Monday, October 23, 2017

Origins of "Soto Street" in Boyle Heights

A northbound trek onto Soto Street makes for a tolerable surface street drive from East L.A. out to Silverlake during the rush hour.  Always assumed that this street was named for the famed Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto.  But this blog post is leaning towards the idea that the street name was meant for Pablo Vicente de Solá.

KCET's Nathan Masters explored some early L.A. street-naming by 19th century city dreamers.  Five streets stuck and have ever since immortalized several provincial governors of California under Mexican rule:  Manuel Micheltorena, Juan Bautista Alvarado, José Figueroa, José María de Echeandía, and Pío de Jesús Pico.  Masters surmised that along with the governors, the plan shown on an 1857 map included naming the east-west streets after the first seven U.S. presidents.  (Today only the first three presidential street names exist: Washington, Adams & Jefferson.)

The Austrian-born surveyor, George Hansen, was active in the early decades following the admission of California to the Union in 1850.  Hansen must have been highly respected - the newspaper reported at the Saturday, April 28th, 1883 Common Council meeting that Hansen tendered his resignation as city surveyor and city engineer. But a motion was made to not accept his resignation - then another member moved to second the motion.  "Erudite" was an adjective used to describe Hansen; he spoke German, French, Spanish and English.  In 1857 he also formed the Anaheim colony.

In addition to the above-mentioned 1857 map (kept at the Los Angeles City Archives), three other historical maps that Surveyor Hansen probably had a hand in creating show one or more of the north-south arteries named for the governors:  1) an 1860 (or actually circa 1870) City Map No. 56 - housed in the Seaver Center; 2) an 1868 Official Map No. 2 - housed in the Los Angeles City Archives; 3) an 1870 Map of the Reservoir Lands, signed by William Moore, Hansen's good friend - housed in the Seaver Center.

This blogger theorizes that a road where today's Soto Street runs was a part of the plan, but the spelling may have gotten mixed up, as did happen with the governors' names.  The 1860/1870 map no. 56 lists "Sota"; the 1870 map of the reservoir lands incorrectly lists "Micheltoreno".

A portion of the City Map No. 56
Courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research

Instead of "Soto" perhaps George Hansen drew a road to cover the city turf laying east of the Los Angeles River meant for Governor Pablo Vicente de Solá.  This governor served from 1814-1822, making him the final governor of Alta California under the Spanish crown.  He was born in Spain, highly-educated with wealth & social position, and he never married. 

He oversaw California at a time when Spain's rule in Mexico was unstable, so a lack of financial support and importation of goods was trying for him as governor, as well as for the lives of those in the pueblos, missions and presidios.  de Solá also maintained diplomatic relations with the Russians at Fort Ross, and he was concerned about the threat of a Russian expansion.  An informative 1961 masters thesis by Alvin Harry Johnson on de Solá can be found at the USC Digital Library.

One can also easily see that the naming of the governors was done so in the order that they served.  While Hansen (if he was the architect of the naming) skipped a lot of governors, he might have begun with de Solá, onto Echeandía, then Figueroa, then Alvarado, finishing with the most recent governor, Micheltorena, as the naming farthest west within the city limits. 

The exception was Pico, the last governor of Mexican California, whose street was drawn positioned east to west, as if to delineate a finality and to start a new American presence to the areas below Pico.  In 1850, the original spread of Los Angeles (a little over 17,000 acres) was insufficient to city officials eager to expand, but those southern areas would be awarded or annexed in later years.

Below shows modern-day boundaries of the original pueblo:

Below is the same map with an overlaying using rudimentary strokes approximating the governor and presidential streets as they exist today:

Most of the streets are today major arteries.  Micheltorena is fairly lengthy but is primarily a residential street in Silverlake adjacent.  In Boyle Heights, Echandia Street is the shortest of this historic group, perhaps the spelling not matching the correct surname spelling led to bad karma...

Soto Street, representing Hernando de Soto, perhaps suited the minds of the early American city fathers - after all, many of then, George Hansen included, came by ship around South America, and de Soto's reputation in Peru may have captured their imaginations.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Sixties and John Denver - at the Grammy Museum Los Angeles

The life and music of John Denver was on exhibit the first half of 2017 - which this blogger finally visited a few days before the show ended near the end of July.  This visit also provided opportunity to tour another new exhibit, under the same roof, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Monterey International Pop Festival, a historic three-day concert that took place during the Summer of Love.  Other recent blog posts covered the counterculture movement in Los Angeles/Monterey and San Francisco.

The Denver exhibition was held in a significant year - the 20th anniversary of JD's accidental death, to commemorate soon - October 12th.

JD settled in L.A. in 1964, and he was immersed in the folk music scene where he crossed paths with other musicians, some of whom later became involved with the 1967 pop festival.

If JD were alive, he'd probably chuckle that this exhibit ran alongside the Pop Festival - some of his experiences ran parallel to other Festival musicians:  JD once sang (tried out) with Roger McGuinn, Guy Clark and David Crosby when the latter three were in the midst of forming a new band (The Byrds).  JD felt so square and out of their leagues.  JD also auditioned for a part in the TV show about the antics of a fictional musical group, the Monkees.  Folk rock was emerging, but JD continued to practice his craft as a traditional folk singer.  Yet he also spent a lot of time at the Troubadour where the McGuinn, Clark, Crosby and the likes of Elton John found their first followings with the new music genre.

[Update October 12, 2018:  Read a recent post about JD's 1975 Spring tour.]

The decade of the 1960s was punctuated by the arrival of the Beatles, and soon after, the rise of the Byrds, the Mamas and the Papas, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, and many, many others.  Some artists were bred in L.A. while San Francisco was the hotbed for others.  Southern and northern California-based artists formed the core of the groundbreaking musical celebration, the Monterey International Pop Festival (Hendrix and Ravi Shankar were two of the exceptions.)  Angeleno and L.A. music producer Lou Adler along with John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas were primary organizers of the festival.

Fifty years later, Adler lends his voice, persona, and archival collections to form this exhibition.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Señor Botello at Olvera Street

Olvera Street has been a colorful destination for downtown office workers, locals, and out-of-town visitors since it opened on Easter Sunday of 1930.

This postcard translates a quaint, bucolic scene that Christine Sterling envisioned.

Notice City Hall looming in the background.
Courtesy of Seaver Center for Western History Research
Since the founding, Olvera Street has generated mixed opinions.  Notably in recent years, Dr. William Estrada's Los Angeles Plaza, a Sacred and Contested Space (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2008) and KCET's "Olvera Street:  a Fabrication of L.A.'s Mexican Heritage" by Alvaro Parra have offered insightful historical analyses of the Street.

Tourism companies promoted the place of course.  Commercial photographers angled their cameras and framed the Spanish dancers, their guitars, sombreros, burros and the marketplace.  Adelbert Bartlett was one of those photographers.  Based in Santa Monica, a lot of his work was focused on the southern California lifestyle, according to the UCLA library that maintains his collection.

The Seaver Center at the Natural History Museum also holds a small number of his photographs, such as the one below.  A picture is worth a thousand words but not in this case.  Who was this man in the photo?

Mexican American Police Officers
Thomas Botello was identified on the back of the photo as a pioneer of Los Angeles, native of the Plaza district, shown drying gourds at the Avila House.  The photo lacks a date, but Bartlett may possibly have taken this around 1929 prior to the opening of "Olvera Street".  Courtesy of the Seaver Center

Adelbert Bartlett often photographed crumbling adobe buildings along with their aged inhabitants.  The good thing is that he often provided identification of names and places. 

For this blog post Thomas Botello's life has been pieced together from census records, city directories and the many available newspaper accounts despite discrepancies in dates and details.  Name variations included Thomas F., Thomas T., Tomás, and Tommy.

His Mexican American Heritage

Thomas, along with his brothers and a sister, as well as their mother, were born in California.  The mother, Concepciona, was born about 1832 according to the 1870 census, but it appears that all the children were born in the decade or so following the state's admission into the Union in 1850.

Thomas was a nephew to Narciso Botello (about 1813-1889) who appeared in historical accounts:  Narciso came north to Alta California in the Mexican colonial period.  Internet sources state he was Chief of Staff to General Joaquín Ramírez y Sesma.  He then became a member of the L.A. municipal council called the Ayuntamiento, and he again sat on the Common Council during the new American era.  Narciso compiled several manuscripts on daily life in Mexican Los Angeles, and today historians rely on these works as a window to the 1830s and 1840s.

Narciso's great great grandnephew, Stanley E. Botello (1921-2015), told contemporary Narciso manuscript translator, Brent C. Dickerson, that Narciso's two brothers Pedro Ysais Botello and Jose Refugio Botello both married the two daughters of a Lieutenant Jose Maria Ramirez - the daughters were Maria Concepcion Eligia and Maria Ygnacia respectively.  Both couples' marriages took place in Los Angeles.

Pedro & Concepcion supposedly married in December, 1858.  Presuming Thomas was the third child of this couple, his date of birth mentioned in his obituary placed his birth before the parents' marriage.

His Career in Law Enforcement

Thomas' obituary published June 27, 1935 began with the headline Veteran Peace Officer's Funeral Will Be Today:  "In point of continuous service he was the oldest detective in the United States, having served from 1878 to 1930.  He was a native of Los Angeles, born here June 29, 1858.  As a youth he joined the Southern Pacific detective forces and soon became special agent in Mexico for the Wells, Fargo Company.  He also served as Los Angeles county deputy sheriff through several administrations, as police officer under four chiefs, deputy United States Marshal and at the time of his death was special deputy Sheriff."

Portrait from Los Angeles Times, March 18, 1906
If he indeed found work as a policeman in 1878, he was about 20 years old.  The police force had matured in the growing city stung by rioting in 1871 (resulting in the mob violence and murder of Chinese residents - news that took national attention away from the ongoing Great Chicago Fire.)

The LAPD was organized in 1877, doing away with the L.A. City Marshall position.  But the police maintained a reputation for corruption and brutality.  Between 1889 and 1900, Chief John M. Glass developed a professional force under his leadership, but when he departed, the officers were often controlled by the politicians in order to control elections.  Progressives, though, voted in the advent of municipal civil service rules for the hiring of officers.

In tracking newspaper articles about Thomas, throughout the 1880s he worked in Los Angeles in various capacities of law enforcement, but he was also a detective of the Southern Pacific Railroad in Mexico.

In 1890 he was still associated with the Southern Pacific.  In preparation for the July 4th parade in L.A., Thomas got the assignment to accompany and oversee a group of Native Americans from Yuma, Arizona, who traveled up on the railway to participate in the parade.  (They disappointed the parade onlookers, as the newspaper expectantly wrote that the group did not each don "a gee string and a strip of red calico."

The group in front of train depot or the Panorama Building, 220 So. Main Street
Courtesy of the Seaver Center
In 1891, he was a detective on the Mexican Central Railway, and by June, the paper announced he was a detective for Wells, Fargo & Co.

Los Angeles Herald, June 2, 1891

By 1900 he was back in Los Angeles, conducting boat patrol around Avalon Island and also working as a Deputy Constable. 

Also about the year 1900 Thomas opened his own detective agency in the Bullard Building located at 156 No. Spring Street.  He operated independently into 1920 according to city directory listings.

Billed as "Thomas T. Botello"
To re-cap, the numerous newspaper articles reported on Thomas' arrests - of a shoplifter; of robbers upon Wells, Fargo; of a couple for murdering a man; of a man in Ventura County for attacking another on the L.A. & Ventura Stage Road; capturing robbers of a Mexican train, mail fraud perpetrators, a counterfeiter of government stamps; the chasing of stage robbers while he was chief of the Wells, Fargo & Co.'s detective force in Mexico.

The paper also reported on his testimony against charges of police corruption against Chinese gamblers; another testimony as a witness involving Democratic voters who were deterred during a local 1887 election; a scuffle he was involved with another bailiff in the U.S. Circuit Court.  Thomas was himself accused of bribing a voter.  He and several fellow officers were arrested for burglary and larceny against Chinese gamblers:  though they had a warrant for arrest, they broke a number of houses, destroyed property but found no evidence of gambling.

Thomas was a member of the Hidalgo Club that planned periodic Mexican Independence Day celebrations.  He was also a vice president of the local Spanish-American Democratic Club.

The 1930 census listed him as unemployed (as he was about 72 years old).  A few city directories between 1928 and 1931 list his occupation as clerk.

Perhaps he picked up some income drying those gourds at the new Olvera Street.

A Volatile Family Life

Thomas married a local girl, Cleofas Boring, at least by 1888 (in the 1883 city directory, he was living at Uncle Narciso's place in East Los Angeles while Miss C. Boring was listed as a dressmaker living at 135 Buena Vista).  She was a few years younger than Thomas, and her bad temperament was recurring news.  In the summer of 1888, she and two others appeared in court for disturbing the peace.  The two defendants were let go, but Cleofas was fined $5.00.

In November of 1891, the couple was living at Cleofas' parents house at 549 Buena Vista.  It was reported in the paper that she stormed into a neighbor's house, brandishing a heavy pitcher.  As she wreaked havoc around a room, she splattered flammable coal oil before she ran out.  The woman neighbor managed to put out the fire before endangering her children and a bedridden old woman.  The Times reported that Cleofas' husband, Tom, ex-Detective of the District Attorney's Office, was away in Mexico City.

The Los Angeles Herald announced March 24, 1895 that the couple filed for guardianship of an illegitimate child of a poor woman who did not have the means to raise and educate him.  The boy was given the name Thomas F. Botello.

The older Thomas' home life was at times tumultuous as when was out accosting criminals.  In January of 1896, a sensational newspaper article reported that "Tommy Botello Shot His Wife in the Leg."  Deputy United States Marshal Thomas claimed it was accidental when a .44 caliber resolver discharged during an argument in their home at 216 Wildardt Street.  The newspaper chronicled that the wife arrived home 11:30 in the evening drunken and belligerent.  In the morning she threatened to tear up a Federal bench warrant that he was supposed to serve that morning, and she lunged at him with scissors, and in the scuffle the gun went off.  Cleofas told an opposite story that in actuality it was her husband who was the long-time abuser.

Little Tommy, about 10 years old, was reported in August, 1897 to have attempted to run away from their home at 721 Castellar Street.

Their address changed every couple of years.  The 1897 directory also listed them at 1428 Maple Avenue, their longest stay, until 1901.  Throughout their lives, they primarily lived within a mile or so of the plaza, though between 1912 and 1918 their address was in Hawthorne.

Another story in the L.A. Herald August 26, 1898 mentioned that the wife of Thomas F. Botello, ex-U.S. Deputy Marshal, demolished crockery, furniture and broke down doors while intoxicated.  As she heaved a lamp at Thomas, it missed him but hit their little boy.  Police intervened and tried to take her to her parents' house.  She resisted and was charged with disturbing the peace.

Below is a 1916 newspaper photo identifying the naval soldier on the far right as bugler Thomas F. Botello - presumably this was the son.

From the Los Angeles Times
Thomas and Cleofas were still listed together in city directories, the last one being 1934.

A Mysterious Adobe by the Broadway Tunnel

The city relieved its traffic congestion by digging a tunnel through Fort Moore Hill in late 1899.  By 1901 the new tunnel allowed a connection to North Broadway. 

Oddly, a Mexican adobe sitting at one end of the tunnel was spared in the construction (once the home of Cleofas and her parents, Henry Boring and Isabel Acuña).  The extraordinarily wide tunnel underwent repairs in its mid-life including remediation of dampness and mildew until it was closed in 1949 with the coming of the freeway.

April of 1919
In 1919 a newspaper article detailed the sale of the adobe to businessman John Dye.  The news story went on to say that part of the appeal to Dye was the history behind the structure:  it supposedly belonged to the family of Thomas Botello, whose family emigrated en masse in 1849.  Botello was quoted that his grandfather was a General.

Knowing what we know about Botello's background, the story seems to have been fabricated, perhaps in order to make the sale more attractive to Dye.  Botello's parents were already in Los Angeles by 1849 when the U.S. war with Mexico was over.  Actually, the house was probably owned by his wife, Cleofas, whose grandfather was a Lieutenant Ramirez.

April of 1919

The adobe can be seen below, with "Dynamite" billboard above and another billboard along one side of the house, to the left of the tunnel.

Circa 1928 view of the Broadway Tunnel at Sunset Blvd.
Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

The adobe seen above was described in Marion Parks' article "In Pursuit of Vanished Days, Visits to the Extant Historic Adobe Houses of Los Angeles County" in a publication of the Historical Society of Southern California (1928, vol. 14 no. 1-3).  Parks wrote that the house (at the address 412 Sunset) sat between Justicia Street and Broadway, at Sunset, built in 1864 by Francisco Garcia (who lived to 115!) using adobe bricks made by Francisco Manzo.  The house then became the home of the Borings, the birthplace of daughter Cleofas.

The image below, dated about 1935, is a similar view without the adobe, leaving only the Auto Park.

Courtesy of California Historical Society, USC Libraries

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Happy 104th Birthday Milton!

Previous blog posts covered Los Angeles artist Milton Quon - in 2012 when his work was exhibited at the Vincent Price Art Museum and then in 2015.

Milton and his wife Peggy (in burgundy jacket) along with family and friends.  Sorry you were cut off Jeffrey!
At his birthday luncheon in Torrance, California, held Sunday August 20th, Milton was charming as ever.  With wife Peggy by his side (who he has known since 1939), they sat leaning snugly into each other throughout the party.

The following day brought something else special when the solar eclipse peaked at 10:21 a.m. PST.  It was "the first in nearly a century to cast the moon's shadow on the entire contiguous United States (the last one was in 1918)" according to

So Monday was a workday back at the Natural History Museum.  After viewing the eclipse amongst staff and visitors, Milton was on this blogger's mind - the museum became the new cultural center in the city when its doors opened on July 4th, 1913  - the following month Milton was born, the new Angeleno in the City of the Angels - and by November the city celebrated its new water supply with the opening of the L.A. Aqueduct.  The total solar eclipse in 1918?  Milton was around, and this blogger would like to think he witnessed it.

[Update July 17, 2019]  Mr. Quon passed away peacefully on June 18th surrounded by his loving family.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Looking for The Summer of Love in San Francisco, Cal.

A circular fountain outside the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Expo Park near Figueroa & Exposition Boulevard is very much enjoyed by the local pigeons.  At the base is an easy-to-miss marker that points in the direction of San Francisco:

The Summer of Love,  50 Years Later

The country can now reflect back 50 years to the "Summer of Love" (SOL) the counter culture movement's climactic year of 1967 - a convergence to San Francisco of tens of thousands of disenchanted, rebellious, or adventure-seeking youth.  L.A. Times writer Patt Morrison interviewed William Schnabel's time there. 

Countless events  to commemorate the 50th anniversary emanate heavily out of San Francisco, and other cities are also doing their part.

At City Hall, the SF Arts Commission exhibited Jim Marshall photographs of the SOL.  This project was implemented early - on view beginning January 26th and already ended on June 23rd when other city events were barely getting started. 

The California Historical Society, headquartered in San Francisco is holding a photograph exhibition, too:

The city's Museum of African Diaspora offers a deeper examination of the Jimi Hendrix persona and the impact of Black artists.

The most ambitious exhibition to SOL is at the de Young Museum at Golden Gate Park.  More on the exhibition later in this post.

Nearby Marin County and the Bay area cities of Lafayette and Vallejo organized concerts and fairs. 

The big feature was the Monterey International Pop Festival held the exact three days as was in 1967.  A previous post touched on the hippie era of the mid-1960s, a time when this historic music festival transformed unknowns into household names:  Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding and others.  The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles opened "Monterey International Pop Festival:  Music, Love & Flowers, 1967" continuing through October, 2017.

Stanford University's music library offered an exhibit of seminal album covers.  The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, paid tribute with an exhibition focused on photography and graphic design of the era.

In London, the Royal Albert Hall organized an ambitious nod to the music legacy of SOL:


Historian Anthony Ashbolt wrote about SOL in a journal article "Go Ask Alice" (Australasian Journal of American Studies, December 2007).  The abstract offers a clear explanation of the expression "Summer of Love":

"In 1960s historiography today, the expression 'Summer of Love' is used in three senses. It refers generally to the explosion of psychedelic sounds, images and lifestyles in that decade. It is also code for the overall phenomenon of Haight-Ashbury between 1965 and 1968. Specifically, more accurately, it applies to the summer of 1967 in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. While the multiple meanings all carry weight, too often that first general sense of the Summer of Love shields a dialectic hope and despair behind a banner of optimism and dreams. To put it more bluntly, the hippie experiments of the 1960s were full of Utopian promise, while the Summer of Love actually spelled the end of that particular vision in Haight-Ashbury. This is a paradox rarely explored."

A corner at Haight & Ashbury, taken July 5, 2017

More Visuals In & Around the City, Summer, 2017

San Francisco bus shelters along Market Street displayed a series of contemporary art posters featuring personalities from SOL.  This blogger was only able to capture two of them.  It seems befitting that the gritty Market Street behold the posters, for all that the SOL offered, there was the bad - drug overdoses, sexually transmitted diseases, and physical assaults.

The BART advertised the following:

City boosters also offered three additional poster styles:

Japanese retailer Uniqlo celebrates a rainbow experience at their Powell Street store:

Rainbow-color lit stair steps in the interior store.  Photo courtesy of S. Uyeda

Tour companies, restaurants, and retailers around Fisherman's Wharf made a concerted promotional effort:

Note the peace symbol sourdough bread from Boudin's

Souvenirs for the 50th anniversary were few and not easy to find, - a couple of items were selling at stores between Ghirardelli's, Fisherman's Wharf, and the Boudin Bakery:

Tin of San Francisco Chocolate Factory chocolate drops and a relatively expensive commemorative shot glass
Venerable Buena Vista Restaurant offered this postcard and the button below

Further down the street, Madame Tussauds San Francisco displayed a quintessential psychedelic bus:

A mural inside a Mod Pizza establishment in suburban Daly City pay homage to the Seattle musician whose path to icon was ignited in the Bay area:

At the de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park

Among the plethora of offerings by San Francisco institutions, a major exhibition is ongoing at the de Young.  KQED Arts published a thoughtful critique of the show when it opened in April:

Their leaflet
Mock street signs of the famous intersection are displayed outside of the museum.
Photo courtesy of J. Loverme

Photo courtesy of J. Loverme

Many of the documents and artifacts in the exhibition are from de Young collections - the museum was already acquiring "Summer of Love" materials as early as 1972, if not earlier

Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick with Janis Joplin
The two musicians were first locally known in the Bay Area before their fame broadened

The Doors, an L.A. band, played the Bay Area

Singer Joan Baez and her sisters pictured in an anti-war and anti-draft commentary

Poster for concert fundraiser following the assassination of Reverend King, Jr.

The de Young Museum exhibited photographs in December, 1968 that explored the
African American community in San Francisco as well as Oakland's Black Panther Party

Jerry Garcia and members of the Grateful Dead in their neighborhood
Current Events

A couple of recent events resonate, against and for, respectively, the social activism underlying the Summer of Love from 50 years earlier:

James McCloughan was an Army Medic during the Vietnam War.  He was finally awarded a Medal of Honor at the end of July.  Long overdue, the honor bestowed recognition to his extreme bravery in saving injured soldiers while under active artillery attack in May of 1969.

A new feature film, Detroit, draws renewed attention to the rioting in that city that began July 23, 1967 and lasted until July 28th.  The unrest stemmed from the police arrest of African Americans who were celebrating the return from Vietnam of two friends.  Police brutality and the usual racial tensions escalated into one of the worst race riots in U.S. history.


The San Francisco Chronicle issued this commemorative soft-cover publication filled with Jim Marshall photographs.  This blogger's copy arrived in the mail recently.