Thursday, July 12, 2012

James T. Fitzgerald -- 2315 West Adams Street


Coming to L.A. in 1891, James Taber Fitzgerald (b.1864) first joined in the music business with Frederick Blanchard, selling pianos and organs downtown at 113 S. Spring Street. By early 1898 they had dissolved their partnership (albeit a little roughly--as J.T. pleaded guilty to battery against Fred in August of that year), and J.T. took over the store. Fred formed his own piano store and music hall, renting an entire building built for him by Harris Newmark in the 200 South block of Broadway.

Anne Fitzgerald in 1905 ready for the
annual Ebell Club Luncheon
A famous Newsom design in Eureka
J.T. ran a very successful business. Perhaps even piano teacher Miss Emma Summers, who lived less than a mile away from the Spring Street store, may have visited his store to purchase a piano, after one of her successful oil strikes.


So profitable was the business that in 1903 J.T. and wife Anne (1867-1955) commissioned a design for a new house at 2315 West Adams, selecting well-known Joseph Cather Newsom as architect. The Los Angeles Times was effusive in its praise in a 1904 house article written just prior to its being finished.
 "It will be a twelve-room two-story brick and stone structure with shingle roof and frame gables. The latter terminate in acute angles, and with the ornamented work employed are themselves calculated to produce a very pleasing effect. The clinker-brick chimneys, and the curved-recessed nook, in the southeast corner of the house blend harmoniously with the other exterior features, and help to make this one of the most attractive residences now in course of construction in this portion of the city. The interior finish will be in selected California redwood, with a dull gloss employed to bring out the fine effects of the natural grain. Five handsome mantels covering five open grates will contribute to the completeness of the interior decorations, as well as to the comfort of the occupants of this home. The house will be heated from a furnace in the basement, and provided with modern conveniences generally. It will cost between $12,000 and $15,000 and will probably be ready for occupancy in about six weeks."
Our Photo of 2315 West Adams in 1909

By 1905 J.T. and Anne had moved in to the fashionable 6,600+ square foot, six bedroom Italian Gothic mansion located on three street lots. Although there were no children, Anne and J.T. certainly had maids and other staff to allow for "breathing room" in the new expanse. Unfortunately the happiness was soon to fade.


On November 18, 1907 around 9:30 a.m. in the morning, Mrs. Fitzgerald had just left her home for a drive, the horses being driven by Joseph Wiebel, husband of the maid who was left to care for the house. She had barely turned the corner out of sight when two men entered the house through the front door. While one man kept the maid Mrs. Wiebel, covered with a revolver, the companion made his way upstairs searching for money and valuables. They were no doubt disappointed to learn in the next day's newspaper that they had "overlooked a number of pieces of valuable jewelry, valued at $3,000, which had been hidden by Mrs. Fitzgerald in a slipper, which she had stored in the drawer of a bureau in her bedroom." The article in the L.A. Herald termed it "the boldest daylight robbery in the history of Los Angeles".

Whether or not they were bothered by the robbery is unknown. But by the 1910 census the Fitzgeralds had moved to South Pasadena with their adopted daughter Louise (b. 1907), with a boarder and two new servants also there. But South Pasadena must have been too quiet, as by 1915 they'd moved back to West Adams less than a mile away to 2445 S. Western (which was the northwest corner lot at West Adams Street.) Perhaps they spent more time at the country "ranch" they picked up in 1909, Seven Hills in Tujunga. Today that ranch is a subdivision, but a painting of the house still exists. (So are there seven hills in this painting?)
Seven Hills Ranch (courtesy of CSU Northridge)

So who came in next to own 2315 West Adams? No one, per se, as in 1912 the city came through and renumbered West Adams, removing eight blocks forever from Los Angeles.

The next recorded owner to move into the house (now located at 3115 West Adams Street) was James C. Haggarty, son of J.J. Haggarty, well-known downtown merchant. James was employed as Secretary-Treasurer of the New York Cloak and Suit House, as his father's establishment was known. By 1929 street directories listed employees as working at "J.J. Haggarty", but there is no J.J. Haggarty Store listed, only the New York Cloak & Suit House.

James and Stella pose for
passports, 1923
In 1915 James rented the house, but had purchased it outright by 1920.  Born in 1890, he lived there with wife Stella, children Jack (1915-1949) and Elizabeth (b.1918), Stella's mother Clara Hayden, and one female "servant", probably a maid. Interestingly James was born in Montana, but his father's biographies do not list James nor any travels to Montana, they only mention J.J.'s marriage to Bertha in 1901. Turns out James was J.J.'s only son, and James must have connected with J.J. sometime after 1900 when James and his mother had moved to Indianapolis. It is pleasing to know that James did visit his mother. It was noted in an Indianapolis paper in May, 1922 that "Mrs Emma C Haggarty, 1712 N. Penn. St. accompanied by her son James C Haggarty of Los Angeles, CA, left yesterday for Louisville, Ky, where they will attend the races." Perhaps they were able to watch Morvich win the Kentucky Derby that year.

In 1934 the Haggartys abruptly left--holding a lawn sale of their furnishings according to a Los Angeles Times article at the time.  They moved to 464 N. Orange Dr.--north of Wilshire, of course, as by this time the West Adams corridor was beginning to decline. The following year father J.J. died, and his "Castle York" was sold as a rooming house. A couple of years later it was up for resale and stood empty, which no doubt contributed to the fire there in 1938.

The House circa 1937 (from lapl.org)


When being a prima donna was a good thing
(courtesy Ancestry.com)
In 1936 Charles de Zaruba and wife Emma Loeffler arrived on the L.A. scene. With son Lionel in tow, they were transitioning careers.  Emma, as listed in a 1928 book on Women of the West, is discussed at left.

"Former prima donna with the Manhattan Opera Company of New York; Considered an authority on voice, opera, and traditions; one time head of Voice Department, New York College of Music", just some of the accolades for Mme. Zaruba.

In their 1936 listing in the Los Angeles Street Directory, they have changed careers--prohibition had just ended three years prior--they now owned the Crescent Liquor store at 142 North Main in downtown L.A. Emma ran it with son Lionel--Charles passed away at the home later that year.

What level of success they had with alcohol is not known, but it is known that in 1940 a probable caretaker was now in residence at 3115 W. Adams.  James and Acola Johnson rented the house at $20/mo., which according to the census, was quite a bit below others on the same page. The Johnsons had just moved out to L.A. from Philadelphia, and were probably in transit.

Time marched on, but the Italian Gothic still stood, avoiding the demolitions after the war that were taking place up and down the street, and in 1952 it caught the eye of a group of lady circus performers, the Regular Associated Troupers. They were looking for permanent space for their meetings and this seemed to fill the bill. Billboard Magazine of November, 1952 documented the exciting news.




 To become a member of the Regular Associated Troupers, you had to be female and have been in "outdoor show business" for at least five years and actively engaged in the business. They did have a men's auxiliary that was about equal size to the organization (about 180 men and women total). When they honored men in society, they gave them feminine names, e.g. Claudia for Claude, as they would not allow men's names to appear on their rosters. (They however did not seem to get it right for the Billboard article...)

By all accounts it was a good fit, but by the mid-'70s the Troupers had faded, and had put the house up for sale. This time it was to be occupied by seamstress Arlillian Moody who had always wanted to live in an "Elegant Manor".

The L.A. Times recounts in 2004:
Ms. Moody, as everyone called her, was an excellent seamstress. She moved her operation to a house off Crenshaw Boulevard and raised three children, mostly on her own. She sent her youngest child, Lauretta Carroll, off to Caltech to study engineering. Her oldest son, Robert Carroll, spent time in San Quentin on assault charges. Later, he became a bus driver. Her middle child, Ronald Carroll, was working at Long Beach Naval Shipyard when he discovered the Fitzgerald place in 1977. The house was empty and ragged.  Most of the windows had no panes, and the steep gables lent it the air of a haunted house. Yet Ronald likened it to a big, admirable boat that would not sink.
Ronald bought the home for $49,000 that year from the Troupers organization.  The Times article continued:
Ms. Moody moved into a downstairs room, set up her sewing equipment and got to work. She enlisted family members, friends and people off the street to help with the restoration. They painted inside and out, cleared the weeds, laid sod, and planted a garden with strawberries and tomatoes.

From the ruins of the Fitzgerald home rose Elegant Manor, a curious mix of community center, dress shop, catering operation and halfway house. Ms. Moody hosted fancy weddings and quinceaneras and Mother's Day celebrations. She rented it out for TV and movie shoots. It served as a polling place and a classroom, and the occasional home to political groups, nontraditional churches and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
The "Elegant Manor"
in 2008
But by the mid 1990's Ms. Moody's health began to fail, and she passed away in 2001 at age 85. Son Ronald was not the same caretaker, and he let the house run down to the point there were two murders at the house in 2004. Later that year the city had finally had enough and hauled away 33 cars piled on the lot along with tons of other refuse. Ronald followed by putting the house up for sale for $1.9 million.

It appears there was some sort of sale in 2008, jointly with the large lot on the corner, but to date no real changes have occurred to the house. It was relisted in 2011 for just under $1,000,000. It is currently not actively marketed for sale.

The house sits patiently, hoping to be restored, rejuvenated, hoping not to become like the apartments to either side. Hoping...



As of 2008
(courtesy of wikipedia.org)
Update July, 2013. See last link below...



Additional information on the house:
J.T. Fitzgerald in 1909 
A 1909 ad for New York Cloak & Suit
A 1915 ad for Fitzgerald Music
Big Cleanup at the Elegant Manor (2004)
A Home to Faded Dreams (2004)
"Elegant Manor" Back, Still a Fixer (2011)
Fears that Owner of the Elegant Manor Is Stealthily Seeking Its Demolition


1 comment:

  1. As of July, 2013, this is the most viewed posting on the blog. Links have been updated.

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