Posts Tagged ‘Evergreen Cemetery’

Hollywood’s “Jinx Mansion”

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

 

 

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

At this time of year our thoughts are on ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night. Bad luck and superstition has followed Hollywood and those who lived and worked there long before the film people arrived.

A house that had its share of bad luck and tragedy was built on the northeast corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Fuller Street almost 100 years ago. Louella Parsons called the home that once stood at 7269 Hollywood Boulevard, “the jinx mansion.” Over the twenty-five years of its existence, it was home to a grocery store founder, a meat packing heir and a successful film producer and his movie star wife. All experienced misfortune and heartbreak during their stay there.

The builder and first resident of the “jinx mansion” was George A. Ralphs, the founder of Ralph’s grocery store, the largest food retailer in Southern California. There’s probably no one in Los Angeles that has not shopped at a Ralphs store at one time.

George Albert Ralphs was born in Joplin, Missouri in 1850. His family moved to California on a prairie schooner with a yoke of oxen when he was a boy. In Kansas they joined a caravan and when they reached Colorado they were attacked by Indians. Half of the caravan became separated in the fight, and nothing was ever heard from them. It was presumed that they were massacred.

The caravan arrived in Los Angeles after eighteen months of travel and George Ralphs was trained as an expert bricklayer. After losing an arm in an accident, he gave up bricklaying and found work as a clerk in a small grocery store. In 1873 he had saved enough money to purchase his own grocery at Sixth and Spring Streets. From then on Ralphs prospered, operating three of the largest stores in Los Angeles.

In 1897 Ralphs married Wallula von Keith and together they had two children, Albert and Annabel. In May 1913, Ralphs began construction on a new house on a three-acre lot in Hollywood that he reportedly bought from George Dunlap, the second mayor of the town.

Located on the north side of Hollywood Boulevard at Fuller Street, architect Frank M. Tyler was hired to design the Mission Revival house at a cost of $35,000. With a plastered exterior and a red clay tile roof, the house had sixteen rooms with three baths. The interior was richly furnished in oak and mahogany; onyx and tile mantels adorned the fireplaces. There was a tennis court on the property, and a swimming pool which was emptied often to water the citrus orchards.


The Ralphs mansion as it looked shortly after being constructed

On June 21, 1914, a few months after moving into the house, Ralphs took his family for a week-end outing to the San Bernardino Mountains near Lake Arrowhead. He had just gone up Waterman’s Canyon with his wife and children for an early morning stroll and, having walked a little faster than the others, sat on a boulder to wait for them to catch up.

As his wife approached, he moved over to allow her sit beside him when the boulder, weighing about three tons, gave way and rolled twenty feet down into the canyon, carrying Ralphs with it. His leg was caught beneath the boulder and nearly torn from the socket. He was immediately rushed to the Ramona Hospital (now Community Hospital of San Bernardino) where his leg was amputated. Ralphs came out from under the anesthetic shortly after and talked to his wife for a few minutes but the shock of the operation was too great. George Ralphs died within the hour at 4:15 o’clock that afternoon.

Ralphs body was returned to his home in Hollywood where funeral services were held. The Ralphs grocery stores were closed that day in memory of their founder. After the service, Ralphs was buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

The grave of Ralph's grocery store founder, 
George A. Ralphs at Evergreen Cemetery

Mrs. Ralphs owned the mansion for several years, sometimes living there and at times, renting it out to such well-known residents as Mira Hershey, owner of the Hollywood Hotel and to actor Douglas Fairbanks. On August 20, 1918, Mrs. Ralphs hosted a political garden party in honor of California Governor, William D. Stephens and as a fund raiser for the war effort.

However, the “jinx” continued.

In 1920 Mrs. Ralphs leased the mansion to John “Jack” P. Cudahy, the son of the millionaire meat-packer, Michael Cudahy. The town of Cudahy, California which is east of Los Angeles, was named for the family.

In 1899, Jack Cudahy married Edna Cowin, daughter of General John Clay Cowin of Omaha. They had four children, Edna, Marie, Anne and Michael. For a time, Cudahy was general manager of his father’s packing plant in Kansas City. While there, he and his wife became estranged after Cudahy attacked Jere Lillis, the president of the Western Exchange Bank, who he suspected of having an affair with his wife. They were divorced shortly after but reconciled two years later, were remarried and moved to Pasadena, California.

Cudahy had his problems. In 1914, he was sued for $30,000 in damages after throwing a doctor’s wife against a table. After a stint in the army, Cudahy was given a medical discharge following a nervous breakdown. He was sued by the Hotel Maryland in 1919 for failure to pay a two-year hotel bill amounting to almost $10,000.

Shortly after moving into the Ralphs mansion, Cudahy was under a doctor’s care for an extremely nervous condition and for insomnia. In early April 1921, he disappeared for ten days and it was later learned that he had been living at the Rosslyn Hotel under a fictitious name. Previous to that he had spent three months in a sanatorium.

At the time, Cudahy was reportedly having financial problems. On April 19, 1921 he received a letter from a trust company in Chicago stating that they would not carry a loan unless his sister Clara would vouch for him. Later that night Clara sent a telegram briefly stating, “Sorry, but find it impossible to do what you ask.”

The following morning, at about 10:30am, Cudahy went into his bathroom, retrieved his Winchester shotgun, which he used for trap-shooting, and took it into his bedroom. Edna claimed that at the time he did not seem to be unusually despondent. At exactly 11:45am, Edna was in her dressing room when she heard a shot and rushed into her husband’s bedroom where she found him dead. He had committed suicide by blowing off the top of his head. John Cudahy was buried at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles.

 

Edna and her children moved out of the house shortly after her husband’s suicide. Thirteen years later she was living in a mansion near Vine Street and Franklin Avenue in Hollywood. Actor Lou Tellegen, who had fallen on hard times, was living with her and committed suicide in his bathroom by stabbing himself in his heart seven times with a pair of scissors.

After Cudahy’s suicide, the mansion stood empty for about a year. In October 1922 Mrs. Ralphs sold the house and property to a local realty company for $150,000. They planned to raze the house and build a 350 room apartment hotel at a cost of one million dollars. For unknown reasons, the hotel was never built and the mansion was spared.

Film producer, Joseph M. Schenck and his wife, the actress Norma Talmadge, were the next owners of the “jinx mansion.” The Schenck’s, who were married in 1916, probably moved into the house in late 1922 or early 1923. For the first few years their lives were routine, at least for film people, with the exception of several break-ins where Norma’s jewelry was stolen.

Norma Talmadge and Joseph M. Schenck

Gradually the couple began to grow apart. They separated in 1927 and moved into separate residences; Norma to an elegant apartment building on Harper Avenue in West Hollywood and Schenck moved to a large house in Beverly Hills. They remained married, however, and kept ownership of the Hollywood Boulevard mansion.

In July 1930, Talmadge traveled to Europe for a rest amid rumors that they were getting divorced but the couple denied the rumors, each claiming they were still in love. The following year Talmadge asked for a divorce and Schenck agreed but she never filed for it. In 1932 she again asked for a divorce and traveled to Europe, supposedly to get one, but once there, she denied the so-called rumors.

During 1932 alone, the Schenck divorce rumors were many and were announced and denied several times. One time she planned on going to Reno and several months later it was reportedly a Mexican divorce. In the meantime, there was an affair with comedian George Jessel until finally in April 1934 Talmadge and Schenck were divorced in Juarez, Mexico. Three weeks later Norma married Jessel.

The Talmadge-Schenck home as it looked from Fuller Street in the 1920s

Above is the site from the same angle on Fuller Street as it looks today

During all of this the Schenck’s kept the mansion, and may have rented it out but he reportedly moved back after the divorce. In May 1936 Schenck redecorated the property, adding a two-story cabana and a 60-foot swimming pool that replaced the one installed by the Ralphs which was later filled in by the Cudahy’s.

Bad luck continued to follow Schenck. In 1936 he agreed to pay a bribe to avoid strikes with the unions, but because he made the payoff with a personal check, it came to the attention of the IRS and he was eventually convicted of income tax evasion. In 1940 he finally sold the Hollywood Boulevard “jinx mansion” and all its furnishings in an auction, supposedly to help pay his legal fees. In 1946 Schenck spent time in prison before being granted a pardon by President Harry Truman.

Notice for the Joseph Schenck auction

After Schenck sold the mansion, it was razed to make way for Peyton Hall, the first apartment house to go up on Hollywood Boulevard west of La Brea. The colonial-style garden apartment complex included more than 70 apartments. A red carpet rolled all the way from the grand portico to Hollywood Boulevard. There were discreet private entrances and a loudspeaker on the grounds that summoned stars to the studios.

The architect and builders kept the 60-foot swimming pool that Joseph Schenck installed four years earlier and it was used by the residents, including Shelley Winters and Johnny Weissmuller, who once jumped from the roof into the deep end. Other celebrity residents at Peyton Hall included Susan Hayward, George Raft and Janet Gaynor. Cary Grant stayed there during World War II and Claudette Colbert actually owned the complex and sold it in 1946 for about $450,000 to the first of a succession of owners. In 1960, an investment group bought it for $790,000.

Beginning in 1978, preservationists waged a two-year battle to save the landmark complex –but to no avail. Peyton Hall was demolished in the early 1980s and the recently renamed, Vantage Apartments (formerly the Serravella) was built in 1988 and remains there today.


The Vantage Apartments above is the site of the 
Ralphs-Cudahy-Schenck-Talmadge mansion

Whether you believe in the “jinx mansion” or not is up to the reader—but it makes an interesting story. If you happen be in the neighborhood of the 7200 block of Hollywood Boulevard on Halloween night, do so at your own risk.

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The history of the Cathedral Mausoleum

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY

The history of Hollywood Forever’s Cathedral Mausoleum

 

 

  

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

This past summer a controversial construction project began at the front of the historic Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery—four additions of crypts and niches were constructed, two on each side of the entrance. The mausoleum is the final resting place for many of Hollywood’s pioneers and film celebrities. Every August 23rd, fans of Rudolph Valentino gather there to pay their respects to the actor in the mausoleum’s massive foyer. In 1937, the founder of Hollywood, Harvey Wilcox, his wife Daeida and other family members were moved here from their former resting place at Rosedale Cemetery. The completed mausoleum, in existence now for 89 years, has only a few original crypts remaining for sale. This is a brief story of the mausoleum’s history.

 

Mausolus, Satrap and ruler of Caria from 377 to 353 B.C., and husband of Artemisia, achieved distinction as the first ruler ever to be honored by the erection of a monument in which his own remains were placed. Though Augustus and Hadrian in Rome may have exceeded in splendor the structure which the widow, Artemisia, built in her husband’s honor, they could not leave to posterity, as Mausolus did, a name for an institution that has continued to surround the burial of loved ones with beauty, refinement and sacredness. It is from Mausolus that we derive the word mausoleum. In 1919, Hollywood Cemetery completed the first unit of a modern replica of such an ancient structure.

 

The plans to build a large mausoleum on the grounds of Hollywood Cemetery were first envisioned in late 1916. The original illustrations for the imposing building were somewhat different than what was finally constructed.

 

 

 

Above is the original design for what would be the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Cemetery, January 1916.

 

 

In October, 1917, the California Mausoleum Company, who had constructed mausoleums at Evergreen Cemetery in Riverside and one at Inglewood Cemetery, was hired to oversee the project. The architectural firm of Marston and Van Pelt of Pasadena drew up the plans and William C. Crowell was hired as contractor. Construction began immediately.

 

The plans called for a structure much larger than the Inglewood mausoleum with the edifice of concrete, brick and steel construction, faced with heavy blocks of California granite, and set with rusticated joints. The interior is finished throughout in marble, with decorative features in bronze. Art and cathedral glass was used for ceiling and window lighting. The mausoleum follows the Italian Renaissance design, with the central entrance having a Palladian motive executed in marble.

 

 

 

Above is the completed first unit of the new Hollywood Mausoleum. For those that are familiar with the mausoleum, does anyone notice something strange? I will address it at the end of the article.

 

 

 

Above is a corridor in the first unit built for the Cathedral Mausoleum. 

 

 

 

 

 

Above is the entrance to the Cathedral Mausoleum

 

 

It took a year to finish construction and the unit was dedicated in October 1918. The demand for crypts in the new Hollywood Mausoleum, as it was called at the time, was great and quickly sold out. In April 1921, the cemetery announced the construction of the second unit of the mausoleum. New plans revealed that the mausoleum would comprise, when completed, five units covering more than three acres, and provide for 6,000 crypts, all above ground. Both individual crypt groups and family sections would be arranged over a huge rotunda, around a great central alcove and along the sides of radiating corridors. At a total cost of $2 million dollars, it would be the largest structure of its type in the world.

 

 

 

Above is an artists rendering of what the completed Hollywood Mausoleum would look like. It’s not a great copy but the large rotunda and two other units behind it can still be seen.

 

 

 

Above is the rear of the Cathedral Mausoleum. The empty lawn is where the rotunda and the additional units would have been located if plans were followed.

 

 

The second unit was finally completed in September 1922. The new structure contained an additional 888 crypts, giving the entire mausoleum a total capacity of 1,454 crypts. In the new section there were 744 individual crypts and twenty-four family sections of from six to twenty-four crypts each. All were faced with Alabama marble. The family sections are separated from the main corridors by bronze gates or marble pedestals (the gates are missing is some sections and the marble pedestals are no longer there). There is also a section for those who desired cremation using specially designed urns provided by the company.

 

 

 

Above is a corridor in the Cathedral Mausoleum with the original gate of a family room still intact.

 

 

 

 

The cremation section in the main foyer

 

 

The main corridor, which originally was designed as a chapel, had a religious note by the design of the interior and by the use of artistic stained glass, which softened the light and gave the entire room an air of reverence. A large floor-to-ceiling stained glass window once located on the southern wall, no longer exists except for the top archway glass. The remaining stained glass has been removed. At the time, plans were made for a series of mural designs as decorations for the room. The corridors were carpeted and lined with potted plants and shrubs.

 

 

 

The main foyer in the Cathedral Mausoleum can be seen above. The stained glass window near the ceiling at one time went down to the floor. It is now boarded up and a door leads out to the rear lawn.

 

 

 

 The stained glass window in the private family room of millionaire merchant, William Adam Faris.

 

 

 

The builders promoted a new ventilation system used in the mausoleum that was advertised as “incomparably sanitary” which can be seen above.

 

 

An open house was held on Sunday, November 12, 1922 for the public to visit the newly completed double-unit of the Hollywood Mausoleum. The invitation read:

 

“Inspect for the first time the building which eventually will contain 6,000 above-ground crypts—built of concrete, and faced with granite and marble.

 

“See the stateliness of its Italian façade, it beautiful marble interior with solid bronze appointments. View its exquisite stained glass windows, its chapel-like corridors—and feel for yourself the very sacredness of its cathedral atmosphere.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The plans for the remaining three units and the great central alcove were never completed. Hollywood residents, led by Senator Cornelius Cole, resisted the expansion of the cemetery during construction of the second unit and threatened litigation, even petitioning to have the cemetery closed. At the same time construction of crypts and a chapel were taking place on the western end of the property. Even when the problems were ironed out, the plans to expand the mausoleum never materialized. It’s unfortunate that the vision was not realized; it would have been an imposing and architecturally beautiful structure.

 

The first internments in the second unit of the Cathedral Mausoleum were Samantha Kelly and her grandson, Harry Earl. Kelly, a pioneer hotel woman, was born in Ohio in 1828. She came to Los Angeles from Indianapolis in 1882 in one of the first trains that travelled westward over the plains. She was one of the pioneers in the hotel business in Los Angeles and at different times owned and managed many of the largest hostelries in the city, including the Figueroa and the old Heatham and Ardmore hotels.

 

Kelly’s grandson, Harry Earl, was at one time the stage director of the old Belasco Theater and had died nine years earlier. He was almost worshipped by his grandmother, as well as by his mother, Katherine Earl. When he died in 1913, the two women kept his ashes with them at their home, 417 South Central Avenue. When Samantha Kelly died on July 22, 1922 at the age of 94, she was interred in a crypt in the still uncompleted mausoleum and in the crypt next to hers was placed the ashes of her grandson, Harry Earl.

 

 

 

The crypts of Samantha Kelley (left) and her grandson, Harry Earl.

 

 

The statues of the twelve apostles which now line both sides of the inside corridor, were originally to be placed on pedestals in a semi-circular lot behind the mausoleum. But these plans also never came to pass and it was decided to move them indoors, where they will probably remain permanently.

 

 

 

 

 

Several years ago electricity and lighting was added to the interior making it available for nighttime services. The damage to the mausoleum caused by the neglect of the then-owner, Jules Roth in the 1990s was restored when Tyler Cassity bought the cemetery. Whether the current changes made to the Cathedral Mausoleum will cause further concern to those who love Hollywood Forever Cemetery, are still to be heard from. Once the facings and architectural trimmings are completed, I will post photographs of the finished product.

 

 

 

The stained glass window that is next to Rudolph Valentino’s crypt.

 

 

Some of the prominent people whose final resting place is in the Cathedral Mausoleum are:

 

  • Barbara La Marr – Silent film actress
  • Rudolph Valentino – Silent film actor
  • June Mathis – Screenwriter
  • Peter Finch – Academy Award winning actor
  • Max Karger – MGM producer
  • Daieda Wilcox Beveridge – Founder of Hollywood
  • Horace Wilcox – Founder of Hollywood
  • J. Peverell Marley – Cinematographer
  • William Desmond Taylor – Silent film director, victim of unsolved murder
  • Peter Lorre – Actor
  • Dr. Henson H. Cross – Early Los Angeles physician
  • Eleanor Powell – Actress and dancer
  • Rick Jason – Television actor on Combat
  • Jesse Fonda Millspaugh – President of Los Angeles State Normal School
  • Ernst Dryden – Artist
  • Cecile Lovsky – Actress
  • Thomas Miranda – cofounder of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  • Jules Roth – One-time owner of Hollywood Cemetery
  • William Hutchinson – Silent film actor
  • Walter Henry Rothwell – Conductor of the Hollywood Bowl
  • Edmund Sturtevant – Hollywood pioneer
  • Annetta Solaski – Opera singer
  • William H. Clune – Motion picture studio pioneer—Clune Studios (now Raleigh Studios)
  • Harry Delmar – Vaudevillian
  • Max Whittier – Beverly Hills pioneer
  • Mary Eudora Vance – Aunt of Carol Burnett
  • Capt. A.W. Murray – Los Angeles Police Chief
  • George W. Hoover – Builder of the Hollywood Hotel
  • Marie Weid – Widow of Hollywood pioneer, Ivar Weid (Ivar Street is named after him)
  • Theresa Dorris – mother of Wesley and Charles Ruggles and murder victim
  • Henry Smith Carhart – Physicist
  • William C. Crowell – Contractor for the Cathedral Mausoleum

 

 

The oddity in the photograph I mentioned earlier is what looks like grave markers in the ground in front of the mausoleum. There have never been graves there. If they are grave markers, they were obviously moved but the questions are who were they and where were they moved to.

 

 

 

 

 

Above is the Cathedral Mausoleum as it was on November 13, 2011

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Evergreen Cemetery Tour

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

LOS ANGELES CEMETERIES

Evergreen Cemetery

 

Evergreen Cemetery

 

 

 By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Last Saturday I attended a tour of Evergreen Cemetery sponsored by the Studio for Southern California History. Led by Steve Goldstein, Joe Walker and Christian Lainez, the tour covered important historical figures at one of Los Angeles oldest cemeteries. Founded on August 23, 1877, Evergreen is also one of the cities largest with 67 acres and more than 300,000 graves.

 

 

evergreen-guides

Saturdays tour guides were (l-r), Christian Lainez, Steve Goldstein and Joe Walker

 

Many historical and prominent figures are interred at Evergreen with such  family names as Bixby, Hollenbeck, Lankershim, Van Nuys and Ralphs. Many former Mayors of Los Angeles are also here as are local African American pioneers.

 

Hollywood personalities interred at Evergreen, though not in large numbers, include: Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Louise Beavers, and Matthew “Stymie” Beard.

 

 What follows are some of the more well-known historical figures covered on the tour:

 

 

May Chandler

 

Magdalena “May” Chandler, the first wife of Los Angeles Times executive, Harry Chandler. After May’s death, Chandler married the daughter of Times owner, Harrison Gray Otis and is buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

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Jesse Belvin

 

Jesse Belvin (1932-1960), singer-songwriter who co-wrote the song, “Earth Angel,” one of the biggest hits of the 1950s for the group, The Penguins.

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Van Nuys-Lankershim

 

Isaac Lankershim (1818-1882) and Isaac Newton Van Nuys (1835-1912), real estate developers and founders of  the cities of North Hollywood (once called Lankershim) and Van Nuys.

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Sam Hasins

 

Sam Haskins (1846-1895), the first black Los Angeles Fire Department member killed in the line of duty.

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George A. Ralphs

 

George A. Ralphs (1850-1914), founder of the Ralphs supermarket chain.

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Earl Rogers

 

Earl Rogers (1869-1922), famed Los Angeles attorney is reportedly the model for the fictional character, Perry Mason. Rogers is the father of journalist Adela Rogers St. Johns.

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 Cameron E. Thom

 

Cameron Erskine Thom (1825-1915), 24th mayor of Los Angeles and co-founder of the city of Glendale.

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William J. Seymour

 

William J. Seymour (1870-1922), African American religious leader, founder of the Pentecostal movement and the Azusa Street Revival.

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Bridget "Biddy" Mason

 

Bridget “Biddy” Mason (1818-1891), former slave, nurse, real estate entrepreneur and co-founder of First African American Episcopal Church. Her grave was originally unmarked until 1989 when Mayor Tom Bradley and members of her church laid the existing tombstone.

 

Evergreen Cemetery is located at 204 N. Evergreen Avenue

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