Saturday, August 26, 2017

An Urban Legend, Orphans, Sanitariums and the Riviera Hotel: A Tale of Dr. Michael Schutz

Dr. M.A. Schutz

     I was surprised to come across an urban legend in writing this blog.  According to a 2002 Mayfair High graduate, the story about orphans helping autos climb Signal Hill was already well established by the time she entered school.  She told me she heard that your climb up the Hill will be easier if you put baby powder on your tires.  It seems the abused orphans from the Signal Hill home will help with the ascent---the proof being the tiny footprints left behind in the baby powder! The story she heard was that they had been abused, and they felt helping a car up the steep incline would speed up their rescue. 
     It is intriguing to trace down legends, most of which have some base in fact.  Here’s what I found.

    In 1904 segregation was the norm, but a dream of universal brotherhood could be found in a home atop Signal Hill. It was hoped it would be a place where all could live in peace regardless of nationality or religion.

   For years Dr. Michael Alexander Schutz and his wife had the dream of creating an orphanage for children of all nationalities.  In 1904 the couple purchased four acres on the area of Signal Hill known as Crescent Heights to build their visionary home for orphans and castaways.  The doctor’s idea was to give them not only a home but an education to prepare them to someday enter the working world and be self-supporting.
   The July 24, 1904 Los Angeles Herald described their vision in which they would rear children of all nationalities in an atmosphere of love. The children would be taught trades, and when they reached the age of 14 they would be given the option of going out into the world or staying with the family.

  This is a labor of love, declared Dr. Schutz. Life wouldn't be worth living to me if I couldn't do something tangible and practicable for the world. If we could make it so that all could live in peace with one another, and each should help his neighbor, life would be far happier than it is today. The world today is man-made. God made no distinctions between his children. We were meant to dwell together, and that will be the purpose of the institution which we are founding. We shall teach no religion other than the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of men. Adults are not prepared for such a step. Humanity has been struggling, from the beginning and each man is looking after his own wants and forgetting those of his neighbor. With babies it is different. We will take them when they are far too young and tender to have formed any ideas, and it will be an easy matter to instill into their lives feelings of love and fellowship. They will be taught that they are all the children of one God, and there will be no distinctions made between black, white and yellow.

    The Russian born Schutz, received his medical training in Bellevue Hospital, New York, and was for four years connected with the Dansville, New York, sanitarium.  He and his first wife, Hulda (1857-1900) moved to Long Beach in 1894 and started their own sanitarium and a hotel they called the Riviera.  Now with his second wife, Pearl, (who had spent 5 years working for the Salvation Army in New York), he planned on building a two-story house on Signal Hill large enough to accommodate a dozen children as well as their own two children, Helene Emeth and Murray Ahura. 
      Their income would be largely supported by Schutz running the Schutz Sanitarium, and the Riviera Hotel, at 325-327 W. Second Street in downtown Long Beach. Schutz hoped that by planting mulberry trees on his Signal Hill property he would have a second source of income, supported in part by silk worm and silk manufacturing. 
     In October 1904, the couple secured their first baby for their International Home for Children, a one-year-old Korean boy, Asha.  The boy’s father, who came to America to study law and medicine, could not care for the infant when his wife became sick. He thought the Schutz’s home the best solution to his dilemma.
     In July 1908, Schutz visited a Los Angeles organization which dealt in finding homes for young infants.  Schutz wanted to take custody of two 5-month old babies, one black, one white, but was turned down on the grounds that since his “establishment” was not a church institution the children could not be placed there. Dr. Schutz was upset. He not been given a face-to-face interview with the organization, the decision was based on hearsay. If he had been granted a hearing he would have explained his principles of universal brotherhood and how in his orphanage there was a Korean, a Filipino and American children. They ate at one table, slept in the same room and received their schooling at home from a private teacher.
Riviera Hotel
    In April 1909, the Schutzes adopted a 5 month old Yaqui Indian baby boy, Raymond Eawahta Polomares, who was found by missionaries in an Indian battlefield in Mexico where the child’s father had been killed.  The child’s mother Mabyla, only 15, was also adopted by the Schutzes.  By October of that same year the Schutzes had Japanese, Korean, Indian, Mexican, Portuguese, Australian, Fiji islanders and Americans as part of their international family. Schutz had turned over the running of the sanitarium and Riviera Hotel to Doctor Edward Bailey so Schutz could devote his time to his orphanage. But the sanitarium, along with its hotel, apartments and treatment rooms ran into financial difficulties, partially due to Long Beach’s anti-alcohol stance. By 1911 Schutz was back to being both proprietor and physician at the Riviera Apartments, Riviera Hotel and what was now called the Riviera Treatment Rooms. In 1913 he moved the sanitarium to Elsinore, but still managed the Riviera Hotel and Apartments until 1918 when he sold them to A.T. Tibbits.

  What did Schutz believe in other than universal brotherhood? Besides stressing a vegetarian diet, and hoping some of his charges would intermarry and create a new race of unbiased racially diverse people, it seemed he had an interest in spiritualism.  Spiritualism was in vogue during the early part of the 20th century, and in August 1910, Schutz became the moving force behind creating a Spiritualist temple in Long Beach. The plans showed an elaborate structure resembling an Egyptian temple which would cost about $20,000. A location tentatively considered was a lot just east of the Riviera Hotel at Second Street and Chestnut Avenue. Schutz didn’t get a church built where he wanted it but in 1912 a much less costly and not so elaborate Spiritualist abode, the First Spiritualist Temple, opened at 327 W. Second. It moved to 415 Linden in 1913, later changing its name to Universal Temple.
Many came to Long Beach for their health, many suffering from “consumption” better known today as tuberculosis. Physicians discovered that patients with tuberculosis improved if they moved to a dry climate.  Sea air and a regulated diet were also considered valuable in combating the disease.  Long Beach had the sea air and a relatively mild climate year round.  It was the perfect place to build a sanitarium (also spelled sanatorium, or sanitorium), which Dr. Schutz did in 1894. An article in the July 7, 1894 Los Angeles Herald describes Schutz’s sanitarium in Long Beach:  

The medical sanitarium of Long Beach, Cal., established for the successful treatment of chronic, nervous and female diseases. The most modern and best equipped sanitarium in Southern California. Highest of references. For any further information address Dr. or Mrs. M.A. Schutz, proprietors sanitarium, Long Beach, Cal.”

The sanitarium was successful, and in March 1896 the idea of building a larger sanitarium was contemplated.  The March 1, 1896 Los Angeles Herald reported:

The proposition of building a large sanitarium by a syndicate, urged by the proprietor of the one in present use, Dr. M.A. Schutz, has met with considerable favor among some of our most enterprising local capitalists, who are quick to see the advantages of the enterprise as a means of investment and will gladly put their money in it. There is no doubt whatever that if a large, well-appointed sanitarium building were now here it would be the best means of advertising the innumerable advantages Long Beach possess over all the other seaside cities as a health resort. As it is, the fame of the sanitarium now presided over by Dr. and Mrs. Schutz has reached very far with five Wisconsin women coming Tuesday for treatment.

In July 1896 articles of incorporation were filed by Dr. Schutz for the Long Beach Sanitarium Company. The purposes of the corporation were to carry on a medical and surgical sanitarium, establish a school of hygiene for nurses, issuing diplomas to graduates. It seemed Schutz needed additional capital to achieve these goals. The capital stock of the corporation was fixed at $20,000, divided into 400 shares. Directors were: Dr. M.A. Schutz, Hulda A.V. Schutz, Dr. O.C. Welbourn, P.E. Hatch and F.E. Ingham, all of Long Beach.

In March 1897, Schutz opened the sanitarium doors to celebrate the forty-ninth anniversary of modern Spiritualism. In the afternoon a baptism was held for infant Bryan Snow. The Los Angeles Herald (3/31/1897) reported the platform was surrounded by lovely decorations of vines and flowers, but the ceremony was different from that in vogue in more orthodox churches. The child, instead of being sprinkled with water, was strewed over with flowers. White symbolized purity; red, life and energy, and yellow, the intellect.


In 1900 Schutz decided to add a hotel to his Long Beach holdings, but he needed investors. The Long Beach Hotel and Sanitarium Company was incorporated in April 1900, with a capital stock of $25,000, divided into 500 shares, of which amount $9,350 was subscribed. The directors were: M. A. Schutz, M.D.; H. G. Brainerd. M. D.; J. W. Wood, M.D.; F. L. Spaulding, Will H. Townsend, Harry Barndollar, P. E. Hatch, R.R. Dunbar, H.F. Starbrick, all residents of Los Angeles or Long Beach. In February 1905 Dr. Schutz bought out the other investors. He planned to make extensive improvements to the hotel and put in an elevator and convert the basement into offices.
    In February 1910 Schutz was offered $50,000 for the Riviera Hotel property. He refused to consider the deal, believing the property would only increase in value (Los Angeles Herald 2/20/1910).  Long Beach was growing.  On Saturday, June 24, 1911, the Port of Long Beach opened for business.  Lumber yards and a mill had already been established near the harbor to prepare for the big business expected to come. Schutz and many others believed this and other signs of progress meant tremendous growth and progress for Long Beach.  
  The 61-year-old Schutz died December 29, 1924, at the Convalescent Hospital, 2089 E. Broadway after a week’s illness.  His 74-year-old son Murray was interviewed by Bob Sanders of the Press Telegram (10/19/1976) but said nothing about the orphans his family helped raise.  Instead he talked about his father and the Riviera Hotel, the information somewhat different from that presented in earlier sources:

    My father started practicing in Pasadena in 1896. It seems he graduated in 1894, 1895 or 1896 from the University of Southern California medical school and went directly to Pasadena.  Around that time he ran out of patients during the summer months because he was told everybody goes east in the summer.  A German friend recommended going to Long Beach where there was a Methodist campground that attracted 7000 people. My father did just that and in 1900 bought a section of land where, with the help of financing, he built the Riviera Hotel. My father also bought 4 acres of land on Signal Hill, and I remember picking blackberries for a penny a box for a farmer nearby.
   Murray remembered the hotel advertised “One Hundred Rooms Elegantly furnished: All Outside rooms, many with Private Baths.”  Regardless of the number of rooms, the hotel’s days were numbered.  In 1918, according to Murray, five days after the United States entered World War I, the mortgage on the hotel came due and all financing was frozen.  To meet the payment his father had to sell the 4 acres of land on Signal Hill in 1919 just two years before oil was discovered there.  If he hadn’t sold he would have made a fortune.

    What happened to the orphans?  The 1920 U.S. Census showed M.A. Schutz, Pearl, Helene and Murray living at Elsinore in Riverside County.  What had happened to all the other children? The 1910 census had listed 7 children living with Dr. and Mrs. Schutz: there were their own children, Murray age 7 and Helene 8; Korean born Asha, age 6; Alp, 7; Tate, 5;  Earwatha, 1; and Mabyla Polomares, 16.  Where were the other children in 1920? 
    What of the urban legend claim that Schutz abused his orphans?  The only proof I’ve been able to come up with appeared in the October 16, 1913 Los Angeles Times: “After Marshal’s Scalp: Sanatorium manager charges officer with spreading slanderous stories. Action Deferred.”   
    By the time the article appeared Schutz had moved his sanatorium from Long Beach to Elsinore. Elsinore had attracted visitors since the 1880s because of the mineral springs near the lake. After 1893 the lake’s level sank almost continuously for about 10 years, which is probably why Schutz chose Long Beach originally for his sanatorium instead of Elsinore. But by 1903 the lake level began to rise, and by 1913 Schutz became owner and manager of the Elsinore Sanatorium, but kept the Riviera Hotel in Long Beach.
    The Times reported that Schutz made a formal complaint against Elsinore City Marshal Haworth, charging him with conduct unbecoming an officer. Schutz accused Haworth of circulating slanderous stories about him and with interfering with how he raised his children. Haworth claimed that Schutz had no right to punish them. Several Long Beach people, including the Chief of Police and a police detective, were present at the hearing and testified as to the good reputation of Dr. Schutz in Long Beach.  The matter was finally settled when Haworth publicly apologized to Dr. Schutz before the Elsinore Board of Trustees and a highly interested audience.
    So what about the urban legend?  Perhaps this 1913 article relating to corporal punishment of the orphans, plus Schutz’s belief in Spiritualism, led to the story of the ghostly children reaching out from beyond the grave to help drivers in their climb up the Hill---and the driver perhaps rescuing the orphans from Dr. Schutz and his abusive ways. Or perhaps the orphans were just practicing kindness and "universal brotherhood," principles they had learned from Schutz, in helping drivers in the steep assent up Hill Street.   


    I’ve been trying to find out what happened to the orphans.  Perhaps they were sent to another group interested in Schutz’s ideal of universal brotherhood. In 1904 the Los Angeles Times reported that the Schutzes were assisted by many philanthropic citizens. Chief among them was the Thimble Club of the Rathbone Sisters, who were not only financially interested, but expected to take an active part in the care of the little ones “and in the work so unselfishly undertaken by the doctor and his wife.” (LA Times 6/5/1904). A search through genealogical data bases revealed nothing about the orphans. According to the 1910 U.S. Census, all shared the surname Schutz, with the exception of Mabyla Polomares. I did find that daughter Helene became a doctor and died in New York in 1937, she never married. Son Murray was involved in the stock market in the 1920s; he died in Berkeley in 1982. Wife Pearl Kelly Schutz died in 1949 and is buried at Forest Lawn, Glendale.
   Perhaps some readers will remember the orphans and what became of them or have more to add to the urban myth? If so, please share.

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