by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Before the tour bus and, before that, the streetcar, became the way for out-of-town visitors (and some locals) to see the sights in greater Los Angeles, tourists could take a ride through the region on a horse-drawn carriage. A remnant of this method of travel is still occasionally found in some places with a short carriage ride, but in days gone by, these excursions could take in substantial portions of a given area and its many attractions.
Today’s “From Point A to Point B” entry focuses on a large-format cabinet card photograph, taken on 15 June 1902, of a group of sixteen passengers and their driver (sporting a uniform and cab and puffing on a cigarette) on a “tally-ho” carriage from Chicago Stables parked in the middle of a street next to a park in Los Angeles.
Chicago Stables operated in several locations in the southern part of the city’s rapidly expanding downtown and was situated at Main near 6th Street in 1902. The facility advertised at the time for their “tally-ho” excursions, though undoubtedly, mounting (get it?) competition from the automobile gradually cut into its business. Still, this was a substantial vehicle with five benches, side-mounted lanterns, and pulled by a team of six horses.
The location is Elysian Park, readily identifiable because of the unusual layout of the planter beds, the hilly location, and, especially, the Romanesque-style block wall at street level. It turns out that a very similar image is found in this typically excellent essay by Nathan Masters for KCET–scroll down toward the bottom to find it.
The park was created by an ordinance in 1886, during the early days of the great Boom of the Eighties that, among many other elements, led to a major focus on parks. This allowed for beautification and recreation, but also enhanced property values in neighboring communities. Elysian wound up, at some 600 acres, becoming the second largest park in the city, though a distant one to the massive Griffith Park.
Much of work to improve and develop Elysian took place during the 1890s when William H. Workman, nephew of William and Nicolasa Workman of the Homestead, was on the city’s park commission. Workman was also mayor of Los Angeles in 1887 and 1888, the peak years of the boom, and donated two-thirds of the land for Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights.
As Masters noted in his article, subsequent changes as the city continued its relentless march of development affected the park. This included the addition of the LAPD’s academy, the channelizing of the Los Angeles River, the building of freeways and the construction of Dodger Stadium (which also involved the forced removal of many residents of neighborhoods in and around Chavez Ravine.)
The photograph has an address in Newark, New Jersey on the reverse, presumably that of the owner and a member of the tourist group. Incidentally, the home is still there, though in a blighted area of the city, which has experienced a dramatic transformation in recent decades.
Also of interest is the pasted-down label of the photographer. Usually, a photograph will have a stamp or perhaps an embossed name and address, but this label is particularly extravagant. It has the address, phone number, and information about the products offered by the photographer, Fred E. Vincent, but adds his signature, his camera on a tripod, and a headshot. It’s a pretty impressive promotional piece in a highly competitive profession.
Vincent, born in Albany, New York in 1873, was a salesman in his native city when he married Almira Smith in Savannah, Georgia in 1901. The couple promptly moved to Los Angeles, where Vincent opened his studio at Spring and 3rd streets, a bustling center of downtown. He appears to have kept at the profession through the mid-1910s before taking on a new vocation appropos of the times, purchasing an automobile repair garage just a few blocks east of where his studio had been.
Vincent stayed in the auto repair business for many years and died in Los Angeles in 1951. He and Almira had two daughters, the eldest, Lucinda, married painter Pilides Tino Costa, a native of Russia, who came to Los Angeles in the mid-1930s. Costa quickly became recognized for his work with politicians and celebrities, including film stars in Hollywood. Among his surviving portraits are those of Shirley Temple, Jean Harlow, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Loretta Young. The other daughter, June, became a member of the WAC (Women’s Air Corps) during World War II, achieving the rank of captain.
This photo is among many in the Homestead’s collection that show the evolution of transportation from the 1870s through the 1920s, whether they show horse-drawn vehicles, electric streetcars, automobiles and trucks, motorcycles and airplanes. So, check back for more examples in the “From Point A to Point B” series.