Friday, July 6, 2018

Ildevert Dehail Starts Over...Again

Many of the people who have moved to Los Angeles over the years were in search of a new opportunity, or at least a fresh start.

One of those people was Ildevert Dehail.

Dehail was born in Orne, Basse-Normandie, in 1848. Like all other able-bodied French men of the time, he began compulsory military service at age 18 in 1866. While he was away, his mother died.

The Franco-Prussian War broke out in 1870. Dehail was taken prisoner twice during the war and later court-martialed when he disappeared for a few days and was unable to explain the absence. When he was finally able to return home, he discovered his father had died.

In 1874, Dehail boarded a ship to New York. The ship sank, taking all of Dehail's money and belongings with it.

Dehail married Alice Ferendon (who was born in Illinois to French parents) in 1878, moved to Leadville, Colorado, and went into the meat business with a partner. Unfortunately, the firm of Wilbraham & Dehail was located at 109-111 Chestnut Street. Most of that side of the street, for almost an entire block, was destroyed in a fire in 1882.

The Dehails didn't leave Colorado right away - Ildevert became a U.S. citizen there in 1886. But a year later, the Dehails had started over in Los Angeles with Alice running a boarding house and Ildevert working as a painter. Dehail House stood on 1st Street in what is now Little Tokyo (at the time, it was on the edge of the oldest part of Frenchtown).* Ildevert seems to have given up painting to join his wife in the lodging business within a year of arriving. Census and voter records indicate that Ildevert went on to become a real estate speculator and building contractor. He passed away in San Francisco in 1918, and is buried in Forest Lawn (Glendale) alongside Alice, who outlived him by nine years.

Le Guide claims that many of Dehail's buildings in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego were still standing. Since the book was published in 1932, and since Los Angeles County's building records only go back to 1905 (when they exist at all), I can't say for certain if any of Dehail's buildings are still standing in 2018, a full century after his death. If nothing else, the Dehails' streak of misfortunes seems to have ended when they moved to LA.

*On a personal note, although I am well aware of how much has been demolished, redeveloped, and forgotten, I am always surprised to find yet another Frenchtown site in a familiar part of LA. I know that part of Little Tokyo pretty well and my jaw STILL dropped at the thought of a French-owned boarding house a stone's throw from the Space Shuttle Challenger monument.

1 comment:

  1. CC, I can't figure out how to contact you - we'd love to chat with you about something connected to West Adams. Reach me at Thanks, Rina