Wednesday, March 27, 2013

William D. Woolwine - 3601 North Broadway

A fashionable W. D. in 1895
at the formation of the
Sunset Club
A native of Virginia, William David Woolwine (1855-1927) started his adult life by moving to Nashville, where he began to learn the accounting trade. Arriving in San Diego in 1886, he worked for the 1st National Bank there, where he met a soon to become life-long friend and business partner, John Braly. John was a director at the bank, and together with other directors, recovered from an embezzlement at the bank by the long-time Cashier, estimated at $175,000.

In 1894 he and his family relocated to Los Angeles. Arriving with him were his wife Lily, originally of Louisville, and their two children, son Louis M. (1889-1911) and daughter Martha B.(b. 1896). By 1900 they were living in St. James Park at 2327 Park Grove Avenue, soon to be known as #9 St. James Park. Meanwhile William worked downtown as Cashier at the Los Angeles National Bank.

In late 1903 William sold the #9 property to the same John Braly, and early in 1904 purchased a large acreage at the then corner of Downey Avenue and Pritchard Avenue, in the northeast section of Los Angeles. Formerly owned by the Baron and Baroness De Rogniat, they had moved back to France and wished to sell the property, which included a fruit orchard.

Downey Avenue & Pritchard Avenue, 1889
(The De Rogniat Mansion at rear burned down 5 years later)
 Mrs. Woolwine hosted many parties at the new place, including one wedding where daughter Martha was the only bride assistant. Meanwhile in business fortunes, Woolwine's success grew, and in 1906 he left the Los Angeles National Bank to take an equity position in a new bank, The National Bank of California, where he was installed as Vice President.

In 1910 the street in front of the property changed names to North Broadway. According to the census of that year, the four Woolwines resided there along with four servants. In December a birthday party was held for U Va. college student Louis (who now went by Lewis). In celebration of his reaching majority, he was given a new automobile.

The Woolwine property in 1910
On early January 20th, 1911 in his new car, Lewis was returning a young lady and her escort from a charity ball at the Hotel Maryland in nearby Pasadena to the Hotel Darby. A horse-drawn vegetable wagon driver panicked as the car approached, turning into the vehicle and causing it to "turn turtle" as the expression was known. The two ladies were unhurt, but the wagon driver and Lewis were both killed--Lewis's head was evidently caught under the steering wheel, breaking his neck. Ironically for that evening a large dancing party at the house had been scheduled in honor of five local debutantes. Instead because of the sad accident it created a house of mourning.

The city of Los Angeles was a fast-growing city and the northeast section was no exception. Students attending high school had to cross the river to the downtown Los Angeles High School. So in 1913 the Woolwine property was purchased for a new high school, to be known as Abraham Lincoln High. New buildings were soon erected and by 1914 the students were taking seats in the new classrooms.

Lincoln High School ca. 1920


The new auditorium's entry was level with the third story of the main classroom building in front. In the photo above note to the right of the new structure a smallish looking frame house still stands. The back gable corresponds exactly to the gable on the Woolwine house as seen in the 1910 photo.

Here's a closeup on the left to catch a better look.

It was rumored that the first high school classes were held in the house, as construction was taking place. By 1926, the house was gone.

The Woolwines moved back to western Los Angeles, first residing at 234 West Adams (near the old St. James Park area), then in 1915 settling at 1201 South Lake Avenue, an area with many new homes constructed in that era.

Daughter Martha married Thomas W. Banks and remained the Los Angeles area.  Lily and William took to traveling, including Europe, where on one trip in 1927, William suffered a heart attack at a Paris hotel and died. Cremated at Pere La Chaise, his ashes were shipped home and buried in San Gabriel Cemetery.  By this time Lily moved in with her daughter and son-in-law in Duarte.

Lincoln High School of yesterday does not look like Lincoln High School of today.  In 1933, an earthquake caused the hillside to slip dramatically, making the beautiful buildings uninhabitable.  Tents were erected for students to continue their schooling, and by 1937 a new campus had emerged across Lincoln Park Avenue to the west. Those buildings are still in use today.

And what of the old site--of the Woolwine house and the beautiful white buildings of Lincoln High? Today it's a track stadium and a new gymnasium. Only the palm trees in the parking remain.

Today's aerial view of the property
More info:
A still fashionable W. D. Woolwine in 1910


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