Sunday, December 6, 2015

Idyllic Southern California During the Week of the Killings

The first week of December has finished up with the weather at a southern-California-mild.

Dry but chilly by nightfall.

Typical - the sun shined unfailingly. 

Spied was some fall color...a feast for the eyes during a difficult week for southern California and the nation.

The killings took place Wednesday morning.

The Thursday, Friday and Saturday papers dramatically eked out the details.

Some more Christmas gifts were bought on Friday.

Most of the cards were written today, Sunday, and ready to be mailed tomorrow morning.

They are pre-printed with "Merry Christmas" and not "Happy Holidays".

(This blogger reflects on a time long ago when it was okay to say Merry Christmas to the bank teller, the grocery clerk, and anyone else during the course of a day.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

(An Early) Winter Ode to Spring...Street, Los Angeles, Cal.

Photo taken in 2010
Spring Street was named for Trinidad Serafina Ortega, a girl who just turned 17 when Ord and Hutton were situated in Ciudad de Los Angeles conducting the city's first American land survey.

Her nickname was "La Primavera," and the survey listed Calle Primavera or Spring Street.  Below is a portion of Henry Hancock's 1857 survey of the city's confirmed limits but shows Primavera misspelled:

Courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research (GC1310-[0856])

Several historical references state that she was the Santa Barbara girlfriend of surveyor Lieutenant Edward O.C. Ord, but this blog posting disputes that observation.  The L.A. Times also linked her romantically to Benjamin Wilson ("Don Benito" born in 1811 from Tennessee and traveled with the Workman-Rowland Party to California in 1841).  Their paths probably crossed, but it seems unlikely that Wilson wooed the 17-year old; he was widowed in 1849 when his 21-year old wife Ramona Yorba died after a five-year marriage; he soon remarried to Margaret Hereford; one of their grandkids was George S. Patton (the military general).

Probably Trinidad was a beloved girl in the small town, and her nickname was a generally known term of endearment.

Spanish Lineage

Trinidad was the great-granddaughter of a Guanajuato, New Spain soldier Jose Francisco Ortega, who traveled to California with Franciscan priest Junipero Serra and Captain Gaspar Portola.  He was a pathfinder or scout who helped to establish the sites of missions in upper California, and he is known as the discoverer of today's San Francisco Bay.

Her heritage was linked more directly to other Californios.  Born in San Diego in the year 1832, her father Jose Joaquin Geronimo Ortega was a ranchero of SantaYsabel.  Trinidad's mother was Maria Casimira Pico, a younger sister of Pio Pico.  Trinidad was the youngest of six children.

In 1849, Trinidad may have been staying in her uncle's household instead of San Diego.  It is not known whether the dirt road was already referred to as La Primavera, or if Ord picked up this information from local townspeople while surveying and named the street accordingly.  This blogger once came across a reference stating that Ord was rooming in the Ortega house during the summer of 1849.  (Pio Pico's official residence was sold in May, 1849 to Benjamin Wilson.)

Pio Pico, the last governor of California under Mexican rule, with
his wife Maria Alvarado and their nieces Maria Anita Alvarado (far left)
and Trinidad Ortega (far right), in 1852
(GPF.0350 courtesy of the Seaver Center)
Trinidad Gets Married

Edward Ord had reported to Governor Bennet Riley (military governor of the California Territory in 1849) that the local women preferred the "newcomers" to the Mexican men.  Californio women had been marrying inter-culturally with European and American men for many years by the time of Ord's observation.  Trinidad, though, did not.  She married into the De la Guerra family, a wealthy and powerful Spanish family of Santa Barbara.  Her husband, Miguel De la Guerra was the fifth son of thirteen children.  She bore him eight children before he died in 1878.

Trinidad De La Guerra about 1864
(P-157-2-78 Courtesy of the Seaver Center)
At a time when the world was much smaller, Trinidad and Ord later became related by marriage.  Ord's physician brother James Lycurgus Ord married in 1856 to Trinidad's widowed sister-in-law, Maria de las Angustias De la Guerra.

Marriage also provides a link between two historic streets (Spring and Olvera):  Trinidad's oldest sister Maria Refugio married Agustin Olvera - second marriages for both widowed Maria Refugio and Agustin.
Race, Politics, and Irony at Play with Trinidad's Brother-In-Law
Pablo De la Guerra, Trinidad's brother-in-law, was one of the signers of the California Constitution, as were a good number of Californios.  He even served a year as Acting Lieutenant Governor of California in 1861.  In 1869 he ran for the elected office of District Judge of the First Judicial District.  Opponents filed suit on the grounds of disqualification, arguing that De la Guerra was not a citizen.  The state Supreme Court ruled in favor of De la Guerra.  (Though he was born in Santa Barbara, Alta California, the treaty resulting from the war of 1846-1848 granted all Californios the option of automatic citizenship of the new regime.)
Glamour and Romance

20th century local society remembered Trinidad, who passed away in 1903.  Club ladies honored her through costumed reenactments.  In 1931, a pivotal year for Los Angeles, being the 150th anniversary of the founding of the city, the Times published this glamorous illustration:


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Farewell to Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Market, Whittier, Cal.

The city of Whittier had nine major food markets along Whittier Boulevard, not counting the Target at Whittwood Mall. 

As of Friday the 13th with the final closure of Fresh and Easy, there are now only eight, listed from west to east:  the Ralph's at Hadley, and a Stater Bros., almost across the street; a new Smart & Final at Greenleaf, replacing Albertson's; a new Vallarta Supermarket at the Quad, which replaced a Ralph's; the Ralph's at Colima Road, and Trader Joe's across the street; a Sprouts; and a Von's at Whittwood.

The abundance is fortunate in comparison to the dearth of food stores in other cities and neighborhoods.

I have been chronicling the demise; I will miss their New York style mini-bagels.  I started visiting the stores with frequency as their close-out notices arrived in my email account.

          October 23rd at the Pico Rivera store

The last of a hoard of F&E products
                                                                     October 31 at the Whittier store




The half-empty shelves and compartments are unsettling; something you'd expect to experience in a natural disaster.  I did not return to the store again after the 40%.

The impending closure was as expected on the superstitious Friday the 13th.  Then the hearts of all around the world were shattered by the Paris attacks.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Shallow Brook Ranch, West Whittier, Cal.

From the Thomas Bros. guidebook of 1955 (from author's collection)
The car jostles along the rough and worn right lane on the northbound 605 freeway nearing the exit at Rose Hills Road in Whittier.  The roadside offers the driver views of earth-moving equipment businesses, such as Quinn. 

Other than the distant sign R-O-S-E  H-I-L-L-S at the western face of the Puente Hills, there is nothing beckoning a detour to an idyllic spot with a water feature, or a Shangri-La getaway.  In 1926 there were two such places.

Shallowbrook Road today, looking west into Gateway Pointe

The main thoroughfare Workman Mill Road takes one to the main gate of Rose Hills Memorial Park.  Opposite is Shallowbrook Road leading to blocks of the grayish-white buildings, Gateway Pointe Industrial Park, the 1.6 million square foot complex completed in mid-2006.  Prior to this was an expanse of wild growth from former agricultural fields. 

The road name is the only visible reminder of a former ranch.  The next street southward is Mission Mill Road, the location of the two former houses profiled here.

10005 Mission Mill Road was the home of Adela Rogers St. Johns (1894-1988) on a property named Shallow Brook Ranch.  She was a “girl reporter” whose first job was on William Randolph Hearst’s San Francisco Examiner.  She later interviewed celebrities in the budding world of Hollywood movie stars, and she authored several books, including a biography of her father, prominent L.A. criminal lawyer Earl Rogers.  At the age of 82 she reported on the trial of Patricia Hearst. 

Adela Rogers St. Johns home, ca. 1977
Courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research (Historic Sites Surveys)
Though married three times she kept the name of her first husband Ivan St. Johns.  The 1920 census shows they were living in Los Angeles at 2109 Toberman Street.  His occupation was listed as secretary to the mayor, and the couple had two kids, Elaine, not quite 2 years old and Ivan, Jr., about 2 months old.  The Los Angeles Herald reported in the spring of 1921 that Ivan, Mayor Meredith Snyder’s secretary, would take a new assignment to direct Snyder’s re-election campaign.  The mayor did not get elected for a fourth term, and Ivan was out of a job.

A November, 1926 issue of the Los Angeles Times boasted a new home of the “old English type” built for $35,000, in the Whittier district but outside the city limits.  Also mentioned - the house was surrounded by a 15-acre walnut grove.  The west side of the property almost reached San Gabriel Parkway where the 605 runs today. 

From Pictorial California March 1928 issue, misidentified as Sunnybrook Ranch
(Courtesy of the Seaver Center, Historic Sites Surveys)
In very close proximity across the Parkway (but polar opposites socio-economically) stood a neighborhood with four streets consisting of modest, small houses and walnut operation-related structures:  Chancellor and Spring Grove Avenues, and Kratt and Shadow Lanes.  Those homes cleared out about the year 1950 through eminent domain for the Whittier Narrows dam project; the Army Corps of Engineers drew the line at the Parkway sparing the lovely mansions on Mission Mill Road. 
From Thomas Bros. Guide of 1955

Adela’s 13-year marriage went south as the Times reported her divorce finalized in the spring of 1928, citing extreme cruelty on the husband’s fault.  The week after the divorce she married Richard Hyland, a former Stanford football star three years her junior.  They settled into the Whittier house.  Adela’s second marriage fizzled after six years and a custody battle for their son. 

The location of the house was not far-fetched.  Ivan St. Johns was a local boy.  His parents settled in the city of Whittier in the late 1890s, by way of Iowa and Pomona.  Clara and Samuel St. Johns were not farmers.  Clara was New York-born and educated.  Samuel soon took ownership of the Whittier Hotel, which prior to 1896 was called Hotel Lindley, located at Bright and Philadelphia Avenues.  Clara ran a millinery shop, and the family home was in today’s Uptown Whittier district.  Daughters Mabel and Pearl attended Stanford University and USC respectively.  Clara survived both her husband’s death in 1908 and son Ivan’s premature death in 1935 brought on by a heart attack while living in Hollywood with his second wife and making a living as editor of Photoplay, a fan magazine.

For three additional photographs of the St. Johns home, go to the Whittier Public Library Digital Archives.
In the years following Adela’s second divorce and the death of her first husband, Shallow Brook Ranch appears in the local Whittier News as an egg and turkey farm belonging to Robert M. Alexander (a California native in his 40s).  Brief mentions advertised fresh turkeys for Thanksgiving and turkey shoot fundraisers appearing from 1935 through 1938.  The earlier mention in 1935 stated the turkeys raised at Shallow Brook went to the turkey shoot held at the neighboring Pellissier Ranch.  Shallow Brook was a regular community gathering place for hayrides and box suppers; Masonic lodge meetings; the Whittier Twenty-Thirty Club; a fashion show and bridge party by the Junior Women’s Club; and Boy Scout troop campouts at the cabin “along the banks of the Puente Creek”.  The adults enjoyed the tennis courts and spacious lawns surrounding the home.  Newspaper mentions are found for as late as 1941 after the reported 1939 handing over of business operations to Alexander’s employee, John Moore. 
Another view circa 1977 (Courtesy of the Seaver Center, Historic Sites Surveys)

The tremendous rain and floods in March of 1938 throughout Los Angeles County caused the “swollen San Jose creek,” and the newspaper reported 20 eucalyptuses on the Alexander property swept down the creek to the San Gabriel River.  Perhaps a calmer creek from ten years earlier inspired the name Shallow Brook.

A California publication, The Grizzly Bear, ran an article October 1948 reporting the 500 members of the Native Sons of California and their guests who convened at Alexander’s Shallow Brook Ranch to hear Congressman Richard M. Nixon discuss the House Un-American Activities Committee, which Nixon was a member.  Master of Ceremonies was Edward J. Guirado, another local citizen.  It must have been a fond return to Shallow Brook Ranch for Nixon – Adela’s obituary stated that Nixon was a newspaper delivery boy whose route included her house.  In 1970 when Nixon was President of the U.S., he awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom to eight journalists, including Adela.  President Nixon remarked that she had been a long-time friend of him, his wife and their families.

The house at 10005 Mission Road was demolished in 1981 to make way for the new headquarters of Oltmans Construction Company.  The last owner seemed to be Alexander’s wife, Audrey, who by then was about 65 years old.  In 1985 Oltmans moved into the modern two-story office building along with a service facility totaling over 55,000 square feet. 


On a visit the morning of October 19th this writer saw a concrete channel across the street from the Oltmans office building.  It is a portion of the storm drain system to control a tributary of the San Gabriel River.  The Whittier Narrows Dam was completed in 1957 to capture the water flow of the San Gabriel River and the Rio Hondo.  Beyond, cars moving on the 605 freeway can be seen yet the traffic noise does not seem to reach this spot.

Mission Mill Road ends here at a mattress graveyard, but it used to continue westerly meeting up with San Gabriel Parkway
A view of a decapitated tropical palm tree

This location approximately matches the earlier-shown 1928 photo by Pictorial California

Incidentally one of Oltmans’ recent clients was a neighboring firm, the Quinn Company.  Oltmans was also the construction firm for the Gateway Pointe complex a decade ago.

The Neighbor at 10004 Mission Mill Road

Frank Lloyd/Walter Green Home, ca. 1977
(Courtesy of the Seaver Center, Historic Sites Surveys)
Film director Frank Lloyd (1886-1960) built a mansion (architect, Lucius A. Phillips) the same year of 1926 across from the St. Johns property.  He and his wife Alma along with their 5-year old daughter Alma Catherine can be found in the 1920 census.

The Lloyds were early trendsetters among the “film colony” to invest in ranch properties in the prosperous years before the Great Depression, keeping up with the likes of silent film cowboy star William S. Hart’s Horseshoe Ranch in Newhall and actor Noah Beery’s Paradise Trout Ranch in the San Fernando Valley.  Frank was successfully making silent films; this home was built one year before the first full-length talkie The Jazz Singer.  Frank’s career was punctuated by two Academy Awards for Best Directing.
L to R:  Mr. & Mrs. Ernest Torrance, Mr. & Mrs. Frank Lloyd, daughter Alma Lloyd
at the 1932 premiere of Fox's Cavalcade at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood
(Courtesy of the Seaver Center)

The St. Johns/Hyland family and the Lloyds were neighbors who shared common backgrounds in the entertainment industry.  Were the Lloyds swayed by the street names at their crossroads – San Gabriel Parkway and Mission Mill – the latter name a colorful conjoining of two words evoking the romantic California past?  Were the families aware that the original site of Mission San Gabriel was a mile and a half away?
Or were they influenced by the other “film colony” that had moved prominently into nearby El Monte a year earlier – Gay’s Lion Farm produced at least three movie star lions.  By the twenties, Palm Springs was a popular destination for Hollywood actors – did their road trips east along the highway Garvey Avenue allow a chance to discover this part of the Whittier outskirts?

In the spring of 1936, the tranquil creek nearby provided a nice attraction for daughter Alma to host an all-day outdoor party at the walnut ranch which the newspaper referred to as “The Grove”.  Guests were asked to dress casually so they could fish for crawfish and not worry about tipping over in the stream or running through the meadows.
The storm of ’38 may have prompted the Lloyds to head back west.  The Los Angeles Times reported in the summer of 1939 that they were settling in their new ranch in the Topanga Canyon.

For two additional photographs of the Lloyd house, go to the Whittier Public Library Digital Archives.
During this time the area’s English walnut production was shrinking.  Partly stemming from disease, the 1920s walnut production began a gradual shift from southern to northern California where the growing environment was better.  This was followed by a drastic decline in southern California walnut farming that by 1958 southern California’s walnut industry only comprised 15.2 percent.  To underscore the extremity in 1919 fields south of Tehachapi had 75.4 percent of the state’s walnut growth.  This may explain why on a horse farm shows up on a 1951 County Regional Planning map for 10004 Mission Mill Road.

L.A. County Regional Planning map of 1951
(Courtesy of the Seaver Center)

Gateway Pointe Industrial Complex sits on former crop fields
At some point the house became the home of Dr. Walter S. Green.  His property was the location of two barbecue ranch-style fundraisers for Assemblyman Dave Stirling, once in 1977 and again in 1979. 

Unknown is who razed this house – could it have been Oltmans?  They also owned the property at 10050 Mission Mill Road that received a contract to warehouse the first California lottery tickets in 1985.

Present view of approximate location of Lloyd home and lawn

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Peg O'Los Angeles, I Barely Knew You

Saturday, October 17th was the 10th annual Archives Bazaar with participants by members of LA as Subject .  This blogger worked at one of the tables, along with about 91 other libraries, archival institutions, historical societies, publishers and private collectors.  The last eight or so Bazaars have been held at USC.  Throughout the day at Doheny Library over 1,200 L.A. history lovers filed through, chatting, inquiring and viewing table displays of photographs and artifacts.  The Library, too, offered at least two excellent exhibits.  Above that were panel discussions with Juan Devis of KCET; the State Librarian of California Greg Lucas; several contributors to a new anthology LAtitudes: an Angeleno's Atlas; and preservation workshops.

During last year's Bazaar Peggy Bernal and her daughter Victoria stopped at my table.  Peggy miraculously knew that I blogged on Los Angeles Revisited and stood before me to tell me she read my blog.  Her compliment warmed me.  She gave me her business card for her own Tumblr blog called Peg O’Los Angeles.  At the moment, I felt a kindred sisterhood.

This year Victoria stood before me.  She told me of her mom’s passing in March. 

On Sunday I visited Peggy’s Tumblr site again.  Her last post was 7 months ago.  I was pleased that she profiled Ina Coolbrith, a librarian and California’s first poet laureate in 1915.  Peggy wrote that Coolbrith lived briefly in Los Angeles and attended school here.

I Googled Peggy to find out the details of her passing but feeling intrusive all the while.  There is a lovely tribute from a colleague at the Huntington Library in San Marino.  Peggy retired in 2007 from her position as Director of Huntington Library Press.  In addition to her long career at the Library, she also spent twenty years writing for Sunset magazine.  I also found the Times obituary.

I went to my own blog and consulted what I had written in March; at the beginning of March I wrote about dogs in 19th century Los Angeles; I wrote about Edward O.C. Ord on March 24th.  I hoped that maybe she had a chance to read the post from early March.

The stature of the warm, smiling woman with twinkling eyes who praised my humble blog was unbeknownst to me.

For those who missed the Archives Bazaar or those who wish to discover more interesting morsels of Los Angeles history, the Tumblr site Peg O’Los Angeles is the tangible place to draw upon Peggy Bernal’s passion, commentaries, knowledge and researched discoveries of little gems in history.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

College Street, Early Schools, Saint Vibiana’s Cathedral and the Clergy of 19th Century L.A.

Calle del Colegio was recorded into Los Angeles’ street naming history by Edward O.C. Ord in his well-known 1849 first survey of Los Angeles.  In English it is written as College Street, but the translation does not explain the existence of a college in the neighborhood.

Today College Street is an ordinary street comprising of modest buildings in the heart of Los Angeles’ Chinatown. As the street stretches west past the Pacific Alliance Medical Center (formerly the French Hospital), an incline leads to a residential mix of apartments and houses. The street name is actually a historical reminder of the Catholic Church’s efforts to strengthen its influence and to impart religious education in the years following the transition from Mexican Los Angeles to an American city.

An explanation is found in James Miller Guinn’s A History of California and an Extended History of Los Angeles and Environs (Los Angeles: Historic Record Company, 1915), a book that has been digitized by Google and is available online. On page 414, Guinn stated that at the June 9, 1849 session of the ayuntamiento (city council), clergymen petitioned on behalf of the Catholic Church for a tract of land.

Their petition was accepted with the conditions “That the Holy See of California be granted amongst the municipal lands of this city…First, this land cannot be sold, transferred or hypothecated directly or indirectly; second, the building erected thereon shall at all times serve the sole and exclusive purpose of public instruction.”

The following month during that summer of 1849 when Los Angeles and all of California was under American military rule, the ayuntamiento hired surveyor Ord and his assistant, William Rich Hutton; they would soon be traipsing about. They likely deduced what the large lot was reserved for and recorded accordingly. However, the lot soon reverted back to the status of public land.

Fray Antonio Jimenez Del Recio (ca. 1815-1853)

The next year Fray Antonio Jimenez filed a request for a college on May 18, 1850 -- for land adjacent to the Plaza Church, but again, no action was taken. Jimenez arrived in California from Mexico in 1841, accompanying the bishop of the newly created Diocese of Both Californias, Francisco Garcia Diego y Moreno. The constantly sickly Jimenez was present at a pivotal time in the nascent Mexican California. In 1843, as a recently ordained priest, he was appointed to Mission San Gabriel. According to Diocesan Archivist Monsignor Francis Weber, the priest cared for the Asistencia in Los Angeles and was well-liked by the residents. Father Sugranes wrote that Jimenez was curate of Los Angeles from 1848 to about the time of his death in 1853.  He died in San Gabriel.

Bishop Joseph Alemany (1814-1888)

Guinn’s book mentions that Los Angeles’ city council granted lots for a college site on March 8, 1851 to Bishop Alemany. Joseph Alemany was the Bishop of Monterey (the title prior was Bishop of Both Californias). He served from 1850-1853. The diocese territory amounted to 75,984 square miles, and included southern California.

One of the pressing issues the new Bishop addressed was the state of titles to Church properties in California. The peace treaty, Treaty of Guadalupe, resulted from the U.S. War with Mexico and provided legal protection to natives’ land rights. But the Church had the burden to prove ownership, as did Mexican rancheros. It would be many years before the Church’s land claims to properties (that consisted of "church, edifices, stores, cemeteries, orchards and vineyards with their aqueducts") (from page 131 of Source 1) such as on former mission lands throughout California could be cleared. Alemany must have been anxious to acquire new land grants in places such as Los Angeles.

In 1851, a year into his episcopate Bishop Alemany assessed that none of the California Fathers were native-born nor were any native speakers of English; of the population (swollen from the Gold Rush), Catholics numbered about 40,000 compared to the number of Protestants of 30,000, leaving 130,000 unbaptized Indians and whites. In the interest to secure funding, he often wrote to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in Paris, citing “our diocese was in the most miserable condition in regard to education. The poor boys and girls must be left a prey to Protestantism and immorality, if we do not exert ourselves to open some good institutions. We have commenced this work: and we are already in debt. Some of the old Churches have to be repaired and some new ones have to be built, and although there is money, yet all is exceedingly dear. Your aid will greatly relieve us.” (From page 125 of Source 1)

Early Schools in L.A.

The first schools in Los Angeles were “run on the go-as-you-please principle” (according to Guinn).  In the early years of the American period, a good number of school-age children did not attend.  While the Catholic Church was attempting to start up schools, local Protestants had similar ambitions.  About 1850, two individuals, Rev. Dr. Wicks and J.G. Nichols, helped to establish a pioneer English school. 

Meanwhile, Santa Clara College was established in northern California on the site of Mission Santa Clara de Asís by the Society of Jesus in 1851. 

In Alemany’s plea to the French Society, he mentioned that the College of Los Angeles "just commenced by the Fathers of Picpus with little funds”.  (From page 125 of Source 1)  It is not certain where this college was situated – whether it was the “College” tract, but it was likely the site (cater-cornered from the French Hospital that was probably also supported by the Picpus Foundation).

Father Edmond Venisse (1823-  )

French-born Venisse, a member of the Picpus Fathers, was assigned to Los Angeles in the latter part of March, 1851, to teach in the newly opened school, known as the Boarding and Day School at Los Angeles (the school name is conflicting with the other reference to the College of Los Angeles).  Recollecting his time teaching, he wrote he became “a real schoolmaster, teaching a little of everything to some poor children.”  (From page 82 of Source 2)  While in Los Angeles, he also assisted at the Plaza Church, where he organized a choir for the Indians’ great feasts.  Venisse recalled while serving in Los Angeles that he felt he was “among the angels”.  However, Venisse soon advanced to priesthood, and the other Fathers were recalled to the Sandwich Islands.  These developments halted the school by mid-1853.

Bishop Thaddeus Amat (1811-1878)

Alemany’s successor was Thaddeus Amat (whose title in 1859 was changed to Bishop of Monterey-Los Angeles); he was a Vincentian, appointed in 1853, and served until his death in 1878.  It would be two years before he finally visited Los Angeles in 1855, greeted by a welcoming city.  A newspaper reported that there were two matters Bishop Amat wanted to confer with the people:  1) the establishment of a college; and 2) the settlement of the Sisters of Charity (which in the start of 1856, six Sisters arrived and opened an orphanage).  When the Bishop arrived, the city was a small Mexican town without renown except for its lawlessness and had a population count numbering less than his year of visit (about 1,600 persons in the 1850s).  The only transportation to town was a wild 10-hour stage coach ride from the shore of San Pedro.  But, Los Angeles was formerly an outpost of Spain and originated as a Spanish civic pueblo.

Reverend Blasius Raho, C.M. (1806-1862)

Reverend Raho, Naples-born, like Bishop Amat, was a Vincentian, and he was named pastor of the Plaza Church in Los Angeles during the summer of 1856; he immediately set out to renovate the church interior and the exterior structures.  Monsignor Weber considered Raho to have been one of the most beloved priests of the diocese.

Father Blas Raho
From the Del Valle Collection,
Seaver Center for Western History Research
Father Raho also in August, 1856, re-opened the school previously run by the Picpus Fathers.  This was done during a political climate raining criticism against the Church schools to be “propaganda mills of ‘popish plots’” (From page 130 of Source 3) and which led to legislative exclusion of public funds for sectarian schools.  The school was known as Saint Vincent’s College and operated from a rented adobe.  Monsignor Weber assessed that the lacking of fund probably caused the revived school to eventually fail again.

Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul

The Sisters of Charity (as they are commonly referred) arrived in the southland in 1856 and enabled an orphanage and a school for girls.  Later the Sisters were asked to also include male students, but the Daughters institution set a limit to boys only under the age of six.  The Sisters also started to charge tuition by accepting boarding students.

Saint Vincent’s College and Loyola-Marymount University

Not until 1865 that another school by the same name “Saint Vincent’s College” began operating from the Lugo Adobe.  In 1867, the school moved to Sixth and Hill Streets, constructed a new building on land from benefactor Ozro Childs (later associated with founding USC).  St. Vincent’s prospered in subsequent years, especially after receiving a state charter allowing the school to grant degrees, and Bishop Amat was proud of this accomplishment.  Today’s Loyola-Marymount University is what grew out from St. Vincent’s.

From Del Valle Family Papers,
Seaver Center

From Del Valle Family Papers,
Seaver Center

In 1870, a little over twenty years after Ord’s map, a survey by William Moore, shown below, still distinctly outlined a large lot labeled “College Ground”.

Map of the Reservoir Lands,
courtesy of the Seaver Center

An 1873 map shows the college tract as “Bishop Amat”.  This writer is not aware of when the tract was sold.   (Wait!  This writer does know.  See the end of this posting before the citations)

Map of East Los Angeles and Vicinity
Courtesy of the Seaver Center

 Saint Vibiana’s Cathedral

The following year, after Los Angeles church was redone, Bishop Amat decided to move the Holy seat from Monterey to Los Angeles, which sparked a drive to erect a new cathedral and hopefully a seminary to follow.  It was not until 1871 that he gave final approval to begin.  Prior to that time, an occurrence helped solidify his plans:  the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows in Santa Barbara burned in 1865, ten years after the body of Vibiana was placed there by Amat.  St. Vincent’s College benefactor Childs donated land at Sixth and Main for a cathedral, although St. Vibiana’s was finally completed in 1876 several blocks north.  Below shows an 1857 authorization from Father Raho allowing for a parishioner to collect alms for the aid of the parish.

Pious Society for the Souls in Purgatory certificate
From Sepulveda/Mott Collection,
Courtesy of the Seaver Center
Bishop Francisco Mora (1827-1905)

Francisco (or Francis) Mora succeeded Bishop Amat, and Mora became the last of the Spaniard bishops in the California diocese, serving from 1878 to 1896.

Mora had accompanied Amat to America in 1854.  He was bounced around as pastor briefly at Santa Barbara, San Carlos Borromeo and San Juan Bautista before his arrival to the Plaza Church in Los Angeles in 1863, serving until 1878, the year when Bishop Amat died.  In that period, Mora also began serving as Coadjutor beginning in 1872 to assist Bishop Amat whose health was in decline.
Bishop Mora oversaw the construction of St. Vibiana’s Cathedral.  Later, a school building was added, and it opened on January 4, 1886, with 250 students.

He was a strong proponent for a Catholic newspaper.  He endorsed the establishment of the California Catholic which began publication in 1888 but ceased two years later.  Seven years later, a localized, diocesan paper went to press starting with the June 29, 1895 issue of the Catholic Tidings.

In his capacity as Bishop, Mora closed the old cemetery and then opened the New Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles in 1896.

He endured and tolerated a lot of heat and scathing criticism from a Protestant group, the American Protective Association (APA).  He was a favorite target of the APA, which referred to him as “that damn old foreigner at Second and Main.” (From page 18 of Source 4)

In the summer of 1882, during one of the many trips throughout the southland to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation, he fell off his carriage backwards and wrecked his back.  It was on his return trip after confirming a bedridden Indian woman.  His injury stayed with him for the rest of his life.

Ambrotype of Right Reverend Francisco Mora
from the Antonio Franco Coronel Collection,
Courtesy of the Seaver Center
College Ranch

Another place name that serves reminder to 19th century Church aspirations to develop California’s educational institutions is College Ranch, located in today’s Santa Ynez.  The original Mexican land grant provided the Church with six square leagues plus another 35,499 acres in 1845.  The property name became Rancho Canada de los Pinos and was planned for the first permanent diocesan seminary in California.  Challenges stemming from lack of Church funding, absence of educational tradition in the region, and political unrest stunted the small seminary to failure.  During the last few years of Bishop Mora’s administration most of the College Ranch land was sold off.

Land Developer Prudent Beaudry Got the "College" Tract

Prudent Beaudry, remembered for developing Bunker Hill and having served as L.A. mayor, ended up with the College tract for which the College Street name came about.  This writer surmises that there was a deal made - swapping his Beaudry Park property (sold to the Sisters of Charity for their new hospital in 1883) for the College tract (he already amassed the land surrounding it).

The city and the county boosters wanted the new hospital to be an attractive asset and the location was key.  The College tract was not suitable because the French Hospital, built in 1869, was across the street.  The below April 12, 1885 Los Angeles Times article boasted the nearly-completed Sisters hospital to have attractive vistas:


Beaudry, prolific land developer, included the College tract (corner of College and Yale) subdivided in his Beaudry Tract No. 2, circa 1884-1886, just ahead of the great southern California land boom.

Image courtesy of the Seaver Center

Sources cited above:

1.  California’s First Archbishop by John Bernard McGloin S.J. (New York:  Herder and Herder, 1966)
2.  California:  the Catholic Experience by Francis J. Weber (Los Angeles:  Libra Press Limited, 1981)
3.  California’s Reluctant Prelate:  the Life and Times of Right Reverend Thaddeus Amat, C.M. by Francis J. Weber (Los Angeles:  Dawson Book Shop, 1964)
4.  Francis Mora:  the Last of the Catalans by Francis J. Weber (Los Angeles:  Westernlore Press, 1967)

Other sources used:

A Centennial History of the Tidings by Francis J. Weber (Mission Hills:  Saint Francis Historical Society, 1995)
Encyclopedia of California’s Catholic Heritage 1769-1999, by Francis J. Weber (Mission Hills:  Saint Francis Historical Society, 2001)
Frontier Faiths:  Church, Temple and Synagogue in Los Angeles, 1846-1888 by Michael E. Engh, S.J. (Albuquerque:  University of New Mexico Press, 1992)
A History of California and an Extended History of Los Angeles and Environs by James Miller Guinn (Los Angeles: Historic Record Company, 1915), from Google Books
The Old San Gabriel Mission by Father Eugene Joseph Sugranes (Los Angeles, 1909), from