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The Story of the Sacketts of Hollywood

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Apr 26th, 2015
2015
Apr 26

HOLLYWOOD PIONEERS

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Above: The extended Sackett family in front of the Sackett Hotel, in 1898. From left to right: Betsy Otis, H.D. Sackett‘s aunt; Mrs. Sackett; Lyman Hathaway, cousin of Mary Sackett; William H. Sackett; unknown; Mary Sackett; Zella Sackett, married to George Dunlap; unknown; Lilly ? ; Dora Miller. (LAPL)

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

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Horace David Sackett, whose family came to America from England in 1831, was born in Blandford, Massachusetts on December 29, 1843, the son of Leverett and Mary Culver Sackett. When he was eighteen years old, he went to Suffield, Connecticut and started a flourishing general merchandise and farming business that lasted for several years.

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On January 15, 1873, Sackett married Ellen Minerva Lyman (b. July 24, 1848) and became the parents of five children, Mary Mariah (b. July 8, 1875), William (b. June 22, 1876), Warren Lyman (b. August 30, 1882), Zella Myra (b. June 11, 1883), and Emily (b. March 1885).

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Sackett was a squat, spare, busy man with a short beard. He was cheerful and kindly but firm in his convictions. In 1887, with $10,000 in his pocket, he left Connecticut with his family and moved to Los Angeles. There he heard about land in the North Cahuenga Valley being subdivided for business and residential purposes. This new development called Hollywood was without lights, telephones, paved streets or other modern improvements.

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The developer, Harvey Henderson Wilcox and his wife Daeida was looking for men willing to build up the area and attract new residents. Sackett’s daughter Mary recalled that her family was one of the first families in the area. “Mr. Wilcox subdivided his 160-acre ranch and named it Hollywood,” Mary recalled years later. “Both our families settled down there in May, 1888 when I was 12.”

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Each lot was going for a fixed price of $1,000 each. But Wilcox gave Sackett, free of charge, three sixty-five foot lots facing the assigned business area at Cahuenga Avenue and the southwest corner of Prospect (now Hollywood Boulevard), if Sackett made certain improvements before the dummy line (the old steam engine with the open car) reached Wilcox Avenue.

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By 1888, the railroad was functioning, and Sackett built on the corner a three-story hotel building (above) of wood with a mansard roof, consisting of a corner store, and Prospect Avenue lobby and parlor. Behind that was the culinary department. The stairway from the lobby led to the two stories with their eighteen rooms and a bathroom. Behind the hotel was a barn and corral, and surrounding the store and lobby front was a cypress hedge and two-year-old pepper trees planted by Wilcox, which gave the place a very cozy appearance.

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Here the Sacketts ran the first hotel in the Cahuenga Valley and the second general merchandising establishment within the corporate limits of Hollywood. He also kept a few horses for his clientele and to work the blocks east and south of the store, where he had a garden to sell produce in his store.

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He later bought the lot south of the hotel and also two lots facing west on Wilcox Avenue, and south of the two northern lots in the row. Here he ran an overnight and breakfast place for city visitors from the north and the bachelors’ roost for the young single men of the village. At his store, Sackett sold butter and eggs, crackers and cheese, overalls, jumpers, boots and shoes, ribbons and yardage, and canned goods that were then becoming popular.

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Another Hollywood pioneer associated with the hotel was Dr. Edwin O. Palmer, who later wrote a history of the area. Upon his arrival in California, he rented a room and an office for his medical practice.

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Sackett’s daughter, Mary and her siblings, attended the old Temple Street School through grade school but didn’t go to high school because it was downtown, and they couldn’t get there on time. Later, Sackett added another store, where in a corner nook constituted Hollywood’s post office; Mary became Hollywood’s first postmistress, running her practiced eye over the little rack of boxes. For her duties, Mary was paid as high as $5 per month.

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Tragedy hit the Sackett family in 1899 when his son, William died unexpectedly at 23 years of age and was buried at Rosedale, as there would not be a cemetery in Hollywood for another two years.

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Due to competition from the new Hollywood Hotel, built two years earlier at the northwest corner of Prospect and Highland, Sackett closed his hotel in 1905. He sold the property to Henry Gillig, but it remained unoccupied for the next five years except for one store room on the first floor.

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In 1907, Sackett built a six bedroom house on property he had previously bought at what is now 1642 Wilcox Avenue. Later that same year, in the reception hall of their home, Sackett’s daughter Zella married George Dunlap. He was the mayor of Hollywood at the time, and the city’s last as Los Angeles annexed Hollywood in 1910.

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In 1910, J.P. Creque, one of the wealthiest men in Hollywood, bought the former hotel property for $28,000 from the estate of Henry Gillig, who was now deceased. Creque razed the abandoned hotel and erected a fireproof two-story cream brick structure that cost approximately $30,000. The Hollywood National Bank leased a portion of the new building; there were three other stores facing on Prospect. The second floor had offices with wide hallways and tile flooring.

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The J.P. Creque Building being built in 1911 on the site of the Sackett Hotel

at the southwest corner of Hollywood and Cahuenga.

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In 1931, the Creque Building was enlarged by adding two stories; the Art Deco building at 6400-6408 Hollywood Boulevard, is still on the site.

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The Creque Building as it appears today on the site of the Sackett Hotel.

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Now retired from the mercantile business, Sackett devoted himself to the management of his private interests and several properties that he owned. He took an active part in the public affairs of Hollywood and Los Angeles for many years and was a man of ability and worth. He was a staunch democrat and was interested in politics, especially in local matters.

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It was in their Wilcox Avenue home that Horace Sackett died in 1918 and was buried next to his son at Rosedale. In 1929, his wife Ellen followed him in death at the age of eighty from heart disease.

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At the time of Ellen’s death, the area around Hollywood Boulevard and Wilcox was mostly commercial, and land was being bought for business purposes. Mary Sackett was living in the family home, but instead of demolishing the house, she sold the property in 1929 but moved the house to the San Fernando Valley which was mostly residential.

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Remarkably, the old Sackett house is still standing at 10739 Kling Street in North Hollywood. The 1908 residence looks somewhat out of place next to the small bungalow homes built mostly in the 1930s.

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The altered, but original Horace Sackett home, once located at 1642 Wilcox Avenue

in Hollywood, is now at 10739 Kling Street in North Hollywood.

PLEASE NOTE: This is a private residence. DO NOT DISTURB the occupants.

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On Wilcox, a row of storefronts still stands in place of the old Sackett homestead.

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Mary Sackett never married and in her old age claimed that she never touched liquor, tea or coffee. “I’m an old maid and proud of it,” she insisted to a reporter in 1950. “I’ve never worn a bit of make-up, yet I had three proposals. Men have taken me out but usually with a chaperone. I wouldn’t let them kiss me good-night and to this day no man has ever been allowed to put his arm around me.”

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In 1954, at the age of 78, Mary appeared on an episode of the  You Bet Your Life television show with host Groucho Marx and laughingly ruffled the comedians feathers. She asked Groucho to put away his trademark cigar, either lit or unlit, and he grudgingly complied.

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Mary Sackett, 74, spars with comedian Groucho Marx on “You Bet Your Life.”

Click HERE to watch the episode. Mary’s segment begins at 18:45

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When asked if a man might yet come along and sweep her off her feet, Mary replied, “Not a chance. I’m too set in my ways. I don’t want any man cluttering up my house.” When Mary died on January 31, 1969 at age 93 in Rosemead, California, she was the last remaining Sackett. She was buried in the family plot at Rosedale Cemetery.

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The Sackett family grave marker at Rosedale Cemetery.

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June Mathis: The Woman Who Discovered Valentino

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Dec 5th, 2014
2014
Dec 5

HOLLYWOOD PIONEERS

JUNE MATHIS; the woman who discovered Valentino

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

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June Mathis, a short, thickset, rather plain woman with frizzy hair, became one of Hollywood’s most influential women during the silent era. An accomplished screenwriter, casting director and film editor, Mathis was the only female executive at Metro Studios, and at one time the highest paid film executive in Hollywood.

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Born June Beulah Hughes in Leadville, Colorado on June 30, 1889, Mathis was the only child of Phillip and Virginia Hughes. Although available biographical records usually give her year of birth as 1892, census records appear to confirm the 1889 date. Her parents divorced when she was seven and while much of her childhood is vague, at some point her mother met and married William D. Mathis, a recent widower with three children. Ultimately she would take her step-father’s name.

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Mathis’ first public incarnation was as a child actor in vaudeville and on Broadway. Her stage credits include the hit play, The Fascinating Widow with the famed female impersonator, Julian Eltinge. For thirteen years Mathis toured in numerous plays and vaudeville shows. In 1914, she moved to New York and took a writing course and entered a scriptwriting contest. This brought her several offers to write scenarios until Metro Studios hired her in 1918. At Metro, she quickly worked her way up to becoming chief of the studio’s script department. Her scripts incorporated a wide range of films including An Eye for an Eye (1918), Hearts Are Trumps (1920) and Polly with a Past (1920).

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THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE

When Metro president Richard Rowland bought the rights to the popular war novel, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Mathis was placed in charge. It was through her influence that her friend and fledgling film director, Rex Ingram was hired as the film’s director. The film and the casting of Rudolph Valentino in the role of Julio, established both of their careers. Mathis picked Valentino for the role of Julio after seeing him in a small role in The Eyes of Youth (1919).

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Until Mathis cast Valentino in The Four Horsemen, he was relegated to mostly bit parts and walk-ons. Several people have taken credit for Valentino’s success but it was this bit of casting that launched the Latin Lover’s career. At Metro, and later Paramount studios, Mathis was responsible for a string of Rudolph Valentino films including Blood and Sand (1922) and The Young Rajah (1922).

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Mathis and Valentino maintained a very close relationship – some even suggested that they may have been romantically involved, but this is unlikely. In fact, actress Nita Naldi said that Mathis mothered Valentino and that they held each other in high regards. When Mathis’ version of the script for the ill-fated The Hooded Falcon failed to impress either Valentino or his wife, Natacha Rambova, Mathis ended their relationship.

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BEN-HUR

After negotiations with producers of the Ben-Hur stage play, Samuel Goldwyn bought the screen rights to General Lew Wallace’s religious novel. Mathis, who had previously been with Metro and Lasky, was now Goldwyn’s head scenarist and was given sovereign control. Not only would Mathis adapt the screenplay, she was in charge of production and her first executive decision was to make the film in Italy. After a nationwide search it was decided to go with Mathis choice for Ben-Hur, George Walsh and her pick for director, Charles Brabin. Neither choice, however, was popular with the public nor with many in the film industry, but this proved how powerful Mathis was at the time.

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Once the film company arrived in Rome, the production quickly began to deteriorate. Labor disputes delayed the building of many of the sets; Italian labor was inexpensive, but slow. Not only were the sets and costumes not ready, but the actors sat around or took advantage and made small tours of Europe. To make matters worse, Mathis was told to not interfere with Brabin on the set. Originally she believed that she was to supervise the production, but quickly learned that things were changing; Brabin would only allow her to approve or reject changes to the script.

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In the meantime, nothing on the set seemed to go right. The sets cost a fortune but still looked cheap. The script wasn’t completed, and a lot of time and money was being wasted. The moral of the entire company was at an all-time low, and it appeared that Ben-Hur would be the biggest fiasco that Hollywood had ever seen.

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During all of this, Metro, Goldwyn, and producer Louis B. Mayer were making plans to merge their studios. The first point of order for the new studio, now known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, was to try and save the fast-sinking Ben-Hur. Mayer, who was appointed as the head of the studio, told MGM’s president, Marcus Loew, that he would only take the job if June Mathis, Charles Brabin and George Walsh were removed. They also insisted that the script be rewritten. These demands meant that they would have to start from the beginning.

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Mayer’s replacement for Brabin was director Fred Niblo, who felt the assembled cast was the most uninteresting and colorless he had seen and directly blamed Mathis. Walsh was replaced with Ramon Novarro and Mathis was unceremoniously fired and replaced by scenarists Bess Meredyth and Carey Wilson.

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In statements to the press, Mathis held Charles Brabin responsible for the problems on Ben-Hur. She insisted that control of the picture was taken away from her by Brabin and she could no longer associate herself with the film.

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During the few months that she was in Rome, Mathis met and fell in love with Sylvano Balboni, an Italian cameraman hired to work on the film. Mathis returned to Hollywood in August 1924 with Balboni in-tow, and married him the following December. Regardless of what transpired on Ben-Hur, Mathis continued to work. Shortly after returning from Rome she signed with First National where she scripted several Colleen Moore films including Sally (1925), The Desert Flower (1925) and Irene (1926).

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REUNION WITH VALENTINO

When Rudolph Valentino’s last film, The Son of the Sheik (1926) premiered in Los Angeles, Mathis was there and the two had a heartfelt reunion. It was only a few months later that Valentino died suddenly and Mathis offered her own crypt at Hollywood Cemetery as a temporary resting place for the dead film idol.

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Over the following year, Mathis developed health problems, including high blood pressure and was placed on a restricted diet by her doctors. That summer, she was in New York with her grandmother, Emily Hawks. On the evening of July 26, 1927, disregarding her doctor’s orders, she had a heavy meal before taking her grandmother to the 48th Street Theatre to watch Blanche Yurka perform in The Squall. In the play’s final act, Mathis suddenly cried out, “Oh, mother, I’m dying,” and threw her arms around her grandmother while sobbing convulsively.

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Attendants ran to Mathis seat and carried her outside to the theater alley alongside the playhouse and laid her on the concrete road. A physician that was in the audience examined her and announced that she was dead. Her grandmother was inconsolable, pleading with her to speak while Mathis’ body lay in the alley waiting for the medical examiner to arrive.

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The following week back in Hollywood, Valentino’s body was moved to the neighboring crypt to make room for Mathis. They lay next to each other in eternity to this day.

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THE FUTURE OF WOMEN IN FILM

While it’s true that only hard-core film enthusiasts recognize June Mathis’ name today, she hasn’t been totally ignored. For instance, you cannot mention Rudolph Valentino, director Rex Ingram or such film classics as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse without discussing Mathis’ and her contributions to film history?

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Without a doubt there have been a number of women among Mathis’ contemporaries who yielded various levels of power. These would include writers Frances Marion, Bess Meredyth and Anita Loos and of course directors Lois Weber and Dorothy Arzner, among others.

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For some reason, shortly after the advent of sound, women seemed to lose much of their influence that they achieved during the silent era. The only women that seemed to wield any power were gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, who, while not directly running a studio, could definitely influence the powers-that-be.

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Today it’s not unusual to see a woman in a position of authority or even running a studio. Examples over the years have included Amy Pascal, Chairman of Sony Pictures; Anne Sweeney, president of Disney-ABC Television; Gail Berman, president of Paramount Pictures; Stacey Snider, co-chairman and CEO of DreamWorks SKG; Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment; Dana Walden, President of 20th Century Fox Television, and of course, there’s media mogul, Oprah Winfrey. June Mathis would be proud.

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L. Frank Baum — The Wizard of Cherokee Avenue

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Jun 9th, 2011
2011
Jun 9

 

 

To celebrate the installation of the Toto memorial marker at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on June 18, here is the story of Toto’s creator and his life in Hollywood.

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

L. Frank Baum, the author of numerous children’s classics including “The Wizard of Oz,” left his impression on the world – in particular the literary and film world. Few people know that Baum spent the last nine years of his life living in Hollywood and was one of its earliest residents.

 

At his home located at 1749 N. Cherokee Avenue (at the corner of Yucca), which he christened “Ozcot,” Baum wrote many of his best loved “Oz” books, including “The Emerald City of Oz” (1910), “The Patchwork Girl of Oz” (1913), “The Lost Princess of Oz” (1917) and many more.

 

Lyman Frank Baum was born in Chittenango, New York on May 15, 1856. After his graduation at the Syracuse Academy he began newspaper work in 1880. Two years later he married Maud Gage of Fayetteville, New York. Baum was the editor of the Dakota Pioneer of Aberdeen, South Dakota from 1888 to 1890 and the Chicago Show Window, from 1897 to 1902. During that time he began writing books and plays. His first effort was “Mother Goose in Prose,” which was published in 1897.

  

Baum next decided to join forces on a children’s book with a friend, the artist W. W. Denslow. “Father Goose, His Book,” published in 1899, was a best-seller. One of the five books he published in 1900, also based on stories he had told his sons and illustrated by Denslow, was “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” which instantly broke records for sales and made Baum a celebrity.

 

More Oz books followed and over the next two decades he wrote over 35 non-Oz books under various pseudonyms aimed at various audiences. Always looking for new channels for his creativity, Baum became interested in films. In 1909 he founded a company to produce hand-colored slides featuring characters from his Oz books. These were shown while he narrated and an orchestra played background music.

 

 

Frank Baum and his wife lived here at 2322 Toberman Street with their son Frank, when they first moved to Los Angeles in January 1910 (NOTE: This is a private residence, please do not disturb the residents)

 

With his health failing, Baum and his wife came to California in January 1910 to create his own fairyland. At the time, their son Frank had been living in Los Angeles at 2322 Toberman Street for more than two years. The Baum’s lived with their son for a while before obtaining an apartment on Park Grove Avenue near downtown Los Angeles.

    

Looking for their own residence, Baum found the sparsely settled village called Hollywood, which at the time was mostly citrus groves. He immediately bought the plot of ground on which he built a two-story frame house that he named “Ozcot.” In 1910, the street was known as Magnolia but was renamed Cherokee two years later.

 

On the second floor he had a long enclosed porch with a view of the distant mountains, and downstairs at one end a large sunroom where he grew flowers. He built a large bird cage, big enough for a zoo, and there kept hundreds of rare and exotic song birds. In his garden he planted roses, dahlias and chrysanthemums. Before long he was recognized as a champion amateur horticulturist in Southern California.

 

Baum had traveled the world but developed a great affection for his new home: “Travels through Sicily, Italy, or a winter on the Upper Nile, all have their attractions but from what I have learned by actual experience, none of these countries compares with Southern California. There is a charm in the very atmosphere, an indefinable something which attracts and holds,” Baum once said.

 

At the time of his move to Hollywood, he was working on what he hoped would be the last “Oz” book, “The Emerald City of Oz.” Baum continued to turn out children’s stories at an amazing rate. To avoid flooding the market with books under his own name, he did one series after another, for both boys and girls, under pen names – Floyd Akers, Edith Van Dyne, Captain Hugh Fitzgerald, Laura Bancroft, Suzanne Metcalf and Schuyler Stanton.

 

Baum’s arrival in Hollywood, just a year before the advent of motion pictures, made it inevitable that he would be drawn into the fledgling industry. An earlier attempt at filmmaking in Chicago lost him a great deal of money, and in June 1911 he was forced to declare bankruptcy. However, with royalties coming in from his books, he was by no means a charity case. A later venture into the film business, the Oz Film Company in 1914, produced six movies but experienced severe distribution problems and also failed, though not as disastrously.

 

 

The Oz Film Mfg Co. located at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Lodi

 

 

The site as it looks today, only one blocks from Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

 

 

Baum and his wife Maud lived quietly at Ozcot, gardening, writing stories, and answering the hundreds of letters he received from Oz-struck children. In February of 1918, Baum took ill at Ozcot and was admitted to Angelus Hospital where he was operated on. Maud blamed the illness on the hard work of his newest novel, “The Tin Woodman of Oz,” which was due to be published in the fall.

 

Baum, left immobile due to the illness, was restricted to minor tasks throughout the day. The pressure and strain contributed to attacks of angina pectoris, as well as unpredictable, gall bladder problems, and excruciating sharp pain jabs across his face.

 

After a 24-hour coma, L. Frank Baum died at Ozcot at 7 p.m. on May 6, 1919, supposedly uttering “Now we can cross the Shifting Sands” just a minute before expiring. Baum was survived by his wife Maud and four sons, Frank, Robert, Harry and Kenneth.

 

Funeral services for Baum were held at the Little Church of the Flowers in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale. Rev. E. P. Ryland, who was a close friend of the author, officiated and during his remarks said of Baum: “He was a man who knew the heart of a child, and was a friend of men.”

 

 

 

 

A quartet from the Uplifters’ Club of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, of which Baum was an organizer, sang several selections including, “Eternity,” with Harold Proctor as soloist. The authors’ oldest son, Captain Frank J. Baum was in France at the time serving in World War I.

 

Two of Baum’s works, “The Magic of Oz” (1919) and “Glinda of Oz” (1920) were both published posthumously.

 

Maud Gage Baum continued to live at Ozcot and died there on March 6, 1953. She had been confined to bed the greater part of the last four years of her life after suffering a broken hip in a fall. She was 91.

  

Ozcot was razed in the late 1950s and a non-descript apartment building was built in its place. It’s doubtful that the current residents are aware of the literary history that occurred on this site.

 

 

 

 

Ozcot (top) as it appeared in Baum’s life time. Bottom is the site as it looks today.

 

NOTE: On August 15, 1939, The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland, premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theater – only 3 blocks from Ozcot.

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Hollywood’s first Mayor

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Sep 19th, 2010
2010
Sep 19

HOLLYWOOD PIONEERS

Sanford Rich, the first Mayor of Hollywood

 

 Sanford Rich (far left, standing) at the dedication of the Hollywood Post Office, October 30, 1925 (LAPL)

  

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Over the past fifty years, Hollywood has had its share of honorary mayors, the last being the ever-popular Johnny Grant. However, not many know that Hollywood had two official elected mayors between the years 1903 and 1910 when it merged with Los Angeles in order to obtain an adequate water supply. The first of those two mayors was Sanford Rich.

 

Sanford Rich was born at Fort Wayne, Indiana on September 30, 1840, one of five children raised on a farm. He was educated at regional pioneer schools with no other formal learning and would forever regret hi s lack of higher education. He ran away from home at age 16 to escape his stepmother and worked on a relative’s farm. He started a small meat business in Fort Wayne, sold it and moved to Chicago where he again opened a butcher shop.

 

In 1878 he returned to Fort Wayne where he built the Rich Hotel and managed the retail store of the Swift Packing Company. Soon he moved to San Jose, California, to manage the Swift plant there, and then returned to Chicago. In 1900 he retired, came to Los Angeles and rented a house on Jefferson Street.

 

 

Looking east at the intersection of Hollywood and Gower. The Rich home is at the far right. (LAPL)

 

Above is the same intersection today. The Rich home once stood on the far right corner below the tall billboard.

 

In 1901, Rich bought the Goode property which was east of Gower Street and south of Hollywood Boulevard (then Prospect Avenue), where he built his home at 6048 Hollywood Boulevard. The ambitious home he built for his wife Elizabeth was furnished in such regal style that it became one of the town’s showplaces. Though the house was too large for two people (one child was born to them but died in infancy), eventually 35 relatives arrived in Hollywood beginning with his brother Edwin and his family. The home was planned for their hospitality and enjoyment.

 

At this point, Rich who was in his 60s, was a man of medium height, firm build, gray hair and eyes, serious in demeanor, retiring disposition, a sincere Christian gentleman, definite in his opinions though reticent in expression. He looked the efficient business man – mature and experienced, quick and alert always well groomed, meeting everyone with a friendly smile and handshake.

 

Although never a politician, Rich was part of the successful effort to incorporate Hollywood as a sixth class city on November 14, 1903, and was elected as a trustee for the new corporation. On November 25, after several more bond issues were hammered out, Sanford Rich was elected by popular vote to be Hollywood’s first mayor. The following April, Rich was reelected  by a unanimous vote. Rich presided over approximately 1,000 citizens during his term as mayor. Hollywood had only one other mayor, George H. Dunlop, before the community was annexed to the city of Los Angeles in 1910.

 

Rich soon recognized real property values and during his thirty years of real estate activity subdivided twenty-three separate tracts in Hollywood, among which were: northeast corner of Bronson and Franklin. Southeast corner of Bronson and Franklin, northeast Hollywood and Vine to Franklin; northeast corner Sunset and Gower, except the corner lot; southeast corner Vine and Sunset; south of Fountain east of Gower; west of Argyle near Selma; the tracts ranging in size from two acres in the last to sixty acres north of Los Feliz.

 

Besides being Hollywood’s first mayor, Rich was one of the organizers of the Board of Trade, chairman of the first Board of Trustees of the City of Hollywood, Director of the Hollywood National Bank and Citizens’ Savings Bank, and deacon of the Hollywood Christian Church where he made considerable gifts.

 

Many times over the years Rich would attend official Hollywood functions as Hollywood’s first mayor, including the dedication of the new Post Office, the occasional ground breaking ceremony and Hollywood’s annual birthday celebration which was held at Plummer Park.

 

Sanford Rich home at 6048 Hollywood Boulevard (demolished) (Courtesy of Felicia Korengel)

 

Family members recalled the Rich home – as the Mayor’s residence – was splendid with lovely satin divans and drapes and elegant furniture. “Uncle San and Aunt Lizzie” were favorites and the children recalled Aunt Lizzie in her black satin dresses and tiny black satin shoes. Her eyes were so blue and seemed to be always smiling. Lizzie died on May 25, 1926 and was buried in the family plot at Hollywood Cemetery. Within a year, Rich was remarried to Sarah Miller, who was also recently widowed.

 

On June 9, 1930, Sanford Rich died at the age of 89, after being diagnosed with pneumonia a few days earlier. The funeral was held at the Hollywood Christian Church, 1717 N. Gramercy Place. A deeply religious man, Rich left his valuable home and other property on Hollywood Boulevard to the church, of which he was a member for 31 years, with the stipulation:

 

“We want it to be clearly understood by the present and succeeding Official Boards that none of the proceeds of the above described property be used as salary or compensation for any minister or missionary who while so employed in his teachings or practices opposes or fails to advocate the pleas of the people known as Christians or Disciples of Christ…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sanford Rich was buried next to his first wife Elizabeth at Hollywood Cemetery.

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Rollin B. and Katherine Lane: Hollywood Pioneers

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Jan 2nd, 2010
2010
Jan 2

HOLLYWOOD PIONEERS

Rollin B. Lane, and a little Hollywood magic

 

Rollin B. Lane

Rollin B. Lane (Photo courtesy of Ripon College Archives)

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

While he is not well-known today, Rollin B. Lane was an early Hollywood resident; an admitted capitalist and philanthropist who donated large sums of money for parks, libraries and orphanages. However, if he is known at all it would be for a street named for his mother, and for the home he built a century ago, which is now one of the oldest still standing in Hollywood. One-hundred years ago Lane named his home the “Holly Chateau” but for the past forty-seven years the public has known it by its more celebrated name – the Magic Castle which celebrates it’s 47th year today!

 

 

 

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Rollin Benjamin Lane was born on May 28, 1854 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the son of Leonard Lane and Olive Pickett. The family home was located on Algoma Street, however his parents divorced (or his father deserted them) and Rollins and his mother moved to nearby Pickett when he was two years old. His maternal grandparents, Armine and Anna Pickett, were pioneer residents of Pickett and Winnebago county.

 

Lane attended school at the old district No. 6 building which was built on land donated by his grandfather. He attended Ripon College and graduated in 1872. Later, he was for five years an associate editor of the old Daily Evening Wisconsin in Milwaukee before settling in Redlands, California in the winter of 1886.

 

There he invested in real estate and owned a 17-acre orange grove. With other investors he established the Union Bank of Redlands, of which he was cashier for five years. In 1890 Lane moved to Portland, Oregon, where he took part in organizing the Multnomah County Bank, of which he was president for three years, selling his interest in 1895.

 

In October 1896, Lane married Katherine Azubah Glynn, a teacher and the author of the fictional, “The Girl from Oshkosh.” Kate was born in March 3, 1864 in Bucktooth, New York to La Fayette Glynn and Mary E. Perry. She was also the great-granddaughter of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the early American naval officer.

 

Lane, an ardent Republican, hastened his wedding to Katherine in order to return to California in time to vote in the presidential election for McKinley. Katherine evidently sympathized and consented to a hurried wedding and the couple left immediately for Redlands. There he purchased a house at the head of Center Street.

 

The Lane’s slowly made their presence known in Hollywood, reportedly moving there around 1902, making friends with influential people of the fairly new community. They attended the formal opening of the new addition to the Hollywood Hotel in 1905. It was during these times that he most likely became acquainted with local real estate icons such as the Whitley’s, Wilcox’s and other Hollywood pioneers.

 

Meanwhile, Lane continued with his California real estate investments including the San Fernando and San Joaquin Valley’s. In 1907, Lane became one of the backers of the new community of Corcoran in central California. Founded by H.J. Whitley, who also had a presence in Hollywood (Whitley Heights, Whitley Avenue), many of his associates in this endeavor were other Hollywood citizens including General H. G. Otis (Los Angeles Times), Arthur Letts (Broadway Department Store), and Dr. Alan Gardner (Gardner Avenue). Much later Corcoran became the location of the California State Prison, home to a number of notable inmates including Charles Manson, Juan Corona and Phil Spector.

 

Already transplanted to Hollywood, Lane began construction in early 1909 on his elegant Holly Chateau at the foot of the Hollywood Hills at 7001 Franklin Avenue. The original house was designed by the architectural firm of Dennis and Farwell in the French “Chateau” or Gothic Renaissance style and adapted from a residence in Redlands known as “Kimberly Crest” which has been preserved as a house museum.

 

Lane house drawing that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on January 23, 1910 

 

A two-story frame and cement plaster house, Holly Chateau has a large basement and a finished attic under a mansard roof. The home initially had seventeen rooms including a roof garden and sun parlor. The basement contained a laundry, fruit and storage rooms and two large gas furnaces which heated the house.

 

The halls, staircase and library were made of quarter-sawed white oak; the dining room was of mahogany and the den in natural redwood and of Turkish design. The parlor was decorated in white enamel with gold decorations in the Louis XV style, while the balance of the house, including the bedrooms and five bathrooms had white enamel finish. A large billiard room occupied the third floor. Other features included French windows, five or six fireplaces and carved mantels.

 

The Lanes shared their wealth with causes that were closest to their hearts. Because of her interest in community parks, Katherine was known as the “Tree Lady.” Lanewood Avenue (named after Lane’s twice-married mother, Olive Pickett Lane-Wood), in Hollywood, is still lined with large pine trees which Katherine most likely planted since the Lane’s once owned the land.

 

Lanewood Avenue, named after Olive Pickett Lane-Wood,  in Hollywood. The pine trees that line the street were most likely planted by Katherine Lane 

 

She was chairman of the tree-planting committee that procured 360 cherry trees from Japan for planting in and around Griffith Park. Working with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, Katherine is responsible for the planting of the landmark palm trees that line Wilshire Boulevard.

 

Katherine was elected president of the Hollywood Women’s Club and was also the founder of the Round-the-World Club, Lane Tree Club, Perry Art Club and The Juniors, and a member of the Hollywood Club, Oshkosh Club, Ebell Club, Women’s Press Club, Daughters of the American Revolution and Casa Del Mar. She was also the official hostess to the Wisconsin delegates of the 1932 Olympics, which were held in Los Angeles.

 

The Lane’s adopted a son sometime after moving into the Chateau in 1909. The 1910 census does not mention a son, however in 1920, twelve year-old Rollin B. Lane Jr. appears. Some have assumed that explains a $25,000 donation for the construction of a building for the Los Angeles Children’s Home Society, but not much is known about the adoption.

 

Discord came to the Chateau in mid 1923, when Katherine filed for divorce against her 69 year-old husband. In her complaint she charged cruelty and named another woman, asking for $750 a month in alimony. A restraining order was issued to prevent Lane from removing anything from the house. However, after a meeting between the couple and their lawyers, a reconciliation was arranged and Lane returned to living at 7001 Franklin Avenue. However, it appears that Lane atoned for his sins the following January when he took Katherine and their son on a world cruise. This was followed by a tour of Alaska two years later and another world tour in 1927.

 

The passport photo for the Lane’s first world tour. Rollin, Rollin, Jr and Katherine Lane

 

As the movie industry invaded Hollywood, the Lane’s kept their distance and refused to hobnob with the communities new residents. There have been legends about cowboy star, Tom Mix riding his horse down the mansion’s staircase (this story seems to follow him at several Hollywood residences) but it never happened. Also, the story that actress Janet Gaynor once lived at the Chateau are also false.

 

The closest the Lanes came to acknowledging the entertainment industry was celebrating the birthday of composer, Carrie Jacobs-Bond, which was held at the Chateau for several years. Bond, who also lived in Hollywood, was a songwriter probably best known for composing the wedding standard, “I Love You Truly.”

 

It became Katherine’s custom to celebrate Bond’s birthday with a garden party. During their world cruise in 1924, Katherine was on the Indian Ocean and the ship’s orchestra played “A Perfect Day,” – a Bond composition – and being so far from home, it touched her heart and there she decided that if she reached home safely, she would give flowers to Bond, honoring her living presence instead of her memory.

 

One birthday celebration in particular, August 11, 1925, more than 300 people gathered on the Chateau grounds to observe Bond’s 64th birthday. Among those who attended were George H. Coffin, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce; real estate developer, C. E. Toberman; impresario, L. E. Beyhmer, and many others from Hollywood society. While no film people actually attended the festivities (or were invited), telegrams of felicitations were received from Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and “other celebrities.”

 

In May 1929, Rollin Lane presented his alma-mater, the Ripon College Board of Trustees with $100,000, to be used to build the Lane Library. Lane, his mother-in-law, Mary Glynn and Katherine attended the cornerstone laying ceremony in June 1930.

 

 Unidentified woman, Katherine Lane and Rollin B. Lane at cornestone laying ceremony for the Lane Library at Ripon College (Photo courtesy of Ripon College Archives)

 

 Rollin B. Lane laying the cornerstone of Lane Library at Ripon College (Photo courtesy of Ripon College Archives)

 

The year before Lane gave $20,000 for the construction of a new school building and auditorium in his hometown of Pickett, named the Armine and Anna Pickett Memorial School, after his maternal grandparents. Today it’s known as the Pickett Community Center. “It was quite the party when he came back to dedicate it,” said Mary Callies, researcher and treasurer of the Center. “There were endless parties; everyone wanted to be with someone who knew somebody in Hollywood.”

 

Day-to-day life, though slower, continued at Holly Chateau for the Lane’s. Around 1936, Lane became ill and rarely left the house. On August 23, 1940, Rollin B. Lane died of a stroke in a small corner bedroom of the Chateau. He was 86 years-old. Funeral services were held at the Hollywood Cemetery Chapel and burial was in the family plot next to his mother.

 

Katherine continued to live at 7001 Franklin Avenue until her death at the Glendale Sanitarium on December 9, 1945. She was buried at Hollywood Cemetery between her husband and her mother (who is unmarked).

 

 

Lane family marker

 The Lane family plot at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Below are individual markers for  Rollin B. Lane, Katherine Lane and Olive Pickett Lane-Wood (Photos: Allan R. Ellenberger)

 

Rollin B. Lane marker

 

 

Katherine Lane marker

 

 

Olive Lane-Wood marker

 

 

During the years after Katherine’s death, the Chateau was divided into a multi-family home, then it was a home for the elderly and lastly it was altered into a jumble of small apartments. In 1950, Harry Stafford, a stage and screen actor, died in one of the rooms. The Holly Chateau stayed in the Lane family until it was sold to Thomas Glover in 1955.

 

The fate of the house was in question until Milt Larsen, a writer on the NBC game show, Truth or Consequences and his brother William, obtained the house for use as a club for magicians – a long-time dream of their father. After months of restoration, the Lane mansion was transformed into what is known today as the Magic Castle.

 

Forty-seven years ago today (January 2, 1963) at 5 pm, the Magic Castle opened its doors to members. It became a mysterious mansion with secret panels, a piano played by a ghost and weird overtones of magic. The mystifying features of the place began with the entrance, a secret panel known but to members. The “Invisible Irma” room boasts a regular piano and plays tunes at a verbal command.

 

Original posters of Houdini, the Mysterious Dante, the Great Leon, Thurston’s “Wonder Show of the Earth” and Brush, “King of Wizards,” decorated the Blackstone Room, where card tables are provided for sleight-of-hand experts.

 

 

The mansion has been altered since the days that the Lane’s lived there – both inside and out. Street lamps that adorn the driveway once dotted the original Victoria Pier in Venice. Decorative cast iron frieze work on the canopy overhanging the door was part of the entrance to the Masonic temple at Wilshire and La Brea. Paneling in the main dining room was taken from the shutters of the Norma Talmadge Building that used to stand on Sunset. And the chandeliers in the Palace of Mystery once hung in the first Bullock’s in Southern California. 

 

What would Rollin and Katherine Lane think of the transformation of their mansion? The room where Rollin Lane died is now the Houdini Séance room – perhaps one day Rollin will attend (or already has) to whatever goes on there and make his thoughts known. In any event, the only way you can see this magical place is if you know a member. If you ever have the chance, take it. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Special thanks to George W. Siegel, the architectural historian for the Magic Castle and to Bill Goodwin, librarian and Lisa Cousins of the Magic Castle for their help with this article.

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Daeida Wilcox Beveridge: the Mother of Hollywood

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on May 10th, 2009
2009
May 10

 HOLLYWOOD PIONEERS

Daeida Wilcox Beveridge

 

 Daeida Wilcox Beveridge

  

MOTHER OF HOLLYWOOD

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger 

 

Mother’s Day in Hollywood would not be complete without mentioning its founder and mother – Daeida Wilcox Beveridge.

 

Daeida Hartell Wilcox Beveridge was born in Hicksville, Ohio and educated in the public schools of Canton and in a Hicksville private school. She married prohibitionist Harvey Henderson Wilcox of Topeka, Kansas and came to California in 1883. Three years later they purchased a fig orchard in the Cahuenga valley and soon bought the remainder of a 120-acre tract. Shortly afterward – depending on who is telling the story – she met a woman on a train to Hicksville who described her summer home near Chicago that she called Hollywood. The name appealed to Mrs. Wilcox so on her return she named her Cahuenga valley ranch — “Hollywood.” 

  

 

 

Wilcox was an integral part in the development of the area, laying out the village and the naming the streets. The first pepper trees and flower beds were planted under her personal direction. Among her many gifts was the ground for the city hall, public library, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, of which she was a member; Christian Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church. It was her early dream of beauty that gave fame to Hollywood, making it noted for its wealth of trees and flowers.

 

Wilcox marker

 A marker erected in Daeida’s home town of Hicksville, Ohio. (Doc Wert /flickr). One error – her second marriage was to the son of Governor John L. Beverdige from Illinois and NOT California.

 

Her husband died in 1891 and two years later she married Philo Judson Beveridge, son of Governor John L. Beveridge of Illinois. They had four children, two of whom survived — Marian and Phyllis. Their home was on the northeast corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Wilcox Avenue (6467 Hollywood Blvd.).

  

Daeida Wilcox plaque

 Above is a plaque on the building where Daeida Wilcox’s home once stood.

 

In early July of 1914, Mrs. Wilcox took ill. On August 13, she entered Good Samaritan Hospital where she died the following day. Funeral services were held at the Connell undertaking parlor with interment in the family mausoleum at Rosedale Cemetery next to her first husband (there was no cemetery in Hollywood when her husband died in 1891). Survivors included her second husband, her daughters Marian Pringle and Phyllis Brunson, her mother Anna Hartell, an aunt Sylvia Connell and a niece, Gertrude.

 

Daeida Wilcox Beveridge grave

 

NOTE: In 1937, family members removed their bodies, along with two infant children, Daieda’s mother and her second husband, to the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Memorial Cemetery where they rest today.

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H. J. Whitley

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Jun 20th, 2008
2008
Jun 20

HOLLYWOOD PIONEERS

H. J. Whitley

 

 

 Father of Hollywood

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Hobart Johnstone Whitley was born in Toronto, Canada on October 7, 1847, of Scotish-English parentage. As a child he moved to Flint, Michigan, where he was educated in the public schools and later at Toronto Business College.

 

Whitley engaged in banking and land development in Kansas City and Minneapolis, establishing banks and townsites along the Northern Pacific Railroad, and for a time managed the H. J. Whitley Land and Mortgage Company. He platted the towns and built brick and stone business buildings in Oklahoma City, El Reno, Chickasha, Enid, Medfore, and other cities on the Rock Island Railroad.

 

In 1887 he married Margaret Virginia Ross and had two children, Grace Virginia and Ross Emmet. Because of bad health, Whitley came to California in 1893 and the following year established the H. J. Whitley Jewelry Store, for many years the largest in the city. In 1900 he bought the Hurd property north of Hollywood Boulevard, between Wilcox and Whitley, south of Yucca Street, which he later subdivided into what became known as Whitley Home Tract. As a result of the success of this subdivision, one of the first in Hollywood, Whitley became known as the “Father of Hollywood.”

 

In 1905, Whitley and a group of Los Angeles investors undertook the development of 47,000 acres in the San Joaquin Valley and carried through a similar project involving nearly 50,000 acres in the San Fernando Valley.

 

 

 

Whitley continued his activities in Southern California property until 1922, when he completed the development of Whitley Heights, which was one of the first hillside subdivisions in Hollywood. The opening of the tract in 1920 was the scene of a public barbeque, with city officials and business men of the city as guests. Whitley Heights would become the first celebrity neighborhood and home to such film stars as Francis X. Bushman, Eugene O’Brien, Barbara La Marr and Rudolph Valentino.

 

In addition to his real estate development, Whitley was one of the founders of the Home Savings Bank and was identified with the organization of the First National Bank of Hollywood, the First National Bank of Van Nuys and State banks in Canoga Park, Reseda and Corcoran.

 

On June 3, 1931, while staying as a guest of his son at the Whitley Park Country Club in Van Nuys, H. J. Whitley died in his sleep at the age of 83. Whitley was survived by his wife Margaret, his daughter Grace, son Ross and three grandchildren. Funeral services were conducted at the Strother Funeral Chapel at 6240 Hollywood Boulevard with interment at Hollywood Cemetery.

 

 H. J. Whitley’s cremation niche at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

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