Posts filed under ‘Melrose’

The Pensioner Showgirls of Melrose

By 1952, most of the lovely Melrose Hotel’s 200 occupants were elderly pensioners — elderly pensioners with exciting, glamorous, Auntie Mame-esque pasts.

First there’s the Melrose Hotel’s parttime switchboard operator, Anna Pearce, a former singer on the Considine vaudeville circuit around the turn of the century.

The hotel is also home to Juliet de Grazi, a Swahili-speaking Austrian-born soprano who toured with a Belgian opera company through the cities of East Africa. In 1952, de Grazi was simply passing
through the Melrose. She had recently won a large settlement in an automobile accident, and was planning to return to East Africa where her husband was buried.

And Beulah Monroe was a fixture on the local theatre scene, making her debut in Oscar Wilde’s The Ideal Husband in 1919, opposite Edward Everett Horton. She appeared frequently at the Little Theatre at Figueroa and Pico, and also acted with Florence Roberts, Wallace Beery, and Neely Edwards during her career.

For more on the Melrose and its exciting inhabitants, take a look at what Joan and Nathan have had to say about mysterious fires, rowdy teen girls, and the tragic march of progress.

July 22, 2008 at 4:08 pm Leave a comment

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Hotel Melrose 
July 16, 1895

Bertha headline
Miss Bertha Fisher, aged 14, had looked forward to dressing in the latest fashions and attending parties with her friends. Unfortunately for Bertha, her parents had other plans for her future. As strict Salvationists, they thought that she was old enough to don a Salvation Army uniform (which was definitely not Bertha’s notion of a fashion forward frock) and begin trolling the streets of Los Angeles for souls in peril. Bertha preferred saving dance cards, party invitations, and lovely corsages to saving souls, so she ran away with a young man named Mr. White.

Frantic over Bertha’s escapade, the distraught Fishers spent hours haunting the local police station hoping for news of their wayward daughter. Police were on the lookout for the reluctant missionary, but Mrs. Fisher became antsy and enlisted the aid of another Salvationist to help her comb the city for the missing girl.

After Bertha had been gone for nearly two days, Mrs. Fisher and her fellow soldier in God’s army got a tip.  The two dashed to the cop shop where they breathlessly announced to the assembled officers that they “knew where she was at”.  The women had found out that Bertha and Mr. White were occupying room 28 at the Melrose Hotel, and asked Officer Richardson to accompany them to the suspected love nest.
 

The landlady at the Melrose Hotel told Officer Richardson that the young man had engaged a room for his sister, and because she’d had no reason to doubt his veracity, she’d rented it to him.  Mrs. Fisher was doubtless relieved when the landlady went on to say that even though White had rented a room for Bertha, he had never shared it with her. Hotel Melrose

To avoid arrest Bertha reluctantly went home with her mother, but it’s unlikely that their difference of opinion was settled that day. Bertha was heard to remark, “I’d rather go to the Reform School than stay at home if I have to become a Salvation Army lassie”.

Salvation Army lassies 

Bertha may have won the battle with her parents, because this item appeared in the Los Angeles Times on March 7, 1897:   

 society header Bertha party

Party on, Bertha.    

July 3, 2008 at 12:58 pm Leave a comment

Burn Melrose Burn

incendiaryFebruary 27, 1911. It’s 9:30am, and Melrose Hotel manager Mark C. Bentz—nephew of M. W. Connor, owner—was in the office when stifling fumes and a dense cloud of smoke began to rise from the floor. He dashed down the stairs and into the basement where, in smoke so dense he nearly suffocated, managed at great length to extinguish the conflagration. Bentz discovered newspapers wadded up between the beams, blackened and scorched.

Bentz and Connor went searching through the house, cellar to garret, for some sign of a stranger, and were about to give up when the office again filled with smoke. Again there was a dash to the basement…nothing. This time the smokey cloud was emerging from the elevator shaft. San Bernardino papers (aha!) were extracted, smoldering, from between wooden beams therein. This time Bentz and Connor summoned the authorites.

Good thing, too, for as Sgt. Hartmeyer approached the Melrose, he saw smoke billowing from the structure…two alarms were sent to the fire department, a door and several windows were broken open, and a large clothes basket, filled with paper, blazing furiously, was doused.

No-one ever found out who the immolator of South Grand was, or what it was they were after. (Whether burning the Melrose inspired Kimberly to firebomb Melrose Place at the end of Season Three is a question, alas, for Darren Star.)
melrosein1940
The original Melrose Hotel, 130 South Grand, was a thirty-room, five-story structure built by hotelman Marc W. Connor (on what was then called Charity Street) in 1881. It was a center of fashionable goings-on, and society spectacle, and place of repose for honorable peoples (Ltg. Nelson A. Miles made the Melrose his home in ’87, before being called out of retirement to attend to a Wounded Knee).

melroseca95

(The house in the foreground, 142 S. Grand, is the Robert Larkin residence, which became the Richelieu Hotel ca.1890.)

In 1890-91 Connor erected the far more box-like Melrose Hotel at 120 just to the west of his cupola’d wonder, which became its annex, connected to the hotel proper by an arcade.
melrose1911

The dual Melroses persevered, all ornate of railing and careful of mitering, through the decline of, well, just about everything. By 1957, time had run out for the Melrose (one could say that Melrose place had been, if you will, canceled).

rooseveltsleptthere

There wasn’t anything left now but for little old ladies to amble by and mutter “oh, dear” and reminisce “I remember as if it were yesterday—the time President McKinley came to Los Angeles. We all came down and crowded around on the sidewalk—right here, right on this very spot—and listened while he made a speech from the front porch…”

pointypointy
Here, Mrs. Mary Connor Rasche, whose father Marc W. built the Melrose, poses before her father’s legacy some weeks before its demolition. (What’s that lurking in the background? With those clean modern lines, nary a gable or dormer to be seen? Why, it’s Paul Williams‘ LA County Municipal Court; here‘s an image from the great you-are-here website.)

sameview

And so, it being 1957, the Melrose had to go.

demoday
“One of the wrecking crew workmen observed that it took more than a
year to build but only eight hours of giant claw and four-ton sphere
hammering to lay the once proud building to the ground.”

Ah, the March of Progress. One can hear it goosestepping along, even now.

In any event, should you wish to visit the site of the former Melrose, please patronize this parking structure.

notthatkindofpark

Melrose ca. 1895 courtesy California Historical Society, University of Southern California Doheny Memorial Library

Melrose 1957 courtesy Los Angeles Examiner Negatives Collection, University of Southern California Doheny Memorial Library

Other images Los Angeles Times and you-are-here.com; postcard, author’s collection

May 17, 2008 at 12:30 pm Leave a comment


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