9 St. James Park


WHILE IMBRICATED SHINGLES AND even a few turrets would appear on new American houses up to the turn of the 20th century, and on some Los Angeles houses even after the 1901 death of Victoriana's namesake, most new domestic construction was evolving along lines more horizontal than vertical. The American Colonial Revival style was sparked by its appearance at the 1876 Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia; in rigidly symmetrical permutations, it would last for generations. Thoroughly modern when it was completed in 1894, free of Victorian excess, 9 St. James Park would have been ahead of the architectural curve even if it had been built on the East Coast.

Untangling the addresses of some St. James Park houses has presented something of a Gordian knot. When West 25th Street was ultimately divided between the Park and adjacent Chester Place, there were periods when some addresses of the Place were claimed in official records as being those of the Park, though ultimately these were returned to the Doheny fiefdom. All of the intersecting roadways around the park itself have changed names over the years, some slightly, some to designations altogether different from the originals. All became variations on "St. James Park" as the neighborhood's prestige grew. Our subject house on the north side of the the park, for instance, was built as 2327 Park Grove Avenue, a street stretching from the park north to West 23rd Street and beyond to Washington Boulevard. The Park Grove block to 23rd was eventually designated St. James. In what must have driven postmen, census takers, and Blue Book editors crazy, 2327 Park Grove seems to have been briefly both 9 Park Grove Avenue and 2327 St. James Park around the turn of the century, before the designation "9 St. James Park" was finally settled upon. 

To the extent that the history of #9 has been considered over the years, it has been associated with the family of railroad man Eli P. Clark, without whom Los Angeles would undoubtedly have been slower off the mark in the new century. His story is well chronicled elsewhere; while we will give the gist in due course, it should in the meantime be noted that Clark did not build #9, as some, possibly due to its modernity—appearing more 1904 than 1894—have assumed. The knot of ownership involves two other noted builders of Los Angeles, the more noted of these being banker John Hyde Braly.

John Hyde Braly

John Hyde Braly's biography will be related as we visit his other Park property at #38, but he did in fact build what became known as the Clark house at #9. Braly began assembling his first Park holding in the summer of 1892, acquiring the initial land from J. Downey Harvey and George W. King, the tract's developers. It could be that the Panic of 1893 delayed Braly's plans; it wasn't until October of the following year that he acquired from Harvey and King more land to complete his 131-by-160-foot lot. No architect was cited in newspaper reports, but plans were being prepared at that time for a 10-room house expected to cost Braly $5,500. It seems curious that rather than face south onto the park itself, the house was built facing east and given a Park Grove Avenue address. While that decision was no doubt personal preference, it also contributes to aspects of the Park's hodgepodge development, in which enormous houses, such as the Baroness von Zimmerman's pile to be built across the street 10 years later, were built adjacent to considerably more humble frame structures (with Braly's 2327 Park Grove Avenue house somewhere in the architectural middle). Likely the country's financial vicissitudes of the '90s muddied more specific plans for Harvey and King's development scheme in terms of lots, addresses, and minimum building requirements.

Braly's tenure at 2327 was rather brief, though it seems that the wives and children of many Los Angeles capitalists of the time often had to endure their patriarchs' real estate whims. Settling too comfortably in what one's husband considered more of a commodity would have been a mistake. In the case of John Braly, more than a few years in a house seemed to bore him, or perhaps he was given to overextending himself.

William David Woolwine

Prior to port and industry, Terminal Island, situated between Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors, was more residential. While known as a home for Japanese Americans before the Second World War, in the late 19th century the former Rattlesnake Island was apparently something of a fashionable waterside resort alternative to Catalina for some. Braly owned a house there, as did his great friend and business partner William David Woolwine. (Woolwine's daughter, born on April 2, 1896, was named Martha Braly Woolwine after John Braly's wife.) Woolwine was born in Virginia on October 19, 1855; in 1873, he moved with his family to Nashville, where he began his career in the counting rooms of wholesale and manufacturing concerns. By 1886 he was in San Diego on the first leg of his California banking career. Moving to Los Angeles in 1894, he held a variety of hands-on positions as well as directorships with various banks. Woolwine's extended family, some of whom had followed him west, gained considerable Old Guard cred in 1900 when his nephew, future combative Los Angeles district attorney Thomas Lee Woolwine, married Alma, a daughter of Old Angeleno Samuel Calvert Foy. As with any sentient buck in the salad days of Southern California—depressions of the '90s be damned—real estate became a sideline. For some reason, a deal was struck between friends, swapping Woolwine's Terminal Island residence for the Braly house on St. James Park. By 1900 the William David Woolwines had settled into 2327 Park Grove Avenue and the Bralys were stopping temporarily at the Van Nuys Hotel Annex downtown. I'm sure that the Braly and Woolwine wives and children didn't have to lift a finger, but quel bore, all this picking up and resettling! Not that there wasn't excitement during the Woolwine tenancy at #9: 

From the Los Angeles Sunday Times, April 20, 1902

Like Braly, William Woolwine was one to get itchy after a few years; this time, though, his next move seems to have been for reasons of ill health, which had recently forced him to curtail his business activities. The Los Angeles Times of October 16, 1904, reported the sale of 9 St. James Park to its third owners, a family who would be happy to stay awhile. Woolwine retreated to the nine-acre estate in Downey he'd bought from Baroness Rogniat, yet another of the the motley crew of European aristocrats, real or imagined, attracted to Southern California in its orange-grove years; Eli P. Clark and his family moved into #9 for a good long stay after some years nearby at 823 West 23rd Street.

Eli P. Clark

While the tiny enclave of St. James Park could claim more than its share of mucky mucks, perhaps the biggest muck was the visionary Eli P. Clark. A native of Iowa, that incubator state for California, Clark was born at Solon on November 11, 1847. After matriculating at Grinnell, he started west, pausing in southwest Missouri before crossing the plains to Arizona. It was in Prescott as merchant, lumber manufacturer, and postmaster that he came to know generals: In addition to territorial governor General John C. Fremont, he met Vermont-born General Moses Hazeltine Sherman, a Phoenix banker and street-railway developer and the man with whom he would one day share a Forest Lawn tomb. In the meantime, Clark married Sherman's sister Lucy Helen in Prescott on April 8, 1880. Eleven years later, General Sherman, who had left Arizona for Los Angeles in 1889, beckoned Clark to the Southland when he saw an opportunity to seize the future in the imperial sense that the character Noah Cross advocated in the movie Chinatown. 

From the mountains to the sea: Once tourists saw the sights along the
famous Balloon Route connecting downtown Los Angeles with the
Pacific, the dramatic sweep of the city came into focus. As
Clark and Sherman envisioned, many thousands of
spellbound visitors renounced the East and
became passionate Angelenos.

Rapid transit was the key to growth in any region, subject only to the pace of technological development. San Francisco-style cable railways were running in Los Angeles by 1885, followed by some fledgling electric efforts, which were starts in relieving the horse of some of its burden. Moses Sherman's awareness of advances in electric traction on the East Coast coincided with the technical difficulties that local cable lines were experiencing, such as sand washing into the conduits. Clark arrived in Los Angeles in January 1891, moving quickly to acquire financing and franchises for various city horsecar and cable lines and electrifying them to give form to the Los Angeles Consolidated Electric Railway that Sherman, ever with his eye on the ball, had chartered in Phoenix in 1890. Soon after, Sherman and Clark inaugurated the region's first electric interurban line between Pasadena and Los Angeles. Through a dizzying array of acquisitions and and manipulations and reorganizations, by 1899 the local lines were part of Southern Pacific mogul Henry E. Huntington's "Yellow Car" Los Angeles Railway. Meanwhile, Sherman and Clark managed to hang on to their interurban operation, now called the Los Angeles–Pacific Railroad and stretching from Pasadena to Santa Monica and down the coast. This system would eventually come under Huntington's aegis as part of his "Red Car" Pacific Electric empire, but it was from the electric vision of brothers-in-law Sherman and Clark that the modern civilization of Southern California would spring. Rapid transit attracted vast numbers of new residents and helped pull Los Angeles out of the economic doldrums of the '90s by greatly encouraging new investment in manufacturing, generations before freeways.

It was not for transportation in and of itself that Sherman and Clark wheeled and dealed. Railroading, especially the short-distance transport of passengers, was a business notoriously difficult to operate at a consistent profit. Railroading's value lay in its enhancement of the real estate investments the railroaders made. And invest Sherman and Clark did—West Hollywood was once called Sherman for its founder; similarly in the San Fernando Valley, the southern half of which was bought by Sherman when only he envisioned suburbs there, we find today Sherman Oaks and Sherman Way. While the two men would maintain interests in railroading, in their own Los Angeles–Pacific as well as for many years in Huntington's operations, land became their primary focus. But it seems that no land was quite as dear to Eli P. Clark as the lots composing his city fiefdom at 9 St. James Park. He and Lucy and many of their descendants would remain on the Park, in #9 as well as at other addresses, for decades.
A bifurcated view down South Hill Street between Third and Fourth, 1925:
The Hotel Clark, left, which had its grand opening on January 20, 1914,
faced architects Schultz & Weaver's Subway Terminal Building
once the latter was built 11 years later.

Just turning 57 when he moved to St. James Park, Eli P. Clark wasn't thinking about retirement, which seems never to have been in his bones. It would be another five years before he and his brother-in-law would divest themselves of the Los Angeles–Pacific to the Huntington interests, but soon after, Clark and Sherman's land empire—heretofore vast but less concrete, so to speak—gained a jewel in the new Hotel Clark, still standing downtown on Hill Street. Clark and Sherman understood better than anyone that once Southern California's rail transportation system was in place, to be shadowed and supplanted by the freeways of the future, it was to the owners of land to whom the riches would flow, via rails in terms of lot buyers but also via the waters. The Los Angeles Aqueduct from the Owens Valley would open in 1913, much encouraged by the fabled land barons of the San Fernando Valley at the southern end of the new water conduit. The Valley barons were encouraging the annexation of their holdings into the City of Los Angeles, which was accomplished in 1915. Adding water and civic identity was the icing on the land, much of which was already rewarding in terms of the oil underneath it. All of his success in no way caused Eli P. Clark to rest on his laurels. He went on to envision a subway system for Los Angeles, with its principal station on land he owned across the street from the Hotel Clark. It wouldn't be until 1925 that the Subway Terminal Building would be built, but it was the culmination of a lifetime of titanic Clark energy.

Not the cook: She was probably richer, but Lucy Sherman Clark was
obviously not out to compete with Theda Bara, who lived around
the corner at 649 West Adams Street in the late 1910s.
Especially after the Hollywood scandals of the early
'20s, "Old Guard" Los Angeles strove to keep
its distance from movie folk, even if its
own money was not exactly vieux. 

In the meantime, the Clark domestic front at 9 St. James Park was being tended to by Lucy. She and Eli had had four children by the time they left Prescott, the youngest of which, Eugene Payson Clark, was 14 when the family moved to the Park. His eldest sister, Lucy Mason Clark, was 23; she would never marry and would live with her parents at #9 for much of her life. Mary Sherman Clark was 21 on moving to the Park, and would marry Dr. Henry Owen Eversole in the garden at home in 1910. Katherine Tritle Clark was 19 when she moved to #9; like her sister, she was married there, to Wilfred Keefer Barnard in 1912. As with much of their socioeconomic peerage, there were frequent trips to Europe and Hawaii, but only when time could be found between numerous card parties, luncheons, dinners, and family celebrations of weddings and the eventual arrival of Eli and Lucy's six grandchildren. While the Eversoles and the Barnards would establish themselves in the Pasadena area, Eugene and his wife, née Constance Byrne, chose to remain closer to home after marrying at St. John's in 1916. They moved into a house built for them that year, with the new address of 3 St. James Park, right next door to his parents.

During the 1920s, as the population of Los Angeles County grew by 136 percent thanks in good measure to Eli P. Clark, life at 9 St. James Park was maintained at a steady pace. The card and tea parties and the receptions, none of which the family ever seemed to tire of, went on. There were summers spent abroad by various family members, though usually it was just the womenfolk who were interested in drinking nasty water at German spas or sightseeing for months at a time. Clark father and son kept noses to the grindstone to pay for it all, though it doesn't really appear that they needed to, not with oil gushing and land values soaring. Eli P. Clark was happiest working hard and living without ostentation. He walked a short block to catch the Los Angeles Railway's U line Yellow Car down to the office every morning. He maintained an office in the Subway Terminal building 10 floors above Pacific Electric Red Cars ferrying thousands of commuters in and out of downtown each day. He was feted with especially large birthday parties as he grew older, testaments to his popularity that honored his efforts on behalf of the metropolis. Active to the last, he tended to business affairs alongside his son Eugene, attended various boards-of-directors meetings, and lunched with cronies at the California, among other of his clubs. His own companies were an octopus of land and oil interests: In addition to the Eli P. Clark Company, there were the Clark and Sherman Land Company, the Del Rey Company, the Main Street Company, the Capitol Creek Oil Company, and the Empire Oil Company. Empire seems to have always been the operative word, even if old Eli forsook a chauffered Packard for the streetcar to the end, which, six months after he and Lucy celebrated their 50th anniversary, did come on January 16, 1931, following a heart attack several days before. He was 83 years old.

The measure of a man in ink: Eli P. Clark's 1,500-word obituary began with a picture
 above the fold on the front page of the Los Angeles Times on January 17, 1931.
 Similar tributes appeared in all of Southern California's dailies,
with national newspapers also taking note.

While the worst years of the Depression seemed not to have affected the Clarks financially, there was sadness in addition to the demise of the great bull father. General Moses Hazeltine Sherman followed his brother-in-law to Forest Lawn following his death on September 9, 1932. Eli and Lucy's 21-year-old grandson Malcolm Clark Eversole was killed on September 10, 1933, when the car he was driving plunged down an embankment near the Mulholland Dam. Those prone to prurient thoughts might imagine that an emergency brake was knocked off its lock in the midst of Lovers' Lane gymnastics; at any rate, the Times ascribed to young Eversole heroic attempts to rescue the doomed damsel, a Miss Goeser, daughter of an Emsco executive, before he died.

Mother and daughter Lucys lived on at #9 through the '30s, buoyed by the young daughters of Eugene and Constance living just next door. There were parties for the grandchildren when they left for boarding school in the East, parties when they came back for holidays; there were debutante rituals and there were proper marriages in the garden between the two Clark houses on the Park. Living to the ripe old age of 91, Lucy Sherman Clark died on June 10, 1942, at her daughter Katherine's house in Pasadena.

Despite the death of its matriarch, 9 St. James Park carried on. It seems that Henry and Mary Eversole decided to move into the parental home with Lucy Mason, now, 60, at least for the duration of the war, during which a house in town would have been more convenient than one in the northeastern suburbs. The Eversoles were later back in La Canada full-time, with Lucy sharing their listings there in the two area Blue Books through 1956 in addition to her own at #9; the Eversole family, along with maiden aunt, were in Santa Barbara full-time by 1957. Eugene died at #3 that year, and the extended Clark family made plans to vacate the last of their St. James Park holdings. Constance Clark was still listed at #3 in the 1963 Southwest Blue Book, published in late 1962, but nearly nearly 60 years of Clark presence on the Park had came to an end. She would die on December 11, 1969; in 1963 Henry Eversole Sr. died at home in Santa Barbara, as did Lucy Mason Clark on March 1, 1970. She was 88.
John Ramirez was listed as living at the Braly/Woolwine/Clark house at 9 St. James Park in city directories from at least 1962 until at least July 1965; no listing for the house appeared in the next available issue, that of April 1967. Number nine is presumed to have been demolished, along with several other Park houses, around this time; from the old days, it was only the Dockweilers of #27 who hung on.

Brothers-in-law from the heart forever:
Eli. P. Clark, his wife, née Lucy Helen Sherman, her
brother Moses, and his daughter Hazeltine are among the
extended Clark family at Forest Lawn. Below, Eli and
Moses, builders of Los Angeles, above ground.

Illustrations: Homes and Gardens of the Pacific Coast 1;
Memory Pictures, An Autobiography 2; Men of The Pacific Coast 3, 11;
Los Angeles Times 4, 8, 9; Los Angeles From The Mountains to The Sea 5;
Doheny LLC 6; USCDL 7; Waltarrrr 10