The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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Dearden's

Chris asks:

Was the Dearden's building the same one used for the filming or was it built later?  This site says it was built in 1904: http://www.you-are-here.com/downtown/dearden.html.

Were there any 100th birthday events at the site this year?

Let's take the easy one first:

Were there any events held at the site this year to commemorate the centennial of filming commercial movies in Los Angeles?

As far as I know, there were not.

And now we turn to the history of what the Daily Mirror has named "Charles Bukowski Square," in which we find that it was a notorious spot for intoxication, suicide and horse theft in early Los Angeles.

 

1910_0205_tapeworms_2

And in 1910, you might visit if you had tapeworms.

 

1906_0401_overells

First of all, the building at the southeast corner of 7th and Main didn't begin life as Dearden's. It was the home of Overell's. If that name seems familiar, give yourself bonus points on Los Angeles' history for knowing about the Bud Gollum and Louise Overell double murder case of 1947. (Bud and Louise were lovers who were accused of beating her parents to death and blowing up their yacht in the Newport Beach Harbor--and yes, they were found not guilty).


 

1906_0124_overell

The Times' display ads show that Overell's moved into the Dearden's building in 1906, raising the question about filming atop a tinsmith's shop purportedly there a year later. But I'm getting ahead of myself

Very well, Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for 1887. We find that the Fourth of July parade began at 7th and Main. In fact, Bukowski Square was a popular starting point for parades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including President William McKinley's visit in 1901:

 

1887_0702_july_fourth_2

The next year (Sept. 20, 1888), we find that Jacob Altoff (or Adloff) was seeking a license to open a saloon at the intersection, an early milestone in the colorful, 90-poof history of Bukowski Square.

 

1889_0404_doctor

In 1889, it was clearly a place to go for interesting medical procedures.

We can infer that by 1891, the Roberts Building (possibly the Robart, Robart's or Robarts Block) had been erected on the northeast corner (now the site of Craby Joe's et al) because a nasty attempted murder-suicide involving a .44-caliber British bulldog occurred there. (I love going through the turn-of-the-century newspapers; the headlines take my breath away. "Blew His Head Off" comes close to my all-time favorite: "Says Bad Words Into Phone").

 

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And in 1891, we find a livery stable victimized by a drunk Swede and his companion:

 

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In 1895, we find references to a drugstore and a dentist's office.

In 1897, bad things happened at the Castle Saloon, 7th and Main, and author Horace Bell's son Albert was arrested on suspicion of "having tapped a till."

 

1897_0605_burglary

 

June 5, 1897: A morphine fiend burglarizes Paul Vignes' saloon on the northeast corner of Bukowski Square. This was apparently the Castle Saloon.

In 1902, there was attempted double suicide by morphine addict E. Percivale Baker and his wife at the St. Lawrence rooming house.

Aha! Now we're getting somewhere.

 

1902_0618_fire

On June 17, 1902, a spectacular fire destroyed the Heywood Bros. and Wakefield Co. furniture store on the southeast corner of Bukowski Square, currently the home of Dearden's.

"Nothing remains except the four walls and the lower floor," The Times said of the building, which was planned as early as 1898 and erected about 1901. A few days later, a workman was injured when a 35-foot-high scaffolding collapsed due to the weight of salvaged bricks at what The Times identified as the O.T. Johnson Building.

In the next few months, thousands of chairs as well as many pieces of fire- or water-damaged furniture were sold at auctions held in a large tent on the site.

In 1903, a market was apparently located on one corner.

 

1903_1206_yerkes

 

And we find a car dealer at a corner in 1904:

 

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Finally, in 1906, we find this. Look familiar? Notice that there are no fire escapes. Oops.

 

1906_0408_overells_2

 

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Photograph by Larry Harnisch / Los Angeles Times

This would seem to eliminate at least part of the story: A tinsmith's shop (later variant: Chinese laundry) at 7th and Main, at least at this corner of Bukowski Square.

But we have three others to explore.

In the June 10, 1906, Times, we find that the northeast corner (146 1/2 feet on Main and 147 1/2 feet to a 20-foot alley) were sold by J.W. Wolfskill to the Union Trust and Realty Co., representing "a local syndicate." The Times notes that there was a three-story brick building on the property and that the buyers planned six or eight one-story stores.

Later that year, a Pasadena engineer who killed his wife committed suicide with carbolic acid at the Fairmount Hotel, somewhere on Bukowski Square.

 

1907_0623_gem

As for the southeast corner (now occupied by the restaurant with the smiling signage, a bit like the billboard with a giant pair of eyes in "The Great Gatsby") we find that in June 1907 it was occupied by the Gem Furniture store. No trace of a tinsmith's shop or Chinese laundry so far. In fact Bukowski Square sounds downright metropolitan.

Now for the northwest corner. We find that when it was sold in 1904 it had a one-story brick building. The Times notes that when the current leases expired, the new owners planned a building at least eight stories high. Some sort of construction was going on in 1906 because The Times reported a contract for 125,000 bricks to be used in a two-story building on Bukowski Square planned by S.M. Quimby.

Hm. I found a building permit for a one-story brick building at 109-111 W. 7th on Sept. 6, 1903.


 

1923_0712_101w7th

 

In 1923, there was a hardware story on the property.

 

1926_0321_board_of_trade

Here's one mystery cleared up at least, the mystery building now at the northwest corner is the Board of Trade Building, 117 W. 7th, which opened in 1926.

Nothing listed anywhere about a Chinese laundry or a tinsmith's shop. And I'm out of time for today.

Stay tuned.

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Comments (5)

Great work Larry, as usual.

Where are those tapeworm doctors when you need them today, huh?

No events this time around? That's sad. Maybe the plaque is hidden under that sheet of metal on the Dearden's building and it'll be re-unveiled in a future commemoration.

That's the thing about L.A., people cycle through this city like pop bottles. Who is around that remembers things from 50 years ago? They have mostly died or migrated out. I don't think there is another major city in the world that suffers the amnesia Los Angeles does. It isn't as if Los Angeles doesn't have a history, it's that people don't know it. They weren't around then so how can they remember it now?

But you'd think that if they (we) could commemorate the 50th year, why not the 100th? It's not as if the movie industry left L.A.

On March 17, 1987 U2 filmed its music video for "Where the Streets Have No Name" on the roof of Republic Liquor Store, accross the street from Dearden's. The video shoot turned into an impromptu concert, and the results form the bulk of the music video.

There may have been a plaque commemorating the 50th aniversary of the first film shoot in Los Angeles placed on the north corner of the Dearden's building, but it was either removed or covered when additional earthquake retrofitting was performed sometime in the 1990s.

Christiaan


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