Saturday, November 04, 2006

Location Sleuth II

Nathan Marsak says:

That's Sixth and Olive, looking Northeast. The old 1906 Philharmonic Auditorium in the bg, left (after its 1938 Streamline remodel by Stiles Clements, now a parking lot) and next to it to the right is the Parkinson 1931 Title Guarantee Building. That's why it's so dark at the right side of the image -- that's Pershing Square.

So right! And on that corner is the Pacific Mutual Building

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Time to Buy a New One

Nov. 4, 1907
Los Angeles

About a year ago, Eugene Rowe’s little runabout was smashed by a trolley. After some repairs, it won a trophy, but a month later, it was wrecked in the Pasadena hill climb. And then it overturned in a ditch.

Undeterred, and practicing the route of a Thanksgiving run, Rowe and his friend Charles Fuller Gates set off for Box Springs in Riverside County, where the runabout overturned on a curve. Gates was pinned under the car, crushing his left leg. Rowe was thrown clear and although he was badly battered managed to free Gates from the wreck.

The men waited until another car came along and picked them up, and they were taken to Los Angeles on a Salt Lake train.

Doctors at California Hospital say they will be able to save Gates’ injured leg. The runabout, however, was abandoned because the wheels were flattened and it could not be moved. “The radiator was caved in, the tonneau was torn from the frame and the steering gear wrenched loose,” The Times said. “This last accident seems to have put the tough little machine out of business.”

Ps. It was a Ford.

Bonus fact: Gates, a noted racing cyclist of the 1890s, went on to referee motorcycle races and was last heard from in 1915.

e-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Curb Appeal

Nov. 3, 1907
Los Angeles

Mrs. E.N. Eskey is building this 10-room house in Pico Heights, on Van Ness just south of Pico.

According to The Times, the two-story house (with basement) has a first floor divided into a reception hall with an oak staircase leading upstairs. The living room features built-in bookcases and a massive brick mantel. The dining room has a built-in buffet and china closet, with a pantry and kitchen.

The floors are quarter-sawn oak on the first floor and maple flooring in the rest of the house. The Times says there are four chambers, presumably bedrooms, a sewing room and a bathroom upstairs, as well as an alcove.

In the basement, a coal bin and a Rudd heater.

The cost? $5,000 ($102,617.85 USD 2005) a bargain by today’s standards. Note that in March 2004, 1244 S. Van Ness sold for $1,037,500.

Check out

e-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

Update: This house is still standing and has been painted blue. I'll post some photos once I get the film developed (yes, I'm old-school).

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Location Sleuth

Here’s a frame grab from the opening shots of “Double Indemnity.” According to the script, the car driven by Walter Neff speeds through an intersection, narrowly avoiding a delivery truck bearing the sign: “READ THE LOS ANGELES TIMES.”

But tinkering with the photo (the original is very dark, after all we are talking about film noir) shows that the truck apparently reads “Los Angeles Examiner.” Although it’s difficult to be positive, the elaborate “E” on the second line almost surely gives it away as the Examiner. It certainly isn't the Los Angeles Times. Either way, it’s definitely a newspaper truck as bundles of papers tumble from the back when the driver slams on the brakes.

Here’s one of my favorite passages from the script, describing the Dietrichson house:

“Spanish craperoo in style, as is the house throughout. A wrought-iron staircase curves down from the second floor. A fringed Mexican shawl hangs down over the landing. A large tapestry hangs on the wall. Downstairs, the dining room to one side, living room on the other side visible through a wide archway. All of this, architecture, furniture, decorations, etc., is genuine early Leo Carrillo period. Neff has edged his way in past maid who still holds the door open.”

As for the location, my guess is Hill and 3rd Streets, across from Grand Central Market. Any other ideas?

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Roll On, Ugly River

Nov. 2, 1907
Los Angeles

As part of a new city beautification campaign, Boyle Heights residents have suggested turning the Los Angeles River into a garden spot.

The plan calls for “a long, winding strand of posies and greenery—a narrow, picturesque parking, which will be viewed by practically every passenger who arrives or leaves Los Angeles on any of the transcontinental railroads,” The Times said.

The railroad tracks run next to river from Elysian Park to the southeastern section of the city, The Time says. Landscaping of “nasturtiums, morning glories and other hardy running and climbing vines along the riprapping of the banks, and the planting of such low-growing shrubs at the bases of these riprapped walls as would be of little interference with the rush of the waters” would create a first impression of Los Angeles that would be “the talk of people all over America.”

e-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Danger Point

Oct. 31, 1907
Los Angeles

John J. Mooney, 23, a Southern Pacific machinist who recently arrived from Butte, Mont., was aboard the West 2nd Street car on his way to be initiated in the Modern Woodmen of America when the brakes failed, sending the car into the southbound Spring Street trolley, killing him and injuring seven other passengers.

The intersection is known as a danger point because of the steep hill on 2nd Street, according to The Times, which noted that another fatal accident occurred there Dec. 24, 1905. Officials say the 2nd Street car stopped at Broadway, then proceeded toward Spring when the brakes failed. The motorman of the Spring Street car accelerated to avoid the oncoming trolley but couldn’t get out of the way.

“Patrolmen were quickly on the spot and stretched ropes about the overturned car to prevent the spectators from interfering with the wrecking crew,” The Times said (now we know what they did before crime scene tape). “The body of Mooney was laid on the sidewalk at one side of the Wilcox building, where it attracted a morbid crowd, composed principally of women.”

According to one of the motormen, the Spring Street car teetered for a moment after the impact and then overturned, crushing Mooney’s head and chest as he tried to crawl out of the trolley. The Times reported that the 2nd Street car had braked to avoid a black cat running across the tracks around Westlake Park, which some passengers took to be an omen.

Curiously enough, The Times did not relate this crash to the other accidents involving rails greased by Halloween pranksters. One might wonder whether the brakes truly failed.

Note the map: The Central Trust Co. has been replaced by The Times Building and the First National Bank has been replaced by the Recycler Building, now wrapped in ads for the Jeep Wrangler. The southwest corner, where the Hollenbeck Hotel once stood, is a parking lot. The new LAPD headquarters will be built on the northeast corner, formerly occupied by the Caltrans building.

e-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Pi Phidelity

Oct. 30, 1907
Los Angeles

The young men of Los Angeles High School have issued a direct challenge to the Board of Education, defying its authority by enlisting fraternity members despite a ban issued last year.

The chief offenders are the Pi Phis, who just added seven members, The Times says. “Another ‘brat frat,’ as they have been dubbed, recently held high jinks at Levy’s restaurant and made a burning declaration of independence in which the city superintendent of schools and all persons concerned in opposing them were relegated to a place where a fire company would not be a circumstance,” The Times said.

The young women of Los Angeles High are equally rebellious, The Times says. “The sororities at Los Angeles High School have made a number of pledges among the younger girls and the small sisters of sorority members are wearing pins up under the ruching of their high collars—pins of which they are very proud.” (Ruching, in case you are unfamiliar with women’s clothing, is a pleated or gathered strip of decorative fabric).

Greek institutions at Los Angeles High School include the Geks, the Pi Phis, the Phi Sigmas and the Phi Delta Kappas.

After a protracted legal battle, fraternities and sororities were banned in Los Angeles high schools, although the issue flared up intermittently. The final blow apparently came in 1916, when the National Panhellenic Congress ruled that no member of a high school sorority would be admitted to a similar group in college.

e-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Oh, God, That Bassoon!

Oct. 29, 1907
Los Angeles

Given The Times’ view of unions, it’s a little difficult to determine precisely what went wrong with a production of Ambroise Thomas’ “Mignon” at the Auditorium, but it went very wrong indeed because of a labor dispute.

The traveling company included orchestral players from Italy who had, according to The Times, joined the musicians union. However local union officials, citing labor leaders in St. Louis, appeared shortly before the evening’s performance and insisted that the musicians be thrown out of the union and therefore unable to perform.

Whatever the dispute involved, conductor Agide Jacchia was forced to preside over an orchestra of local players that was almost entirely unrehearsed.

“At intervals during the score, Jacchia would shudder as if someone had stabbed him and an expression of anguish would come into his face,” The Times said. “He would let his baton fall against the music rest and give some fellow in the orchestra a look of agonized reproach.

“But the union musicians didn’t care. They fiddled and tooted on at so much an hour—secure in the knowledge that the union doesn’t care whether they can play or not. In the intervals, they picked their noses and laughed and talked; made fun of the chorus girls and signaled to persons in the audience.”

After the first act, Jacchia was almost inconsolable, The Times said. As soon as he began to calm down, he would suddenly shriek: “Oh God! That awful contrabassoon!”

“His friends would grab him and soothe him down for a while. Then the recollection of the flute or the clarinet or something would strike him. He would start back as a man mortally wounded and murmur in the accents of a man dying a hard death: ‘Oh, God, the bassoon.’ ”

Bonus fact: Jacchia’s resignation on the night of the 1926 season finale gave Arthur Fiedler his opportunity to conduct the Boston Pops. History, alas, does not record whether a bassoonist was involved.

e-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

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