Saturday, February 17, 2007

12th Street Ragged

Above, a vanished landmark: The Schermerhorn Inn, at Potter Park, a street that has disappeared.

Feb. 17, 1907
Los Angeles

West 12th Street between Main and Hoover is maddeningly crooked, but how to fix it? One set of residents has agreed to cut the boulevard through front yards because having the street as straight as an engineer’s ruler will raise property values. The other set says that homes will be ruined and that residents will be assessed too much to pay for the work.

Those in favor of the improvement include W.H. O’Melveny (hm. Isn’t that a familiar name?) while opposition is led by Mr. Kincaid, the developer of the Kincaid Tract.

“When the matter was brought up before the City Council several weeks ago, there was a merry tussle, but the side favoring the proposition won out,” The Times says.

Alas, city planners in 1907 failed to anticipate a large sports arena blocking traffic.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Shattered Lives

Feb. 14-15, 1907
Los Angeles

An 11:30 a.m. blast caused by an accumulation of gas shattered the Rawson building at 114 W. 2nd St. in an explosion blamed on a gas company employee who struck a match to check the meter. Four people were killed immediately while three more died of their injuries and 30 were hurt, some of them so badly that their crushed limbs were amputated.

The explosion killed two waitresses, La Von Meyers and Annie Crawford; retired farmer John W. Main; and tailor J.M.C. Fuentes. Charles G. Haggerdy, who worked in a tailor shop, died a few days later of his injuries, as did janitor Ferdinand Stephen.

Waitress May Anderson, 25, who also worked at the Anchor Laundry, lingered for months before she died. “Although she suffered excruciating pain, she bore up bravely,” The Times said. “The doctors and nurses said that only her grit kept her alive. She realized that she could not live, however, and her great regret was that she would have to part from her mother, a devoted and constant attendant at the hospital cot.”

Mr. Cressaty, the restaurant proprietor, said it was only after he made a series of complaints to the Los Angeles Gas and Electric Co. that Harvey A. Holderman came to inspect the meter and called for assistance.

“It is at this point that stories conflict,” The Times says. “It was asserted by some of the restaurant employees who escaped that [Charles J.] Blumenthal or Holderman lit a match to make an inspection under the floor of the supposed leaky pipes. They had already turned off the gas at the main.”

Although gas company officials denied that the workers struck a match, one company employee testified at the inquest that inspectors sometimes used matches for illumination because they didn't have flashlights.

A fund drive to aid victims of the explosion raised nearly $10,000 ($205,235.70 USD 2005).

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Twin Celebrations

Feb.13, 1907
Los Angeles

An enormous masked ball for the city’s elite was staged on Mardi Gras at Kramer’s Studio and Dancing Academy, 1500 S. Figueroa.

Kramer's Hall, as it was informally known.

The Times, in a rare bylined article—by Katherine Thompson—gives
an exhaustive account of decorations and costumes. Rather than list all the women’s outfits, I’ll only comment on them: Spanish senoritas, flower girls, cowboys and a couple of ladies dressed as Chinese girls, which seems a peculiar choice given the attitude toward the Chinese in Los Angeles at the time.

One woman dressed as “My Lady Nicotine” her gown decorated with what The Times estimated, perhaps in exaggeration, as a thousand cigar bands. Several others were dressed as “Night.”

Costumes for the men included cowboys or vaqueros, a Spanish grandee, a French pastry cook and a cardinal.

The other celebration underway was the first anniversary of the Hotel Alexandria, which marked the occasion with a massive fireworks display.

“At 8 o’clock last night, several thousand dollars worth of fireworks were set off from the roof of the Alexandria,” The Times says. “One particularly attractive piece pictured the great lobby of the building. During the evening a Hungarian quartette furnished music.”

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A large (20x30) reproduction of Elizabeth Short’s mug shot has appeared on EBay at a starting price of $250, or $400 under “buy it now” in an auction by mermaidfx. The word “rare” is ridiculously common on EBay, surpassed only by “MIB” and “L@@K.” This is not a rare image, but is widely copied. And folks, the asking price is absurd.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

The Rising City

Feb. 12, 1907
Los Angeles

Imagine the surprise of Mrs. Robert Jackson, who was about to move into her new home on Vernon Avenue and discovered that the contractor had built it on someone else’s lot, next to the one that she owned. Fortunately, she was able to swap property with the owner, The Times notes. I suppose we should be thankful that builder didn't go to medical school.

And here’s where the city is expanding: Vermont Avenue Square and Alhambra.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Random Shots From Our 12-Bore

Feb. 11, 1907
Los Angeles

The Eastside gets a new Baptist Church and 2nd Street and St. Louis.

Like Tom and Huck

A large pond 7 feet deep at Normandie and San Marino left by the runoff of recent rainstorms proved too tempting to the boys of the Forrester tract and so they launched a raft to play.

The raft tipped, The Times says, sending 8-year-old Clarence Rhodes of 1004 S. Jasmine tumbling into the water. Hearing the boys’ cries for help, M. Allen rushed from his home at 922 Normandie, plunged into the water and rescued Clarence.

After nearly half an hour’s work, the boy was resuscitated, The Times says.

Abandoned Boy

“His mother dead and deserted by his father, Charlie McDaniel, 6 years of age, has been wandering about the city, picking up a living as best he could, and sleeping in dry goods boxes and nooks and corners,” The Times says. “The boy was found early yesterday morning by a patrolman and he is now in the Detention Home.

“In telling his pitiful story at the Central Station, the boy said that his mother died a few months ago and that his father had gone away with some woman. The police will make an effort to locate the father.”

Last Stop

Mrs. A.C. Newton of 2707 Central Ave. is not expected to live after fracturing her skull when she leaped from a speeding streetcar when it passed her stop.

“According to witnesses, Mrs. Newton asked to be allowed to leave the car at 29th Street. When she saw the coach was running past the street, she jumped. The car crew carried her into a house nearby,” The Times says.

“Several passengers on the car said that it was No. 419. They state that the conductor paid no attention to Mrs. Newton’s signals.”

Note: I was amazed to learn just how many people were injured in 1907 by jumping from streetcars that failed to stop. Without checking further, I would say someone was hurt about once a week.

Bonus fact: The local tourism industry is furious because the state Senate passed the bill banning horses with docked tails. Businesses note that wealthy visitors from the East often bring their teams to Los Angeles at great expense and if their fancy horses are prohibited, wealthy tourists will avoid the Southland in favor of Florida.

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