—at last,” proclaimed Sesnon. “This is the start of something dramatic.”
monarchacrossfremont

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Some of the luster of Sesnon’s kickoff was dulled when in 1966—with the Union Bank half built—City Administrative Officer C. Erwin Piper and his staff issued a scathing report on the CRA. It sited faulty operational control, an absence of clear-cut policies and poor internal coordination, at terrific taxpayer expense. By the end of 1967 no more land had been disposed of, the CRA had lost half its department heads, had no executive director, and Sesnon had been replaced by Z. Wayne Griffin.

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The Battle of Bunker Hill would continue to be waged—that long, slow, protracted engagement, which like its previous fifteen years, would need another fifteen years before things shifted into high gear again.

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Images courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection; opening Monarch shot (1930), Mott-Merge Collection, California State Library, and back of Monarch shot across Fremont St., Arnold Hylen Collection, California History Section, California State Library

The Fremont Hotel (Part 1) – 401 South Olive Street

 

The Fremont Hotel that stood on the corner of 4th Street and Olive for five decades had 100 rooms. As previous posts on this site have shown us, no place on Bunker Hill with a lot of rooms and a long lifespan existed without a good amount mayhem. The Fremont is no exception.

The Fremont Hotel went up in 1902 and was designed by John C. Austin, who would later make a permanent mark on Los Angeles by co-creating City Hall, the Shrine Auditorium, and the Griffith Observatory. Plans for the ritzy new hotel were announced in November of 1901, and other than a brief skirmish with the neighboring Olive Street School over the erection of a retaining wall, construction went smoothly. The Mission style building opened its doors to the public in September 1902.

With so many residents floating in and out of the Fremont, it should come as no surprise that a few guests checked in and never checked out. Many residents who called the Fremont their final home were quite prominent. For example, Dr. Edwin West was a retired New York physician who settled in California when he found true love at age 79 and married his thirty-something paramour. It was the new Mrs. West who cared for the doc until he succumbed to illness in his room at the Fremont, and probably inherited his fortune. Then there was Harry Gillig, member of pioneering California family who was stricken down by a heart attack in 1909. Gillig was a onetime bridegroom of Amy Crocker, who we have heard about before. Finally, D.W. Kirkland, founded of the Owl Drug Company, lost a battle with pneumonia at the Fremont in 1915.

 

Final exits at the Fremont were not always so peaceful. The note in N.H. Cummings’ pocket indicated he was suffering from ill health, which is why the Fremont resident jumped from a rowboat into MacArthur Park lake and drowned. Financial troubles caused oilman William W. Stabler to put a bullet through his heart. His wife discovered him in the office he kept at the hotel. In 1952 when John Swiston’s horse betting system failed him, he went to Lincoln Park and slit his wrists. He survived, and was able to returned to his room at the Fremont Hotel, and probably the horse track.

It wasn’t all about death at the Fremont Hotel. There was also robbery, domestic disputes, arson, and much, much, more. After J.W. Aaron was arrested for public drunkenness in 1903, the police soon discovered that he was also the burglar who broke into Marie Kinney’s room at the Fremont and stole her opera glasses. The judge did not buy Aaron’s story that the glasses
were lent to him, and Aaron was held on $1,500 bail.

Next, we have Mr. & Mrs. Griffith, who were married in 1887 and spent the next 16 years occasionally threatening to murder each other. In May of 1903, Mr. Griffth allegedly held his wife at gunpoint in their Fremont room and the ensuing scuffle was broken up by an unannounced visit from their son. Four months later at a hotel in Santa Monica, Mr. Griffith went through with the dirty deed and shot the missus in the head. She responded by physically attacking him before jumping out an open window. Mrs. Griffith lived to tell her tale, and file for divorce. Col Griffith J. Griffith spent two years in San Quentin, having been convicted of attempted murder brought on by alcoholic insanity. Back in 1896, Griffith had donated 3,015 acres of land to the City of Los Angeles. In 1913, he set up a trust fund to construct a couple of structures on the land. The land and buildings are Griffith Park, the Griffith Observatory, and the Greek Theater.

The Fremont narrowly escaped a blaze when arsonist, George L. Gould was caught trying to set the place on fire. Police believed the 23 year old Gould to be the source of 20 fires started in the Dowtown area.

One of the more bizarre incidents at the Fremont occurred in March of 1927 when George W. Fellows was arrested for broadcasting a radio program from his room. The problem was not the content of his show, but rather the length of the waves he was using to broadcast it, which exceeded regulations. Fellows responded to the charges by fainting in court.

While the residents of the Fremont Hotel added a great deal of color to the goings on in the building, they pale in comparison to the employees. We’ll save their sordid tales for a future post…

Photo courtesy of the USC Digital Archive

The Game is Afoot

game afoot headline

On the afternoon of August 21, 1924, residents of 328 Clay Street were terror stricken by weird noises emanating from a room on the second floor of the building. There were scuffling sounds and urgent whisperings – all of which sounded ominous enough to draw the attention of several residents in adjacent rooms. A few of the braver souls crept along the corridor until they were near enough to the room to hear voices.

328 Clay Street

A woman cried out “O, Henry! You wouldn’t do that! Oh, no! No! No! Henry, For God’s sake!” The woman then emitted a blood-curdling shriek which ended in a choking moan. The eavesdroppers shuddered.

 

The deep guttural voice of a man snarled “You lied, you she-devil. You lied and lied, but if I swing into hell for it, you’ll never leave here to lie again.”

 

As if mortally wounded, the woman wailed one last time. The hallway Sherlocks heard the sharp ring of metal a heartbeat later, as though a long steel knife had been flung to the floor.

 

The spooked tenants waited for a few seconds, then rushed to their telephones. Moments later in the captain’s office at Central Police Station, three phones rang in unison. After deciphering the frantic messages, police concluded that each caller was reporting a murder at 328 Clay Street.

 

Officer Voy K. Apt was dispatched immediately. With sirens blaring, the cop raced to the scene.  A group of frightened people waited on the building’s second floor landing, hoping that police would unravel the mystery of the crime committed through a closed door.

 

Revolver in hand, Apt was directed to a room at the rear of the building. He drew a deep breath and then burst through the door. The spectators waited for an all clear signal, but what they heard instead was “Well, I’ll be…!”   Awaiting the armed officer in the death chamber were members of a dramatic club rehearsing a murder scene – using a bread knife.

 

A Stone Whodunit

February 28, 1954
205 South Figueroa

James Saul Pauge, a 60-year-old newspaper vendor and retired railroad conductor, was murdered in his apartment today under exceptionally puzzling circumstances.  Help couldn’t have arrived any sooner, but it was still too late.

Pauge’s neighbor Louis Jaralillo, a former boxer, heard a shot fired and ran upstairs to Pauge’s apartment to investigate.  Pauge stood in front of his open front door, swaying and gesturing towards his back, unable to speak.  Almost immediately, he fell over dead of a gunshot wound.  The can of soup Pauge was preparing for his dinner was still simmering on the stove.

The window in Pauge’s apartment overlooked 2nd Street, and had been left open.  Police suspected that a sniper had fired in through the window, and hit Pauge in the back as he stood at the stove.  No motive could be established for the killing, and no suspects were apprehended.

Hotel Northern – 420 West Second Street


Above photo borrowed from the "A Visit to Old Los Angeles" website

January 13, 1913 was opening day for the Northern Hotel, a fireproof, 10-story establishment of 200 rooms with baths, built by F.W. Braun (wealthy president of the Braun corporation, dealers in assay and chemical lab equipment) and designed by his favorite architect W.J. Saunders.

It stood on the site of the old 3-story Carling Hotel, which the thrifty Mr. Braun ordered moved to the rear of a lot on the west side of Flower Street, just south of Court Street; Saunders was also reported working on a 3-story addition to the front of the old building to give it a modern face onto Flower.

During the early days of the year long construction (estimated cost $100,000), the Northern was reported to have been leased for a period of ten years for a rental of $200,000. This prompted one L.A. Times reporter to muse "the project is of especial interest as showing the sterling value of downtown frontage north of Fourth Street, revealing as it does the confidence of a leading capitalist in this older section of the city."

But things change quickly, even on old Bunker Hill, and by opening day leasee James Kincheloe was nowhere to be seen, with management undertaken by Frank L. and Blanche L. Crampton. The Cramptons were 20 year hoteliers, formerly of Seattle and Alaska. They most recently managed the Seminole Hotel on Flower Street. Sadly, their time at the Northern rang the final bell for their concord, for on Hallowe’en Eve 1916, Blanche peered through a transom and spotted Frank in the arms of another… a lady dentist! (Maybe she was just checking his bridge.) Blanche sued for divorce, noting that she had for some time been engaging detectives to follow Frank, but that she’d finally solved the case herself. After obtaining suitable visual evidence for the divorce, spry Blanche broke out the glass in the transom and climbed down into the dentist’s room, ordered her to put on her street clothes and marched the homewrecker right out of the hotel.

Conveniently located at the intersection of Second and Clay, the Northern was a reinforced concrete structure curiously designed with Bunker Hill’s eventual demise in mind. Its foundations, you see, ran thirty feet down, to permit the addition of two extra floors of rooms should the hill ever be shaved away. Other innovations included running ice water in every room, a central vacuum system, steam heat, hydraulic elevators for passengers and freight, telephones, and a French parlor for the ladies on the fifth floor.

Entrance to the hotel was made though the Second Street lobby, a fantasia in Italian marble, bronze, mahogany and tilework. The Mission furnishings were of red leather. From Clay Street, one could reach the dining room and grill, also fitted out in the Mission style, as well as the laundry and work rooms.

The Northern was not a year old when it found its first unquiet spirit. Anna, wife of Butte, Montana capitalist Jacob Osenbrook, came to Los Angeles with her husband and son Arthur to spend Christmas in the city. She had been suffering depression for several months, and it was hoped a change of scene and altitude would ease her worries. The family had just checked into their suite, and Jacob and Anna were standing at the sixth floor window, amusing themselves by comparing the number of passing motorcars to horses. Anna was a horse fan, and exclaimed loudly whenever one entered the scene. In the midst of the conversation, Jacob went to the next room to get a glass of water. When he returned, the curtains were outside the window… and when he looked outside, he saw that Anna had joined the horses below.

By May 1919, the Northern was under new ownership, having passed from the Union Realty Company to the Los Angeles and Santa Monica Beach Company. A news report curiously describes the building as a 9-story structure, but they may not have been counting the service basements.


Above: Hotel Northern from Second and Hill, 1920, photo from the collection of the LA Public Library

In July 1920 a bizarre incident unfolded at the Northern, when two little girls from Little Rock — Laura Cash and Margaret Martin – arrived in Los Angeles and encountered a strange, ticked off lady who tossed a note addressed to Miss Martin into the room she shared with Miss Cash. It read: "Margaret Martin, it will not pay you to keep on with Levee. A word to the wise is sufficient. Mrs. Levee."


Above, Matilda Levee in repose

Baffled by this message, Miss Martin went off to take a stroll. It was then that Matilda, long estranged wife of attorney Frederick R. Levee, entered the Hotel Northern and returned to the room where she’d left the note, encountering there Miss Cash. Assuming Cash was Martin, as she had previously assumed Martin was messing with her hubby (later it was asserted that Martin’s visiting card was on Levee’s desk because his law partner knew her), Mrs. Levee brandished a cowhide whip and slashed Miss Clark five or six times across the face. Cash shrieked, of course, and her assailant fled. Where’s Eugene Corey when you need him?


Above, Matilda Levee in action

Mrs. Levee, formerly of 1001 South Union Avenue, was at the time suing her husband for divorce and maintenance, and had previously whipped at least two other women who she believed to be involved with Frederick, who had long since abandoned her. Previous victims include Mrs. Emma K. Doyle of Chicago, whipped at the Hotel Clark in December 1918, and Mrs. Inez M. Farnham, a cabaret singer from the Philippines, whipped in a hotel dining room and chased down Broadway while Frederick watched. Police quickly located Matilda in Santa Monica and held her pending civil charges which went unfiled, as the Arkansans had suffered sufficient embarrassment. (Inez never sued either.) Matilda was, however, brought up before the Lunacy Commission at the behest of Frederick, found to be "not absolutely normal, but not insane" (this is the new slogan of On Bunker Hill), and freed.

Frederick Levee meanwhile checked the wind and fled the state, abandoning his car in El Paso and continuing east by rail. He was arrested in New Orleans by agents of the Nick Harris detective agency in March 1921 and was to be returned to Los Angeles to face judge Walton J. Wood, who had just ruled in Matilda’s favor on their divorce and the $200 monthly alimony she sought, and who was not amused that Frederick had missed the court date. At this hearing, Matilda testified that they had failed to live happily as husband and wife, and that she had finally told him to "hit the ties and keep going" or she would "get" him. Previously, Frederick had protested "Why, she even shot a hole through my coat" to which the sassy Matilda snapped "Well, didn’t I buy you the coat?!" She’d also once visited him in his law office and shot him in the arm.

Somehow–maybe he told them what his home life was like?–Frederick gave the detectives the slip. By late April, the Levees were both in New Orleans, Matilda seeking to hasten Frederick’s extradition. On arrival, she discovered that he had established a law office in the Maison Blanche Building in Canal Street, and had obtained one of those sneaky Louisiana divorces without her knowledge. She fumed and stalked him.

Finally on May 7 she lurked near the St. Charles Hotel until he came out and saw her. They spoke briefly, and as he turned away she… what, do you think, whipped the heck out of him? Oh no, whips are for women. Husbands get the gun. Before hundreds of witnesses Matilda shot Frederick in the back, causing his death. Clapped in jail yelling that she had done it to save other women the pain she had suffered, Matilda pled not guilty, and later filed an injunction against Lucius H. Levy, administrator of Frederick’s estate, to stop him from disposing of any property.

In March 1922, Matilda was sent to the East Louisiana hospital for the insane at Jackson. (We reckon that they have a slightly freer definition of madness in the south than in the Southland.) Released as cured in June 1923, last reports have her seeking control of her late husband’s extensive property holdings in Texas and California.


But we are far from the Hotel Northern and Bunker Hill now, with a tale of love scorned ending up in a Louisiana madhouse. What of architect W.J. Saunders, a reinforced concrete specialist who made his name building the downtown lofts and warehouses which garnered deep fire insurance discounts for his clients? Among his notable projects were a charming Mission Style auto sales and service shop on Orange Street (1921, see drawing above), the remodeled Lynn Theater in Laguna Beach (1930, still in operation, and variously described as being French-Norman and Mayan) and a supermarket at Wilshire and Camden Drive (1933) built for screenwriter Louis D. Lighton ("Wings," "It"). Among his surviving commercial structures is the massive five-story New Method Laundry Company plant on the northeast corner of Sixth and San Julian (1910, see below), featuring rows of novel windows that began at five feet above the ground and reached to the ceiling. It still makes a striking facade, despite a wretched paint job and a couple of missing floors.

But for his most unusual structure, Saunders served as his own client. This was the "spite house," erected in 1907 at 2691 San Marino Street flush up against the property line of Saunders’ neighbor Adolph Lowinsky, orchestra leader at the Angelus Hotel. This oddity was two stories high but only one room deep, with its staircase on the outside wall and no windows on the west side.

Lowinsky sputtered that this abomination existed purely to deprive his home of any natural light on the east side, and to block the view from his porch; other homeowners shared his revulsion at the bizarre addition to their block. Saunders countered "I planned that house long before I ever knew Mr. Lowinsky. That is a flat building, and I believe it will prove lucrative!" And anyway, Lowinsky had started it by pelting the Saunders children with stones and building an unsightly wall. Lowinsky further claimed that he and his day-sleeping wife had long been tortured by the Saunders brats, who rolled past the house on the sidewalk on noisy wagons, banged tin pans under their windows and yelled "Sheeny" whenever Lowinsky mowed his lawn. Saunders complained that Lowinsky pelted his children with pebbles, cursed at his wife and finally pointed a shotgun at him and threatened to blow his brains out. These battling neighbors aired their grubby laundry in a series of newspaper articles, but seem never to have actually sued or slain each other.. no doubt much to the disappointment of you, gentle reader.

You can today walk in Saunders’ footsteps by joining his and the missus’ club, the Ruskin Art Club (founded 1888 and still active). But please be kinder to the guy next door.

St Angelo Hotel – 237 North Grand Avenue

 

St Angelo Hotel

The next time you take in a show at the Ahmanson Theater or the Mark Taper Forum, take a minute and think about the St Angelo Hotel. For 70 years the impressive Victorian structure dominated the corner of Grand and Temple where the Music Center now stands. From stately hotel to slum boarding house, the St Angelo represented Bunker Hill in all its glory and decline.

St Angelo in its glory days

The St. Angelo Hotel was built in 1887 by a Mrs. A.M. Smith who hoped to cash in on the big SoCal land boom of the 1880s, which brought countless migrants to the area. Like many structures built on the Hill during this period, the St Angelo was an elaborate Victorian building that the Los Angeles Times described as having “balconies with ornate woodwork and varicolored small squares of glass are in the upper parts of the windows.” As for the interior, the St. Angelo had “winding stairways which with other woodwork are of redwood” with “wide landings that are parlors on each floor.”

St Angelo

Unfortunately, Mrs. Smith’s timing was a bit off. When the St. Angelo opened, the booming 80s were winding down and the hotel did not fare as well as planned. In August 1889, the hotel was shut down by the sheriff due to an attachment on the property, but was able to reopen three months later. Mrs. Smith held onto the hotel for twelve years, waiting for prosperous times to return, but ultimately had to give up the property.

Prosperity did come to the St Angelo in the early years of the 20th Century and the hotel hosted many parties, weddings and conferences. Guests were frequently mentioned in the society pages. While the patrons of the St. Angelo may have been of a more refined type, the same could not always be said of its employees. For example, there was no love lost between Mr. Cole, the hotel cook, and Mr. Brown another hotel employee, who were known to frequently spar. One day in March of 1902, all hell broke lose and Brown and Cole chased each other around the kitchen throwing, “catsup bottles, dining-room chairs, and other utensils that came handy.” The authorities were summoned and Brown was fined $5.

In 1904, Mrs. A.M. Smith came back in the picture when she realized that she legally still retained, as the L.A. Times reported, a strip of land “seven and one half feet, extending from Grand avenue to Bunker Hill avenue and passing directly under the St. Angelo.” The property owners demanded that she hand over the deed to this strip of land, but Mrs. Smith held out for the cash settlement. She finally made a profit on the St. Angelo.

 

St Angelo Hotel by Arnold Hylen

No boarding house on Bunker Hill would be complete without a bit of death and mayhem. In 1906, Charles Malan, a Frenchman suffering from consumption and depleted funds, did himself in by sealing off all the doors and cracks of his room and turning on the gas. Then there is the sad story of Frederick Merrill, an 87 year old inventor and resident who slipped on a banana peel on Main Street and died from his injuries a couple of weeks later. Finally, in 1943 a fight broke out in the hotel’s lobby and Mrs. Mae Perry, the hotel manager, broke up the scuffle…with a gun. Rubio Ernesto, 17 and not a hotel guest was killed in the incident.

St Angelo by Arnold Hylen

By 1939, when a WPA census was conducted, the St. Angelo and its 57 units were in need of “major repairs.” As the Los Angeles Times noted, “it is an old wooden pile now proudly in decline, a genteel old building still snobbish among the smaller structures around it which were built not much later.” Despite the hotel’s shabby condition, it stood proudly on the Hill until the board of health ordered it vacated in 1956. All traces of the once grand hotel were soon erased and replaced by the Music Center which was dedicated in 1964.

Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection and the California State Library Digital Archive

The Hotel Elmar — 235 South Hope St.

There was a place, once, a place people called home—the Hotel Elmar. Not much of a place, 230 rooms, built in 1926, facing a retaining wall, small matter of a 1953 shotgun holdup you’ll read about, sure—but you see, it was the people that made the Hotel Elmar what it was. The Hot L Baltimore of its day. Of its dope-addled, nudie pinup, shotgun-toting Postwar day. Let’s meet some of them now.

TheElmar

lewiscantloseFebruary 21, 1947. Our first resident of the Elmar, Ex-Cpl. Roy (Peewee) Lewis, 23, formerly of Joliet, Ill, is one of those war vets who came to Los Angeles. Los Angeles, the promise of the good life. You could become anyone. Your face could be up on the big screen! Plastered on billboards! Peewee at least got his plastered all over the corner of Ninth and Fedora.

Lewis and his pal Paul Allen, 19, of 647 West 98th Street, were up in San Francisco a while back, where they managed to boost sixteen machine guns from the San Francisco Armory. Back in Los Angeles, they went on a taxi driver-robbing crime spree. Then they came upon an unusually hard piece of luck. While motoring along they espied a man who’d just parked, drove by and gave him the eye a couple more times…this tickled the cop-sense of the car’s occupant, Det. Sgt. Elmer V. Jackson, of administrative vice squad. He drew his pistol and held it under his coat.

Lewis approached, leveling a paratrooper’s machine gun at Jackson. “I’ll take that” were Lewis’ last words, for though he was referring to Jackson’s wallet, Jackson pushed the door open, knocking the machine gun aside, and Lewis took a service revolver blast to the face. Allen burned rubber and Jackson emptied his gun at the fleeing car.
csa
Police found an Elmar Hotel room key on Lewis’ body and they lit out for Hope Street, just in time to catch Allen leaving with his arms full of clothing. Allen—whose upper arm was grazed by one of Jackson’s bullets—said Lewis had persuaded him to commit the holdups after meeting him in a bar, and Allen had agreed since he needed the money to marry a 17 year-old girl. So much for their next planned venture, which was knocking over a store at Slauson and Vermont.

November 14, 1947
. Edna Grover, a raven-haired 20 year-old model, calls the Elmar home. But it was at the home of photographer William Kemp, 1830 Redesdale Avenue, where investigators from the DA’s office found over 1,000 lewd photos of Edna. Kemp was fined $350 ($3,678 current USD) and given a 180-day suspended jail sentence, while our Elmarette was granted probation for her provocative posing.

speedspreeMarch 21, 1952. Martin Salas, 23, left the Elmar’s confines for an early morning spin this day. At Fifth and Main he hit a truck and injured the driver; he had an argument over right-of-way with a parked car at Sixth and Spring, and another wouldn’t get out of the way at Third and Spring, and he had a metallic argument with another parked car at Second and Spring. Undaunted, he piloted smack dab into an RKO movie shoot at Third and Figueroa (Sudden Fear? Beware, My Lovely?) where a motorist that’d tailed him flagged down a cop. The officer jerked open Salas’ door, only to have Salas step on the gas, forcing the cop to run alongside until enough cops tackled the car and forced it to stop. At some point during Mr. Salas’ wild ride he’d had a passenger who ditched in an awful (in every sense of the word) hurry—hair was found on the windshield of the passenger side. Salas was booked on felony hit-and-run.

March 4, 1953. Jack Hodges is 26, an unemployed aircraft worker, and lives a stone’s throw from the top of Angels Flight at 314 South Olive. His pal Dean Coleman, 22, is in school to learn television repair, and bunks at the Elmar. When Coleman isn’t in school, the two of them visit the local hotels. With their signature sawed-off shotgun and a briefcase. The only robbery Coleman didn’t accompany Hodges on, of course, was the time Hodges robbed the night clerk of the Elmar.

Coleman’s money wore thin and he’d pawned his television repair apparatuses, and went shotgun-brandishing to get the stuff out of hock. Unfortunately for Coleman, Hodges pawned a stolen wristwatch, which led police to an old mugshot of Hodges; a little police work later and Hodges was caught in a bar at Sixth and Hill, his sawed-off shotgun and briefcase found in his Olive St. hotel room closet. He gave up Coleman, who was arrested while watching television in the lobby of 235 S. Hope.
devilishduo
Coleman, who studied dramatics before his decision to become a television repair man, was never meant to be a shotgun-wielding, hotel-clerk robbing gunman in real life. “As you see I don’t appear to be a tough guy,” said Coleman, “but I can act the part when the occasion warrants.”


July 22, 1956
. Elmar resident Frank Swope, 33, took offense at fellow Bunker Hiller Harold J. McAnally, 57—McAnally lived one block west at 230 South Flower—buying a lady a drink one summer day in a bar at 822 West Third Street. So Swope walked up and pushed McAnally from his stool, whereupon McAnally landed head-first on the concrete floor. A few hours after McAnally died from his skull fracture, Swope surrendered to authorities at the Elmar.

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swoped


February 7, 1957
. LAPD went to investigate a disturbance in a bar at 731 West Third and there arrested “Allan Ayers,” 32, a resident of the Elmar…

gerberbaby

…turns out our Elmaree was in reality August Gerbitz, two years on the lam from a double murder rap in Evansville, where in December 1954 he gunned down his girlfriend, Mrs. Nadine Martin, 21, and one George Temme, 38.

jimfix
March 20, 1957
. Salvador Perez and Jesus Cruz, both 27, had been popped by narco and were up on the fourth floor of Police Administration, having been photographed at the lab. They were walked into the hallway by officers Hernandez and Ruddell to be cuffed and led to the first-floor Central Jail for booking.

That’s when both of them made a break for it. Cruz, of 4923 Gratian Street, was tackled by Ruddell right out of the gate. Perez, he of 235 South Hope, dashed down the stairway. Officer Hernandez slipped and fell, broke his ankle, but continued to give chase nevertheless. Perez ran down to the ground level and made a wrong turn toward Central Jail, turned and ran past Hernandez, but unfortunately, into the arms of Lt. Arroyo. Another vacancy at the Elmar as Perez (and his buddy Cruz) are booked by an out-of-breath, broken-ankled cop on felony violation of the State Narcotics Act.

elmarafarKind of makes you want to check into 235 South Hope, doesn’t it? Perhaps you too can soak up enough of its magic to place you on this honored roll.

Alas, the City has wiped Hope clean, and thereafter had it thoroughly disinfected, as one would to so much egesta on a cracked tile floor. They have left us with the most barely readable of palimpsests. Let’s take a look.

Hope Street had two levels between Second and Third; here, we are looking north toward Second, standing above the west end of the Third Street tunnel. The Elmar was midway along the block.

ElmarTodayToday, the bilevel nature of Hope Street is five decades gone. The Ghost Elmar floats roughly above an intersection made by a new street, named after a Lithuanian-Ruthenian nobleman-turned-revolutionary. I betcha Frank Swope or Edna Grover never woulda guessed.

The City doesn’t screw around when they want something bad enough. They’ll move mountains, quite literally, to which these images taken across from the Elmar (looking south down Hope toward the library) attest:

elmar1956

elmar1987

ElmarCU

 

 

 

 

The Elmar, gone, but perhaps now a bit less forgotten. For this blog is a little like the Elmar itself. Like it says on the cigarette pack. Wherever particular people congregate.

 

 

 

 

 

Hope Street images courtesy William Reagh Collection, California History Section, California State Library