Friday, October 11, 2013

The Women at Hollywood and Highland

Landmarks near and along Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue bear stories about several women and the impact of their lives upon this area.

Mary Highland Price

She was married to a Cahuenga blacksmith, Thomas Walter Price.  Cahuenga was what the area was called when the couple settled out here sometime after 1887 but prior to 1889 (the "Highland" street name was referenced in an 1889 issue of the Cahuenga Valley Sentinel newspaper.)

Their bio:  Thomas Price (b. 1863) married in 1887 in Missouri to Mary Highland (b. 1865, Illinois).  At the flatlands of today's Hollywood (Highland & Fountain Avenues) stood their house.  Then their extended family moved out west - Mary's in-laws came from Missouri about 1896 - father-in-law Samuel W. Price bought a lemon orchard in Cahuenga.

There is only a morsel of a clue to the character of Mary, or Mrs. T.W. Price, from an 1894 Los Angeles Times article reporting her participation in the Epworth League (a Methodist young adult association founded in 1889).

A 1900 Cahuenga Suburban newspaper advertised Mary's sister-in-law Kate Mosby, who made a living as a "fashionable dressmaker" at the house.

Mary died in 1901 and became the first interred at the newly established Hollywood Cemetery (now Hollywood Forever).  The blog Hollywoodland has photos of her gravestone and more historical research.  The blog indicates that city fathers established a main thoroughfare in her honor, however, perhaps what they did was extend the existing Highland road northward, i.e. extended to cross Prospect Avenue (Prospect had not yet been renamed Hollywood Boulevard).

Widower Thomas continued in the blacksmith trade.  He opened a blacksmith and carriage shop at Cahuenga near Selma Avenue in 1903 under Price & Whitmore.  He was buried at the same cemetery following his death in 1940.

Highland Avenue's stature grew as a significant thoroughfare when in 1904 the school officials chose the northwest corner of Sunset and Highland for the new high school.

Some Notes on the Hollywood Place Name
  • 1887 was the same year that Harvey Wilcox filed a real estate subdivision with the county recorder.
  • The "Hollywood" name would not become "official" until a new post office was established at the Sackett Hotel in November 1897.
Courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research (GPF.1109)

Bessie Love

At 6777 Hollywood Boulevard, near the intersection of Hollywood and Highland, is a star along the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Bessie Love whose first acting appearances were on the silent screen.  Her actual name being Juanita Horton (b. 1898-1986, Midland, Texas), she came to Hollywood about 1908 with her family.  After high school, she met D.W. Griffith, which led to bit parts in his films The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916).  He reinvented her name, purportedly because no one on the East coast could pronounce "Juanita".

She eked out a long acting career (143 credits on IMDB) with her final film in 1983.  By the 1970s she had moved to London.

Courtesy of the Seaver Center (P-026-62-19)
Christine Stevenson

Patroness of the Philadelphia Little Theater movement, founder of the Philadelphia Art Alliance Association and member of the Theosophical Society, Stevenson came to Hollywood in 1918 to sponsor "Light of Asia" by Sir Edwin Arnold in the natural setting of Krotona nearby in Beachwood Canyon (site of the local branch of the Theosophical Society.)

Subsequently she and others organized to find a bigger and better natural amphitheater, eventually incoporating the Theatre Arts Alliance in May of 1919.  A canyon at Highland Avenue was purchased, but funding issues created a schism in the organization.  Stevenson and her supporters found a different site where The Pilgrimage Play was performed from 1920 through the 1940s (interrupted by fire in 1929 and rebuilt; the John Ansen Ford Theater is here today.)  Stevenson only briefly saw the fruits of her labor, as she passed away in 1922.

Artie Mason Carter

Mrs. J.J. Carter (Artie Mason Carter, b. 1881, Salisbury, Missouri) stepped in to help the Theatre Arts Alliance after Stevenson receded.  She previously formed the Hollywood Community Chorus.  She brought the first Easter Sunrise Service to the canyon at Highland Avenue, the future Hollywood Bowl site, and she is regarded as the Mother of the Hollywood Bowl.

Carter shown with her husband and unidentified man.
Courtesy of the Seaver Center (GPF.2260)
Daeida Wilcox Beveridge - a Side Note

The wife of the Harvey Wilcox is credited with the naming of the subdivision, Hollywood.  Wilcox Avenue was where the couple's home was situated and now is a side street without the world-renown of Highland, despite the prominent Daeida's philanthropic contributions to early Hollywood.

Daeida Wilcox Beveridge
Courtesy of the Seaver Center (P-077)

1904 - Cattle and Urban Hollywood Didn't Mix

Reported July 3rd, 1904 in the L.A. Times:

"Stampede of Cattle.  As a herd of 200 cattle belonging to the L. Sentous Packing Company was approaching the car line on Highland avenue today a driver attempted to stop it while a car passed.  The cattle became frightened and stampeded over the lawn of the Bank of Hollywood and left it a total wreck.  The marshal was summoned and the foreman taken in custody for violating the city ordinance regulating the driving of cattle in the city which went into effect today."

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

20th Century L.A. Architects: Chinese American Architects - Paul R. Williams - Pedro E. Guerrero - 2013 Pacific Standard Time Presents

Last month was the start of Pacific Standard Time Presents (PSTP) Modern Architecture in L.A. with the roll out of exhibitions, talks, and city-walk events until this September.  Sixteen cultural institutions are participating - aided with grant funding from the Getty.

The smaller scale PSTP series is a follow-up to the 2011-2012 Pacific Standard Time:  Art in L.A. 1945-1980, in which sixty organizations examined the art scene in the post-World War era.  Last year's exhibits examined cultural identity by telling the stories of African American, Chicano, and Asian American artists.

Chinese American Architects
Last year the Chinese American Museum presented "Breaking Ground:  Chinese American Architects in Los Angeles” - an endeavor that was at least a year ahead of its time; it seems appropriate to mention it again now.  An article by Wendy Gilmartin summarized the show in LA Weekly's blog - Breaking Ground' at Chinese American Museum Shows That Not All L.A. Architects Are Old, White Dudes.

Paul R. Williams, Architect
The pioneering African American architect of L.A. was an Angeleno, Paul Revere Williams (1894-1980).  To borrow from Wikipedia, Williams designed "modern interpretations of Tudor-revival, French Chateau, Regency, French Country, and Mediterranean architecture".  I don’t know if Williams’ works will be included in PSTP; if not, perhaps his traditional designs did not break enough new ground to fit the bill in PSTP.

Williams worked in the offices of John C. Austin before opening his own firm in 1922.  By the time of his retirement in 1973, he contributed directly, through joint ventures, or provided alterations, to more than 3,000 projects of residences, public buildings, business sites, schools and public housing complexes in the city; throughout Southern California and the country; and in foreign sites, too.

The affluence of his clients meant his designs took root in Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Brentwood, Flintridge, Hancock Park, Hollywood, Pacific Palisades and Pasadena.  He built for Frank Sinatra, Lon Chaney, Tyrone Power, Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz, Barbara Stanwyck, Zasu Pitts, and Zsa Zsa Gabor, to drop just a few names.  His celebrity African American clients included William 'Bojangles' Robinson and Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson.  He built homes for L.A.'s old families, too:  a Del Valle and the Bannings.

Well-known, iconic spots synonymous with Los Angeles and to Williams' credit include the Theme Building at LAX, the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Polo Lounge, Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Saks Fifth Avenue department store, the County Courthouse downtown and even one that has been razed but remains in our collective memory:  the Ambassador Hotel.  (Update August 9, 2016:  Williams may have been a commissioner or a municipal board member that caused his name to be associated the LAX project, but he was not the architect of the Theme Building.)
Other sites included the Packard auto showroom in Beverly Hills, the Malibu Post Office, the Bank of America in Victorville, and the San Gabriel Hospital in the city of San Gabriel.  Education projects included numerous public schools and several UCLA buildings and fraternity houses.

Pi Beta Phi Sorority House near USC - one of Paul Williams' last projects (about 1973)

Williams designed several tract developments located in Costa Mesa, Downey, Oceanside and Whittier.  He was awarded jobs for several city housing projects:  Compton-Imperial, Nickerson Gardens, and Pueblo Del-Rio.
Relatedly, civil rights attorney Leo Branton Jr. passed away on April 26th.  He was victorious co-defender in the 1972 murder trial of Angela Davis, but as a newly minted graduate in 1948, Branton helped singer Nat King Cole to legally break a color barrier after Cole purchased a home on Muirfield Road in the exclusive Hancock Park community but faced disdain from neighbors.

Ironically, by 1948 Paul Williams was a seasoned architect.  By that time he also served on the city's first Housing Commission from 1933 to 1941.  Williams built clients' homes in Hancock Park.  And it was not until 1951 when Williams himself managed to build his own house in the Lafayette Square upper middle class area of west central L.A., a time when Blacks moved in as Whites moved to other parts.
His astounding project list can be found in Paul R. Williams, Architect, a Legacy of Style, by his granddaughter Karen E. Hudson (Rizzoli, NY:  1993) telling of the breadth of his 50+ years impact in Southern California.  Read more about Williams on the website

Pedro E. Guerrero, Photographer

Could Pedro E. Guerrero be honored sometime during the architectural series?  Guerrero, an Arizonan of Mexican descent, photographed for Frank Lloyd Wright throughout a 50 year span.  His photographic work was on view at the Julius Shulman Institute exhibition the Spring of 2012 at the Woodbury University Hollywood Gallery.  In September he  passed away at the age of 95.