“Undoubtedly Destined to be One of the Important Cities of the Continent, Taking Rank in Time With the Great Cities of the World”: The Californian Illustrated Magazine’s Article on the “New Los Angeles,” Part Two, October 1892

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

We continue our delving into the pages of The Californian Illustrated Magazine‘s October 1892 issue, with the focus on the remarkable article by J.R. Henderson called “New Los Angeles.” Yesterday’s first part examined the writer’s summary of the history of the city and region through the great Boom of the Eighties, which peaked during the term of the metropolis’ mayor, William H. Workman, nephew of Homestead founders William Workman and Nicolasa Urioste, during 1887 and 1888.

This second part picks up with Henderson’ statement of “let us now look upon [the] Los Angeles of to-day and see what the last five years have accomplished.” For one, he noted that the city’s population was at least 65,000 persons (the 1890 census recorded just above 50,000, though these enumerations are always undercounts) and added that the official tally a dozen years prior as just a bit above 11,000.

Next, the author took the reader on a “bird’s-eye view” of the Angel City, observing “that the general trend of the town is northeast and southwest” and that “the business and denser portion is built somewhat toward the northeast,” while the southwest sections “assume a suburban character.” The first was north of the Plaza and, with rail yards, industrial enterprises and working-class communities including large numbers of Latinos, Asians and southern Europeans, much of this area was in significant contrast to the southwest, where tony subdivisions and the expansive houses of the well-to-do lie near the University of Southern California and Exposition Park.

It was quickly noted, though, that “residences . . . are scattered in all directions, while the public parks and squares, aggregating five hundred and forty-two acres” and including many beautiful plantings, along with private gardens, “give a rural aspect to this city of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels.” In fact, the city was undergoing something of a “park boom,” with several major public parks established within a short period of time and the land for the massive Griffith Park to be donated just a few years later—but more on that below.

East of the Los Angeles River were the neighborhoods of East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights, though it was not mentioned that both were established during the earlier and smaller boom, omitted from Henderson’s account, in 1873 and 1875, respectively. Moreover, “on the west lie tempting hills which attract home-builders,” this likely including such locales as Crown Hill. Seventeen miles west was the Pacific and twenty-two miles south the “Bay of San Pedro” and it was noted that there were “numerous stately edifices;” many miles of fine streets that were “macadamized,” before modern paving of concrete or asphalt; “many lines of street cars ceaselessly moving to and fro.” It was a long way from the days where merchants waited for business to turn up, Henderson mused.

Consequently, “vast has been the strides made during the last five years” as “adobe buildings have disappeared and magnificent structures” taken their place, with many examples given, including the Hollenbeck Hotel, the orphans’ asylum, the Phillips Block “and dozens of other private buildings that proclaim the solid prosperity and welfare of the people of Los Angeles.” Then, there were the public buildings “fitly representing by imposing architecture the institutions of a flourishing community,” including the half-million dollar county court house (1889) and the $200,000 city hall (1888.) The new high school (1891) and the Temperance Temple, YMCA building, and the Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank were examples of other stellar structures. With almost $46 million in valuation in 1891-92, compared to only $9.2 million in 1882-83, the Angel City’s growth was, by any measure, striking.

At some 36 square miles, Los Angeles was “delightfully diversified by valley, hill and plain, each tempting to occupancy by its particular attraction” and also marked by “its pure atmosphere and genial climate” much of which was “still occupied by vineyards and orchards, and by unimproved sunny hillsides waiting to dispense their wealth of hygienic blessings and display the glorious scenery they hold to view. Henderson added that

It must not be supposed when the City of the Angels shook off the lethargy of a century’s duration [1781-1881],—a lethargy due only to that incomprehensible web-spinner of controlling circumstances which rule the advancement or retrogression of communities—that she could leap on to the pedestal of completion at a single bound. Completion is the result of development, and development is the product of time and intelligence.

A reflection of this aphorism was reflected in the city’s “pleasure grounds and happiness of her public” and, while the result was not a Garden of Eden, city officials did, in that “park boom,” create some excellent places of resort, recreation and leisure for Angelenos and visitors. Mentioned were such fine parks as Westlake (MacArthur), Sixth Street (Pershing Square) and denoted “a jewel in a mural setting,” the East Side (really, Eastlake, now Lincoln), and Prospect in Brooklyn Heights, adjacent to and now part of Boyle Heights.

The city hall was located until 1928 on the east side of Broadway between 2nd and 3rd streets.

As noted earlier, Griffith Park was a few years from the land being donated, while Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights, two-thirds of which was donated by the community’s co-founder and former mayor Workman, was soon to open. Mentioned as imminent was 450 acres “on the northwestern hills” which was already bestowed the name of Elysian Park and “with its magnificent views and the illimitable sources of recreation and enjoyment that it possesses” it would certainly measure up to its name within a decade. This led Henderson to exclaim, “what a paradise will the alliance between art and nature make of it in thirty years!”

Institutionally speaking, there was much to make of the progress of the Angel City, including the public schools, the University of Southern California (then still Methodist Church-affiliated), asylums for the poor and orphans, charities, and “her attention to the arts and sciences and literature,” so that these “correspond and are on the same altitude with her prosperity.” As just one example, a symphony orchestra was founded the following year and lasted until the formation of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1919.

The author opined that “Los Angeles had long ago been entered on the tablets of prosperity,” though “during her long career of sluggishness, beneficent Nature was waiting to reward those who would meet her half way,” including with the fertility of the soil in the hinterlands, which were slowly expanded from cattle ranching to agriculture, including wheat, grapes and oranges. But, with the 1880s boom, a great expansion took place in farming and ranching, the latter with sheep and the former including citrus and walnuts, along with, in the San Fernando Valley, larger expanses of wheat and other field crops.

Henderson began his piece with the observation that transportation was vital to any city’s success and he recorded that “to-day eleven lines of railroad center in Los Angeles,” but there could have been 1,100 of these and meant little if the use of farm and ranch lands did not warrant the development of rail service. He highlighted the city’s hosting of the State Citrus Fair in 1891 and asserted that “in no part of the world was ever such a display of fruit . . . on the occasion of that exhibition.”

In fact, the writer worked himself into quite a lather about the fair, gushing in the exalted exuberance of purple prose,

As we gazed on the Goddess of Plenty with her upraised right arm and saw the profusion of fruits of many kinds issuing from the Zeus-blessed horn of Amalthea at her command; as we marked the rising sun shedding his first morning rays of golden glory on the orange grove that seemed to greet his radiance with promise of productiveness; and noted the lavishness of fruit around, we realized that the Ladies’ Annex was one of the greatest attractions at the fair.

There were some 50,000 oranges, lemons and limes used in the exhibits from fifteen horticulturists and 100 laborers worked for over a week to get these constructed. As for the shipment of fruit, Henderson recorded that, in all but one month of 1891, the Southern Pacific Railroad shipped almost 29,000 tons of oranges.

This is now Pershing Square looking west toward where the Biltmore Hotel has stood for a century.

Other examples of the development of the Angel City were the improvements of her streets and sidewalks; and its “intelligent and progressive press,” including the Republican-allied Express and Times and the Democratic-leaning Herald, along with several weeklies—all of which had “aided materially in the true development of Los Angeles city and county.” It is notable that, having made virtually no mention of Latinos, Henderson sought to use the term el movimiento as indicative “of the activity of business in a city.”

Reflective of this was his discussion of the development of electric street railroads, particularly the Los Angeles Consolidated Electric Railroad Company, launched in 1890 and which had laid nearly fifty miles of road. While the line was described as being “in a thriving condition,” it soon failed, but from it emerged a reorganized enterprise called the Los Angeles Railway, which was then acquired by Henry E. Huntington who expanded it as the city grew and then created what became the famous Pacific Electric Railway system.

Throop University, which opened in September 1891, is now the California Institute of Technology.

Henderson decided to spend a considerable amount of space in his article to the Los Angeles Consolidated, going into such detail as its buildings, specifically the engine and dynamo room and the machine room, while also observing that its lines reached or would soon East Los Angeles, Westlake Park, Elysian Park and Boyle Heights. While it would not be that firm that would see the future of electric streetcars, that falling to Huntington and his associates, the writer reported that Moses H. Sherman, Eli P. Clark, and the company’s investors foresaw what would take place in twenty years concerning the city’s growth and their firm’s forecasted success.

Also highlighted were the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe and Southern Pacific railroad lines, as well as the Los Angeles Terminal Railway (among whose founders was William H. Workman), which connected the harbor at San Pedro and Wilmington to the Angel City and was slated to continue to Pasadena. Not quite a decade away was the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake, which acquired the Terminal line. Crucial, as well, were ports, of which there were three, including San Pedro/Wilmington, Redondo and Santa Monica, though, in the “Free Harbor Fight” that took place within a few years, the federal government chose to direct its largesse to the former.

Industrial development, very much in its infancy, was expected to greatly increase with “the scarcity of cheap fuel . . . militating against the development of the manufacturing industries,” though with access to coal from Utah and Nevada and “when the petroleum supplies in Southern California have been well developed, this suppressive factor will disappear.” In fact, Charles Canfield and Edward Doheny, with limited capital and primitive equipment, brought in a well west of downtown in 1892 that launched the intensive development of petroleum resources that helped facilitate the Angel City’s industrial growth in subsequent decades.

The late 19th century found greater Los Angeles to be a “health-seeker’s paradise,” and Henderson noted that “Los Angeles is destined to become the great sanitarium of the United States” because, within a short distance, “are conditions found nowhere else in the world” when it came to assisting “the invalid and health-seeker.” He observed that, as so many visitors did, that the wide variety of climatic elements were such that, when a doctor ordered two brothers to seek relief from the sea and the mountains, he “laughingly reminded them that they were in California” and they, in turn, “laughed at what they considered a California joke.” Yet, one was sent to the beach and the other, just twenty-two miles away, at the Mt. Wilson Hotel and the siblings “carried on a conversation by means of the heliograph,” a signaling device at the latter that used the sun reflected off mirrors for communication.

The author commented that “in short Los Angeles is the central point of a remarkable region” and added “it is almost impossible to describe the climate of this singular land,” as a person could “take a sea bath at Redondo” in the morning, lunch at Altadena and join a “toboggan and sleigh-ride party at Mt. Wilson” and return home to the Angel City that evening. With this combination of summer and winter activities, Henderson asked, “what locality in the world but Los Angeles can offer these inducements, can offer so much variety in so short a time?”

Woodbury University is now in a section of Los Angeles just above the border with Burbank.

Moreover, he continued that “Los Angeles is in the true land of sunshine” and concluded that

Around Los Angeles, after the advent of her prosperity, numbers of lesser lights have sprung into existence, each beautiful and attractive in its particularity of locality and surroundings. Each and all enjoy the most delightful climate, and each will march hand in hand with the metropolis of Southern California along the broad highway of success.

There are some other interesting articles in the publication after the Los Angeles piece, including one by José Gonzales about the rise of México’s dictator Porfirio Díaz, with the author averring that “peace has reigned supreme for fifteen years” since his accession to the presidency “and this wonderful prosperity is entirely due to the untiring and ceaseless efforts of the President,” who, however, was unseated by revolution in 1911.

A strange article by William M. Pierson, president of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, concerned the concept of signaling any life forms on Mars using nearly 28 million arc lights requiring just north 669 million horse power spaced out every ten feet on a field ten miles square. Pierson noted, however, that there was only 394 million horse power for the whole planet at the time, so “this method of signaling our Martian friends,” using a simple code signifying our place in the solar system as the third planet with one moon and that of Mars as the fourth planet and it having two moons, “must temporarily be postponed.”

More realistic was W.H. Mills’ essay on “Marketing California Fruits” through a system of direct distribution better coordinated with railroad carriers, as well as using an auction method of selling fruit and having agents in every town or city of substance to ensure better delivery of fruit to markets. As Henderson observed, Mills pointed out that “the absence of a cheap coal, that reservoir of mechanical power, forbids the hope of the establishment here of great manufacturing enterprises,” though the spectacular rise of the oil industry would change matters relatively quickly. Because “horticulture . . . leaves us without competitor” there was a need to have a “substantial and enduring basis” for improving the marketing of the Golden State’s produce, so that “the entire industrial structure will eventually rise.”

A “Questions of the Day” section provided something of a digest of the contents of the issue and, relative to “New Los Angeles,” it was claimed that the article “will be a revelation to people in the East who have known this section principally through stories of the boom.” Henderson, however, told a story of the recent couple or so years “and the recital is like a fairy tale,” as the Angel City was growing faster than any metropolis west of Chicago. Therefore,

Los Angeles is undoubtedly destined to be one of the important cities of the continent, taking rank in time with the great cities of the world, and its rapid growth and development is but characteristic of the onward movement of the entire Pacific Coast.

This edition of The Californian Illustrated Magazine is filled with great material, particularly the Los Angeles piece and there are fourteen other issues in the Museum’s holdings, so we’ll be sure to feature more of these in future posts.

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