by Paul R. Spitzzeri
It was quite an imposing and eye-catching mansion, with its distinctive architecture called Tudor by some and “Louis XIV” or French Chateau by others, but the William Garland House, which stood at the corner of Eighth Street and Westlake Avenue, southwest of Westlake (now MacArthur) Park, for not quite six decades, was not only an interesting building, but the somewhat murky history of its owner and builder also deserves no small amount of attention.
The featured object from the Museum’s collection for this post is a drawing of the dwelling published in the American Architect and Building News of 22 July 1899. With its pair of projecting corner turrets and “witches hats” crowning them, the Gothic arches of the expansive front porch, Romanesque stone dressing at the lower portion of the building, and other details, the house definitely stood out in the Angel City as the 19th century came to close.
When mentioned at all, William Garland (1849-1928) is usually mentioned as the president of the Gila Valley, Globe and Northern Railway, a line he and others constructed through the Arizona Territory at the time his Los Angeles was being built. One local blog also noted that he built a couple of downtown Los Angeles commercial buildings, including the Garland Building, which still stands, on Broadway between 7th and 8th.
The post errs, however, is stating that Garland built the 1920 building at Broadway and 7th, also still with us, that housed the Pantages Theatre where Alexander Pantages was accused of sexually assaulting dancer Eunice Pringle nine years later. Instead, Garland built the first Pantages, opened in 1910, on Broadway between 5th and 6th. In any case, Garland was involved in some important projects in Los Angeles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but there is much more to his story, including some strange elements, worth a retelling.
While it was sometimes stated that Garland was born in Canada, such as in the 1900 federal census, he hailed from Ireland. When he filled in his application in 1908 to be naturalized an American citizen, he reported that he was from the Emerald Isle and then stated that he lived in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, which is on the border with Michigan, northeast of Detroit. In mid-August 1863, he continued, he took the ferry across the St. Clair River to Port Huron, Michigan. In June 1865, just after the end of the Civil War, having just tuned 16 years of age, Garland joined the Army and served for three years and there his naturalization application history ends as to his early life.
A brief biographic sketch, however, in the 7 September 1899 edition of the Arizona Silver Belt newspaper, however, picks up the story, noting Garland was mustered out of Army service in Wyoming with an honorable discharge in 1868 out of Fort Phil Kearny, situated in the northern part of that future state (1869, that is) along the Bozeman Trail that led to the town of that name in Montana. Garland had enlisted with the 18th U.S. Infantry, but at the end of 1866, it was re-designated as the 27th. The fort only lasted a couple of years and was closed the year Garland was mustered out.
The sketch noted that as a teen, Garland was a horse driver for the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad in Ohio and then joined the Indianapolis and Belle Fountain Railroad in Indiana conducting repairs on the line. Once he completed his military service, Garland took up work with the Union Pacific and its transcontinental line at Cheyenne, Wyoming. After about three years, he went into freighting in Colorado and New Mexico, engaging in this work as a teamster for most of the 1870s.
The account stated that, “by industry and habits of frugality,” Garland saved money and, in 1878, took a contract for an extension of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe’s line from La Junta, Colorado to Deming, New Mexico, where a connection was made with the Southern Pacific and another extended to El Paso, Texas. Having finished that project, he joined the Texas Pacific and Mexican Central railroads in Texas and México. With a new contract for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, Garland worked on construction of a road to the Colorado River where Needles, California is today.
Having made his way through the Arizona Territory, Garland worked with Joseph Hampson to build a narrow-gauge line from Lordsburg to Clifton (this latter copper mining town was where Lucinda Temple and her husband Manuel Zuñiga lived for most of the first two decades of the 20th century and where her brother Charles joined them for several years during the 1900s.) Notably, the sketch added that Garland spent 1886-1888 on a trio of railroads, including stretches in Midwest. At the end of the Eighties, he built a canal on the Bear River in Utah, though it was not mentioned that he successfully won a lawsuit on a mechanic’s lien and cashed in for some $70,000. Finally, he did railroad work on a line from Utah to Oregon during that period.
Over some twenty years, Garland made his way through much of western America, in addition to México, and not only acquired a deep knowledge of railroad construction, but also on the cattle raising business, including shipping beef by train, a key element of western rail trade, including through the core Kansas City stockyards. Why the biography didn’t mention this is not known, but there are articles in Arizona newspapers from 1882 onward that noted his growing enterprise as something of a cattle baron and that rail work to the Colorado clearly made him aware of opportunities in Arizona.
His shipments of cattle did include sending cars of beef to Kansas City, including that period where he was also involved in railroad projects in that region. A July 1888 Arizona paper reported that Garland visited Kansas City and it was there that he had a son, Grover, with a 24-year old woman named Ida May Clark, a native of Indiana. What she was doing in Kansas City is not known, but even more strange is that the baby, born in mid-August, was taken to the area of Canada where Garland had once lived, and was baptized in a Catholic church.
The registration recorded that Garland’s occupation was “sailor,” though that was clearly not the case, while his mother’s name was stated as “Ida May,” which, of course, were her first and middle names. When Garland complete his naturalization application two decades later, he left the spaces for his wife’s name and place of birth blank, even though Ida had been living with him as his wife for those 20 years. More on that below!
With his extensive railroad experience and his successful cattle ranching and beef shipping endeavors, Garland was, by 1890, likely quite a wealthy person. On that naturalization application, he recorded that he moved to Los Angeles on 14 June 1891, likely because he had the financial means to do so and it might have been more desirable to live in the temperate climate of the Angel City instead of in blazing hot Arizona. In September 1892, another son, William, was born.
By 1894, though, he began work on what was initially called the Arizona Midland Railroad, but which was recast as the Gila Valley, Globe and Northern Railway. After several years of work, the line was completed in November 1898 as the century drew near to a close, with the 125 mile route going from a Southern Pacific line at Bowie northwest to Globe. In 1901, the company was acquired by the Southern Pacific, which had just been acquired by the powerful railroad titan E.H. Harriman, not long after the death of SP president Collis P. Huntington, whose nephew then went to Los Angeles to pursue a remarkable career with streetcars, real estate and the building of his library, art gallery and gardens at San Marino.
It was also in 1898 that Garland built his mansion, which he intended to erect at Grand Avenue and 4th Street atop Bunker Hill, but, realizing the lot was not substantial enough for his plans, he acquired the large corner lot on the Bonnie Brae Tract, which happened to be where another William Garland, whose middle initial of M and name of May, is the only way to avoid confusion between the two. Incidentally, for a brief period in 1893-1894, William May Garland’s real estate partner was Boyle Workman, grand-nephew of Homestead founders William Workman and Nicolasa Urioste.
An early reference to the Garland residence came in October 1897 when the Los Angeles Express reported that architects Octavius Morgan and John A. Walls designed the structure, while the Alta Planing Mills Company was the contractor for the brick and stone building with a basement and attic as well as its two main living levels, as well as a brick barn on three lots at that northwest corner of Westlake and 8th. The projected cost was above $26,000, though, as almost always was the case, the final amount was probably much higher. The next month, the paper noted that the “magnificent edifice” was also employing pressed brick facing, “not long ago a novelty in this city,” and added that the house “will be the handsomest private dwelling in the city.”
At the end of the year, the Los Angeles Herald reviewed “A Year’s Progress in the Building of Los Angeles,” including some detail on the Garland manse, observing that it “forms quite an imposing feature in the landscape of the country thereabouts.” It described the 14-room dwelling as in the “latest Tudor style” and anticipated its final cost to be around $40,000. It noted that the basement level was stone and the rest brick, while cherry, maple and oak was to be used extensively indoors. Steam heat and electric lights were among features “calculated to add to a family’s comfort.”
In its 24 March 1898 edition, the Herald provided further detail on the structure, agreeing that it was “perhaps the finest residence in the city” and noting that it “is most substantially constructed, with solid heavy brick walls, faced with Los Angeles pressed brick and adorned with Arizona brown sandstone.” Spanish tile graced the roof while there was also “rolled copper for gutters, roof cresting, etc.” The paper described the style as “on the model of the French chateau of the period of Louis XIV and listed other contractors for plumbing, painting, electrical, copper and sandstone work and it noted that his railroad project was halted for two years because of a need to obtain a settlement with Indians through whose reservation the line crossed.
The Los Angeles Times of 8 April not only gave some details about the edifice, but printed a rendering quite similar to the one from the architectural magazine. Much of the description was very similar to that in the Herald‘s account, though it was noted that the use of pressed brick and Arizona sandstone involved a pleasant harmonizing effect, while “the roofs are covered with roll tile, burnt a deep red shade, which, with its bronze green of the copper forming the cresting and finials, completes a most pleasing scheme of color.” The front porch had brownstone steps and a mosaic tile floor on the “arcaded veranda.” Inside were polished oak floors, hardwood trim and other elements, “abundant electrical appliances” and all else needed for “a modern mansion.” The barn was also praised as being able to “amply provide convenience for its blue-blooded equine inhabitants” and the project was expected to cost some $35,000.
In a brief note, the Express of 20 September stated that, while original plans (best laid and all) were for an April completion date, Garland and his “wife” were finally in “their handsome new residence,” having previously resided on West Sixteenth Street closer to downtown (interestingly, Ida May Garland was sued for a small amount by a landscaper over an order that she claimed she’d never made for that earlier residence and that a signature on a document wasn’t hers—nothing was located on what transpired.)
The 1900 census recorded the couple living in their home, stated that they were married 12 years (the same year Grover was born), that there were two other children that did not survive childhood), and that William, Sr. emigrated to the United States in 1866, though that naturalization document gave a precise date for the crossing from Canada three years before. The household had two sisters as servants (maids?), a Japanese cook and three coachmen, though one of the latter and the cook were shown at a separate address.
Garland’s occupation was still as president of the railroad, though, as noted above, that soon changed. It was another decade before he built the structure that was the first Pantages Theatre (lately the Arcade) in the Angel City and then another three years before he completed the nearby Garland Building that originally housed the Morosco Theatre and more recently the Globe Theatre, which still functions today as the oldest such venue in the Broadway Theater district.
The strangeness of the relationship between William and Ida May continued with the 1920 federal census, which showed him at the mansion, but with his marital status given as “widower.” Yet, Ida lived for more than three decades further and it was a challenge trying to find references to her during those many years. In fact, there was another woman, Flora M. Carson, a 65- year old widower from England, who was shown as head of the household, while William Garland, with no listed occupation, was stated to be her “partner.” We can only presume that Ida and William separated, a marriage record not being found and likely never existing, and he took up with the widow Carson.
Ida was, according to a 1924 voter registration document, living on 11th Street at Olive Street in downtown, while she also employed Morgan, Walls and Clements (O. Stiles Clements being the junior member) to build a commercial structure with a store and garage a few years prior. After that, the next located document was the 1950 census (just released this past April), when she was living on Queens Road in the hills above Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, where she died three years later.
As for William, he died at age 79 in September 1928 in the mansion and where the funeral, notably, was held with the Rev. Francis J. Conaty of the Church of the Immaculate Conception and later the Bishop of the Los Angeles Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church officiating. Among the pallbearers were banker Joseph F. Sartori (Garland was a director of the Security Trust and Savings Bank of which Sartori was president), attorney William J. Hunsaker, and Valentine Peyton, former owner of the Mt. Lowe Railway, a founder of the Boys Republic facility for troubled youth now in Chino Hills and an orange grower and rancher.
The obituary mentioned that Garland continued going daily to work at an office until five days before he died. It was also noted that he migrated from Ireland with his family at the age of 2, that his war service involved horse training, and that “the raising of horses was his chief avocation in the later years of his life.” Conspicuously omitted from the article was any mention of family, including Ida and their two sons, which may indicate that he was estranged from the latter, perhaps when he and Ida split up.
The Garland residence stood until 1956 and the site is now a typically nondescript strip mall. The Historic Los Angeles blog post includes a great photo of the building, in addition to the Times drawing from April 1898 and some of the history of the structure and its owner.