Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Curious Dreamer

Oct. 5, 1907
Los Angeles

Hilliard Stricklin is a man with an urgent desire to do something for his fellow African Americans. He says that he came to Los Angeles from Chattanooga, Tenn., about 1895 with a few dollars in his pocket, worked hard and saved his money until he opened a grocery store at 2053 Santa Fe Ave.

What he wants most is to build a facility for the elderly and for orphaned children, naming it the Stricklin Memorial Home for the Aged in honor of his mother.

Two years earlier, Stricklin bought the old Pertinico Winery on Vermont Avenue just south of Pico, paying about $10,000 ($205,235.70 USD 2005). The white neighbors in Pico Heights assumed Stricklin was bluffing with his talk about helping the elderly until the day piles of lumber and a crowd of workmen appeared on the site.

And then they were furious at the idea. Neighbors accused Stricklin of extorting an extravagant price for the property under the threat of bringing blacks into the area.

[Warning: Dialect ahead]

“Followed numerous interviews with Stricklin,” The Times said. “Citizens expressed themselves vigorously. Stricklin sorry that they didn’t like his plans; but somehow the site just seemed to suit him and he kind o’ thought the ol’ folks could be real comfo’ble out there. Reckoned he’d just go ’long with the work.

“Citizens stormed; but Stricklin calmly squinted at the frame of the structure and dropped remarks about the great need of charity and the good he hoped the memorial home would do his brethren and sisters.

“Finally, a great light seemed to dawn. Hilliard Stricklin conceived the idea—remarkable feat—that perhaps the white people of the neighborhood would like to buy him out!”

In fact, according to Mayor Harper, Stricklin made a modest profit on the property, selling it for $13,000. His plan was to duplicate the Vermont Avenue building “in a quarter where it appropriately belongs,” according to The Times.

The location, however, is vague. Some stories say it was at Alamo and Santa Fe, while another lists Alma and St. Elmo, just off Santa Fe, but unfortunately I can’t locate either of them on any of my old maps, which only go back to the 1930s.

Stricklin took out ads for his second project and raised money, but nothing ever came of it except for a lawsuit by the guardian of one of his donors accusing Stricklin of fraud.

“The founder appears to be in hard luck,” The Times said. “His little grocery store at No. 2053 Santa Fe Ave. is tied up under an attachment. He is very discouraged over the collapse of his pet scheme. He lays the blame on poor solicitors but admits his lack of business judgment.”

“If a home for colored people is ever established,” The Time said, “it is believed it will be necessary to purchase ground outside the city limits. To establish such an institution in any residential part of the city would meet with strong opposition from property owners.”

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