Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Boxing Idol in Cypress Park

Sports fame in L.A. at the turn of the last century was attained with boxing gloves. Jim Jeffries, an Ohio-born son of an Evangelist minister Alexis C. Jeffries, sparred his way to notoriety beginning in 1896.  By 1899 he appeared in a Coney Island fight against Bob Fitzsimmons, and Jeffries won the heavyweight championship by knock out.  He retired undefeated in 1905.

Jeffries appeared in celebrity endorsements ads.  He opened a downtown bar at 326 So. Spring Street (proprietors being J&J, perhaps with a brother Jonathan.)  Jeffries came out of retirement in 1910, but lost to African American fighter Jack Johnson.

Jim Jeffries' Gentlemen's Club at Spring Street

The Jeffries family settled in Cypress Park around 1882.  The family included mother Rebecca Boyer, three other sons Charles, Jonathan and Calvin; daughters Lydia, Alameda and Lillian.  Their home was situated on  their property bordered by Jeffries Avenue, Isabel Street, Figueroa Street, and Cypress Avenue.  Located here were two of their houses at 535 and 545 Cypress Avenue, which sat within the present-day footprint of Florence Nightingale Middle School . 

By 1905 this region underwent residential development.  Son Jonathan was a real estate developer. Charles was living at 571 Cypress in a house built in 1911.  Two residential tracts were attributed to the Jeffries family:  the earlier Jeffries Avenue Tract, circa 1905, that subdivided south of Cypress Avenue, and the later Jeffries Highland View Tract, that spanned north of Cypress Avenue.

[Update 11-10-16]  Jim Jeffries' home was 545 Cypress Avenue.  Illustrated in the 1940 book Nuestro Pueblo, Los Angeles, City of Romance, by Charles H. Owens and Joseph F. Seewerker, and shown below, the book states "the old house was torn down to make way for a school, but the Champion's house remains and, for all that Jim Jeffries no longer lives there, it is not just a house.  Too many middle-aged men in Los Angeles remember the early days of the century when as small boys they watched the Champ come out." 

From page 87, Nuestro Pueblo, Los Angeles, City of Romance

Jim Jeffries later moved to Burbank, and he died in 1953.  His Spring Street saloon was demolished in 1960.

Burbank Historical Society's Gordon R. Howard Museum is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Jeffries-Johnson fight.  The exhibit includes photos and a pair of boxing gloves.

Jeffries Avenue ends at Avenue 26.  It forms a T intersection, and the former Lawry's California Center restaurant compound was at this intersection.  Its beautiful grounds have found new life as the Los Angeles River Center.

Lawry's, with its 8-acre garden, courtyard, outdoor dining, exhibition space, gift shop, manufacturing plant and administrative offices, was dedicated in 1971.  Downtown workers could swiftly drive up the Harbor Freeway and lunch in beautiful surroundings.  Closed in 1992, the grounds sat in neglect until the River Center opened in 2000.

Flags above the entrance way


  1. For years I thought James Jeffries lived in the beautiful white mansion on the corner of Thorpe and Isabel Street. I wish a picture existed of his residence. Luv to read about the history of my neighborhood.

  2. Dear Anonymous, you might be right, but I am not able to confirm that. Since the family developed much of the land in the vicinity, it could be likely that James or another family member resided in a house at Thorpe and Isabel.

  3. I heard his mother Alexis lived there.