Van Fleet Apartments – 230 South Flower Street

Here was the Van Fleet, a three-story frame apartment house built in 1911 by Garrett & Bixby for citrus man Nelson Van Fleet. The 29 apartments were split between two- and three-room models, and it was in one of them on March 22, 1912, that Marie Higginson, 40-ish "and quite prepossessing," having failed to shoot herself in San Pedro last week, gassed herself in the kitchen. Her groans alerted Mrs. Francis Passmore across the hall. Found unconscious on a blanket on the kitchen floor with the oven door removed,  Marie’s purse revealed the gun and a copy of Walter Malone’s poem "Opportunity"—a popular verse among self annihilators, for Joseph N. Vincent recently blew his brains out on Silverwood Hill with the last stanzas in his pocket.

Marie, though, did not die, and on awakening, confessed that in San Pedro her hand had shaken so that she had missed her mark. "I didn’t shoot a second time because I feared I might not hit a vital spot and would die a lingering death." The cause of it all was her unhappiness with the mining man who was her companion, so she was trying to remove herself from the equation while he was away in Maricopa. Her miner returned to news that Marie was going before the lunacy commission, but we do not know how she fared there.

An L.A. Times article surveying the freakishly high cost of rents (up as much as 400% in four years) and the difficulty in finding a place that would accept children noted that a two-room apartment with a bath and kitchenette at the Van Fleet would set you back $75 a month in October 1920.

On New Years Eve 1932, 28-year-old entertainer Matthew Tormino left his apartment at the Van Fleet for a booking at the Verdugo Trout Club Lodge in Verdugo Hills. At some point while Tormino, James W. Curtis and Inez Stewart were amusing the guests, a large man became incensed and the talent made a dash for the door. Tormino was the last one out, and took a bullet to the hip. When questioned by police, all anyone could say was that the shooter was "a big guy." Tormino was expected to recover, but we suggest he work on his act.

mm

Author: Kim Cooper

Kim Cooper is the creator of 1947project, the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric’s popular crime bus tours, including The Real Black Dahlia. She is the author of The Kept Girl, the acclaimed historical mystery starring the young Raymond Chandler and the real-life Philip Marlowe, and of The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles. With husband Richard Schave, Kim curates the Salons and forensic science seminars of LAVA- The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. When the third generation Angeleno isn’t combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, she is a passionate advocate for historic preservation of signage, vernacular architecture and writer’s homes. Kim was for many years the editrix of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. Her books include Fall in Love For Life, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, Lost in the Grooves and an oral history of Neutral Milk Hotel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *