“Eulogy Has Formed No Part of the Plan of These Brief Sketches”: The “Makers of Los Angeles” in Out West Magazine, April 1909, Part Four

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Moving along with the “Makers of Los Angeles” as presented in the April 1909 issue of Out West, a magazine edited by Charles F. Lummis (under whom the journal was previously known as The Land of Sunshine) and Charles Amadon Moody, we pick up with Abbot Kinney (1850-1920), one of the more notable figures of the era. Born at Brookside, New Jersey, west of Newark, little was said of his family and early life (his father was a farmer and then an attorney in Washington, D.C.), other than that he studied in France for three years and followed this with courses in Heidelberg, Germany and travel elsewhere in Europe including extensive stays in Italy.

Notably, the bio does not mention that, between 1869 and 1874, he served in the Maryland National Guard, joined (thanks to family connections in the nation’s capital) a federal surveying expedition in the Sioux Indian reservation in the Dakotas and then wandered into Utah, Oregon and northern California before reconnecting with the survey at Yosemite. What it does say is that, in 1860, he founded a tobacco company with his brothers, but he would’ve been just nine years old.

Abbot Kinney

Other sources report that he joined the firm in 1874 and traveled (he seemed to be quite restless as a young man) as a buyer in the southern states before being sent to the Near East as his brothers decided that foreign tobacco would help sales. He apparently barely made it out of a terrible massacre of Christians by Turkish Muslims in Greece in 1876 and then wandered the world for three more years. The bio stated that he did this in 1870, but then jumps to his arrival at San Francisco and the subsequent move to Los Angeles in 1880, while another account noted that it was winter and snow in the Sierras blocked trains heading east, so Kinney made his way south to assist with his asthma (here, again, as noted with several of the “Makers,” health was a major incentive to come to this area.)

The census of 1880 recorded him, with an African-American servant, at the Sierra Madre Hotel, a well-known local landmark in the foothills of the mountain range of that name, now known as the San Gabriels and it was said elsewhere that he showed up there with no reservations and slept on a billiard table until a room became available. Shortly afterward, he purchased a tract of well over 500 acres, which he dubbed Kinneloa and which was planted to citrus and other fruit, as well as grapevines. Not noted in the bio was his investment in downtown Los Angeles property, including the Abbotsford Inn, before he settled at Santa Monica nor his work on Indian affairs with Helen Hunt Jackson, later author of the famed novel Ramona.

Homer Laughlin

Also left out was that rheumatic fever ravaged his family in 1891, the year he and a partner launched a resort south of Santa Monica called Ocean Park, though the bio observed that he started the city by that name thirteen years later. There were some problems with other partners there and Kinney took possession of the swamp-filled lands on the south end of that development and quickly moved to create what he is best known for: Venice of America. This, of course, was influenced by his visit there as a young man and the bio indicated that he planned to add a harbor to his project, which included canals and gondolas, architecture modeled on the Italian city, the well-known pier and pleasure resort and other features. Venice, later annexed to Los Angeles, has changed considerably, but Abbot Kinney Boulevard is the core of the community’s commercial district.

Homer Laughlin (1843-1913) was a native of Columbiana County, Ohio, bordering Pennsylvania, and remained in his home state until he joined the Union Army at nineteen to fight in the Civil War. Afterward, he went to New York City and joined a brother in the importing of English pottery, remaining there for a few years. When the company constructed a pottery factory in his home county, Laughlin moved back in 1873 and then, having bought his sibling out, conducted the Homer Laughlin China Company for nearly twenty more years until he retired in 1897 and headed to Los Angeles.

Bradner W. Lee

Shortly after arrival, he built his namesake six-story office building, the first fireproof structure in the Angel City and in which the famous Grand Central Market is situated, and followed this in 1901 with another structure and, four years later, an annex to the original Laughlin edifice—this latter being the first reinforced concrete building in the city. It was added that, when President William McKinley, an Ohio native, came to Los Angeles in 1901, not long before he was assassinated at Buffalo, McLaughlin, being a friend of more than thirty years, headed the reception committee for the chief executive’s visit.

Bradner W. Lee (1850-1925) hailed from the hamlet of East Groveland, New York, south of Rochester and, after a local education, joined a maternal uncle, G. Wiley Wells, who was a federal attorney in Mississippi in the post-Civil War period. While Wells soon migrated to Los Angeles, Lee remained in Mississippi, where he was an assistant federal district attorney for eight years. In 1879, he came west and joined his uncle’s law firm, operated with Anson Brunson, and was admitted as a partner after four years.

Meyer Lissner

The firm evolved with different partners over the years and after Wells retired, John D. Works (who’ll be covered in tomorrow’s post) became the other major partner. With his uncle’s retirement, Lee inherited a 6,000-volume law library of great value. He went on to represent such clients as Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin, who died on 1 March 1909 just prior to the publication of the issue of Out West, as well as the Murphy Oil Company, which operated in the Whittier area, and was also a major figure in the county Republican Party along with the Los Angele Chamber of Commerce. As with other “Makers,” Lee was a member of Lummis’ Archaeological Institute of America, which seems an obvious reason for inclusion!

Meyer Lissner (1871-1930) was one of the youngest of the “Makers” and among its few Jews and was born in San Francisco, while also living in Oakland as a young man. He did not complete high school and took over his deceased father’s jewelry and pawnshop business at about age 15. After almost a decade, he relocated to Los Angeles and opened a jewelry store with a partner, but sold out to enter Los Angeles Law School, from which he earned his degree and then was admitted to the bar in spring 1899. He was a wise real estate investor and built a namesake office building on Spring Street, which is not, however, extant.

John Miner Carey Marble

Lissner made his name in the early 20th century as a reformer with the bio observing that he “has been a persistent fighter for pure politics and clean government.” He was a key founder of the Non-Partisan movement, which made a major impact in the 1906 city election as well as of the City Club, which was also focused on “municipal well being.” The Lincoln-Roosevelt League and the Municipal League were other important endeavors in which Lissner played a major role, while his reform and political work, including a switch from the Republican Party to the Progressive Party, continued into the Teens.

John Miner Carey (J.M.C.) Marble was previously profiled in a post on this blog, having resided in Pennsylvania and Ohio and was a prominent figure in towns in the west part of the latter state in banking and railroad work. It was family health (yet, again) that lured him to Los Angeles during the great boom of 1888 and he was best known as president of the National Bank of California and, afterward, real estate financing. He, too, was part of Lummis’ Archaeological Institute, as well as the Southwest Museum and other organizations which Lummis founded.

Edwin J. Marshall

Edwin J. Marshall (1860-1937) was from Baltimore and spent some of his younger years in Illinois before he became a clerk for the Union Pacific and Santa Fe railroads, including eight years at Galveston, Texas for the latter. In 1888, he became cashier of a bank in Lampasas, northwest of Austin, and became president two years later, remaining in that position until he came to Los Angeles on the first day of 1904 to become vice-president of the Southwestern National Bank. This was a short-lived job as, when the institution merged with the First National Bank, Marshall bowed out and turned to his expanding real estate interests.

Among these was a 42,000-acre ranch in Santa Barbara County (where Vanderburg Air Force Base is today), the Sinaloa Land and Water Company controlling 2 million acres in the Mexican state of that name, another 2 million acres under the Palomas Land and Cattle Company in Chihuahua bordering Texas, yet another 2 million acres in Arizona along the Grand Canyon and, minuscule in comparison, the Chino Land and Water Company.

William B. Mathews

This latter took over some 38,000 acres formerly owned by Richard Gird, featured in part three of this post and who was founder of the town of Chino. Under Marshall and his associates, the ranch was fully subdivided and mostly sold by the late 1920s. Marshall, by 1909, was also a director of a bank, trust company, stock and bond house, and two telephone companies, but this portfolio grew in subsequent years along with ownership stakes in downtown Los Angeles office buildings.

William B. Mathews (1865-1931) was another young man among the “Makers” but held a very valuable position for a project still in its early stags in 1909. A native of Georgetown, Ohio. southeast of Cincinnati, he spent much of his early life across the Ohio River in Maysville, Kentucky. He attended Centre College, which still operates southwest of Lexington and then completed a law course at Columbia College (now University) in New York City. Immediately after finishing there, he came to Los Angeles to hang his shingle and was city attorney from 1901-1907, after which he became counsel for the Los Angeles Aqueduct project, completed in 1913.

William Mulholland

The figure on the same page as Mathews was “The Chief,” William Mulholland (1855-1935,) whose bio was a short as that of Mathews, but who later became one of the most famous figures in the Angel City, although tainted by a tragedy involving one of his major projects. Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, he left his home country after fifteen and worked as a sailor for five years. In early 1877, he arrived at Los Angeles with almost nothing to his name and soon was hired by the private Los Angeles City Water Company as a common laborer. Without a formal education in the field, he sedulously studied hydraulic engineering and became an expert.

He remained with the private water company, rising to chief engineer, until its 30-year contract ended at the end of the 19th century and, when the city took control of the water system, Mulholland became chief engineer and superintendent “an office which he has filled with credit to himself and untold benefit to the city.” Moreover, the bio continued, “it was due more to the efforts of Mr. Mulholland than any other one factor that the great Owens River Aqueduct project, of which he had been the Chief Engineer, was brought about and accepted.”

Octavius W. Morgan

Controversy attended the development of this massive project, which, however, allowed for the massive growth of Los Angeles that followed its completion in 1913 , and his stature grew commensurately. In March 1928, however, the St. Francis Dam, north of the city, collapsed and the enormous flow of water rushing westward along the Santa Clara River toward Ventura and the Pacific caused hundreds of deaths as well as large destruction of property. Mulholland was grief-stricken in the face of the tragedy and was criticized by investigators for not having his design of the dam analyzed by other engineers. A broken man, he retired and died within several years.

Octavius W. Morgan (1850-1922) was from Canterbury, England and his tale is one in which he completed his education in his hometown, including at an art school, but he combined that with work in the office of an architect and contractor there. After five years, and at age 21, he set sail for Canada and then migrated to Denver, where he worked for a short period for a builder and architect in that then-small town. After trying his hand at mining in Colorado, Nevada and other western states, he came to California in 1874 by way of San Bernardino and worked a claim along Lytle Creek, where the Rancho Cajon de los Negros was once briefly owned by fellow Briton William Workman.

Mervin J. Monnette

Striking out there, he ended up in Los Angeles that June and he decided to resume his vocation as architect and joined Ezra F. Kysor, the first trained practitioner in the field in the Angel City and who reportedly designed the remodeled Workman House at the Homestead as well as the Pico House hotel, Merced Theater, St. Vibiana Cathedral and others, becoming a full partner in 1876. Excepting a period from 1878-1880, when the poor local economy (in the aftermath of the failure of the Temple and Workman bank and general depressed conditions) and when he toured Europe a decade later, Morgan continued his work.

After Kysor retired in 1888, Morgan took on John A. Walls as a partner, and the bio stated that “up to a few years ago he did 33 per cent. of the architectural work of the city” and, even with the phenomenal growth of the first decade of the 20th century, the firm handled a tenth of projects. Among recent work were the Farmers’ and Merchants’ National Bank, Van Nuys and Walter P. Story edifices and he was a president and officer of architectural associations regionally and statewide.

Orra E. Monnette

Mervin J. (1847-1930) and Orra E. (1873-1936) Monnette were one of two father-and-son duos in the “Makers” series, with both natives of Ohio. The elder was a farmer and cattle rancher before becoming a director and president of a bank until he relocated to Cripple Creek, Colorado, southwest of Colorado Springs, where he was a stock broker and mining investor. At the end of the 19th and beginning 20th centuries he owned large stock ranches and was a dealer in cattle in Nebraska, while also owning a very profitable mine in Nevada. In 1907, he moved to Los Angeles and continued with banking and mining.

Orra stayed in Ohio after completing his degree from Ohio Wesleyan University and then being admitted to the bar in the Buckeye State. He had a few partnerships including in Toledo, where he lived for four years. A month after his father settled in Los Angeles, the son followed to hang his shingle, though he was also involved in banking, mining and oil. After 1909, his banking endeavors grew and he formed the Bank of America in 1923, this merging five years later with Amadeo P. Giannini’s Bank of Italy. He was very involved in city boards and commissions, especially the library board, the planning commission and a committee that oversaw the revision of the city charter.

Harris Newmark

The second father-and-son duo in the series were Harris and Maurice Newmark. The elder (1834-1916) was one of first Jews to settle in Los Angeles, arriving in 1853 after leaving his native Löbau, Germany, in the southwestern corner of the nation that was not unified until 1870. He worked for his brother for under a year and quickly learned English and Spanish before opening his own store, then taking on Maurice Kremer as a partner. After the mid-1860s he ran the wholesale firm of H. Newmark & Company, which he operated for about two decades before retiring in favor of his son. He did, however, join Kaspare Cohn’s hide and wool business for a decade and took over the former while Cohn retained the latter before retiring in 1906.

The bio observed that Harris sold the Rancho Santa Anita to “Lucky” Baldwin in 1875 and, two years later, after the terrible disaster befalling the Temple and Workman bank and family, purchased the Temple Block, which he still retained in 1909. Another well-known real estate venture was acquiring the 5,000-acre Repetto (rendered “Repetta” in the article) Ranch, where Montebello and Monterey Park are today, the former subdivided by Newmark in 1900. The year he died his memoir Sixty Years in Southern California, edited by his sons Marco and Maurice, with substantial assistance from J. Perry Worden, later hired to write the unfinished history of the Workman and Temple family, was published and it went through several editions.

The record of Harris Newmark & Co.’s purchase of the Temple Block for $131,000 to satisfy a mortgage on it held by San Francisco capitalist Alexander Weill, Los Angeles Express, 21 September 1877.

Maurice (1859-1929) was among the few native Angelenos in the “Makers” roster and, after some early schooling here, he went to New York City for a year, followed by three years of study in Paris. He joined his father at 17 and took over the firm, as noted above, with the name changing to M.A. Newmark and Company and retaining that at the time of publication. He was a director and officer of a wholesale grocers’ association, the powerful Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and other organizations. Newmark was a patron of Lummis’ Southwest Museum project, which opened in 1914, and of the George Junior Republic, now Boys Republic, on the Chino Ranch, mentioned earlier with E.J. Marshall and Richard Gird and in today’s Chino Hills.

Maurice was not only a key figure in his own company and that of his father, but was also vice-president of the Los Angeles Brick Company, director of a savings bank and woodenware firm, as well as the Montebello Land and Water Company. The two pages devoted to them concluded that “both as honorable and successful business men and as citizens active in every movement for the highest welfare of Los Angeles, the Newmarks, father and son, have made an enviable record for more than half a century.”

Maurice H. Newmark

We’ll conclude tomorrow with the fifth and final part of this post on the “Makers of Los Angeles,” so please join us then.

Leave a Reply