Friday, December 2, 2016

Beneath Terminal Annex: an L.A. Neighborhood "North of Macy Street"

All the hullabaloo is at Union Station.  Being a public space and still glowing from its 75th anniversary back in 2014, a lot of attention is paid there.

Across the street Terminal Annex was a federal building purposed for a post office and mail processing center but is no longer publicly accessible.  This blog post explores the earlier community "north of Macy Street" from about 1828 long before the arrival of Terminal Annex. 

The footprint of the future post office will be covered - where Date and Ogier Streets once were - the crossroads of L.A. from the time it was a Spanish pueblo, to a Mexican ciudad and towards a settling-in period as an American city.  Other areas to be analyzed are roughly bound by North Main on the west, Alhambra Avenue on the north and the L.A. River on the east. 

Gilbert Stanley Underwood designed the building that stands near the corner of Alameda Street and Cesar E. Chavez Avenue (name changed from Macy Street in 1994).  Construction began in 1939, expanded and altered several times into the 1970s and operated until 1989 when a larger facility was built in south L.A.  Underwood applied elegant details to numerous federal and rail projects nationwide, including train stations like the neglected East Los Angeles Train Station and the former Ahwanee Hotel at Yosemite National Park, California.


The area outlined in red is "north of Macy" from E.S. Glover's Birdseye View of Los Angeles, 1857. 
(The orientation is a view looking southeast)
(Courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research, Natural History Museum of LA County)

Macy Street originated after 1851 with the arrival of Massachusetts-born Dr. Obediah Macy with family in tow following their overland journey.  He bought the Bella Union hotel, and he opened the Alameda Baths before passing away in 1857.

One could consider Terminal Annex as part of the southernmost, "Civic Support" portion of the North Industrial District or Dogtown, covered on Eric Brightwell's blog

The proximity of this neighborhood to downtown made it a vulnerable target for change by city planners, impacting residents of modest or limited means.  As Brightwell points out, acres of residences were cleared out in Dogtown about 1941-1942 and a city public housing project - the William Mead garden apartments - was built and continues to exist today.  Brightwell writes about a continued loss of homes in Dogtown during the early 1950s with authorities citing crime, delinquency among youth and disease as the impetus to clear everything out.

Terminal Annex and the concurrent development of Union Station, with its supporting infrastructure, all led to the gradual obliteration of the residential places north of Macy.  Development chipped away this area while at the same time Old Chinatown was dismantled for the train station.  In the 1950s the residents at Elysian Park's Chavez Ravine were pushed out, but in the next two decades more blocks north of Macy would go away.  For an in-depth historical read on the racial and political reasons that led to the removal of primarily the Mexican (and Chinese) from these parts, consult The Los Angeles Plaza, a Sacred and Contested Space, by William D. Estrada, 2008.

Lumber Yards and an Orphanage

An historic map dates the Jackson, Kerckhoff & Cuzner lumber yard as early as 1881 at the spot of the future post office.  There were other lumber businesses nearby.  South of Macy Street was the orphan asylum started by the Sisters of Charity in 1856 on property bought from Benjamin Wilson (he being an emigrant from Tennessee in 1841.) 

The area along Macy, included with the greater North Industrial District, comprised parts the Eighth Ward, a voter district of the city.  Within the Ward the areas were divided into four precincts, A through D.  During elections after 1889, the polling place for precinct B was Kerckhoff & Cuzner's office (the business name, Jackson, had been dropped off by then.)  A son of French pioneer Louis Bauchet served as a judge of the precinct - more on the family below.

Dakin's Tract Maps of Los Angeles, Volume 1, 1888
(Courtesy of the Seaver Center)
Fruit, Wine, Vineyards, Gardens and a Lover's Lane

Louis Bauchet

Those who lived here north of Macy Street are recorded in part by extant street names and more names uncovered on historic maps.  Bauchet Street is still prominent, after the area underwent many configurations including removal of streets and the redesigns of existing streets.  Louis (or Luis) Bauchet (or Bouchette or Bochett) owned chunks of land north of Macy and east of Alameda.  Thomas Pinney (A History of Wine in America, 1989) wrote that Bauchet was "a cooper by trade and a veteran of the Napoleonic wars, came to California in 1828 and must have been one of the earliest of the newcomers to plant a vineyard."  He also fought in Mexico's revolt to defeat Spain.  He died in 1852 but his wife and children continued to live at 716 Date Street (son Rafael was listed in city directory as late as 1897). 

Louis Bauchet established a vineyard a little earlier than the another Frenchman, the well-known Jean-Louis Vignes - when Vignes arrived, he met several French settlers, including Bauchet.  They both appeared in Los Angeles' first census of 1836.

Bauchet wed to Maria Basilia Alanis, a Californio and granddaughter of a Soldado de Cuera of 1781, Maximo Alanis - he was one of the Spanish soldiers on the expedition leading the Los Angeles Pobladores to Mission San Gabriel. 

Bauchet married into an elite family.  (Scotsman Hugo Reid wrote about the social affairs - dinners with Abel Stearns and his wife Arcadia Bandini de Stearns followed by dancing across the street at the ballroom of Doña Basilia, where large dances were always given.)  This was in the 1840s when the Bauchet adobe was on Calle Principal.  She died of old age in 1889 at her residence on Date Street.

In the period before a war was ignited by President James Polk, grape-growing was an active industry in Mexican Los Angeles. From north of Macy Street one could peer south towards Aliso Street at Vignes' property, the Domingo vineyard and nearby Mateo Keller's vineyard, too.  It is not too far-fetched to imagine the bucolic scenery measuring up to present-day Temecula Valley.

North of Macy became home to European immigrants and American settlers, after the war - in 1849 and in the decade of 1850 after California was admitted to the United States.  The gardens nourished by new settlers in the dusty, new American city are profiled in the 2003 book Tangible Memories:  Californians and Their Gardens, 1800-1950 by Judith M. Taylor & Harry M. Butterfield.

Leonce Hoover

Swiss doctor Leonce Hoover arrived in 1849 after serving as a surgeon to Napoleon Bonaparte's army.  He too started a vineyard, and his home was noted for its beautiful gardens and plantings.  Members of the California State Agricultural Society visited the area in 1858 and were so impressed by Hoover's property that a complementary write-up appeared in the Society's report.  (The Society observed that Dr. Hoover drank "the juice of the grape" all day long.)  His son Vincent became a businessman, land developer and served on the Common Council (city council of the time.)


Vignette from an 1857 map by Kuchel and Dresel
(Courtesy of the Huntington Digital Library)

Thomas J. White

Another settler in the 1850s was from St. Louis.  White was the first Speaker of the state's Assembly in 1849 at San Jose, California.  He bought 50 acres north of Leonce Hoover's property.  In 1857 he served as vice-president of the State Agricultural Society.  The Society's 1858 report said this about his property:  "In 1858 he was growing nine varieties of figs, white sapote, avocado, mango, tamarind, lemon, lime and orange."  "Picture Dr. White's old garden:  the dwelling is situated about five hundred yards from the street and approached by a drive bordered by English walnuts and luxurious pomegranates to within a hundred feet of the house where it branches and encloses an oval containing a large fountain, ornamented with sea shells, coral, evergreens, and flowers."

I.S.K. Ogier

Nearby at Macy and Date Streets was the six-acre property and home of Judge Isaac Stockton Keith Ogier and his second wife, Anna.  They had at least two Indian servants.  The style of his house was a departure from the architecture of the former Mexican city.  His two-story adobe had a faux blue stone façade.  A fountain was set in the front with well-placed shrubs.  The visiting State Agricultural Society wrote "The lady of the mansion appears as much home in her garden as His Honor on the bench of the United States District Court."  More on the importance of Judge Ogier to follow below.

Lovers Lane

The L.A. City Archives has preserved an 1871 map of a long thoroughfare called "Lovers Lane", drawn by the county surveyor, William P. Reynolds.  Glen Creason, map expert at the Central Library, suggested in his 2010 book, Los Angeles in Maps, that the road had been re-named to Date Street in 1877.  This is the same Date Street that once ran at about a 45 degree angle beginning at Macy Street.

Garibaldi Hall was located at 746 Date Street, the meeting place for Italian Unione Frattelianza Garibaldina Society.  The Bauchet children sold a lot to the organization in 1888 for $2,000.

Baist's Real Estate Atlas, 1921
(Courtesy of the Seaver Center)
The First Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California

A significant historical aspect at this place, north of Macy, under Terminal Annex, was the spot in the newly American place chosen by Isaac S.K. Ogier to regard as his home.  He was born 1819 in Charleston, South Carolina, where his English-born father and French-born grandfather both lived and died.  Charleston contains a street called Ogier.  Ogier ancestors were Huguenots.  Judge Ogier's father owned nine slaves, as listed in the 1830 census. 

He moved to New Orleans to practice law.  While there he enlisted and served twice in the Louisiana infantry during the war with Mexico.  The Gold Rush turned him into a Forty-Niner.  He was a widower, got on a ship and left behind a young daughter to get to California. 

He stayed in northern California briefly, and became a member of California's first Assembly, representing San Joaquin.  A bill he introduced to bar the admittance of free Blacks to California failed to pass.  Ogier arrived in Los Angeles about 1851 and in 1854 was appointed Judge of the federal court for the southern district of the California. 

He never lost his gold fever - when southern California's big gold strike occurred in 1861 at Holcomb Valley, San Bernardino, he secured an Ogier mine.  He was visiting the mine in May of 1861 when he died of apoplexy - a month after the start of the American Civil War.

Court historian and former judge of the southern district himself, George Cosgrave, provided a lively account of Ogier's life, his journey and career in Early California Justice, the History of the United States District Court, 1948.  Prior to becoming a judge, in 1851 he partnered with a Spanish-speaking Peruvian attorney, Manuel Clemente Rojo, so as to drum up clients of land claim disputes and petitions.  He also served briefly as U.S. district attorney for the southern district in 1853.  During his brief capacity as district attorney, a noteworthy dispute that Ogier investigated involved the state foreign miners' tax.  American miners had a quarrel with Mexican miners in Mariposa.  Historian Cosgrave wrote that Ogier reported accurately and without bias that the Americans' dispute was baseless. 

Since the Bay area was included in the southern district, Ogier was the presiding judge for some of the first cases for Mexican grants:  he ruled in favor of the petitioners of grants encompassing today's Oakland and Alameda County.

Cosgrave and others have written about Ogier's role (and his unconventional manner) in the adjudication of land rights and rancho claims, particularly to conform with the 1848 war treaty, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.  The treaty, in simplest terms, afforded Californios the right to retain their land.

A major appeal heard by Judge Ogier was Antonio Maria Lugo's 29,500-acre Rancho San Antonio.  (Claimants had the right to appeal any delays or denials and be heard by the U.S. District Court.)  Lugo's heirs thankfully received a land patent.  Historian Paul Gates, in Land and Law in California, 1991, argued that Ogier was "reputed to be more lenient than the northern district judge, Ogden Hoffman, so the success of Los Angeles claimants may be a reflection of judicial preference as well."

On the bench he was unorthodox.  He rarely wrote legal opinions to support his decisions, lacking citations of authority.  However, Cosgrave drew an instance that exemplified Ogier's sense of duty and high regard for the integrity of the court:  Pacificus Ord, as a U.S. district attorney, failed to object to a land claim.  Ogier found out soon that Ord himself had interest in the particular piece of land and therefore was operating unethically - the land claim was never confirmed.

He was active in the L.A. community - he was a part of a committee to form a Protestant society in 1859 that lead to the establishment of the first Protestant church which he did not live to see in 1864.  He was also a member of the semi-vigilante, semi-social citizen crime enforcement group, the Rangers, to help curb the rampant lawlessness.

Ogier Street shows up on maps like the Baist's for 1905, 1910 and 1921 (as seen in above map as well as the close-up below.)  The street appears in city directories beginning in 1897 of the ones this blogger has tracked.  Oddly, the street name appeared many years after Judge Ogier passed away, and his wife moved away to various addresses around the county in the years following his death.  Ogier Street became a casualty of the Terminal Annex construction.

Baist's Real Estate Atlas, 1921
Date & Ogier Streets represented crossroads in L.A. history beginning with the era as a Spanish pueblo in Alta California
(Courtesy of the Seaver Center)
The Sepulveda Family

Also visible in the above, larger 1921 map is the Sepulveda Vineyard Tract (where today's county jail complex stands.)  One of the Sepulveda families (descendants of a Spanish Mexican soldier who served in Alta California), namely Jose Dolores Sepulveda, his wife Louisa Domingo Sepulveda and one of their children, Plutarco, were listed at 726 Date Street as found in city directories beginning in 1895.  Their home was right at the T intersection of Date & Ogier.  There is some irony that the Sepulveda house was located probably right at the entrance gate of the Ogier house, the judge who dispensed decisions on the lands of the Californios.  (In one newspaper, the address was also cited as 307 Ogier, which was an adjacent house on the lot.)


Louisa Domingo Sepulveda with her child, n.d.
(Courtesy of the Seaver Center)


Jose Dolores Sepulveda, ca. 1860s
(Courtesy of the Seaver Center)
Jose Dolores died in 1905 and Louisa continued to reside there until her death in March, 1912, leaving behind eight grown children.  Louisa's mother was Reymunda Feliz, whose own father and mother each held respectively Rancho Feliz and Rancho Verdugo.  It was Reymunda's first marriage to a German named Johann Groningen (he adopted the name John Domingo after settling in L.A. following a shipwreck) that produced daughter Louisa.  Reymunda was lucid until the end after she moved in with Louisa to be cared for, and she died at age 99 in 1908. 

Reymunda Feliz de Domingo de Romero with son J.A. Domingo
(Courtesy of the Seaver Center)

The Los Angeles Times reporting on her death wrote that 50 years earlier, Reymunda "was rated the wealthiest woman in the southern part of the State and her home [on Aliso Street] was the center of cultured and aristocratic society."  "Señora Romero was the lady bountiful of the pueblo, and day after day used to make the rounds of the neighboring ranches, distributing provisions and delicacies and spreading cheerfulness as she went."

Religious Diversity & Tolerance

The Sisters of Charity formed a Catholic orphanage by 1856.  Probably perpetually cash-strapped, the sisters instituted a fundraising festival in 1858 whereby the ladies of the community could contribute food and handmade items to be sold.  Two of the women, Mrs. Thomas J. White and Louisa Hayes Griffin helped to spearhead the event, that brought together women from diverse denominations for the sake of charitable giving, including Jews and Protestants.  Historian Kristine Ashton Gunnell pointed out that "even Anna Ogier, who privately expressed anti-Catholic sentiments, donated items and may have taken a turn at the sale table."  The three women were the wives of prominent men in the community, and Mrs. White and Mrs. Ogier lived north of Macy.

A Public School and a Library

At the end of Ogier Street, where Macy and Avila Streets once intersected, a public school and library were proposed in 1894 to be located in the Mead Tract.  The New Macy Street School and library show up next to each other on the 1921 Baist map shown above.  (Mead was the same real estate developer associated with the William Mead Homes mentioned above in Dogtown.  He died in 1927.)

The school was the subject of a health crisis in its history.  In 1906, the Macy Branch Library was only one of eight branch libraries in the City system.

The Slaughterhouse

Further east along Macy - 808 E. Macy Street - along the river was a slaughterhouse that the City approved after a lengthy deliberation.  This site was the former home and garden of Leonce Hoover.

Cudahy Packing Company petitioned the city council in December, 1892, informing of their capacity for 500 hogs and 50 cattle a day, with employment for 400 men.

In 1904 a major fire destroyed much of the plant, at which time residents protested against having the business resurrected.  The company re-built, and Cudahy was still listed in the 1956 street directory.




Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Hungry and Driving in L.A.





Other Distractions


Courtesy of A. Lemus
Sun soon to set - reflected on the eastbound 60 Pomona Freeway

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The All-American Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale, Cal.

In 2014 the Sriracha sauce manufacturer, Huy Fong Foods, was beleaguered by odor complaints at its Irwindale factory from nearby residents, allegedly stemming from the company's staple ingredient:  the chili pepper.  While that matter eventually cleared up, as of this writing company founder David Tran is still in litigation with the city, this time over financial issues.

The controversy and notoriety may have done good for the company - while Tran's lawyers and Irwindale's legal counsel fight on.  Huy Fong started offering free factory tours and free swag to visitors, and this smart move has endeared the public.  And this blogger attended the 3rd annual Chili Grinding Open House September 24th as a first time visitor.


Tour-goers clutch tissues to their sniffling noses
Another truckload of peppers soon to be ground up

It seems a food factory tour is a rarity in Los Angeles County.  The FAQ on the See's Candies website explains that insurance restrictions forbid tours.  It is not known whether the long-defunct Helms Bakeries allowed tours, but they certainly promoted the bread-making processes and factory scenes through visual learning aids in Los Angeles Unified School classrooms.  One would have to travel to Ethel M's candy factory in Henderson, Nevada or head to Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream in Waterbury, Vermont or Hershey's Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania to have this much factory fun.



Huy Fong Foods' annual open house and year-round tours is an original approach (at least here in southern California) to reinforcing their brand - aside from the t-shirts, tchotchkes, Sriracha socks, keychains and their red & green sweatshirts sold in the gift stop, there is not any hard sell to the visitor.

Their friendly, organized and safety-conscious staff, who handle thousands of visitors during the Open House, can't be beat.  The fleet of shiny red passenger carts spoil the visitors who really didn't park that far away.  The tour is a class act - right down to the one employee whose sole job is to have his hand outreached with a box of tissue - standing at the very spot on the tour where everyone began to cough and sneeze.

Everyone was rewarded with t-shirt (with this year's design), a sturdy drawstring bag, and a jar of sauce.  A free bottle of water, Sriracha-laced popcorn & chips, Sriracha-inspired baked goods, and vanilla/chocolate/Sriracha soft serve ice cream on a sugar cone topped off the visit.

Pictured left to right:  free pepper, free sauces, free 36th anniversary t-shirt
The tour brochure, Sriracha keychain from the gift store,
and a free drawstring bag

Entering the Huy Fong website begins with a short video set to a song with a country twang, celebrating the American-ness of Sriracha, all the while a slight tongue-in-cheek detected.  The website states the procurement of California-grown peppers and garlic, which surely cannot be more foodie-correct.  It is prideful to see the cartons labeled MADE IN USA deriving from this San Gabriel Valley epicenter.  And humorous to overhear white guys asking about the Sriracha Halloween costumes in the gift store.

David Tran's personal origin and business success may have stayed private and unassuming had he not become embroiled with the city of Irwindale.  Like it or not, his life is a quintessential Horatio Alger story.

MADE IN USA

Destination:  Australia
Destination:  Canada
Destination:  Korea
Destination:  Texas
Wrestling with the big pour
Free vanilla & chocolate & Sriracha soft serve ice cream
Their sample gift pack - made in sunny southern California
A view of the backside of the carton


Monday, August 29, 2016

Black Lives - Blue Lives - White Lives - All Lives

Three Years in Mississippi
 
"No one can enter this street without being seen by a policeman.  I always drive very slowly past the police station in order to make sure that all the policemen get a chance to take a good look at me.  This may seem strange, but it is perhaps the main reason why I was seldom trailed or bothered by the police during my many visits home while I was in the Air Force.  It is a fact that within a very short time after one arrives in town practically everyone knows it, including the police, and if there is anything that a Mississippi cop hates, it is for someone to know something about a Negro that he doesn't know first.  By giving the police the first look, the Negro relieves them of the necessity of finding the 'n      ' and 'getting the goods on him.'  When a Mississippi policeman has to suffer the embarrassment of looking for a 'n       ,' he is likely to make the trip worth his while."

The above passage is taken from Three Years in Mississippi, chronicled by a native son, J H Meredith, or James Meredith.  Taken place between 1960 and 1963, the book was published in 1966, and it is about Mr. Meredith's mission to attend the Whites Only segregated University of Mississippi.  With methodical eloquence, his writing reflected a man who bore world experiences (having served nearly a decade in the Air Force including a final three-year stint stationed in Japan) before returning home with his wife and young son.  Meredith painted the picture of thick oppression which Mississippi Blacks lived under White authority, particularly the police, in the introductory first chapter.
 
Here is how my copy of Three Years in Mississippi came into my possession:  Purchased by a local public library in 1968, it remained on the shelves until I withdrew it from the small library where I was employed sometime around the year 2000, give or take a couple of years.  I simply used a criteria - a book that lacked circulation, was esoteric, too academic, was weeded from the collection.  I had to make room for newer books.  Today, it seems that most public libraries (except for a few large ones like the Los Angeles Central Library) do not have this title - it is available, however, in many university and college libraries.


I felt the profound weight of the subject matter from this book.  I purchased the book (from the sale bin where withdrawn library books end up) for personal safekeeping, and I managed to read it half way.  It has taken more than a decade for me to return to this book that I never forgot.  It became a necessary book to turn to as I contemplate the ongoing escalation of altercations between primarily Black citizens and law enforcement.


Along the shelves of southern California public libraries there is the abundance of books on the topic of civil rights, including those in the children's collections.  Biographies about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King tell the story of a long, long ago civil rights struggle in the 1950s and 1960s.  In contrasting irony for Mr. Meredith's book, the average person has to set foot in a university or college library in order to encounter it.  (Well, interlibrary loan service and the internet can bring Meredith's story out, but one needs to know some fact in order to begin the search).

Black Like Me

Another book is the 1961 Black Like Me, an exposé by White journalist John Howard Griffin.  He darkened his skin to tour segregated southern states for six weeks beginning in late 1959.


His experiences were published in serial form before the book was came out.  It is a classic today and can be found in most public libraries as well as libraries of higher learning.  Griffin's guise and journey provided the rest of the country a lens into the Jim Crow traditions through the print medium. 

Similarly though over fifty-five years later, through the internet medium the July 6th webcast of Diamond Reynolds' terror in the car of her dying fiancé, Philando Castile, pulled the public-at-large into the incessant dangers encountered by Black lives.

The Little Rock Nine & Mendez v. Westminster

Terrence Roberts moved to L.A. around 1958 and attended Los Angeles High School.  He was not the typical newcomer to the city.  He was a brave teenager who agreed to be one of the Little Rock Nine, nine students who pushed to attend an all-White school in 1957 and eventually helped to integrate Central High School in Arkansas.  He left as a result of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus closing the schools for an entire year in 1958.  After graduation, Dr. Roberts attended Los Angeles City College, California State University at Los Angeles, then UCLA.  He earned his Ph.D. at Southern Illinois U, Carbondale.

Another graduate of my alma mater, Cal State University, Los Angeles, is Sylvia Mendez.  American-born Ms. Mendez, as an 8-year old child, was denied entry to a nearby Whites Only school in Westminster, California, as were her brothers and cousins, on account of their Hispanic heritage.  She became the lead plaintiff in the 1946 case Mendez v. Westminster, that eventually broke away the barriers of segregated schools in this state.


 
Cover photo of Terrence Roberts and Sylvia Mendez


The struggles of American society to maintain the ideals of equality is constantly tested.  The deeds of those opposed to integrated education, for example, have never rested.  A current example is Gardendale, Alabama, that seeks to restructure their school district thus chip away at the strides for integration made by people like Dr. Roberts and Ms. Mendez.

7.5.2016

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Mr. Alton Sterling, 37 years of age, was shot and killed by police.  This was another fatality of a Black citizen in the course of police responding to a call.

7.6.2016

Mr. Philando Castile, a gainfully-employed 32-year-old Black man, was driving his family (fiancée Diamond Reynolds and her four-year-old child) when they were stopped by a member of the St. Anthony, Minneapolis police department.  What followed shocked the country as Ms. Reynolds had the calm presence of mind to video-capture and webcast real-time onto Facebook, dually complying with the screaming officer and narrating to the world.  The driver, Mr. Castile, sat blood-drenched and dying when the video began.  This final police stop was the 46th or 50-some-odd time Castile had been stopped which included a 2011 traffic stop by the same White officer who killed Castile.

7.7.2016

In Dallas, Texas, a Black man shot at law enforcement from a distant, hidden location - killing five White officers.  The rampage began at the close of a peaceful, solidarity demonstration for the killing of two Black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, earlier in the week in separate officer-involved incidents in Louisiana and Minnesota.

7.7.2016

While the Dallas shootings jolted the country, the release of Pokémon Go started its own mania, prompting gamers to tread to odd places at odd hours.  By Sunday, July 10th, one player was out at 2 a.m. in Eugene, Oregon, when he witnessed a man vandalizing a restaurant.  The captured vandal was allegedly responsible for a rash of attacks against Asian-operated businesses.

7.17.16

A Black man shot up six law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge, leaving three dead, including Officer Montrell Jackson, 32 years of age.  Mr. Jackson's death held extraordinary poignancy, as a little more than a week earlier, he issued a weary plea of hope.  He also expressed frustration in being viewed with hate while being Black in uniform, yet treated with suspicion when out of uniform.  Well-like by his community, Officer Jackson left behind a wife and a new-born.

* * *

As of this posting, Marysville, Tennessee Officer Kenny Moats, 32 years of age and White, was killed by a White perpetrator on Thursday, 8.25.2016.  In Los Angeles, the news that the 8.12.2015 police shooting of Black woman Redel Jones, 30-years-old, was deemed justified.

* * *

Looking back at 2015 and 2014, a select mention of deaths among Blacks and law enforcement officers include:

7.10.2015  The devastating mistreatment of Sandra Bland, 28 years of age, in Hempstead, Texas, by a White arresting officer.

4.12.2015   The arrest of Freddie Gray, 25 years of age, in Baltimore, Maryland, and the callous abuse by a group of White and Black officers causing his death.

12.20.2014  The execution of two NYPD officers by an unstable individual with a criminal record.  The killings of Rafael Ramos, 39 years of age, and his partner Wenjian Liu, newly-wed and 32 years of age, in their patrol car in Brooklyn was reported as retaliation for earlier officer-involved victims, Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

* * *

2.2013  Disgruntled Black LAPD officer Christopher Dorner embarked on a killing rampage with victims that included random on-duty police officers in his path throughout southern California.  His crimes culminated in a manhunt lasting twelve days, ending in San Bernardino County.  Two women (who are not Black) in a slow cruise, delivering newspapers in an early morning, were mistakenly fired upon by Torrance officers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Beneath Parker Center: the Paris Inn Café, Little Tokyo, Vigilantes & Mexican Immigrants

The future for the vacated Los Angeles Police Facilities Building on Los Angeles Street is still undetermined.  The modern, postwar, Welton Becket structure opened in 1955 and was posthumously named Parker Center in 1966 after the death by heart attack of Police Chief William H. Parker.

This post will dig, historically speaking, beneath the block where Parker Center stands, encompassed by Los Angeles, Temple, Judge John Aiso (formerly San Pedro) and First Streets.
An aerial view as seen on the Los Angeles City Model (ca. 1938-40),
currently on display at the Natural History Museum's Becoming Los Angeles exhibition

The Paris Inn Café on Market Street

A minor street once ran east-west until sometime around the 1952 groundbreaking - Market Street.  From its beginning it was a short street, and by the 1950s it probably only ran from Main to San Pedro.  (After Parker Center was opened, however, a 1956 city directory listed a main post office at 333 Market Street.)

Within the city block was a popular dining establishment, the Paris Inn Café, completed near the corner of Market and Los Angeles streets in late 1929 (210 E. Market) and formally opened in March of 1930.  The business was moved in 1950 to Chinatown at its third and final location (845 N. Broadway), leaving the unique French chateau to face the bulldozer.

The Café's original location was a block west, at 110 E. Market.  Madam V. Zucca began operating it in 1922, and the business changed hands to Bert Rovere, Innocente Pedroli and other new owners in 1924. By the time the new City Hall opened in 1928, the Paris Inn was just across the street; the café had seen raids in violation of "dry Sunday"; dining entertainment included an orchestra, acrobatic dancers, a singing cigarette girl, Rovere himself billed as California's best baritone, dinner dansant (dancing held during afternoon tea); and the place served French & Italian dinners.

The restaurant was keen on publicity:  their Paris Inn Café orchestra was featured on KHJ radio along with other local groups including the Leighton's Arcade Cafeteria orchestra.  Bert Rovere promoted his operatic voice and athleticism like in a 1927 article reporting on his training for a Catalina Island swim.

The entertainment offerings continued as the new restaurant down the street was being completed:  Mystic Madame mind reader, fortune telling, singing waiters, and Apache dancers.  On March 26, 1930, a celebrity-studded grand opening of the new Paris Inn was broadcast on radio station KTM.  Within a few short months, the new location was raided by Prohibition officers.  Soon the charges against Pedroli and Rovere were dropped.  By the end of the year the restaurant was allowed to re-open. The following year Mexican star Carla Montel was hired for their Paris Inn revue.  In 1932, publicity built up for the largest patron turnout yet at the second anniversary party.


Postcard postmarked June 8, 1934
From blogger's collection

Paris Inn customers included football and auto-racing guests, and the papers often reported the local Italian colony hosting meals in honor of its special guests.  In January of 1931, a waiter race was reported to be held on Washington's birthday on a race route from the Southern Pacific station to the Inn - competitors carried a tray, a bottle of milk and a goblet.  Out of 60 waiters, the winner was Mr. Apollo.
Paris Inn at 210 Market Street, Los Angeles
Courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research


Paris Inn (from magazine)
Courtesy of the Seaver Center
Interior with singing waiters by the Eiffel Tower
Courtesy of the Seaver Center

Courtesy of the Seaver Center

First and San Pedro Streets - the Historic Heart of Little Tokyo

Japanese American residents, businesses and organizations were displaced for the new Police Facilities Building.  The City Planning Commission decided this in 1950, and some residents called it a "second evacuation" of the 1,000 tenants, including those in the Olympic Hotel.

By 1907 this intersection was a central point of the growing district of Little Tokyo with a population of 6,000.  By 1930, most of Los Angeles County's 35,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans lived within three miles of this center - partly due to the prejudicial hostilities in areas beyond.  Below is a photograph looking out from the corner of First and San Pedro, showing the structures in the process of being cleared out:


The corner business in the foreground was the First and San Pedro Department Store, circa 1953
Courtesy of the Seaver Center (P-011-3ov)
The 1925 Olympic Building once sat at 117 N. San Pedro - the 1930 and 1942 city directories listed a Japanese Chamber of Commerce in the building.  It also contained "the finest hotel of that era", professional offices of doctors and lawyers, and stores including Mikawaya Confectionary.  In the photograph above, the Olympic Building had been demolished (far right shows cleared land).  (Today the segment of San Pedro between First and Temple has been renamed in honor of Judge John F. Aiso).

Using the above photograph as reference, on the upper left would have been the Japanese Daily News of Los Angeles (Rafu Shimpo) located at 104-108 N. Los Angeles Street, where the newspaper had operated since 1915 or 1916.  It is a good thing the publisher's son was able to resume the newspaper beginning in 1946 after being released from internment following the war, while his father Toyosaku Komai remained at a New Mexico detention center:  the building would be intact for another handful of years and Komai had hid the Japanese type apparatus under the floors!  (For more information, read Little Tokyo:  One Hundred Years in Pictures).

View of First & Judge John Aiso Streets taken June, 2016

The naming of a segment of San Pedro Street in remembrance of  Judge John Aiso enabled the community to take back part of what was lost in the 1950s - because he was the first Japanese American judge, but also unfortunately Mr. Aiso succumbed to head trauma from a violent attack in Hollywood.

Don Manuel Requena & Requena Street

In 1923, the Busch Pipe & Supply Co. occupied the address of 150 North Los Angeles Street (later to become the address of Parker Center).  The map below shows a much earlier structure - that of the Requena Block.  A merchant, Manuel Requena (born about 1802 in Campeche, Yucatan) was the landowner - more on him later.

Market Street's name came about through a petition filed in July of 1904 by the merchants along North Main Street.  The City Council approved changing out Requena to Market.  Before that, the original length of the street was called Libertad.

The Requena Block - Manuel Requena's building along Los Angeles Street
shown on the lower portion of an 1870 map courtesy of the Seaver Center

An 1894 ad in Charles Lummis' Land of Sunshine periodical provides a glimpse further back in time of what was here -  the Union Gas Engine Company specialized in irrigation, mining and marine equipment at 114 Requena Street.  Requena Street was also where the zanja madre (mother ditch water source) flowed, making Manuel Requena's property a prime location.


Don Manuel Requena
Image courtesy of the Seaver Center

He was an orange grower, too, but today his contemporary, William Wolfskill, is primarily remembered for early citrus culture rather than Requena.  Thomas O. Larkin described Requena positively in this way:  "trader and farmer...born in Yucatan...a man of property and much general information and influence...not anxious to be in public life unless strongly urged, not anxious for salary."

He was elected as one of the trustees for the city's first school - a schoolhouse was constructed in the mid-1850s, according to Harris Newmark as "way out in the country" - at Second and Spring Streets.

He was a cattle rancher.  Shown are cattle brands registered by him in the 1850s:


Requena's cattle brand and ear notches recorded with the
Registrar-Recorders Office in 1852
Courtesy of the Seaver Center
Another set of cattle documents recorded the following year (1853)
Courtesy of the Seaver Center

He died in 1876 a widower and without offspring.  His wife Gertrudes Guirado (sister of Rafael Guirado) died two and a half years earlier.  In the 1870 census, Requena's household comprised of himself, his wife and a Chinese cook, Jo Ah.  Neighbors listed on the same census also had Chinese cooks.  This blogger wonders whether Requena and others employing the Chinese were served somewhat Chinese meals.  This blogger also wonders if some of the cooks became victims of the 1871 Chinese Massacre in the city.

Manuel Requena was in Guaymas, Sonora in the early 1830s.  He turned down an administrative job at the Guaymas customs office.  He partnered with Englishman Richard York to sail a ship they co-owned up to California and pick up hide & tallow before heading to Chile.  With immigrant passengers on board, everyone arrived sea sick from a voyage that began March 1834 and arrived in San Pedro in July.  Requena decided to stay put in Los Angeles.

During the same year, the politically controversial Hijar-Padres Colony party left San Blas on August 3rd aboard the ship Natalia.  Among the 239 members of the group was Frenchman Victor Prudon (who would soon become Requena's adversary in Los Angeles).  In 1835 the Mexican government declared Los Angeles from pueblo to ciudad.  Moreover, the same decree also designated Los Angeles as the new capital of Alta California.  The threat to the power seat in the Monterey capital coupled with immigrants streaming to Los Angeles did not sit well with the northerners in Monterey.

Violence & Vigilantes

By 1836, Requena was alcalde (mayor).  He later served a second term in 1844, but in late March, 1836, he was in a grave situation:  a vigilante committee formed comprising of upstanding citizens outraged by the murder of Domingo Feliz allegedly by his unfaithful wife and her vaquero lover.  An L.A. Times article published January 30, 1921 recounted the ordeal:  Requena and the Common Council went to investigate a missing person, discovered Feliz' body, and eventually arrested a man and woman.  French emigrant Victor Prudon led the push to pressure Requena to execute both individuals.  Requena refused, and the mob took matters into their own hands, lead the accused to an outside jail wall and shot both.  (For more information on this topic, see Eternity Street:  Violence and Justice in Frontier Los Angeles, by John Mack Faragher, W.W. Norton, New York, 2016).

*       *      *

As the victorious Americans occupied the city following the U.S. War with Mexico in 1849, Requena was a member of the Common Council when they approved to hire surveyor Lieutenant Edward Ord for the first survey of Los Angeles. 

He was an objecting voice in 1850 when the northerners of California wanted to proceed with statehood for California without enabling the southern part of California to weigh in on the matter.

When the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors was formed in 1852, Requena served on the first board, along with New Mexican Julian Chavez.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Hiroshima and Tyrus Wong

The Asian Pacific American Heritage Month concludes in a few days.  The month of May was designated due to key historic May events that defined the Japanese-American and Chinese-American experience.

African-Americans have their month in February; National Hispanic Heritage month runs from September 15th through October 15th each year.


My mementos from the concert
The L.A.-based jazz band, Hiroshima, scheduled a concert in Arcadia this recent May 14th.  The group leader, Dan Kuramoto, called the attention of the audience to the heritage month, explaining that he coincided this at-home concert because "this is our month".


Dan Kuramoto and musicians at their May 14th concert
Several weeks earlier, the L.A. Asian Pacific Film Festival featured a screening of "Tyrus Wong:  Brushstrokes in Hollywood" in Little Tokyo's Aratani Theatre.  Tyrus, now 105 ½  years old, was the center of attention in receiving rounds of applause as he entered the theatre in a wheelchair.  His long-time friend, colleague and fellow artist, Milton Quon, arrived shortly before, with the help of a walker.


My souvenir button purchased after the screening

Pamela Tom's film reveals his contributions to the 1942 animated film, Bambi.  Tyrus' delicate expressions of forest scenes led Walt Disney to ultimately adopt his conceptual style for the entire film's background scenes.  In recent years, Tyrus was belatedly recognized and honored for his considerable contributions to the film, notably by the late Diane Disney (daughter of Walt).  The documentary also explains the influence of storyboard artists, (like Tyrus, who later worked for Warner Bros.) whose visual layouts for movie scenes often swayed the directors.


Filmmaker Pamela Tom during the Q&A session
following the screening at the Aratani Theatre

It would be wonderful if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences could present an Honorary Award to Tyrus next year .  It might redeem the sting from the last two years' Oscars ceremonies:  the #OscarsSoWhite show earlier this year was inclusive of Asian Americans but only to poke fun at the same old stereotypes; last year's awards show brought on comedian Margaret Cho to act as a North Korean.  (Update:  Rest in Peace, Tyrus Wong.  He died at age 106, December 30, 2016) (Update:  He was recognized for a couple of seconds during the In Memoriam segment of the 2017 Oscars ceremony televised February 26th)


Tyrus in 1928, seated with legs crossed at front row, second from left.
Courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research

Tyrus Wong was born in 1910, about the same time East Coast movie companies were discovering the year-round sunshine in L.A.  Tyrus immigrated from China to the U.S. as a child.  All he ever wanted to do was draw.  He made it a successful livelihood in order to raise a family by working in Hollywood but also branching out as a commercial artist.  He managed to bring his artistry into the cultural fabric of our country.

The band, Hiroshima, formed with a unique sound through the accompaniment of the Japanese string instrument, a zither called the Koto, played by master kotoist June Kuramoto.  The early band was a pride of the 1970s local L.A. Asian American dance scene, and Hiroshima later found mainstream success, radio play and Grammy nominations.  Like Tyrus, the band Hiroshima managed to bring their artistry into the cultural fabric of our country.


June Kuramoto on the Koto

This post is published on the day of President Barack Obama's historic trip to Hiroshima, Japan, one of the two sites bombed by U.S. atomic bombs to force an end to World War II.