A Visit to Old Los Angeles

9. Broadway (Part 3).


Brent C. Dickerson

Copyright © Brent C. Dickerson

Index to Episodes (click here)

A Stroll down Broadway from Fourth Street to Eighth Street.

• We continue on Broadway, walking south from 4th Street. Ah, the bicycle corps of the L.A. police is there to protect us! In the distance, we see the Hotel Lankershim at the corner of Broadway and Seventh Street. The charming old buildings to our left would be demolished soon.

• Minnie's interest in the Pin-Ton candy store made me realize that I had a bit of an appetite myself. As the others went on, I winked at Minnie and motioned her to lag behind with me. We slipped into a soda fountain, where I ordered a root beer for me, and a sasparilla for Minnie. Minnie asked how I knew she wanted a sasparilla. "Who doesn't know that anything with 'sass' in it is Minnie's cup of tea?," said I, wiping the foam from my lips; "Say, it says here that this is the world's longest soda fountain." "I don't care if it's the world's shortest," quoth Minnie, "as long as there's seating for one when I walk in! —Two, if you're with me, of course." "Of course."

• We quickly downed our sodas and joined the others a few storefronts down the way, where on the one side Mother, Charley, and young Frederick Johan were trying to stop the baby's hiccoughs, and on the other Anna and Papa were admiring a team of horses on a delivery truck at the curb. A moment after we stepped up, young Frederick Johan said, "I don't know what put this in my mind, but wouldn't a sarsaparilla drop help?", making Minnie and I exchange a silent glance. But, dear, on to your picture tour: Here, we turn and look north up the west side of the street (the postcard's printed caption is wrong; we are looking towards the corner with Fourth, not from it). The lady's shoe has been taken down! The Wilson Block, immediately at left, has the heavy look of its era (it was built in 1894, replacing a wood frame house where the Young family resided), quite unlike the sleek modern 1900s buildings we have been seeing. It led the way, being the first commercial building in what had been a residential suburb. But why do the lion's share of postcards look north rather than south, one might wonder . . . ? The answer is a practical one: the sun gets into the lens when the camera is pointed south.

• Soon, Minnie was intently window-shopping at Brock & Feagan's Jewelery Store about halfway down the block on the west side. Quoth Charley, "Surely, Minnie, engagement rings are the last thing you need to concern yourself with!". "Dear brother Charley," quoth she right back at him, "thank you for your concern; but I am assisting Ulf in his future endeavors." "What wonderful weather!", said I.

• From a little past Brock & Feagan's (their clock hanging over the sidewalk is prominent), we look back up Broadway towards City Hall.

• The sudden disappearance of Charley—never an odd thing in any member of the family—was solved by Anna's spotting him across the street talking to a pretty salesgirl. Minnie gave me a look. "How do you know she's a salesgirl. She could be a . . . a . . . " Mother broke in. "She could be an anything!", which seemed to settle the question. Anyhow, they were in front of the Broadway Central Building at address—or should I say "addresses"?—424-426-428. Finished in 1907, this building was later known as the Judson C. Rives Building. At far right is the Bumiller Bldg., at 430 S. Broadway, built in 1906.

• East face of the 400s block, nearing Fifth Street.

• Once Papa had restored Charley to the collective family bosom back on the west side of the street, Charley sighed in my general direction and said, "They were the brightest blue," which I took as referring to her eyes. Anna said that her interests in observing wildlife were helpful at all times in tracking Charley.

• We walk on to the corner with Fifth, and look north up the west side of the street again (left), patiently waiting for the sun to set so that we may see the same view at night (right).

• But let's conjure up the sun again, and look at the row of buildings on the east side of the street north of Broadway's corner with Fifth Street. The building at the upper right corner of this view is at the northeast corner of Broadway and Fifth. "Great gracious!" said Mother; "how does anyone manage to cross the street without multiple injuries?" "Easy!" shouted young Frederick Johan, from across the street. The baby looked on in wide-eyed wonder.

• We turn our heads and look at the southeast corner of Broadway and Fifth. In the view below, Broadway goes southwards off to the right, while Fifth goes eastwards off to the left.

• Looking to the east along Fifth, towards Spring Street, we see the posh Alexandria Hotel to the right. "I bet I could hit those globes with my slingshot from half a block away!", said you Frederick Johan. "I bet your slingshot will be in my purse before you get a chance," answered Mother. Papa hung back and walked with Anna for a while. "It's much quieter back here," quoth he.

• The Senate Café was at 506 S. Broadway. Anna wondered why they called it the Senate Café. "Because you tell the waiter what you want using Robert's Rules of Ordering?" conjectured young FJ. "Because all the real work is done in smoke-filled rooms!" was Mother's assertion. Papa thought for a moment, then offered, "Because dey cook up a lot of tings, but ven it finally comes out, it's too little too late. —Ja, and costs too much, too."

• Close by, at address 510, just past an alley, was the storefront of the Howland & Dewey Company. "Oh! I don't even need to look—the smell tells me it's a photography shop," said Anna, turning her head towards the fresher scent of the open street (which smelled pretty horsy to me). "Why, Anna," opined Charley, "I'm sure that they would take pride in giving you a negative experience." Minnie sighed, "I was going to hold my nose, but I think I'd do better to cover my ears." Young FJ meantime put on his best rustic accent. "Land!" said he, "Land, how do we need to conduct some business with the Howland & Dewey Company! Mother, another photography shop...?" "Picture this, young man," said mother; "a glossy hand-tinted nine by five print of a little boy being spanked for not taking 'no' for an answer." Papa asked, "Does it come in a frame?"

• City Hall in the distance, a mix of of architectural styles, a mix of vehicles from horse-drawn to gas to electric, a mix of traffic from vehicular to human, a mix of signs calling for our attention, a mix of sounds from the clip-clop of the horses to the rattle and clang of the trolleys—exciting Broadway stirs the senses. We gaze at the eastern corner of Broadway and Fifth from the middle of the 500s block.

• But we must have the western corner as well!

• Now going back to the corner with Fifth Street, turning around, and looking south . . . ("What next?", asked Minnie, "a do-si-do?" "A-le-main left, young lady," said Mother, sternly. A young clerk lounging in a doorway said, "hey, missy—how 'bout a promenade?" "Mister," quoth Papa, "next call is 'box the gnat'." And so the clerk went back inside.)

• Catch the trolley! Here is the full streetside theater of Broadway—banners, awnings, signs, peaks, flagpoles, even that lady's shoe once again hovers over its building in the distance—Broadway, north from near Sixth Street. And note the figure in the upper right-hand corner of our view; he's on top of the Sing Fat building. We visited the Copper Kettle Inn on Mercantile Place when we walked down Spring Street; the Broadway entrance to Mercantile Place can be seen in this view. The two flag-poles we see on the right rise from buildings flanking the entrance.

• We see the same area from another angle, the entrance to Mercantile Place now being near center in the view, with the Sing Fat building off to the right. At the far right is Tally's New Broadway Theater.

• And now, finishing with Mercantile Place, we look south from its entrance; the structure at left (with the Angel Silk sign) is at its southwest corner with Broadway. The building dominating at right is the Jevne Building at Broadway and Sixth Street, which we will see more closely in a moment.

• Broadway has everything for all needs and tastes! In the middle of the east face of the 500 block of Broadway, the Sing Fat Company, purveyors of oriental goods. The company had several locations spread through downtown, as well as one in San Francisco.

• A few years after our visit, the middle of the east face of Broadway between Fifth Street and Sixth Street would look like this. At night, we look south from the corner with Fifth (left), and north from the corner with Sixth (right).

• At the lower right of the right-hand view above, one can see the word CLUNES, with the word VAUDEVILLE not far away above it. This indicates the location of Clune's Broadway Theater. Mother's frown as we passed told me we would not be attending any performances there; but young Frederick Johan saw my wistful look as we passed, and a few days later bought me a postcard of the interior. "I thought you might like this," he said, handing it to me; "5¢, please." The scene depicted on the backdrop is Avalon Bay on Catalina Island.

• We wait for daytime, go south a block, and now look north from Sixth at the same stretch of Broadway. Prominent is the Arcade Building, with its passageway to Spring Street, a passageway which was formerly Mercantile Place. The site had been owned by the City of Los Angeles since 1883, and had hosted first a school and then the shop-edged lane known as Mercantile Place. This site was sold in 1919, and the present Arcade Building opened—as the Mercantile Arcade Building—with much hoopla on February 15, 1924, such luminaries as Charlie Chaplin, Pola Negri, Jackie Coogan, and the Grauman's Egyptian Quartet in attendance.

• Two views taking in Broadway, looking south from the mid-500s block past the corner with Sixth Street, one taking in the eastern face (left; the large building is the Story Building), the other the western (right). Look in the distance in the western view—a building under construction; and, in both views, some trees on the horizon. As we have seen on reaching the 600/700 blocks on other streets, this is the growing edge of downtown in the years 1905-1915.

• At the southeast corner of Broadway and Sixth Street will be found the Story Building, in which the Mullen & Bluett Clothing Company makes its home. It is dawn; horse-drawn carts pass a trolley, an automobile or two, and a few pedestrians perhaps out for their morning constitutionals, perhaps staggering home after having made a night of it. "City life at its most ambiguous," muttered Mother.

• In the left-hand view, we look east along Sixth Street from its corner with Broadway. In the middle of the view is the "Absolutely Fireproof" Hotel Hayward at Sixth and Spring which we saw from another angle during our visit to Spring Street. In the right-hand view, we look south along Broadway from the same corner.

• On the southwest corner of Broadway and Sixth, the H. Jevne Co. building. H. Jevne was a long-time Angeleno, having grocered for the city for nearly 50 years.

• The Story Building at the left, Jevne's building at the right, we look south on Broadway from Sixth Street.

• The northwest corner of Broadway and Sixth was not very glamorous, with the Trout Drug Store and the Bresee Undertaking Parlor. It was very convenient for Dr. Trout to be next door to the undertaker's, as he served for a time as Coroner. The building to the left in this view from 1901 shows the edifice which preceded Jevne's at the southwest corner of this intersection, while rising above it we see the tower of the U.S. Army Headquarters building further back on the block, a building also used by St. Vincent's College. The vaguely Muscovite pointy cupolas we see at the upper right arise from The Brunswick hotel-apartments on Sixth Street. But we must not lose sight of the fact that this was another part of President McKinley's route through the city, and with a bit of looking we can see him embowered among the flowers. "I would go so far as to say," declared Papa, "that there may have been 20,010 roses on that carriage."

• "Endless stores and office buildings!—tall or short, brick or non-brick!" comprises the sense of some murmurings we hear among our more impatient travelers. We obtain some relief by ascending one of these buildings near Sixth and Broadway, and looking ahead to Hill St., Olive St., and west and north-west generally. One block over is Central Park, to become better known as Pershing Square. The high ground which we found so troublesome around the Court House earlier shows its further extensions sloping downwards as indicated by the descending altitude of the buildings we see in the distance towards the right of the right-hand view. The mountains in the far distance—the contours of which are to varying degrees the product of the imaginations of the post-card lab artists—slope towards a meeting with the ocean, a pleasant trolley-ride to the west. The grid in downtown Los Angeles is at an angle; but the numbered streets are conventionally referred to as going east/west, and the "named" streets north/south.

• At 615 S. Broadway, another outlet for the Sing Fat Co.; the premises go west all the way through to have a Hill Street entrance, as we'll see.

• Daniel Desmond came to Los Angeles in November of 1869, opening a hat store on Los Angeles Street near Commercial Street. His business grew with the city, becoming a purveyor of finer men's clothing; and his location moved as the fashionable mercantile area of the city moved, successively to Spring Street and Main Street; and here we see Desmond's at 616 S. Broadway.

• Well might you say during our walk down Broadway, "Mid pleasures and palaces tho' we might roam, be it ever so humble, there's no place like"—a market to bring us back to life's necessities. We stepped into the Broadway Palace Market at 622 S. Broadway. Pretty slick!—and I must say much tidier than our markets back home. Papa and the owner talked a spell about winter wheat prices; young FJ and I wandered about, unsuccessfully looking for a cracker barrel with a few chairs.

• The Yamato Company, across the street and a few doors down at 635-637 S. Broadway, provides some competition in the Oriental line to the Sing Fat Co.

• Charley startled the rest of us by stating a strong desire to enter the Yamato Company's premises. His motivations shall perhaps ever remain obscure; but I did notice that he frowned slightly and blushed when Minnie said that she'd warn any geishas she ran across not to wait on him hand and foot. "Or anything else," I added, for the sake of completeness. After we had browsed the merchandise for a good while, Papa and Charley were nowhere to be seen. Mother stuck her nose in the air, drawing in large amounts of air like a sort of inverse grampus and declaring, "Follow the cigar smoke!" When Minnie went missing as well, Anna said, "Ah—that means food!" And I must say that Minnie does seem to snack at every convenient and inconvenient moment; it's a wonder that she's thin as a rail. Anyhow, to the consternation of the clerks, we soon heard young Frederick Johan whistling to us from some distance away—on the second floor, in point of fact, where he had found our missing members being served tea and cakes in the Yamato's indoor tea garden. Charley asks me to add, "by delightful young Japanese maidens."

• After these refreshments, we undertook to continue our walk south along Broadway with renewed vigor. Here, we look north from Broadway's corner with Seventh Street. There was a sort of furniture store ghetto in these higher blocks of Broadway and of Spring to some degree. Here, for instance, is the Lyon-McKinney-Smith Co.'s sign looking down on us, offering Furniture · Carpets · Draperies with the word Rugs being conveniently short!

• And here, directly across the street, is the California Furniture Company, Bullock's Department Store, at Broadway's corner with Seventh Street, being immediately south.

• The alluring mysteries of the night! Here is nearly the same view as the picture before last, with most of the lower building in the earlier picture's foreground sliced off. The Orpheum Theater presides at center stage in this shot.

• A good look at the Orpheum during the daytime.

• Though it was locked up tight when we tried the doors, young Frederick Johan later found a postcard view of how it looks inside.

• From Seventh Street, we glance north at what is across the street from the Orpheum. Bullock's department store, on the corner with Seventh, looms on our left.

• A better look at the east corners of Broadway and Seventh, from the south. We can see, dominating at left, Jevne's building a block north.

• A rare glimpse of the east face of the 600s block of Broadway before it was built up, with the 500s block beyond also looking pretty modest! We can see the "O" of the "Co." of the Jevne Company building's wall-sign at upper left; and no one can miss the wall of the Hotel Alexandria over on Spring Street at center. The silhouettes of City Hall and even the Court House in the distance at left. At this point, Spring Street was looking much more prosperous than Broadway...

• "If we do not reach the end of this street soon, I shall scream—indeed I shall!—be it ever so interesting!" cries sister Minnie. So let us rush along as best we can... We look south from the mid-600s along the east face of the street to the corner with Seventh and beyond. The large building on the other side of the corner is part of the Hotel Lankershim, which we saw previously in its full tripartite version from our vantage point on a rooftop on Main, when we looked into the backyards of Spring St.

• Now a view of both faces, east and west, of the street, looking south beyond the corner with Seventh. The "city" buildings stop abruptly; we see some trees; the suburbs are at hand! —But not for long . . .

• We come to the corner, and look east along Seventh and the front of the Hotel Lankershim to the corner with Spring Street.

• I stuck my head in to compare the lobby with that of the Angelus. "Son," said Papa when I came out again, "with all this looking in windows and going in doors, I expect you'll be of interest to the police force one of these days."

• We cross Seventh Street, stand along the west wall of the Hotel Lankershim, and look north up Broadway past Bullock's, one of the grand department stores.

• Now we look west on Seventh Street from its corner with Broadway. That's Bullock's at the far right in this view. The little alley we see debouching onto Seventh between Bullock's and the next building over (which, in truth, is the Bullock's Annex) is called St. Vincent Court, a tiny reminder of when this whole block was the campus of St. Vincent's College. Beyond are Seventh Street's corners with Hill, Olive, Grand, Hope, Flower, and Figueroa.

• We walk another few buildings to the south, and look back north. Just to our right is Barker Bros. Furniture Store, with the Lankershim two buildings beyond it.

• We walk another few steps south, look north on Broadway from its corner with Eighth, and see the tower of City Hall in the far distance. Note the fragment of immense wall-sign we see at the right of our view. But watch out for the horses!

• Much to Minnie's relief, Papa declares "Eighth Street—that's enough!"; and Mother remarks that her feelings on seeing the largest wall sign on the Pacific Coast nearly equal those she felt earlier on seeing an elephant made out of walnuts. Young Frederick Johan, however, has a final burst of energy for the day, and convinces Charley to join him in a run to the top of a new building at the southwest corner of Broadway and Eighth for a look over the city. The building they ascended was the new building for Hamburger's Department Store, the old building for which—the Phillips Block—we saw at Spring and Franklin Sts. quite some time ago on the far side of downtown. Here is the new store. On the left is its Broadway face; off to the right, going towards the corner with Hill Street, is its Eighth Street face.

• And here is the view northeast over the city from Broadway and Eighth.

Return to Broadway part two; or on to Broadway & 8th . . .

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