Sunday, December 9, 2012

William S. Bartlett -- 2400 West Adams Street

Golden Spike, gift of David Hewes
to Stanford Univ.

When William (1844-1915) and Franklina Gray Bartlett (1855-1934) moved to Southern California in 1881, it was for a common reason--warmer climate to improve health. But it wasn't for them.  Franklina's mother Matilda Gray Hewes, suffered from bronchitis. She arrived first with husband David (Franklina's stepfather)  and settled in Tustin.

David Hewes was a successful capitalist, well known in San Francisco.  Good friends with the Big Four of California railroad fame, he was originally offered a chance to participate in the transcontinental railroad, but he dismissed it as "too risky". He did however, celebrate the railroad's success, providing the golden spike for the railroad meeting ceremony in 1869 in Utah. When the spike was cast, the "sprues" (leftover metal edges) were used to create souvenir gold rings, one of which passed down to Franklina after Matilda's death in 1887. Upon her death, David returned to San Francisco, and subsequently married again to Anna Lathrop, sister-in-law to Leland Stanford. Tragically, she passed away in the mid 1890's, after which David returned to Orange County and created a large citrus ranch, which he ran until his death in 1915 at 93 years of age.

Franklina Gray Bartlett
ca. 1878
William Springer Bartlett
ca. 1878

While in Tustin, Franklina started the Ebell Society of Santa Ana Valley, modeling it on the Oakland society, where she was its first president. William continued with his banking career, starting multiple banks in Orange County, including the Bank of Tustin. Both were involved in the local Presbyterian church, where father-in-law David had donated monies for a new building. The Bartletts knew the pastor James French well, as he was related to Franklina. By 1898 the Bartletts moved to Los Angeles, first settling at 322 W. 27th Street with their three children Lanier (1879-1961), Matilda Franklina "Lina" (b.1886), and Gordon (b.1894). William worked downtown as president of the Union Bank of Savings, which was easy to reach on the West Adams St. Line to downtown ending next door at Arlington and West Adams.

In 1904 the Bartletts moved west to the city limits, out on fashionable West Adams.  Across the street in the brand new neighborhood were the Fitzgeralds, while directly east was the Childs family, and Dr. E.A. Bryant, chief of L.A. County Hospital surgery, to the west. Their property on the south side of West Adams sat on a ridge with an excellent view south to the bay.

West Entry Drive to
2400 West Adams (later 3200) ca. 1910

German-American Bank
W.S. in 1903
Soon after moving into Fenton Knoll (as it was named), William's bank, the Union Bank of Savings, was merged into the German-American Savings Bank. William continued as president of the  combined institution. The bank closed the old German-American location, and continued to do business at the Union Bank location at 4th and Spring Sts., albeit with a new, large sign (see postcard image).  The bank continued to grow, and by 1912 they had leased space in the new A. G. Bartlett building at 7th and Spring Street. A.G., not apparently related to William, made a lot of his money in the music business, which is chronicled in an article about his successor, John Fremont Salyer.

By 1910 son Lanier had struck out on his own, moving to the Hollywood area where he became a successful writer. His best known work, Adios, authored with his second wife Virginia Stivers, was made into a successful movie in 1930, entitled The Lash, starring Richard Barthelmess and Mary Astor.  The rest of the Bartlett family (W.S., Franklina, Lina, and Gordon) celebrated with a round-the-world cruise, which began in February in San Francisco on the S.S. Cleveland.

East Entry Drive ca. 1912
(courtesy USC Digital Archive)

Lina in 1908
Sadly, in October, 1914 the Los Angeles Times reported William's "sudden death" on Saturday the 10th. A funeral was held on the 12th at the West Adams Presbyterian attended by "many neighbors and friends". It was reported that William left most of the estate to Franklina.

One of the "friends" attending may have been James H. (Jim) French, son of Reverend Junius French from the early days in Tustin, who was in fact a second cousin of Lina.  Jim was listed as a teller at the German-American Bank in 1915, and the directory showed his residence as one and the same as Franklina and daughter Lina.

Jim went on to marry Lina later that year, with the wedding and reception taking place in the rear garden at Fenton Knoll. With Jim's father Junius officiating, the family captured the moment on film and we are fortunate to present a brief video of the event below.


In the late 1910's son Gordon perished in a drowning mishap. Son-in-law Jim became an auto dealer.  He and Lina are still in the house with Franklina and house maid Anna Zackrisson (who was listed also in the 1910 census). In 1929 James is listed as an insurance agent. Their children Franklina (b.1921) and James H. Jr.(1924-1944) have now joined the family--and of course Anna is still there.

On Christmas Eve, 1934, Franklina died. The house ended up with Lina and Jim, who continued to live there with their children and Anna. The 1940 census now showed Jim's occupation as a real estate broker. That may have been because in 1941, the house was sold, and the Frenches moved to Santa Monica.  The buyer was the Armenian Apostolic Church, which named their new church St. James.

The parish dedicated a new sanctuary building in December 1957, which could be used as an unofficial end date for Fenton Knoll.
The new sanctuary ca. 1958 for St. James

In 1963 the church sold and moved to new quarters on Slauson Ave.  The buyers were the Apostolic Faith Home Assembly Church. 

A not-too-far-in-the-past shot of the property at 3200 West Adams
A large addition in the back lot stretched the church financially, resulting in the eventual purchase for its current use, Frederick Douglass Academy High School, as an effort by the Los Angeles Unified School District to improve education results through the use of charter schools.

More info:

1903 biography on Mr. Bartlett

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