Peace Returns to Buena Vista Street

Feb. 8, 1907
Los Angeles

About 1903, Charles E. Donnatin, former Pacific Electric Railway superintendent, apparently said something about the young woman across the street at the Stewart home, Savoy Street and Buena Vista (now 1301 N. Broadway).

The woman’s mother was furious and soon a 5-gallon oil can appeared in the Stewart’s yard saying “C.E.D. has been” with the implication that Donnatin had been “canned” from his job.

Denials and increasingly angry words were exchanged between the Stewarts and the Donnatins, and more items appeared in the Stewarts’ yard. An awning across the porch was painted with an attack on Donnatin and pieces of old billboards were set up on the lawn. Two tall poles were planted in the yard and on the line strung between them the Stewarts hung a series of 5-gallon oil cans painted with slogans about Donnatin. The cans became an irresistible target for neighborhood boys armed with rocks and the entire yard was eventually filled with trash, The Times says.

The feud ended up in court in 1905 as Donnatin accused the Stewarts of disturbing the peace, but the case was dismissed and the lawn display remained.

And then, everything was gone. “As day dawned yesterday on a little cottage over on Buena Vista Street, life flickered from the body of aged Mrs. James Stewart and with the going out of her breath evidences of a neighborhood feud as suddenly disappeared,” The Times says.

Donnatin died in 1933 at the age of 84. He had come to Los Angeles as a master car builder for the Southern Pacific. He was founder and president of the Southern California Building and Loan Assn.

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Court Briefs

Feb. 7, 1907
Los Angeles

A Child’s Testimony

Charles Babbitt is sentenced to 30 days in jail on charges of domestic violence after the testimony of his 6-year-old son. “Papa hit me with a whip and it cut my head,” the boy said. “Then he hit mama.” “The man blinked his eyes and said that he did it because he was drunk” The Times says.

Ross’ Widow Arrested

Mary Ross, whose husband was killed by Officer Hoover, is fined $50 after being arrested in a raid on a rooming house that was selling liquor without a license. Ross was among the women seized at the establishment of Mrs. Mary Cooper, 261½ S. Los Angeles St. William Ross, who fatally shot Officer C.A May, was buried in potter’s field, The Times says.

Fined for Blind Pig

Frank Stadler pleads guilty to running a blind pig called the Mechanics Club, 1466 Channing St., and is ordered to pay a $50 fine.

Chinese Lottery Case

E.S. Patton is sent to jail after failing to pay a $50 fine for selling Chinese lottery tickets. Patton is the first white man to be fined for such sales, The Times says.

A Familiar Face

Patrol officers recognized J.W. Mason, who had just gotten out of jail, and watched as he found “a drunken, well-dressed man and lured him into a doorway,” The Times says. He was given 20 days in jail for disorderly conduct.

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Incendiary Ramblings

Feb. 5, 2007
Los Angeles

Here’s an architectural drawing of the O.T. Johnson Building, which burned in yesterday’s fire.

Looking north on Broadway at 4th Street. The burned structures are at the right.

And here are some snaps of the damaged structures:

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Centennial Ramblings

Feb. 5, 2007
Sierra Madre

Because it’s celebrating its centennial this month, I paid a visit to Sierra Madre and while savoring a cinnamon dolce latte at the local Starbucks, watched the sun set on a historic Union 76 ball. A perfect fusion of two projects.

And here’s Sierra Madre’s Old North Church, with the artillery piece in the park across the street. Note the problem I encountered with lighting. Architectural photography is surely not my forte.

Now for the business at hand. I’ve often thought that with a century of lawmaking under its belt, the state Legislature might want to take the afternoon off. After all, with more than a century of making laws, what’s left to regulate?

The Times provides a tidy answer to my question. Here’s what the Legislature was wrestling with 100 years ago:

· The Senate unanimously passes a ban on docking horses’ tails and prohibits anyone from bringing horses with docked tails into the state. Those who own horses with docked tails would have to register them with the local county officials.

· The Senate passes a bill authorizing the governor to declare “Bud and Arbor Day.”

· The Senate passes a bill setting dairy standards and a bill to keep the polls open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

· A committee urges the Senate to pass Sen. Black’s tax exemption bill for all the buildings at Stanford as well as the bonds the university holds in trust.

· Sen. Wolfe introduces a bill making all robberies committed with a deadly weapon between sunset and sunrise punishable by death or life in prison.

· Assemblyman Grove L. Johnson introduces a “no seat, no fare” bill providing that railroad passengers who cannot find a seat need not pay. The bill would include streetcars.

· Assemblyman Johnson introduces a bill requiring firearms dealers to keep records of gun buyers’ names and addresses.

· The Assembly passes a bill by the late Assemblyman Burke making it illegal to spit on sidewalks or in trains, cars and other public conveyances.

· Sen. Sanford introduces a bill seeking to restrict corporate donations to political campaigns. I’m so glad the Senate wrapped that up 100 years ago so it can get on to more pressing matters.

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Architectural Ramblings

Feb. 4, 2007
South Pasadena

The Times publishes three architectural drawings of “artistic bungalows” prepared by the firm of Wilson and Barnes. One is being built by W.E. Fox on Columbia near Sunset Boulevard, the second by Dr. T.H. Lowers on Main Street in Alhambra and the third by A.J. Padau on Marengo in South Pasadena “near the Monrovia car line.”

The Times says of Padau’s home: “This, perhaps, is the best located of the three houses, as from its windows can be seen the entire panorama of mountain and valley to the north and east. It is strictly modern in its design. A feature of the exterior is the broad span from corner to corner of the porch, affording an unobstructed view from the large living room in the front of the house. There are five rooms in the little structure. The cost was $2,500 ($51,308.93 USD 2005).”

Here’s the home I found at 1517 Marengo, which is similar to the design (note the front porch) but has many minor differences.

Ps. Jim Draeger of the Wisconsin Historical Society sends along a link to the patent for Ducker Portable Homes, which I wrote about here.

E-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

Officer C.A. May, End of Watch

Feb. 3, 1907
Los Angeles

About 1 a.m. on a dark corner at East Adams and South San Pedro, the hard, shabby life of William Ross ended when he said, “What in hell are you fellows up to?,” drew a pistol and shot plainclothes Officer C.A. May.

May and his partner, J.M. Hoover, were walking east on Adams when they encountered Ross, described as a “rather roughly dressed man.” Earlier in the evening, Hoover and May, who were working plainclothes as part of a crackdown on burglaries in the area, investigated an incident at 223 E. Jefferson Blvd., where L.C. Kelker had reported that two men were on his front porch.

The officers warned the two men to leave, but did not arrest them as there appeared to be no criminal intent, The Times says. One of the men started into the house, threatening to get a gun and “do” the officers, but May and Hoover left without taking any action.

Later that evening, May and Hoover encountered Ross and suspected he might have been one of the men they encountered outside Kelker’s home. May threw back his coat to reveal his badge and said: “We want to know who you are and what you are doing here at this time of night.”

Ross said: “What in hell are you fellows up to? My name is Ross and I live just around the corner.” Then he stepped back, drew a pistol and shot May in the shoulder or the chest.

He fired at Hoover, who ducked and shot Ross in the forehead.

Police found some papers on Ross’ body, a little money and newspaper clippings from the Herald, one about a suicide attempt by Mrs. Mary Ross of 383 or 583 Central Ave. over domestic problems and a legal notice of Mrs. Mary Ross suing William Ross for divorce.

May was taken to Clara Barton Hospital, where he initially showed progress, although doctors were unable to locate the bullet.

Investigators eventually found Ross’ room at the Good Samaritan Mission, a homeless shelter at Ord Street and San Fernando near the Plaza, but there were no stolen items or any other evidence that he had been committing burglaries. Police also learned that he had been employed at one time at Pacific Carriage Works, 122 S. San Pedro.

May was sent home to 2139½ S. Los Angeles St. to recover, but the wound became infected and he returned to the hospital. Doctors were unable to locate the bullet and May died Feb. 28, 1907, with his wife and two brothers at his side.

The Times says he “expressed remorse that it had been necessary for the officers to shoot the man, but he said it was a case of kill or be killed.”

As a National Guard member and a veteran who had served in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War, May was given military honors in a funeral at Pierce Bros. Mortuary at Flower and 8th Street. A funeral procession consisting of police officers and National Guard troops escorted his casket to 1st Street and Spring, where they boarded streetcars for the interment at Evergreen Cemetery.

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A Trip to the Zoo

Feb. 2, 1907
Los Angeles

Conditions at Chutes Park are so bad that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is making a second inspection to see whether operator J.B. Lehigh has made any improvements before his Feb. 20 trial on charges of abuse and neglect.

Chutes is nothing more than a mud-filled stockyards of suffering animals, The Times says. “The ‘park’ is a long puddle of filth, reeking with slime and mud. In the pen where three little does are confined, one of them so emaciated that it is literally hidebound, a thick green scum has formed over the stagnant pool of slime that occupies a good share of the particular part of the ‘park’ where these poor little animals are shut up.”

In answer to the question of what became of the birds, an attendant replied: “Dead.”

“They used to keep ’em in cages over by the entrance, but a few weeks ago they moved ’em all down [illegible] with the cockatoos and parrots and you can guess what happened. [Those?] great big birds just killed all the [illegible] off-that’s where the birds have gone to.”

“A patient zebra paced up and down the narrow path at one edge of his cage, which was the only dry spot in the pen, and a big, beautiful elk beat his horns helplessly against the bars of his small quarters. His coat was matted with filth and the mud was a foot deep in his pen,” The Times says.

Lehigh was found not guilty animal cruelty after witnesses testified that elk like to wallow in mud. “At times, it is in a manner necessary to their comfort,” The Times says. “Elk, said one old-timer whose beard hung to his waist, like to wallow and it does them good.”

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Celebrate 1907’s Centennial in March

Reminder, you have until February 5 to submit your proposals for the 1907 Centennial celebration. We’ve already received some fascinating submissions–including one for the first public appearance in more than a decade of a legendary L.A. postpunk band, presenting a live score to a Melies Brothers short — and would love to have you be a part of it. So send over your ideas, half-baked or cooked straight through, and join us on March 22 at Bedlam.

1907 Centennial – open call for performers

For the past year, the bloggers at have been immersed in the weird old L.A. of 1907, a city of open sewers and Mexican revolutionaries, 15mph hot rodders and prankster firemen, holy rollers and hollow earthers. As the calendar strikes March and the conclusion of twelve months of 1907 research, we’re hosting a special centennial celebration, and we’d like YOU to be a part of it.

Writers, musicians, actors, artists, comics, storytellers, vaudevillians, curators, filmmakers, historians, poets and others are invited to propose a 3-10 minute presentation on a theme inspired by 1907-era Los Angeles (or the wider world). Your piece can be original or an adaptation of something you’ve read on or elsewhere. All media are welcome (we can provide amplification and video projection). The only requirements are that it be entertaining and respectful to any crime victims involved.

Prospective presenters should provide the following:
1) A one paragraph creative bio, 200 words or less, suitable for publication
2) A description of what you propose to do at the 1907 Centennial event, noting any source material that you have been inspired by
3) Length of proposed performance
4) Contact info
5) Your website or other helpful links

Event curators Kim Cooper, Larry Harnisch, Lucinda Michele Knapp and Nathan Marsak will be collecting proposals through February 5 and announcing the line up shortly afterwards. The ’07 celebration will be held on Thursday, March 22 at Bedlam Art downtown, and will culminate in the festive revelation by a very special musical guest of which historic year will next get the archival treatment from 1947project. The event will be free, with refreshments and libations on hand. Vintage recipes will be provided for those who enjoy cooking to contribute pot luck offerings to share.

Need more info to stoke the fires of your creativity? Visit for some helpful historic resources.

Please submit your proposal for The 1907 Centennial by February 5 to Kim by email or mail to PO Box 31227, Los Angeles CA 90031.

Strange Fruit

Feb. 1, 1907
Los Angeles

I was all set to write about Leroyxez, “The Human Pincushion,” being nailed to a cross promptly at 4 p.m. at Chutes Park, and then a story about lynching in the U.S. caught my eye.


Number of














Of the 73 victims for 1906, all but four were African American men, the exceptions being an African American woman and three white men, according to the wire story from the Washington Post.


Number of Lynchings


13 (down from 20 in 1905)











North Carolina


South Carolina










Indian Territory






Triple lynchings were conducted in Georgia, North Carolina and Missouri. The alleged crimes including stealing a silver dollar and stealing a calf (both in Louisiana), carrying a loaded pistol, petty robbery, improper proposals, miscegenation, criminal assault, assault and murder, attempted murder, murder and robbery, double murder, quadruple murder and quintuple murder. One victim was lynched for allegedly attacking three white women in one afternoon, the story says.

In the case of R.T. Rogers, one of three whites lynched in 1906, the mob chartered a train from Monroe, La., to Tallulah. His case had been in the courts for two years and eight months on charges that he killed a business rival.

J.V. Johnson, a white man, was lynched in North Carolina while awaiting a new trial after the jury deadlocked on whether he was guilty of killing his brother.

The third white man, Lawrence Leberg, “a tramp,” was hanged from a telephone pole in Las Animas, Colo., for allegedly killing a farmer who had befriended him.

“One victim was shot and the corpse burned; two were shot while they cowered in their cells, the mobs firing from outside the prisons; four were hanged and burned; two hanged and shot; 21 shot in the open; and 42 hanged,” The Times says, leaving us to wonder about the final victim.

There is no further information on the woman who was lynched.

E-mail: lmharnisch (AT)