Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Costliest House in Long Beach

The Myers mansion later owned by Jotham Bixby
Concrete steps led from the mansion to the beach.
          Long Beach was still a relatively small town in 1910, though it had gained the reputation as the fastest growing city in the United States according to the U.S. Census.  It had grown from a population of 2,252 in 1900 to 17,809 in 1910.  The growth was precipitated by Long Beach's new mass transit system, the Pacific Electric Red Car, and the development of the harbor.  New arrivals included millionaire mine owner Alva D. Myers whose home on Ocean Ave. was the costliest in the city.  “Goldfield Al” Myers made an enormous fortune during the gold rush days.  Starting off with nothing but a burro, a side of bacon, a coffee pot, a pick and a pan, his worth in 1910 was estimated to be between 3 to 10 million dollars ($75-$250 million in 2012 dollars).  His home reflected his wealth.  All the hardware, including door hinges and knobs were gold plated, leading many to believe the door knobs were solid gold.  He even had a swimming pool built in the basement of the house.  Concrete steps led to the level of the beach below and there was a special bathhouse for ocean bathing. Only the finest and highest grade materials were used in Myers’ mansion.  In 1908, people were amazed to read that Myers was also building an “auto home” for his automobile estimated to cost $5,750---this was double the amount required to build a good two story frame residence at the time.
            Myers and his wife Mattie began building their $225,000 ($5.6 million today) home at 1800 E. Ocean in 1907.  However things were not going well for the couple.  Soon after their marriage on March 9, 1906, Mattie found that Al became violent when he drank.  The last straw was when Myers fired a shot at her in their not yet fully completed mansion in Long Beach. In May 1909, she secured a divorce from Myers, receiving between $75,000 and $100,000 as her share of the community property.  Women continued to plague the mining millionaire.  In October 1910, Miss Julia Ward Gibson drew a revolver and threatened to shoot him unless he married her.

            The October 13, 1910 issue of the Daily Telegram told the story.  It quoted Julia Ward Gibson as saying: “after I had drawn the revolver, I found that I had not the heart to kill the man I love more than life itself.”  Miss Gibson had also brought along her father, a retired Presbyterian minister, to perform the wedding ceremony.  She had obtained a marriage license that same afternoon and was sure, with the help of a pistol, she could get Myers to agree to the marriage.  Seeing the gun in the hands of the excited young
Dining room of the Myers mansion
woman, Myers made a bee line for the dining room where he armed himself with a thirty-two automatic. He called his housekeeper on a private phone and asked her to summon the police.  When the police arrived Miss Gibson quietly handed over the gun.
            The circumstances leading up to this sensational episode began in June 1909.  Miss Gibson, a writer of some note, asked Myers for permission to visit his home and interview him for a story she was writing.  Myers agreed, and this visit led to others.  Letters were written, marriage was promised.  In February 1910, Miss Gibson brought suit against Myers for $100,000 for seduction and breach of promise, but she had a change of heart.  In August, Julia Gibson began telephoning Myers daily, telling him she was withdrawing the suit and asking him to resume their relationship and marry her.  Myers refused and told her to go ahead with the lawsuit.  Miss Gibson told a different tale.  She said she and Myers were becoming "chummy" again and when she heard Myers planned to marry another woman she was forced to act.
            Julia was arrested for attempted murder and while in prison awaiting trial received flowers, boxes of candy and other gifts from another admirer who Julia identified only as "a prominent Los Angeles real estate operator."  But Julia told the press  she loved only Myers and would keep on loving him because “woman is so constituted.” (LAT 10/16/1910).  Goldfield Al declined to press charges asking only that Miss Gibson give him no further trouble.  Julia agreed.
           In 1911, to escape his "female trouble" Myers sold his home to another millionaire---Jotham Bixby.  Bixby, who owned the Rancho Los Cerritos, purchased it as a 50th wedding anniversary gift for his wife Margaret.  Myers took a financial loss, selling the $225,000 home for $75,000 cash.  He moved to Nevada vowing to devote most of his time and energy to his mines, not women.  However, he couldn't resist female charms.  He returned to Long Beach in 1912 and wed again.  His bride was Hedwig Jablonski, the daughter of a Berlin banker.  They had met on a train coming from Chicago to Long Beach 13 weeks earlier.  They were married in Myers’s sister’s home in Carroll Park.

            Meyers, who lost most of his fortune during the Nevada bank failures in 1927, became a semi-invalid from injuries received in an automobile accident in 1937. He died October 16, 1949, at the age of 77.  He had, however, out-lasted his extraordinary house, which was destroyed by the 1933 Long Beach earthquake.

For more on this area of Long Beach click Alamitos Subdivisions