Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Joseph D. Radford -- 1124 West Adams Street

Born in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, Joseph (1857-1918) married childhood sweetheart Mary Pinney (1857-1901) in 1881. Soon after they moved to Bozeman, Montana as Joseph continued his career in banking. In 1887 his only child Ruth was born there. Mary's health was not holding well, so in 1896 the family moved to California in search of better climes.

San Jose News, Nov. 1901
Joseph continued in the banking business in California, finding a position as assistant cashier at the National Bank of California in Los Angeles. He also became a director of the bank, along with another gentleman of mention, Nathan W. Stowell, a local iron pipe manufacturer, whose wife Florence (known as Flora) was active in Los Angeles society.

In 1898 the family moved to San Jose, where Joseph had been promoted to cashier at a bank there. Sadly, in 1901 Mary passed away due to her poor health. The Radfords were so well-known in San Jose that her death made the local paper.

Participating in statewide banking conventions, Joseph became well-known throughout California in the banking community, so it was no surprise when in 1907 he was named as Vice-President of the German-American Bank in Los Angeles. Ruth and Joseph moved back to Los Angeles, where they took up residence on West Adams.

Their new, eleven-room home on West Adams had been purchased in 1906 by investor Charles Pregge, who had paid $16,500, buying it from the estate of Charles & Melissa Clarke, he a retired distiller from back east in "cold" country.
1124 W. Adams in 1909

Joseph engaged himself in many charitable organizations around town, including the YMCA/YWCA, where he may have crossed paths again with Flora Stowell, who was also active with the YWCA. Flora was now divorced, coming off an ugly parting from her  husband. It appears that in 1905, Professor William and Mrs. Wilkinson of Chicago were visiting Los Angeles, where their daughter Evelyn became ill from smallpox. Flora, who was immune, volunteered to care for Evelyn, age 20, as her parents needed to return to Chicago. Staying in the Stowell home, she and 58-year-old Nathan fell in love. Nathan divorced Flora while in El Paso, providing a settlement of $150,000 and a house to Flora as he went to Chicago and married Evelyn despite her parents' disapproval. The disapproval became public with a news article in June, 1905 published in the New York Times, as well as the local L.A. Herald, in which the Wilkinsons disowned their daughter.

In October, 1908 widower Joseph married Flora at the home of Flora's mother, surrounded by a small group of relatives and friends, according to the article. The wedding was officiated by the Reverend Robert J. Burdette, who edited the book from which these blog house photos were taken.

The Banks of Los Angeles in
the Celebration Booklet
By 1910 daughter Ruth had married and moved to the Imperial valley. Joseph continued with banking, leaving the German-American Bank for a position as vice-president at Hibernia Savings Bank.

Joseph in 1913 in
the Celebration Booklet

In 1913 Joseph led the commission charged with celebrating the new Owens Valley Aqueduct. Along with the celebration ceremony itself, a 50-page booklet was produced by the Commission, which was provided to invitees of the formal celebration. Besides photos of the aqueduct, the booklet extolled the virtues of the chief engineer, William Mulholland, as well as providing self-adulation of population growth, the post office, Exposition Park buildings, and growth of overall business in the area. Interestingly, one of the pages featured banking, and of the five images shown, two were banks that Joseph worked in.

In 1914, doctors advised Joseph to step down from his banking positions, so he retired, but continued in public service as President of the Los Angeles City Board of Playground Commissioners, which he joined in July, 1913. He served as its President for three years, followed by additional service until December, 1917 when he resigned, probably for health reasons. He passed away the next year, and is buried at Forest Lawn, Glendale. In 1919, the Commissioners added a new city-owned camp in the Big Bear Lake area to its holdings, naming it Camp Radford in honor of Joseph.

Flora remained at the house at 1124 West Adams, joined by her niece Ethel Rivers Hopkins in 1920, along with Ethel's son Vance. Flora passed away in 1943 at age 82, and is buried alongside Joseph. Ethel remained in the house, with Vance coming and going. Their last recorded mention of being in the house was in 1954. By 1956 there is no listing for the house, which was purchased by the Sisters of the Company of Mary, who own the house and lot next door at 1100 West Adams.

From aerial photographs, it is apparent that today's apartment building was erected prior to 1972. It is known today as the St. Joseph Residence.  Ethel passed away in San Bernardino in 1960, while Vance died in San Diego in 1968.

Today's 1124 W. Adams

The orientation of the front apartment building aligns with the former house located on the lot.

Additional info:
Joseph Radford photo/bio in 1910

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