Sunday, July 22, 2012

Edwin J. Marshall -- 304 South Westlake Avenue

In 1895 lumber dealer John M. Griffith (1829-1906) had a new home built out on West 3rd Avenue. He separated from his second wife three years later, moving out while Mrs. J.M. stayed, doing volunteer nursing meetings and renting out rooms. Next May she was successful in renting the house to a Col. and Mrs. E.L. Chandler, who remained for about five years. By 1900 she no longer appeared in public records.

By the time Edwin J. Marshall (1860-1937) arrived in Los Angeles in 1904, he had already established himself in the world of business, most notably in the Houston, Texas area. He joined his wife Sallie (1866-1947) and only child Marcus (1893-1930), who had traveled to sunny California three years prior to improve the health of their son.

In leaving Houston, he sold off his interest in The Texas Company (known later as Texaco), where he had been its first Treasurer and an early investor as part of the Hogg-Swayne syndicate. Hogg was a native-born ex-governor who was most well-known for the naming of his daughter (you have to look this one up if you're not from Texas). A bank failure in Beaumont in August, 1903, of which Marshall was a director may have influenced the timing of his move to L. A.

Edwin in 1910
Upon arrival Edwin joined the Southwestern National Bank and began speculation in land, which was his first investment love. He met J. S. Torrance (founder of the city of the same name), who promptly offered Edwin land in Santa Barbara County. This became Marshallia, run by son Marcus, whose family lived on the property. The ranch was eventually requisitioned to become Camp Cooke, then later renamed to Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Together Marshall and Torrance also headed a syndicate that purchased a 46,000 acre property known as the Chino Ranch. The area included today's Carbon Canyon as well as the city of Chino, which contains an elementary school named E. J. Marshall.

When the Southwestern National Bank merged in 1905 with the First National Bank, Edwin declined to work at the new facility, instead concentrating his efforts on ranching.

The family settled near Westlake Park at 3rd & Westlake, a few blocks from the Willitts Hole family (who Edwin knew from Chamber of Commerce meetings), purchasing the old Griffith residence.

304 South Westlake in 1909
By 1909 Marshall had expanded his ranching operations into Mexico, owning the Palomas Ranch in Chihuahua, whose northern border went from El Paso to the Arizona state line. Over 2.5 million acres, the ranch was a major center for the raising of beef cattle. Added to that was another 1.25 million acres in Sinaloa, where Edwin had obtained a water rights concession from President Diaz.

When the census taker came by in 1910, he recorded that Edwin, Sallie, Marcus, three servants, and two "hired men" resided in the obviously spacious residence.

In 1915 the Marshall family moved to Grand Avenue in Pasadena, and by 1920 son Marcus, who was living there, had married, become a widower, and had a son Edwin J, II. The Marshalls began to scale back their society and business interests and took to some international traveling.
Edwin, Marcus, and Sallie mid '20s passport photos

Meanwhile 304 Westlake changed with the neighborhood.  In 1916 it became the La Grange School, creating "a home school for young children...conducted by Margaret C. La Grange." Although the property was suitable for living, a better one for schooling was found and by 1920 the house was rented by the La Granges, who in turn rented out rooms. In the house along with real estate husband Harry, were daughter Helen, and lodgers Ella McFarland, Freda Deacon, and  Harold Wagner. Helen, Ella and Freda were all listed as private school teachers--hmmm, which school could that have been?

A view from the upper floor of 304 Westlake looking southwest ca. 1910
(courtesy of lapl.org)
The residence continued as a rooming house--by 1928 eight lodgers were noted in the building.  The 1930 census indicates that 50+ people were at the 304 S. Westlake address!

The 1940 census does not list 304 Westlake, or its equivalent 1934 West 3rd Street. The lot was probably converted to the service station it became during the 1940's or 50's. The 1956 phone book listed the lot as "Sam's Serv". Within one block was a Richfield station (a major brand of gasoline in L.A. in the 50's) to compete.

Today it's not a gas station. Rather it's a strip center. And so ended 304 S. Westlake.

304 S. Westlake Avenue recently
Maybe some of the palm trees are the same ones.

Additional Info:
Biography on E. J. Marshall



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