Friday, December 5, 2014

Some Early Long Beach Churches


In 1887 a Congregational church was organized with sixteen members, including Margaret & Jotham Bixby.  Margaret Hathaway Bixby, the daughter of a Congregational minister, persuaded her husband to erect a building which could seat 150 on what is now the corner of Third and Cedar.  Called "Cerritos Hall," its first activity was on April 17, 1887.  Presbyterian minister Wardell of Wilmington conducted the service, assisted by Baptist minister L.W. Hayhurst and Methodist minister S.J. Fleming. In a letter to the Times dated April 21, 1887, the writer stressed the new hall was not a Presbyterian Church. Margaret Bixby didn’t want it to be looked upon as a church dedicated to any particular religious faith or form of worship.  Instead she wanted it to be used by any religious denomination and for secular purposes as well. The first pastor was Rev. A.J. Wells, who served for one year, followed by Rev. R.M. Webster of Wisconsin who remained for six years.  Rev. Jenkins took the helm for a few months until Rev. Sydney Kendall came from Canada.  He remained until 1899 when Rev. Charles Pease of Massachusetts was called to serve.
  In 1897, the hall no longer needed for secular purposes, the Bixbys formally gave the property to the Congregationalists and a new building was planned. On October 12, 1902, the new $7000 edifice opened for business.  It had been an interesting lesson in design for the old Cerritos Hall had to be incorporated into the new, while at the same time staying open for services.  Designed by architect Henry Starbuck in what was called the “mission style,” the porches were broad and the entrance wide.  The base of the church walls was an arroyo of cobblestones rising to almost five feet.  The rest of the exterior was done in cement, while the roofs were covered with tile shaped shingles.  The new portion of the building consisted of a 48x48 foot auditorium, with a gallery overhead. This formed a nucleus around which smaller rooms, such as classrooms and a 12x24 foot library, were gathered.  The south wall of the auditorium was attached to the old hall which served as a Sunday school; together they could seat nearly 1000 people.  The parsonage had been moved to the west side of the church and remodeled and connected with the church by lattice work.
  On opening day the ladies of the church were out in force decorating with flowers and palms getting ready for the 4 p.m. formal dedication. An elaborate program was in the offing with Rev. Horace A. Day conveying the dedicatory prayer and Dr. George A. Gates, president of Pomona College, delivering the sermon.  In addition a chorus of twelve “of the best singers in the city” accompanied the musical portion of the program.  The audience then joined in singing an original hymn, written for the occasion by Rev. H.A. Reid of Pasadena. Rev. Charles Pease, pastor of the church then spoke briefly of the church and its growth, while Rev. Sydney Kendall, a former pastor, gave a scripture lesson.
     In 1914 the current  Italian Romanesque style church,  was completed at a cost of $210,000.


The Quaker Friends Church was among the earliest churches established in Long Beach.  A Friends’ Bible class was organized in February 1888 and the little congregation met in Cerritos Hall until the Quakers built their own church at the southeast corner of First and American in 1889.  Their first house of worship was a small frame building enlarged a few years later to house the growing number of parishioners; but the continued growth of the congregation soon outpaced the structure.  A new lot for a new church was purchased at 6th and American and the new edifice dedicated with a simple but impressive service conducted by Rev. Thomas Armstrong on Sunday, August 3, 1902.  The new church was described by the press as “a commodious structure, well arranged to meet the needs of the congregation.”  It contained a basement to be used for social purposes, a kitchen and dining room.  The ground floor housed a Sunday school room, as well as an “audience” room, separated by a sliding door which could be opened to provide additional space.  The new structure had cost over $6000, and on opening day the debt still owed was over $1200, but $750 donated during the celebratory ceremonies lowered the debt considerably.
  Not long after its completion the Pacific Electric Company located its car barns in the neighborhood, so the Quakers decided in 1904 to move to 4th Street and Elm Avenue.  In 1923 an even larger house of worship was erected at 9th and Atlantic.

First Christian

     On December 1, 1894, Long Beach pioneers met at the home of Elmer and Fannie Bacon on East First Street and organized the First Christian Church.  They did not obtain a regular pastor, however, until October, 1895 when the Rev. L.O.  Ferguson was appointed and guaranteed a salary of $25 per month.  The congregation worshiped in Pickle’s Hall on East First street until two lots were leased at the southeast corner of Third and Elm where a building was erected in the spring of 1897. In 1903 the church purchased the property at the southwest corner of Fourth and American and the building at Third and Elm moved to that site. 
     In 1936, Rev. Francis A. Wight recalled the early days of the church and how William Erwin Willmore, the founder of Long Beach, was converted in a tent revival meeting.  Later that same night, with the flickering light of lanterns held high by devout churchman, Willmore was baptized in the ocean.
      In 1989 the church bought the Christian Science building at 4th & Elm and moved to that location.


     A group of newcomers from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, led to the founding of Long Beach’s first Baptist Church.  The Shoenberger’s, Alairs and Albrickson families had all been members of the same Baptist Church in Detroit Lakes before moving to Long Beach.  In Long Beach the families found five other Baptists and started a church. The group met in the living quarters back of Mr. Alair’s hardware store on Pine Avenue.  Eventually a Sunday school was organized in Pickle’s Hall at the southeast corner of First and Locust.  A little later, $150 was appropriated from the church board and the services of Rev. C.W. Gregory were procured.  Gregory preached his first sermon in Long Beach on April 23, 1894, and on May 20, 1894, the church was officially organized. Its history records that members at that time were Mr. and Mrs. Alair, Mr. and Mrs. Shoenberger, Miss Lizzie Albrickson, Elder S.C. Blitch, who preached occasionally; four others of the Blitch household; Mrs. Laura Owens, A. Phelps, Mrs. Hattie Spradlin, J.T. Talbert, W.J. Morrison and A.H. Owens. 
     On July 14, 1895, a little frame structure was erected and dedicated as the First Baptist Church; on March 14, 1899, the church, which then had 100 members, was incorporated. Near the end of 1899 the Baptists bought the Chautauqua Hall property at 4th and Pine for $3000; $750 was spent on improving the building already on the site.  This church was dedicated as the First Baptist edifice May 8, 1900.  In 1905 the property was sold for $20,000.  The southwest corner at 4th and Locust was then purchased, for $11,900 and construction of a new church was started there in 1906. This was the home for the church for the next 44 years until a new structure on the corner of 10th and Pine was purchased on May 13, 1948, for $137,000.

Christian Science

     In 1896 small groups began gathering in various homes to study Christian Science philosophy. As the movement grew the need for a larger meeting place became apparent. In 1902 a small cottage called “The Barnacle” was rented and used as a place of worship and as a reading room. In 1904 the First Church of Christ Scientist was incorporated and organized with 17 members. Various meeting places were rented and outgrown until in 1912 two lots on Elm north of Fourth street were purchased and construction began on a modern $90,000 edifice designed by Los Angeles architect Elmer Grey.
      In 1989 the First Christian Church of Long Beach purchased the building for their services. The First Church of Christ, Scientist, now holds services at 3629 Atlantic Avenue in Long Beach.

Church of the Golden Rule

      In January 1895 a group of Long Beach residents decided they needed an “independent” church.  They proposed founding a church with a platform so broad and liberal that anyone, pagan, Christian or Turk, could accept it.  The only qualification needed was brotherly love and a willingness to “Do unto others even as you would have others do unto you.”  They didn’t want to interfere with any of the other churches in the community, but they had found like-minded folk who did not agree or affiliate with any of the different sects.
      Sunday, April 8, 1895, the new church held its first services at the Congregational church to hear Rev. R.M. Webster install pastor W.P. Haworth as minister to the only church of its kind in the world.  Officers were also installed: President, John Roberts; usher, Winfield Smith; recording secretary, O.H. Harlan; treasurer, Mrs. E.H. McCracken; musical director, Miss Bertha Truax; corresponding secretary, Miss Mignonette Bellew; vice president, Mrs. Mollie Richmond.   In July they introduced a new feature into their social gatherings---dancing!  On January 5, 1896, they celebrated their first anniversary at Forester hall, but nothing further is heard about the organization.  They failed to appear in the city’s first City Directory in 1899. 

Methodist Church

July 22, 1900, was a great day for Long Beach Methodists, no longer would they have to have services in the Tabernacle, which stood at the northeast corner of Third and Locust, they had a new house of worship on the northeast corner of Pine and Fifth.  The new Methodist church which had its first services that day, could seat nearly 1000 people, and the lot, costing $1050, was entirely paid for.  The cost of the building, according to the July 23, 1900 Los Angeles Times was $5487, with furnishings costing $2342. Ceremonies were held during the annual Chautauqua.  The church had a debt of $28,000 hanging over it which was reduced to less than half by the contributions of the congregation and Chautauquans at the dedication services.
The cornerstone of the church had been laid September 26, 1899; in it was a time capsule which included a Bible, copies of numerous denominational publications, lists of names of officers of the official bodies in connection with the church, names of subscribers to the church fund and copies of Long Beach papers.

Services on the morning of the dedication started with an organ recital by Ada Kinman.  Mozart’s “Gloria” was presented by the choir and scriptures read by Rev. Spring of Garden Grove, and Rev. F.V. Fisher of Ventura, a former pastor of the Long Beach Church.  The offertory was sung by Miss Chingren, Mrs. Enderly and Mrs. Neece.  The sermon was preached by Rev. Dr. R.S. Cantine, pastor of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles.  He spoke of the account of the loves and the fishes, and the miraculous feeding of the multitude.           His address was brief, and after its completion, a half-hour was spent in receiving subscriptions for the lifting of the church debt.
The church would remain in this location until August 1909 when a new structure was dedicated at Fifth and Pacific.  At a cost of $150,000 it was hailed as the most beautiful and costly church in the city.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

  On August 22, 1900, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church at Fifth and Locust was dedicated.  The Rev. W.E. Jacob had taken charge of the Episcopal mission in Long Beach in 1897, riding on horseback between San Pedro, Wilmington and the village here. He had been keep busy conducting mission meetings in all three places.  He was still in charge of Episcopalian activities in Long Beach when the new church opened, but resigned in December 1910, when he was succeeded by Rev. Charles T. Murphy.  Fifteen clergymen from various parts of Southern California attended the Wednesday morning dedication, according to the August 25, 1900 Los Angeles Times. Rev. Archdeacon True of Los Angeles led the dedication ceremonies which were followed by a luncheon.
E.T. Harnett was senior warden of the mission from its inception in 1897, a position he held for more than 50 years.  The $5,000 church, designed by Henry F. Starbuck, a Long Beach resident, was later taken over by the First Christian Church when a new Episcopal Church was built at Seventh and Locust in 1918.

A welcome gift came from the estate of railroad magnate Charles Crocker in 1906. Crocker, who had a major interest in the Long Beach Land and Development Company, also purchased property in Long Beach in the late 1880s.  In 1901, Alice King’s mother contacted Crocker’s heirs and reminded them of the undeveloped Long Beach property and mentioned that the church would like to take over one of the lots.  It seemed the property was to be sold for delinquent taxes. Unaware they even owned the land, the heirs quickly paid the taxes but told the church the property couldn’t be divided because the heirs were under age. Five years later Alice King took up her dead mothers cause and contacted them again.  Though both lots had been sold a $2000 donation was given by thankful Crocker’s heirs to the church. (LAT 2/27/06)


Up until 1900 there were fewer than 200 Catholics in Long Beach and most attended services in Wilmington.  In the fall of 1902, however, it looked like Long Beach Catholics would have their own church.   On October 19, 1902, a crowd estimated to be around 2000, gathered to witness the laying of the corner stone of St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church at 6th and Olive.  It was Bishop George Montgomery who led the ceremony, blessing the cornerstone and filling a time capsule with copies of local newspapers, a synopsis of church history and some coins and badges.

  The project was launched by a group of Roman Catholics including Mrs. J.M. Morris, Judge H.C. Dillon and Mrs. John Ena who convinced the local Catholic bishop to build a church in Long Beach.  Mrs. Morris sought the assistance of real estate agent Frank Shaw who donated two acres on Quality Hill.  Since this location was too far from the city, it was sold and a 100x100 foot lot on Sixth and Olive was purchased.  Next to this Thomas Wall owned a 50x150 foot lot which he donated for the resident priest’s home.  Mrs. Morris herself owned 56x200 feet next to Wall’s property which she also donated to the church.  On June 21, 1902, it was decided that a church would be built, and at this first meeting $750 was raised. In the next few weeks $1500 more was added to the coffers and on August 23rd the plans of Los Angeles architect Munsell were accepted and L.J. Kelly appointed superintendent of construction. Like the Congregational Church, it too was in the mission style and was expected to cost around $3,500.  It was dedicated on July 19, 1903.
It was built to hold about 300 parishioners with the choir loft, at the rear of the building, seating about 150. In the south end a stained glass oval window costing $200 had been donated by H.C. Dillon.  At the other end of the church was a similar window, paid for by the people of the parish. By the time of dedication the church had almost been paid for.  The money raised mainly by church fairs.  However, everyone was so tired of church fairs that the church board had voted to do away with them. The rest of the money would be raised by individual subscriptions, alone.
The dedication service began at 10:30 a.m. on July 19, 1903. A crowd of devout worshipers had filled the structure to its limit, and from outside men climbed on carriages and peered into the windows.  The high altar, with its burning candles and incense was beautiful and impressive.  A solemn high mass was celebrated by Bishop Conaty from Los Angeles.  Rev. Ramon Ferrer of Wilmington was assigned acting priest.
Additional property was acquired and a new building started in 1913. A parish school was later built.

Information from the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Herald. Photos courtesy Long Beach Public Library

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Burnett District and the Terminal Railroad

A little known, but very historic area of Long Beach has recently come under discussion.  The Burnett school which believed itself to be named for Peter Hardeman Burnett, the first governor of California, was renamed the Bobbie Smith Elementary School in September 2014, after charges that Peter Burnett was an alleged racist.  But somewhere along the line it was forgotten that the area of the city once known as Burnett was actually named after Thomas Burr Burnett, the general manager of the Terminal Railroad, whose rail line opened the future metropolis of Long Beach to the world.

The Terminal Railroad
     Since 1888 there had been talk of a third transcontinental railroad line from Los Angeles, by way of the rich mineral fields of Southern Nevada and Utah, to Salt Lake City.  The franchise to build the line was finally awarded to the Los Angeles Utah and Atlantic Railway. For two years the railway did nothing, and in 1890 the Los Angeles Terminal Railway Company asked for the lapsed franchise and land grants of the do-nothing railway.  The city of Los Angeles granted the new franchise with one stipulation: a levee had to be built by the railroad on the east bank of the Los Angeles River.

Rail accident at the Municipal Cemetery 1929
     The Los Angeles Terminal Railroad Company was formed in September 1890 out of the Long Beach and San Pedro Railroad Company and the Los Angeles Pasadena and Glendale Railroad.  Thomas B. Burnett was general manager, W.H. Workman, W. Winthup and D. McFarland directors.  In 1890, the Terminal Railway acquired Rattlesnake Island at San Pedro from the Dominguez family as a terminus for their rail line (eventually changing the name of the island to Terminal Island).  Despite the protests of some that a rail line along Ocean Avenue would destroy the beauty of the town on April 5, 1891, the Long Beach Board of Trustees granted the Terminal Railway a franchise to build a line along the beach front, bringing the cars directly to the hotels.  The citizens of Long Beach celebrated the momentous event by having a banquet and torchlight procession. 

Driving of the Golden Spike - The Road is Dedicated
     On November 7, 1891, twelve carloads of people flocked to the Long Beach seashore to witness the opening of the new railroad.  Flags were flown from housetops and a large crowd of people awaited the visitors.  A stop made at Pacific Park allowed many more to board the train before it reached the terminus on Rattlesnake Island.
    At the end of the line, passengers disembarked. They were given time to see the site of the city’s proposed new wharf.  They then returned to Long Beach, got out and mingled with the crowd.  A dedication ceremony followed with a golden spike driven into the rail line  by Miss Lucia Burnett, daughter of the general manger of the rail line.  The spike was a facsimile of the regulation railroad spike, but made of gold; it was engraved with the inscription: “Last spike driven by the Terminal Railroad at Long Beach, Cal.” (Los Angeles Times 11/9/1891) The mallet then passed to W.H. Goucher, President of the Long Beach Board of Trustees, and Mayor Hazard of Los Angeles, each of whom gave the spike a couple of blows and drove it home.  

(What happened to the spike?  Around 1911 two boys pried it out of the rail track, thinking it was pure gold.  The police recovered the spike and placed it in the junk room at police headquarters where it was discovered in 1913. It was then put on display at the Chamber of Commerce.  What happened after that remains a mystery.)  

   After all the grandiose speeches came what everyone was waiting for --- the barbecue.  A hungry crowd of 1500 rushed from the speaker's stand to the large tables set up in Pacific Avenue alongside the park.  Two plank tables resting upon piles of railroad ties extended 200 feet along the thoroughfare.  They were heaped with smoking meats, stacks of white bread, coffee and apples.  The men carved meat while dozens of boys and girls carried the portions to the eager guests.  There was plenty of meat (beef, mutton and pork), bread, coffee and apples to go around.  The Long Beach band and Ahrend's band of Los Angeles furnished the music.  The festivities ended with a grand ball.  Some visitors brought home the bones from the barbecue as souvenirs.

A Trip Over the Terminal Railway Described
    A preview run of the rail line was held October 23, 1891, when manager Thomas B. Burnett arranged a trip for 200 farmers in Los Angeles for a convention to travel over his new line to Long Beach.  The line, just completed the day before, was ready for a trial run.  Nine cars were comfortably filled with the farmers, their wives and children as they anxiously anticipated this unforeseen honor.  Burnett had promised to make the trip in 30 minutes, the fastest time ever made to Long Beach.  But after the train had gone three or four miles at this high rate of speed, Burnett called a halt and ordered the train to go a little slower.  It seemed the farmers were not used to going at such a high rate of speed as the railroad men and some were getting a little squeamish.  As it was, the trip was made in 50 minutes and everyone arrived healthy and happy.  The farmers were greeted to a rousing reception; the band played and crowds cheered as the farmers left the train for their complementary lunch.  Following lunch carriages were available to give those who did not care to stroll on the beach a ride about the city.  When it came time for the train to leave, the farmers gathered on the depot platform and gave the new road and the people of Long Beach a round of cheers that could be heard for blocks around.

Burnett Station
    A July 1898 article in an issue of Terminal Topics, the monthly magazine of the Los Angeles Terminal Railway, described a rail trip from the Terminal Station in Los Angeles to Long Beach and on to Terminal Island.  The cost of the fifty-mile round trip from Los Angeles to Terminal Island was 50 cents.  There were two terminals in Long Beach, one at First and Alamitos (Alamitos Beach), the second on the northeast corner of Ocean and Pacific.  Two miles out of town there was the Burnett Station. Passengers who did not leave the train at Long Beach found themselves whirling along the ocean to Terminal Island, described as “a new and very attractive resort, where neither money nor labor is being spared to make a most charming place of amusement and recreation for the people.”  From Los Angeles the train passed through “a luxurious country of gardens and dairies, acres of blackberries and strawberries, green alfalfa fields and waving corn, passing flocks of sheep and herds of cattle.”  Four trains daily and five on Sunday made it easy for a businessman to summer at the beach and continue to work in Los Angeles.

Burnett Railway Station
     Two miles out of downtown Long Beach, farmers south of Signal Hill decided they needed their own rail depot. The area was known for its beautiful flower fields, and taking their daily pickings into Long Beach meant that many of the  fragile blooms would be damaged before making it to the Los Angeles market. They petitioned the Terminal Railroad for their own station. Thomas Burnett, general manager of the Terminal Railroad,  complied and a depot was built (northwest corner of California and Burnett).  Originally called the Signal Hill Station, it took on a new name in February 1897 (Los Angeles Herald 2/28/1897). It seemed the post office didn't like compound or hyphenated names for their post office stations. Many remembered Thomas Burnett, who had suffered a stroke the previous year, and wanted the new station named for him, to honor his achievements.  Signal Hill station became Burnett. Within a few months the area around the depot began to be referred to as Burnett.  Burnett, was on high ground overlooking the entire city of Long Beach, the harbor and Catalina Island, lay just south of what is now the intersection of Willow and California.  A school, the third in the Long Beach district was established in 1888. Known as the Signal Hill School, the name was changed to Burnett Elementary in the late 1890s.  

  The fact the area had its own rail station proved a boon to the area.  What was home to truck gardeners gradually gave way to housing.  In July 1903, the Evening Tribune reported a building boom in Burnett with land selling for $1000 an acre.  A number of families had recently arrived from “Indian Territory” (as Oklahoma was known then).  This influx of new immigrants meant that two new rooms had to be added to the school house.

   Burnett was a prominent farming community.  At one time three miles of farm land separated it from Long Beach, but with the all the real estate activity houses were quickly replacing agriculture.
   Burnett was the first station out of Long Beach to the north on the railroad line.  Its fertile soil and climate meant that flowers and fruits could be raised year round.  It was not unusual for the railroad to pick up 400 pounds of flowers and berries each day to take to market.  A large cannery operated on the forty acre Densmore Ranch in Burnett.  4000 gallon cans of blackberries and 600 cases of jams and preserves of figs and other kinds of fruit were put up during the season.  
   In August 1913, Los Angeles businessman C. Dean Mc-Phail, bought a large section of what became known as the Burnett Villa Tract for development.  Gradually the area known as Burnett would be absorbed into Long Beach, with only the name Burnett Street, Burnett school, and Burnett library remaining to mark the history of the district.

   On March 22, 1920 (Long Beach Press 2/23/1920), residents of the Burnett district decided they were satisfied with "Burnett" as the name of their school.  While other schools in the district were changing their names from the area of the city where they were located to names of historical personages, Burnett decided to remain Burnett.  
   Over the years Thomas B. Burnett was forgotten. He had only been involved with the Terminal railway for 6 years when in 1896 he suffered a stroke and remained bedridden until his death on August 15, 1901.  If he had lived his name may have been as well known as Henry Huntington.  It was his ambition to see the Terminal railway become a link in a transcontinental system, which it did become when it was absorbed the the Salt Lake railway which later became the Union Pacific.  He was a mover and shaker who died at the too young age of 57.
   History can become confused, which is the case of Burnett school and library.  The Long Beach School District in looking for a famous Burnett to keep the name of the school the same, found Peter Burnett, California's first governor. Thomas Burnett's short history with the railroad and Long Beach was forgotten.  It's too late to change the name of Burnett school back to the "real" Burnett behind the name, but fortunately the City of Long Beach is keeping its Burnett Branch Library name, despite an article which appeared in the Press-Telegram in October 1957 saying the library was also named for Peter Burnett.  History can also become embellished, such as the story told by a Burnett resident to reporter Walter Case in the 1930s. Case was told that the Burnett station had always been named Burnett and that the only reason it was constructed was because area farmers said if built they would name the station after the Terminal Railroad's general manger.  Let's remedy the errors today, remembering the real history of the Burnett area and railroad man Thomas Burr Burnett.

In case you're wondering...I'm not related to either Peter or Thomas Burnett...nor is my husband. And if you're curious about the Get-Out-And-Push railroad, the first into Long Beach---that's another blog!

For more about Burnett and early Long Beach go to my website

for the blog: From Farms to Subdivisions.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Alamitos Beach Library

When you travel down Third Street, few realize that the Spanish looking building located between residences is actually a library, and the most important legacy of a town that once was---Alamitos Beach.  It was on July 6, 1895, that residents of the community which would eventually join Long Beach in 1909, held a hay ride and dime social to raise money for a library.  Nearly 40 people turned out with wagons, carts, carriages and bicycles and rode to the Thornberg’s residence where Humphrey Taylor played piano, Miss Willard recited poetry, and general conversation ensued.  Later that year a masquerade ball was held, with $16 raised for the building fund.  The new structure was to be more than just a library; it was to become the community center for the entire town in which plays, meetings, lectures and any and all gatherings could be held.  It wouldn’t be restricted to any sect or clique, according to the February 28, 1897 Los Angeles Herald, it would be perfectly free and open to all.  That historic site still houses a library today--the Alamitos branch library at 1836 East Third Street (called Bishop Street in earlier days). 
The original library
On April 9, 1897, the library was formally dedicated. Every cent of the cost of the building was raised by the efforts of the people themselves, the land donated by the Alamitos Land Company, headed by Jotham Bixby. The building cost about $500, with most of the construction done by civic minded citizens. That Friday evening, the April l1, 1897 Los Angeles Herald reported, the Library association turned the building over to E.S. Fortune, chairman of the building committee, clear of all debt.  The community turned out in force for the dedication, paying 25 cents admission, which also entitled them to a chicken supper and entertainment which consisted of: a piano solo, by Prof. Humphrey Taylor; address of welcome, ex-President Mrs. D.S. Shaw; vocal solo, “Twas April,” (encore, “In the Lovely Month of May”) by Miss Ada Dillon; report of the chairman of the building committee, E.S. Fortune; remarks by Mrs. A.M. Dunn, president of the Library association; report of the secretary of the Library association, A.M. Dunn; a wand drill by 14 young girls, pupils of Miss Ella Nevell’s school, led by Miss Ada Wingard; violin solo, A. Clever; intermission of half an hour, during which refreshments of ice cream, cake and lemonade were served; piano solo, Prof. H. Taylor; vocal solo, O.S. Taylor; mandolin solo, A. Cleaver; vocal solo, “Holy City,” Clifford Smith; “Advertising for a Wife,” Pantomime company. 
Library association members had met at the homes of its members until the library was built.  They had collected a number of books before the building was erected and took later took turns acting as librarian.  When the library was given to the City of Long Beach on February 3, 1910, it housed 500 volumes and Mrs. Violet Gresham was hired as librarian.  It was turned over to the City of Long Beach with the stipulation that the ladies of the Alamitos Library Association would always have use of rooms for social and literary meetings.

The one-story frame structure stood on the site until 1928, when a beautiful Spanish style building

with painted ceiling beams, tiled staircases and iconic, iron-decorated front windows replaced the one-story frame structure in January 1929---a glowing tribute to the town that once was---Alamitos Beach.

To learn more about the early history of this area of Long Beach click Alamitos Subdivisions

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Carroll Park

     Long Beach is full of historic areas, including one of the most picturesque---Carroll Park.
     Carroll Park, like most of the other real estate developments in early Alamitos Townsite, got its start in 1902.  The announcement of the coming of the Pacific Electric railway into Long Beach set off a tremendous real estate boom along the proposed rail lines. Along these routes various housing tracts sprang up on former farm land.  Wherever the PE cars led, subdividers, development, and growth soon followed.  Just as the railroads had brought excursion trains into Southern California during the earlier boom years of the 1880s, so now the Pacific Electric ran special excursions to beach towns along its route, including Long Beach.  A beach boom of real estate speculation resulted. Contracts flew from hand to hand so fast that no one knew where the chain of title ran.  Many of Long Beach’s early residents made money in subdividing their original land purchases, tract names such as Johnson, Kenyon, and Tutts reflect names of those who were wise enough to have bought early and sold later at a substantial profit. Not so lucky, however, was John Carroll.

Carroll Park layout
     Upon returning from India in 1902, John Carroll decided to cash in on the real estate frenzy and subdivide his 30 acres of property at the corner of 4th and Junipero.  There has been much discussion as to why he laid out the subdivision with a circular pattern of streets.   Roberta Nichols in Los Fierros magazine (September 1976) said it was to discourage farmers who ruined streets with heavy wagons.  A more romantic version of the story is that Madam Tingley, the controversial head of the Point Loma metaphysical colony, a friend of John and Jane Carroll, told the couple she saw “favorable” signs in laying out streets in unbroken circles.  In any case the winding streets gave the tract a park like setting.
     First, Carroll hired Hervey Shaw, who later became City Engineer, to lay out the subdivision.  Shaw, who had farmed the Carroll Park area since 1897, laid out the center of the tract in an ellipse entirely surrounded by a driveway.  These driveways swung out to surrounding streets in such a way as to preserve the curves and at the same time divide the outside sections.       
     On Monday, January 19, 1903, the Carroll Park tract was placed on the market.  There were fifteen lots, each 50 x 200 feet, with cement curbs and sidewalks, and graded streets.  Lots were priced between $300- $1100.  In order to protect the property from cheap buildings, Carroll placed a $1500 (about $41,000 in today's money) building restriction on each lot.  Carroll Park was advertised as having every convenience: pure water under pressure, electric lights, gas, telephones, and a streetcar line within one block.
Carroll home
   Carroll reserved the corner of 4th & Junipero for his own home, an imposing three-story New England style structure built under the direction of H.W. Green.  Verandas extended around three sides of the first two floors and a widow's walk around the smaller third story that held the ballroom.  From the walk the Carroll family could see the ocean and a few houses set among farms, orchards, and eucalyptus groves. Today, a church and parking lot occupy the site.  Still intact, however, is the maze of streets, but the names have changed.  Gone is Huerta, Spanish for orchard, named because there was an olive orchard on his house site; Hechezur has also been replaced, it means enchanted or bewitched, an apt description of his tract. Carrollton was named for the developer himself and swung up to the wide veranda of his home. Another wasTingling, named for Madame Katherine Tingley, leader and head of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society at Point Loma.  
    Pehaps the most notable resident of Carroll Park was Lily Fremont, daughter of General John C. Fremont and Jessie Benton Fremont, who purchased lot 12 at 338 Junipero in 1905. There she built her house, which still stands, before moving in 1908.  Her ties to Long Beach went back to 1851 when her father offered Abel Sterns $300,000 for the Rancho Los Alamitos.  The deal didn’t go through; if it had she would have been a wealthy woman owning half of Long Beach instead of a 50 x 200 foot section.
  Carroll was 48-years-old when he moved to Long Beach for his daughter's health.  A native of Ireland, he entered the United States in 1894 and soon left for Singapore where he managed one of the largest tin smelting plants in the world.  In Long Beach he became vice president of the First National Bank and served on several boards.  In 1907, whether for business reasons or his daughter's health, the Carrolls were living in Victorville.  Bad luck and debts followed.  He was forced to deed certain properties to the First National Bank; his house was sold, and on July 6, 1909, he deeded the small planted section of the Park to the city for $130 in back taxes.  During the Depression of the 1930s he died at the Riverside County Hospital at the age of 83.  According to Nichols, his wife, Elizabeth Jane, died six months later; she had been reduced to receiving welfare and the State asked permission to sell her personal effects to defray funeral expenses.  Regardless of whatever happened to the Carrolls in later years, Carroll Park still stands as a tribute to their vision.

For more on the history of this area click  Alamitos Subdivisions

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The First Late Night TV Host - Don "Creesh" Hornsby

     Did you ever hear of Don "Creesh" Hornsby?  His name would most likely have been as well known as Steve Allen, Jack Parr, Johnny Carson and Jay Leno if death hadn't overtaken the 26-year-old Long Beach comedian in May 1950.  Hornsby who lived in Long Beach with wife Dorothy, daughters Dawn and Dare, and son, Dave, started his showbiz career in 1948 at the Jack Lasley Cafe (Second Street at Santa Ana Avenue)  in Belmont Shore. Hornsby was a tremendously gifted concert pianist and composer and at the Belmont Shore cafe he combined his piano artistry with song parodies, magic tricks, unusual facial expressions and hilarious ad lib comic patter.  Sometimes he climbed into a rubber life raft suspended above his piano and tossed dry ice at the audience.  His performance was talked about throughout Southern California and people drove from all over the Southland to Long Beach to catch his act.  The screwball comic did a five-hour nonstop show without a break, eating his meals on stage while he reeled off a seemingly inexhaustible supply of gags.  Every 30 seconds he bellowed out "creesh" and if a lady customer appeared jittery as he swung over her head on a high trapeze, he would boom out "Don't get nervous. I know what I'm doing." Two minutes later he would have her on stage for a magic act where he would tie two scarves together and tuck them down her neckline.  He would then mutter "creesh...creesh" and pull the scarves and there, where the knot used to be was a brassier.  Hornsby said the theme of his comedy structure was "constructive escapism" which he called "creeshism." which meant that anything can be funny in the proper situation.

      His success in Long Beach brought another comedian to his door, Bob Hope, who loved Hornsby's act and placed him on Hope's weekly radio show. Always on the lookout for new material, Hornsby made a tour of Europe in the summer of 1949, watching shows in Paris, Bern, Naples and other cities, and when he returned to Long Beach he revealed he was developing a new type of act that he hoped would carry him to New York. He had his chance to preview his new act in February 1950 when Hornsby appeared with Bob Hope, Doris Day, Les Brown, and several other well known stars at the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium in a live radio performance which was broadcast coast-to-coast. His radio and stage success caught the attention of NBC television executives in New York. Two weeks before his death NBC announced it had signed Hornsby to a five-year television contract to present a late-night show out of New York. Broadway Open House was network television's first late night comedy variety show.  It was televised live on NBC from May 29, 1950 to August 24, 1951, airing weeknights from 11 pm to midnight.  It went on to become the Tonight Show. Unfortunately Hornsby did not even get to perform one show...he died May 22, 1950.

     Infantile paralysis didn’t just strike the young, it could strike quickly AND it could be deadly, as Don Hornsby discovered.  Hornsby had worked long and hard to make a name for himself both on radio, stage and television, but as his star was rising he was stricken by polio and placed in an iron lung. Within a week after he was diagnosed with the disease he was dead.

     The Tonight Show would become the longest running program on television creating stars overnight and making its hosts icons of the American television viewing audience. However, the fame and glory that should have been Don Hornsby’s was cut short by infantile paralysis.  Let us remember him here.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Fortune, An Heiress, and Sugar Beets

Do you remember the story of Huguette Clark, heiress to a massive fortune, who chose to spend her remaining years in a hospital rather than in her $100 million home in Santa Barbara, or her New York mansion?  She was the daughter of William A. Clark, known as the “Montana Copper King,” and she passed away in 2011 at the age of 104.  You may be surprised to learn that though she never lived in or spent much time in Los Angeles or Orange Counties, much of her wealth came from here.  

Huguette in the 1920s

William Andrews Clark, born in a log cabin on a farm in Pennsylvania in 1839, embodied the American dream rising from humble roots to great wealth, eventually becoming a U.S. senator from Montana.  While serving in the Senate in 1904, the widower with grown children, shocked the political world by revealing a secret marriage to a woman 39 years his junior, though no record of that marriage was ever found.  When the announcement was made the 62-year-old senator and 23-year-old Anna LaChapelle Clark already had a two-year-old daughter, Andree.  Their second child, Huguette, was born in Paris in 1906.  When Clark died in 1925, he left an estate estimated at $100 million to $250 million, worth up to $3.4 billion today.  One-fifth of the estate went to 18-year-old Huguette who chose to 

Andree, Wm. Clark, Huguette
spend the last twenty years of her life in self-imposed E
xile in hospital rooms in Manhattan, even though it was said she was in good health.  According to author Bill Dedman, she was so reclusive that one of her attorneys, who had dealt with her business affairs for many years, never spoke face-to-face with her, talking to her only on the phone and through closed doors.  Much of Huguette’s interesting life, which Dedman and others see as similar to Howard Hughes in his later years, can be found in Dedman’s book Empty Mansions.

I was disappointed in reading Dedman's book that little information was given about the fortune the Clark brothers made in Southern California.  Let me correct that oversight.
William Clark and his brother Ross had a dramatic effect on growth in Southern California, but little has been written about them.   Montana Senator William A. Clark, was said to be the largest individual owner of copper mines and smelters in the world, he was also considered one of the richest.  Beginning with $1500, earned by working the gold mines of Colorado and Montana, he became a Montana businessman and parlayed his money into a fortune.

Hauling sugar beets
            His younger brother, James Ross Clark, known as Ross, was also involved in various Clark enterprises.  In 1892, Ross moved from Montana to Los Angeles with his wife Miriam, daughter Ella and son Walter, and saw a future in sugar beets.  Sugar beets had been around since the days of ancient Egypt, but it wasn't until the middle of the 18th century that the beet was thought to have a commercial potential. About that time, the German chemist Andreas Margraff came to believe that sugar cane was not the only sugar producer. He began a series of experiments with different varieties of vegetables, including the beet.  In 1759, he published a report on the commercial potential of the beet in making sugar, but no one picked up on his ideas for about fifty years. It was Llewellyn Bixby and his Flint cousins who saw the potential of sugar beet production in California.  In 1872, they built the first successful sugar beet factory in America in Alvarado (now Union City) California  which eventually proved profitable after much trial and error.
           In July 1895, the Bixby Investment Company (which included Jotham Bixby, Thomas Flint, and Llewellyn Bixby), turned their eyes south to Southern California to open another factory.  But money was tight; though the Bixby Investment Company owned much land they didn’t have the necessary capital to build a factory.  Through wheeling and dealing they convinced the Clark brothers to construct a sugar beet factory in the Long Beach-Orange County area, on land owned by the Bixbys and Flints.  This was a great coup for the State of California, because California would now have 5 of the 8 sugar beet factories in the United States.

Los Alamitos Sugar beet factory
The factory opened at 6 a.m. Monday morning, July 21, 1897, in the area that would become the town of Los Alamitos.  For 100 days a continuous stream of beets, twelve tons per hour, entered the factory to have sugar extracted. On July 23rd the factory produced its first batch of white granulated sugar.  Earlier, a large tract of land, which many in the Long Beach-Orange County area live on today,  was subdivided into ten and twenty acre ranches and rented to farmers with the stipulation that they plant certain crops.  By December 1896, all 8600 acres of land on the Alamitos Rancho was rented.  Beets which had been planted on 3600 of those acres were ready to be harvested that next July.
Within two years of building the Los Alamitos sugar factory, the Clarks had purchased an additional 8000 acres of the neighboring Cerritos ranch for $405,000, which they leased to farmers. The land extended from Signal Hill to the City of Bellflower, and east of Cherry to the San Gabriel River.  This acquisition brought their investments in Southern California to about $1,500,000.

Santa Ana-Newport railroad
In February 1899, the brothers bought the twenty-two mile Santa Ana and Newport Railway which had two lines: one running from Newport to Santa Ana, and the other from Newport to Westminster.  Eventually it was expanded to pass through Los Alamitos, the Cerritos ranch, and connect to San Pedro and Los Angeles.  This rail line enabled the Clarks to receive cane sugar from Hawaii at either Newport or San Pedro, refine it and send it out through Los Angeles to anyplace in the United States. 
            Through this rail line the Clarks would be instrumental in forming the third transcontinental railroad link across the United States, the Los Angeles & Salt Lake railroad.  Jointly, with the Union Pacific railroad they constructed a line 1,000 miles long, from San Pedro harbor and Los Angeles to Salt Lake City.  An area in southern Nevada appeared to be a good midpoint for the railroad, supplying water and crews, so in 1905 the town of Las Vegas was born. 
In 1904, the brothers formed the Montana Land Company, the area around the current Long Beach airport.  This ranch continued its operations until 1934, when they bowed to the inevitable and started subdividing, creating the city of Lakewood. 
What of sugar beets? The Los Alamitos sugar beet factory was followed by four others in Orange County -- in 1908 one was built on Main Street, just outside of Santa Ana; in 1911 another in Huntington Beach; and in 1912 two were built, one in Anaheim and the other on Dyer Road, south of Santa Ana.
            The growth of the sugar beet industry had a profound effect on American life in the 20th century. The beet sugar provided an inexpensive alternative to cane sugar.  New industries developed around this economical sugar product: cake mixes, jellies, preserves and other processed foods owe their existence to the development of beet sugar in America.  By 1925, however, the soil of Los Alamitos and Cerritos ranchos was depleted and beet production fell.  Failure of many farmers to follow sound crop-rotation programs started the decline.  Added to this was the trouble with pests and diseases which raged unchecked in the period immediately following World War I.  And in the course of years, not just sugar beets, but all crops gradually had to make way for people.  The Los Alamitos factory closed down and was eventually sold to Dr. Ross, a dog food maker, now is now the site of the Los Alamitos race track.  However, sugar beet growing remained in the area well into the 1950’s; the last factory was the Holly plant on Dyer road in Irvine before it too gave way to housing.

Now hotly contested,  Huguette’s will may very well be in the news for some time to come.  Nineteen of her Clark relatives went to court in 2012 to throw out her last will and testament accusing her attorney, accountant and nurse of fraud, and describing Beth Israel Medical Center, where she spent her final years, as a jailer.  If they succeed they would inherit her entire fortune, more than $300 million, much of that money made as a result of that first Southern California sugar beet factory in Los Alamitos.