by Paul R. Spitzzeri
As the Roaring Twenties came to a dramatic close with the crash of the stock market and the onset of the Great Depression, Walter P. Temple, whose failing fortunes were unrelated to Wall Street, was in a desperate and dire predicament. He sold almost all of his once-substantial landholdings, following years of poor performance in oil and real estate projects, and valiantly tried to save his most valuable property: the 92-acre Workman Homestead, which he acquired in late 1917, spent a great deal of time and money improving, and hoped to save.
Meanwhile, Major Lawrence V. Lewis, a Navy veteran and military school proprietor last in Indiana, came to greater Los Angeles and, in fall 1929, opened the Golden State Military Academy on the former Evans estate on the Esplanade facing the ocean in Redondo Beach. Lewis was aided by his sister, Evelyn Horton, a widower who served as principal of the school and the siblings were joined by their widowed mother, Ellen.
Little was actually found about Lewis and his sister. The 1930 census shows that he was born in Kentucky, but she was born in China. A news article said that their father, Sir William Churchill Lewis, was with the British consul’s office in China. Horton was described as a graduate of the University of Chicago and several music conservatories, while Lewis apparently saw overseas service in the Army, though one military source suggests he was in the Navy.
A Los Angeles Times article from April 1929 stated that the academy “stresses in addition to scholarship, courage, honesty, industry and good breeding, together with a high standard of health for its pupils.” While it was nonsectarian, students were required to attend Sunday services. Lewis was quoted as saying that “the military department is so conducted and arranged as not to interfere with the school work.” He described Golden State as “essentially military” in that it utilized strict discipline for “the making of men.” Much was also made of having the smallest class sizes possible for maximum benefit to individual students.
Lewis quickly garnered a reputation as an excellent public speaker, whose topics, not surprisingly, revolved usually around the building of boys into men, especially though the military school, which became very popular in the patriotic fervor of the First World War. In fact, Walter and Laura Temple, whose first oil well at their lease near Montebello came in just two months after the United States entered that conflict and upon receiving royalties, sent their three sons to military school.
While Golden State was heavily advertised at Redondo Beach, the school only completed one year there, during the 1929-30 school year before it decided to move. Somehow, Lewis became aware that the Homestead was available for lease and, in May 1930, he and Temple inked a deal through which Golden State leased for forty years 20 acres of the ranch, with the remaining property under option, comprising the Workman House; La Casa Nueva; Water Tower; the auditorium, cafeteria and garage that were built as wineries in the 1860s; a 60’x100′ square foot reservoir and swimming pool; and other structures. Temple retained the remaining 72 acres of the Homestead, on which walnuts were being raised for commercial purposes.
A 17 May article in the Los Angeles Express noted that
Golden State Military Academy is now in full swing at Puente in the ancient Spanish style institution known since pioneer days as the old Workman homestead and lavishly reconstructed seven years ago as the Walter P. Temple home, the Temples being descendants of the Workmans. With the entire student body safely ensconced in their new quarters many of the boys have astonished their distant parents with descriptions and pictures of the elaborate and highly decorative institution.
With more significant promotion, including highlighting of the large pool, the tennis and basketball court adjacent to the pool, and a machine shop, Golden State refurbished the Homestead’s structures for its purposes and opened its doors at the ranch for the 1930-31 school year. A mid-June article in the Los Angeles Times, which described a summer camp in the San Jacinto Mountains operated by Lewis and Horton, also talked about the Homestead as “the historic Temple estate with its handsome buildings and picturesque settings.”
An ad from August shows boys in the pool and staff standing on the deck near dressing rooms with the Water Tower looming in the distance. Descriptions of the school include mention of commercial courses, including banking, military elements, and even instruction in the “Science of Flight” and “Actual Aeroplane Construction.” Other ads emphasized the agricultural course, appropriate enough given that the Puente Valley was an agricultural region with a sparse population, and which offered animal husbandry, poultry raising, and bee keeping.
A September 1930 article in the Express was more fanciful in its description of the historic significance of the ranch denoting it as “the Temple estate, long famous as a storehouse of California’s history” and “perhaps best known as the burial place of Gov. Pio Pico.” The piece veered off into a strange tangent, however, when it claimed that the Homestead was “on the spot known to every student of California history as the place where the council of seven met to decide the fate of the Golden State.” It is not clear what was meant by this—perhaps a misinformed claim about the situation involving the American seizure of California during the Mexican-American War?
Beyond that, the article claimed that “one of the more interesting features is the classroom building, a structure more than 100 years old.” This had to have been the Workman House, in which a central partition was added (and was only removed in the late 2000s) to divide the interior into classrooms. But, it was also reported that the house was “formerly used by the padres in their missionary work, ” presumably those from Mission San Gabriel, though this is patently false.
While Temple’s financial situation worsened to the point that he had to mortgage the walnut crop in 1930 to raise cash, even as cut back expenses by moving to Ensenada in Baja California, Lewis developed a relationship in which it appeared that he tried to help Temple keep the ranch.
For the 1931-32 school year, Lewis and Horton expanded into “A New Departure” through the creation of a “manual training department” including building contracting, making and using blueprints, masonry and carpentry, plastering, electrical work, cabinetry and furniture making, and boat building (including a 36-foot yacht!) An ad promoting this new feature promised that, after the two-year course, the student would be on his way to a solid profession that would “TAKE YOUR SON OUT OF THE BREAD LINE.”
Whatever was tried did not succeed as the Depression worsened, particularly during 1932 when a massive wave of bank failures sent the economy further into a tailspin (this being a major blow to the reelection campaign of President Herbert Hoover). In July, California Bank, which held a mortgage on the Homestead, foreclosed and Temple lost his beloved family property.
As for Lewis and Golden State, the lease expanded to cover the entirety of the ranch, though there must’ve been difficulties in keeping the student population up as the economy flailed. After the 1932-33 year, however, Lewis decided to change the name of his institution to Raenford, perhaps because there was an elegance to attract more well-heeled parents that the old name did not possess.
Raenford’s advertising, as that under the Golden State moniker, continued to promote a variety of academic programs. For the 1933-34 school year, for example, a Times article quoted Lewis as promoting “practical laboratory, shop and field work” including “automotive reconditioning, electric motor-winding and assembly, gasoline motor design, radio photography, oil field geology, and applied physics in industry.”
Also frequently mentioned in ads was the cosmopolitan demographic of its student population by mentioning those who came from outside the United States. Tonight’s highlighted historical artifacts, comprising album pages of photos of the school while at the Homestead, include two dated from 1933 and showing Everardo Musquiz standing next to La Casa in full dress uniform, with one of these contrasting him with a boy who had to have been in the first grade, the lowest grade at the school.
The two images with Musquiz show him and the youngster on an adobe walkway that still exists and extends from the Music Room on the west side of the mansion out to the Mission Walkway, part of which is in the background of one of the images. The other shows Musquiz standing near an arbor that used to be outside the Music Room, but is no longer extant. Behind the structure, however, is a thin cypress that is still growing at the corner of the front patio.
It was assumed that Muzquiz was a student, but there was a 22-year old University of Mexico student by that name who competed in the 200 meter race at the Olympic Games held at Los Angeles in summer 1932. Perhaps he became a teacher at the school after his brief moment of Olympics glory? Someone of that name later was a breeder of racing horses in the border town of Del Rio, Texas, west of San Antonio.
Of the other album page, there are several photographs at the Homestead, including one showing the Water Tower from next to the garage that was once one of the Workman winery buildings to the southeast. Another shows the north side of the Workman House, with a part of the east wall covered in vines and the Lady Banks rose bush at the front and which is still with us after some 160 years. There are also images of two football players in a stance and a basketball player holding a ball in his hands, while a larger image at the center shows about a dozen students in uniform next to a tree shorn of growth, suggesting a winter date. Behind the three might be the yacht mentioned above.
For the second year as Raenford, an August 1934 piece in the Times reported that there was rising enrollment at the school compared to the prior three years. Lewis told the paper, “this increase in registration indicates a definite rise in national prosperity” and claimed that “enrollments from all parts of the nation are showing a marked increase.”
Yet, after the completion of the 1934-35 year, the school moved to a much larger location in the San Fernando Valley, occupying the Encino Country Club, which went belly up during the Depression. As for the Homestead, it remained owned by California Bank for another five years, from 1935-1940, but was unoccupied except for caretakers who happened to be from the Brinks security company.
In October 1940, Harry Brown, a former Los Angeles County juvenile court officer, and his wife Lois, who ran a sanitarium in Monrovia, where such institutions were commonplace for decades, purchased the Homestead. The couple sent their three sons to the Raenford Military Academy at the ranch and it seems likely that Lewis’ frequent forays to Monrovia, Pasadena and other foothill communities to give talks to groups like the Rotary Club gave the Browns the idea of sending their children there and, later, acquiring the ranch for their new facility, El Encanto Sanitarium.
El Encanto operated in La Casa Nueva, the Workman House and the other buildings on the ranch for about a quarter century. Because of state mandates, a new facility had to be constructed immediately north of La Casa Nueva and over several years at the end of the 1960s, the hospital moved.
Meantime, in December 1963, the City of Industry, then six years old, purchased the Workman House and El Campo Santo Cemetery from the Browns and arranged for limited public access through the family. A dozen years later, after protracted negotiations, the City acquired La Casa Nueva and, soon after, El Encanto.
The Homestead was in the restoration process when Lewis, who was living in San Diego County, was contacted, because it was understood that, when he left the Homestead more than forty years prior, he took some of the furnishings from La Casa Nueva with him to Encino. Apparently, there were some negotiations to buy some of these items from Lewis and put them back in the house, but they fell through due to a wide gap in price. Lewis died in 1979, two years before the Homestead opened and who knows where those items wound up?
We don’t talk much about the military school in our programming, aside from these album pages displayed in a room in the Workman House and a brief mention at a photo board near the Water Tower and Pump House, but the five-year run of Golden State/Raenford at the Homestead is still a part of our history, even if it is not essential to the interpretation we undertake.