Saturday, January 06, 2007

Architectural Ramblings

A Trip to Oxford Avenue

Here's an interesting contrast: Oxford Avenue between Washington Boulevard and the Santa Monica Freeway and Oxford Avenue north of Washington. South of Washington, Oxford seems a bit wider and the land between the curb and the sidewalk is fairly generous. Not so north of Washington and the lots seem a bit smaller. Wide strips of land between the curb and the sidewalk (more than the 5 feet that is common in much of Los Angeles) were one of the points urged by Charles Mulford Robinson in his "city beautiful" proposal.

Bonus fact: Robinson also said Angelenos should plant lots of jacaranda trees along the streets, so you can thank him for all those purple blooms.

First of all, here's our featured house at 2045 S. Oxford Ave. from 1907. Note the stucco.

And here are some of the neighboring homes:

Note: More stucco!

All things considered, I'd have to say this stretch of Oxford is a one of the more interesting areas that I've visited. The neighborhood is mostly intact and there's a 1920s-style church at the end of the block next to the Santa Monica.

Now for one of the homes in the 1700 block of Oxford Avenue, which is a little funkier. Recall that the precise address listed in The Times couldn't be located.

And for the vehicle of the week, here's a stretch limo I saw at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia:
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Engine Co. 10 Weeps

Jan. 6, 1907
Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Fireman’s Relief Association is staging a benefit for the young widow of ladderman Adolph Hermansen, who plunged out a window and fell five stories while fighting a spectacular blaze that destroyed the new Cohn and Goldwater Building at 216 S. Los Angeles St.

According to some accounts, Hermansen was struck by a blast of water from a fire hose that knocked him out the window, while others say he stumbled or was knocked backward while moving a hose. He fell to the street and although he wasn’t killed, doctors said he was paralyzed below the waist and had a 1 in 100 chance of survival.

Hermansen lingered for about a day, with his new bride “waiting for the dying man’s last word,” as fellow firefighters from Engine Co. 10 visited his hospital room, The Times says.

“The accident is one of the saddest in the history of the Los Angeles Fire Department,” The Times says. “Hermansen was much esteemed by his superiors. He was relief driver of Engine Co. 10, as well as ladderman.”

Each fire company sent two men in uniform to accompany his casket, which was escorted by every man from Engine Co. 10. There were so many flowers at his funeral that two wagons were needed to carry them all to the cemetery.

Placed on Hermansen’s casket was a floral reproduction of Fire Alarm Box 39, “in answer to whose call Hermansen had met his death,” The Times says.

Cohn and Goldwater announced that they would rebuild the destroyed structure.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Speaking of City Hall

Here's one of my favorite views of Los Angeles: City Hall at night with the Lindbergh Beacon.

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A Fatal Can of Beans

Jan. 5, 1907
Los Angeles

Charles Edward Abbott, 23, of Artesia had lived his entire life in California without seeing snow except on faraway mountains and suggested that Mabel Carter, 28, and her father, Henry, 63, join him on a trip to Cucamonga Canyon.

The Carters, who once owned a grocery story at 10th Street and Alvarado before moving to Ontario, and Abbott went to Cucamonga, expecting to spend several days there.

During their stay, they ate a can of pork and beans that had been purchased in September and stored with other provisions in a commissary box under an orange tree in the yard outside the cabin.

Henry Carter was the first to fall ill. Assuming some other cause, he encouraged his daughter and Abbott to take a hike while he stayed behind. They were too ill to go far, however, and returned to the cabin, where they ate another can of pork and beans.

The three victims returned to the Carter home in Ontario. Mabel Carter was the first to die, tended by Abbott, who was next, followed by Henry Carter.

Four physicians attending the victims were unable to explain what killed them. “The case has different features than any they have yet dealt with,” The Times says. The victims complained of “double vision, numbness of the limbs and a paralysis of the tongue. A few hours before death the eyelids closed and it was impossible for them to open them. None of the three experienced any pain and the case throughout is most puzzling.”

A triple funeral was held at First Methodist Church of Ontario. The Carters were buried at Bellevue Cemetery in Ontario while Abbott was buried in Artesia.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Mayor Departs From His Prepared Remarks

Jan. 4, 1907
Los Angeles

Mayor-elect Arthur C. Harper stood before 200 members of the Municipal League and their friends in a dinner at Levy’s who were eager to hear what he planned for his incoming administration.

Harper took his typewritten speech from his pocket, showed it to the crowd, and laid it aside. Harper said he changed his mind “and would wait a little longer before telling the public exactly what he intended to do,” The Times says.

In brief comments, Harper promised to look at every department in city government and said he had complete faith in the Owens River project.

Niles Pease, the incoming president of the City Council, was likewise evasive. “He said that he could not tell what the council would do and he doubted if anyone in the world could predict that body’s actions,” The Times says. “He declared that good men had been elected and prophesied a careful, businesslike administration.”

The star of the evening was William Mulholland, the moving force behind the Los Angeles Aqueduct, who received a five-minute standing ovation.

J.A. Anderson, head of the Board of Public Works, pleaded for unity among the branches of government, while City Auditor W.C. Mushet urged the council to study accounting systems of other cities and adopt one of them to ensure better financial reporting.

“He said that he had found in a slight examination of the books of the city that practically nothing except a daily cash book had been kept as a record of the business done. He explained that there were no arrangements for accounting for liabilities or assets of the city and that the expenditure of $100,000 ($2,052,357.03 USD 2005) for any one purpose would appear only as a disbursement with no other record kept of the sum.”

It turns out that Mayor Harper indeed has plans, but they involve kickbacks from one of the local heads of the underworld involving profits from a bordello in the Tenderloin.

Above, City Hall on Broadway, located on what is now the vacant lot next to the Victor Clothing Building, which was originally built as a City Hall annex.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

For Sale on EBay

“escalante_sandy” is offering an original mug shot of Elizabeth Short, with bidding starting at $50. The seller says this mug shot, among a lot of 23 photos, belonged to a retired detective and is not a reproduction, a claim that appears true.

The most interesting thing about this copy of the mug shot (which was printed up in bulk and handed out freely during the investigation) is what’s written on the back. It’s obvious that the detective was assigned to sweep the neighborhood around the Biltmore in an unsuccessful attempt to see if anyone noticed her.

Note the inscriptions: “Hill St. 2nd to 8th St. W. to Fig. Hotels + Bars” Translation: Visit the hotels and bars between Hill Street and Figueroa from 2nd Street to 8th Street. Apparently the police were checking a period between 4 p.m. on Jan. 9, although Red Manley said he dropped her off at the Biltmore a few hours later, until daylight Jan. 15, the day the body was found.

I don’t recognize any of the other pictures, but one is identified on the back as underworld figure Nick Licata.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Some Nice Boring Statistics

Jan. 2, 1907
Los Angeles

Some diligent soul at The Times dug through the number of marriage licenses and divorces and put together a small story that traced the city’s growth through the increase in couples that joined or separated. This is the kind of information you could never find if you were looking for it; only through happenstance can you discover this data.

So here we go:






719, 13 annulments






557, 10 annulments



473, 7 annulments





























Apparently Los Angeles did not have a thriving reputation as an early day Reno. Divorces were only granted to those who had lived here for a year. The Times writer notes a difference between a final decree and an interlocutory decree: Those with a final decree could remarry while those with an interlocutory decree had to wait a year. For 1906, the figures were 719 interlocutory decrees and 542 final decrees.

The Times also notes that given the Episcopal Church’s tight restrictions on performing marriages of divorcees, the number of ceremonies by justices of the peace has increased markedly.

As regular blog readers will recall, getting a divorce in 1907 could be quite a challenge.

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Monday, January 01, 2007


Dec. 7, 1906-Dec. 22, 1906,

Jan. 1, 1907
Los Angeles

For 15 days, miner Lindsay P. Hicks lay trapped by a cave-in that killed his five companions tunneling in a mountain above the Kern River for an Edison hydroelectric project. On the 16th day, crews finally cut through the last of the steel and scraped away rocks and debris to free the man who had been kept alive with gallons of milk poured down a 60-foot iron pipe.

At first, Edison officials assumed that no one survived the collapse of the tunnel. Then someone heard the faint signal tapped on one of the steel rails for the mining cars: the code for “trapped miner.” The iron pipe was driven through the side of the mountain to provide air and food as Hicks lay either under a rail car or next to it, sheltered by a pile of collapsed timbers that prevented him from being crushed.

The painfully slow rescue was hampered by the mountain’s decomposed granite, which collapsed like sand, The Times said. To buoy Hicks’ spirits, a phonograph was placed next to the pipe and records were played for him, interspersed with jokes and stories told by men on the surface. The stench of the dead miners’ decaying bodies wafted up through the tube and Hicks complained of fighting off rats that scampered over him.

Then, at 11:23 p.m. on Dec. 23, Hicks was freed. “The last cut on the second rail was made at 11:12 and no sooner was the section removed and the way left open than Hicks began to scrape away the rocks and dirt and crawl toward the opening,” The Times said.

He stopped because he was out of breath, moved a few more inches and was pulled to freedom. With tears in his eyes, the doctor asked: “Well how are you, old boy?”

“I am feeling fine. I can never thank you, doc, for what you have done.”

On New Year’s Eve, Hicks went into show business at the Elks Hall in Los Angeles, but the subject of the heroic rescue was a terrible disappointment. “The reporter who quoted Hicks as shouting tidbits of Shakespeare up the pipe to his rescuers has an awful lot to answer for in the next world,” The Times said.

“Hicks was planted in front of an enormous cuspidor,” The Times said of his performance. “His broad Kentucky black slouch hat was pulled down dejectedly over his eyes. His overcoat was over his ears. He could find no cheer even in his new store clothes or in the amazing gilt watch chain that dangled from his vest pocket.”

Displayed on stage were Hicks’ well-worn pants from his ordeal, his shoes and a piece of the pipe that was his lifeline. “Hicks occasionally glared resentfully at them out of the corners of his sunken eyes as though he held them responsible for getting him into this.

“When he got the feeling that he couldn’t bear it any longer, he would grab out a dark object approaching the size of an upright piano and take another ‘chew.’ ”

Unwilling to describe his 16 days underground, Hicks answered questions from the audience.

Was he able to shave?

Hicks shook his head.

“What was the best thing that happened to you while you was buried?”


“What was the first piece they played?”

“Under the Bamboo Tree.”

“Which was the best piece?”

“Same; that was my favoryte.”

“Are you going back to mining?”

“Not to hard work.... But it ain’t because I am afraid. I would just as soon go back to mining as any other job. No more dangerous than any other.”

“Say, pal, are you from Kentucky?”

“You bet I am.”

The fellow Kentuckian invited Hicks to New Year’s dinner.

“Can’t do it pal,” Hicks said, and he “sank back in a dejected heap.” “This here manager, Smith, he won’t let me. I’d like to all right, but I reckon I’ll have to be foolin’ round up here.”

Hicks was displayed at several local theaters, appearing in Pasadena and at Chutes Park. The Times says he threw out bushels of post cards and mash notes from young ladies, some that came in the mail and others that were shoved under the door of his room.

After an appearance in San Jose, where he was kissed by “an elderly and sentimental damsel,” Hicks swore that he was going back to mining.

“Give me my little old $3 a day and a pick and shovel and I’ll be satisfied. I’m going back to Bakersfield—and honest work,” he said.

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Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Old Watchman

Dec. 31, 1907
Los Angeles

His name was W.H. Reynolds and the old watchman for E.H. Howard Contracting had laid out all night after being beaten up and thrown in the weeds by two robbers who said they were garbage men looking for the closest dump.

A woman who saw the assault contacted the University Station and police searched all night in the area around Alameda Street and Washington Boulevard, where Reynolds lived in a small, ragged tent. It wasn’t until daylight that two patrolmen found him lying face down and he was taken to the Receiving Hospital.

When Reynolds was undressed, the hospital staff found his arms and legs covered with needle marks from where he had injected himself with cocaine. “He always has a small vial containing cocaine in liquid form about his person,” The Times says. “Such had become the grip of the drug upon him that he could not do without it for more than an hour.”

Reynolds told police that he went to bed, but didn’t feel well so he decided to get dressed and shoot up with cocaine. There was a knock at the door and when he went outside, he found two men with a team of horses who said they were looking for a garbage dump. When he began giving them directions, one of the men hit him on the head and they stole his drugs and syringe as well as $7.50 ($153.93 USD 2005).

“Despite the pain of the operation, Reynolds begged for cocaine and the surgeons, in view of the old man’s weakened condition, finally gave him a weak solution of the drug,” The Times says.

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