by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Just a dozen days ago, in a post commemorating the birth date of Lucinda A. Temple, the oldest of the two surviving daughters of F.P.F. Temple and Antonia Margarita Workman and discussing her life story, a photo was shown of Lucinda standing in front of the Basye Adobe, in which her second husband, Manuel M. Zuñiga owned a store and saloon and billiard parlor in the Misión Vieja or Old Mission community south of El Monte. Lucinda’s younger brother, Walter, later purchased the adobe and lived in it with his family from 1912 to 1917.
When oil was found on the property, the Temples moved and the adobe was used as headquarters for Standard Oil Company of California, which leased the Temple oil land. The building, built in 1869 by Rafael Basye, nephew of Juan Matias Sánchez, a former foreman for William Workman’s share of Rancho La Puente and who co-owned Rancho La Merced with Lucinda and Walter’s father, F.P.F. Temple ,still stood until the mid-1930s and was apparently razed about that time.
The photo was a copy of one provided to the Homestead in 1997 when I received a call from Carlos Hartnell, whose mother Leonora was Manuel’s daughter with his first wife, Carmel Davis. I drove out to Whittier to visit with Carlos at his home and he made available several photos from his collection, including one of his mother and aunt Lucinda with Walter Temple next to his home, La Casa Nueva, at the Homestead.
Two days ago a call came from the front office telling me that someone wanted to donate a historic photograph. When I went out to meet Carla Hernandez and she explained that she was remodeling the family home and had something she thought should be at the Homestead, it was quite a surprise when I unwrapped the image and saw the original cabinet card photograph I’d first seen over twenty years ago.
Carla is a granddaughter of Carlos and the home she referred to has been in the family’s hands for several generations and, because it was being worked on, she felt it was better to take the photo out of the building and present it to the Homestead. What I recalled is that, in my eagerness to get a copy of the photo, it didn’t occur to me to have the back of the cabinet card copied.
That’s because it has the stamp of the photographer, Garden City Photo [also Foto] Company, a very popular Los Angeles studio in the 1890s and 1900s. In fact, the Homestead collection has over seventy Garden City images.
In 1997, though, I knew nothing about Garden City, though information over the years has been gathered about the firm started by James T. Pollock and which he operated with his wife Anna (a very rare example of a female photographer in those days) in Los Angeles from about 1894 until roughly 1908. The Pollocks were married in San Jose in 1890, had a son born the following year and soon headed south. Unfortunately, details are scarce about them and their business.
Obviously, this gives us a general time frame for the image of Lucinda and the Basye Adobe, though I lean towards the earlier part of that fifteen-year time frame, which seems validated by the fact that the company’s change in spelling to “Foto” seems to have been in use by 1902.
One of the earliest newspaper articles about Garden City and Pollock, however, was a notable one. At the end of November 1894, he was arrested in Ventura on a charge of taking lewd and indecent photographs. An article in the Los Angeles Times covered the first day of a trial and, though the subject matter of the image was naturally left unmentioned, witnesses testified to it being displayed and purchased in a shop. Pollock, however, who insisted on a jury trial, took the stand and vigorously denied the charge. Unfortunately, there was no further coverage of the case and it is not known what the result was.
Obviously, he survived this controversy and became a busy photographer in a booming Los Angeles, though the trade was highly competitive and usually very difficult to sustain. Pollock tried to use a sense of humor, advertising in spring 1903 for an assistant and adding that “no cigarette suckers, hobos or bold-faced boys need apply.” Later that year, though, he was sued by an assistant, perhaps the one hired from the ad, “on account of injuries sustained . . . through the misbehavior of a flashlight.”
In fact, in 1904, there were ads taken out by Garden City looking to sell the studio, exchange a Colorado farm for a Los Angeles business or to borrow money, though that was followed by others highlighting the studio’s specialty of photographing houses and ranches. Indeed, many of the Homestead’s Garden City photos are of homes. In 1908, the firm appeared to be on its last legs, as it advertised the sale of a one-carat canary diamond stud, said to be valued at $300 but offered at $96. This seems to have referred to the fact that, in the 1910 census, Anna Pollock was listed as a widower and did not have a given profession.
So, the Homestead is very happy to have this original photograph in its collection, after having possession of a copy for use in programs, off-site presentations and blog posts for over two decades.