Saturday, May 25, 2019

Forgotten French Dairies of Los Angeles County

Recently, Broguiere's Dairy in Montebello (founded by a French immigrant in 1920; still family-owned 99 years later) announced plans to close.

I have sent Broguiere's an interview request and hope they'll have the time and inclination to talk to me (closing down a business is more work than most people realize). In the meantime, let's explore LA County's other French-founded, long-forgotten dairies. (I'm sure I don't need to remind my readers that French cuisine is butter-based, and living in then-remote Southern California didn't necessarily change French Angelenos' culinary preferences all that much.)

Much of the information about these dairies is lost to history; I'm afraid I won't be able to offer as much information as I prefer.

Augustus Ulyard is known to have established a dairy in Cahuenga (somewhere in the Valley) after retiring from baking.

Paul J.M. Molle is known to have been in the dairy business, and likely rented land on Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit for that very purpose ('s quite possible there were once dairy cows in Malibu).

Jean Sentous' dairy farm stood in the block bordered by Washington, Grand, 21st, and Main (this piece of land would later become Chutes Park). His cattle brand is now in the permanent collection of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Francois Pellissier, known for the Pellissier Dairy and Alpine Dairy (he also co-founded the Highland Union Dairy), raised his dairy cows on a ranch straddling Whittier and City of Industry. The family farmhouse stood on Workman Mill Road in what is now Industry, but much of modern-day Whittier was originally the Pellissier family's sizable dairy.

The Didier family also raised dairy cows in the City of Industry area (the Homestead Museum has a surviving Didier Dairy milk bottle in its permanent collection, although it's not on public display).

We're known for LA's earliest commercial wine production. Apparently, we made at least some of the cheese that went with it, too.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

They Paved Frenchtown and Put Up a Parking Lot

One of the most frustrating things about digging through Los Angeles history is finding out something with character, charm, historical significance, or cultural significance was lost long build a parking lot. Yeah, THAT's a fair trade-off.

Obviously, Los Angeles needs parking facilities. I just wish developers would tear down something ugly for once.

I've been mapping historically French sites in Southern California for six years. I've inventoried almost 500. Many more have been torn down for other reasons. These historic locations, associated with Los Angeles' lost French community, have all been partially or completely replaced by parking lots (and, in some cases, parking garages).

Consider this list a "work in progress." I've been meaning to write it for a few years now...but I keep finding parking lots (and every time I do, a little piece of me dies). I'll be adding them to the list as I continue to dig. If you know of a site I should add, please comment below.

Cue "Big Yellow Taxi"...

  • Mayor Joseph Mascarel's adobe house. The Talamontes-Mascarel adobe, built in 1834, was torn down in 1957. The Huntington Library has the only surviving picture of which I'm aware, and I am eternally grateful to them for letting me see it in person. Now it's Olvera Street parking.
  • L'Union Nouvelle offices. Los Angeles' most popular French-language newspaper (which was still being published when the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner ran its last edition) had offices at Arcadia and Main Streets for many years. Now Plaza employees park there. 
  • Viole-Lopizich Pharmacy site. The Viole family served Los Angeles as pharmacists and physicians for many years. Their pharmacy is now a Plaza parking lot.
  • Signoret Block. This classy mansard-roofed brick building also housed Chevalier's pharmacy. Part of the same parking lot as the Viole-Lopizich pharmacy site. 
  • Another Viole-Lopizich Pharmacy site (and residence). Stood several doors down from the previous Viole-Lopizich pharmacy. Part of the same parking lot.
  • Oriental Café. Co-owned by Benjamin Flotte, Victor Dol's uncle. Dol later ran the Restaurant Française in the same building. Part of the same parking lot as the Viole-Lopizich pharmacies and Signoret Block.
  • Brunswig Annex. Formerly adjoined the Vickrey-Brunswig Building, which survived and houses La Plaza de Cultura y Artes. Again, same parking lot as the Oriental Café building and Viole-Lopizich pharmacies.
  • Le Progrés offices. This politically independent weekly French-language newspaper stood on New High Street in the late 19th century...and its offices disappeared for the same Olvera Street parking lot as the Talamontes-Mascarel adobe. 
  • Sentous Block. Christine Sterling dressed in widow's weeds and hung a black wreath on the main door when this building was condemned. Pio Pico lived in one of the upstairs apartments after losing everything. Like Mayor Mascarel's house a few doors down, it was demolished in 1957 for Olvera Street parking.
  • Jean Bernard's brickyard. A motel and private parking facility stand on the site today.
  • Former site of Naud's warehouse. Yes, it burned down. But it also gave the neighborhood (Naud Junction) its name. And now it's parking spaces.
  • Prudent Beaudry's house/real estate office. Southern California's first large-scale developer (and builder, two-term mayor, and investor) was working from home way back in the 1880s, owning a house/office on New High Street, behind the Brunswig Building. Now the site is part of a Plaza parking lot. (The Beaudry brothers predicted that people would flood into Southern California once the railroad came to town. They were correct...beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Now LA is overcrowded. Oh, the irony.)
  • At least one plot owned by Georges Le Mesnager. 1660 N. Main Street, owned by George before he got into wine and liquor production, is now a parking lot for a DWP facility.
  • Georges Le Mesnager's Hermitage Winery. 207-209 N. Los Angeles Street, formerly Georges' walled vineyard (Harris Newmark compared it to a European chateau) is now part of the Los Angeles Mall...and its underground parking garage. Doesn't seem like a fair tradeoff, does it?
  • The Amestoy Building. Built in 1888 in the same block that is home to City Hall, the three-story building was dubbed the city's "first skyscraper" (even though the Nadeau Hotel was taller) and formerly housed the Los Angeles Supreme Court. The Amestoy building survived the Civic Center's redevelopment in the 1920s/1930s...only to be demolished in 1958 for a City Hall parking lot. 
Downtown/Little Tokyo
  • Original site of Philippe'sThe Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, including its adjoining parking lot, stands on the approximate location of Philippe's original (1908-1918) sandwich shop. (It could be worse...the site of Philippe and Arbin Mathieu's previous restaurant currently hosts the city jail.) 
  • Michel Lachenais' ranchOkay, Lachenais was a violent convicted murderer. But his former homestead now boasts a Paragon Parking location, so it still makes this list. 
  • Ducommun Yard. This site has had quite a history of its own! Well within the original boundaries of Frenchtown, it housed Los Angeles' first passenger depot and locomotive roundhouse, and by the 1920s it was a DWP facility (fittingly, Charles Ducommun was one of the DWP's original stockholders). Ducommun Industries operated on the site before moving to South Los Angeles in 1941. The property is currently a large depot and parking facility for buses.
  • One of Louis Mesmer's New York Bakery sites. Part of the Ducommun Yard property, on Alameda Street.
  • Hotel de Strasbourg. Ducommun Yard on Alameda Street, again.
  • M. Sainsevain's feed store. Also part of the Ducommun Yard property.
  • Much of El Aliso/Sainsevain Brothers Vineyard. Jean-Louis Vignes' 104-acre property has been divided over and over, so multiple parking lots/garages are on this chunk of land roughly bordered by the Los Angeles River to the west and the 101 Freeway to the north. 
  • Former Larronde-Etchemendy mansion. The beautiful Victorian mansion at 237 N. Hope St., home to the blended Larronde-Etchemendy family for nearly 80 years, was torn down along with the rest of Old Bunker Hill. The house stood about where the DWP parking lot is today. 
  • Raymond Alexandre's Roundhouse. LA's earliest known example of fantasy architecture, LA's earliest amusement park, LA's earliest kindergarten...and within the former grounds is a large Paragon Parking lot.
  • Ponet Square Hotel. Formerly the largest apartment building in Los Angeles (built 1906), this hotel was torn down in the days immediately following a deadly arson fire in 1970 (which led to a badly needed update to the 1943 fire code) and promptly turned into (what else...) a parking lot. It's been a parking lot ever since.
  • Two other portions of Ponet Square itself. Ponet Square includes two additional parking lots, albeit smaller ones.
  • Pershing Square. Technically still there, but mostly paved over and altered beyond recognition. This is the worst public park in Southern California, partly because building an underground parking garage and elevating the park to allow for said garage has led to too much concrete and not enough tree shade. Pershing Square can be scorching hot on 60-degree days. The previous design should have been left the hell alone (if it isn't broken, don't "fix" it!). Oh well, at least the Doughboy isn't going anywhere.
  • Mesmer Building. Louis Mesmer built a two-story building at the corner of Los Angeles and Requeña Streets, later opening Requeña to Alameda Street. Requeña Street was renamed Market Street and no longer exists. Mesmer's building was replaced by a City Hall parking garage.
  • The entire Sentous tract, including the Sentous Street School. Razed in 1969 to build a massive parking lot for the Los Angeles Convention Center. The Staples Center (and its parking garages) now take up much of the land. Sentous Street was renamed L.A. Live Way.
  • First Methodist Church. While most French Angelenos were Catholic, Melvina Lapointe Lott - niece of Remi Nadeau - belonged to this church and donated three Tiffany mosaic panels said to be Tiffany's very finest work. The church was razed (for a parking lot, what else) in the 1980s (thankfully, the Tiffany panels now belong to the Lake Merritt United Methodist Church in Oakland). On a personal note, I have used that parking lot many times...and I became very nauseous when I realized I'd repeatedly parked on the former site of a Tiffany masterpiece.
  • Germain Pellissier's house. Entire block is now occupied by a hideous multi-level parking facility across the street from the Walt Disney Concert Hall. 
  • Jean Sentous' dairy farm. The farm, bordered by Grand, Washington, Main, and 21st Streets, changed hands a few times, becoming Chutes Park in 1900. There are now several parking lots and a courthouse parking structure on the land.
  • One of Pascale Ballade's saloons. Ballade had a few drinking establishments to his name, and the one at 742 S. Main Street is now a parking lot!
  • Remi Nadeau's city block. Nadeau's land holdings included most of the block bordered by Hill, 4th, Broadway, and 5th Streets. His freighting business was headquartered here - corrals, stables, blacksmiths, and a wagon repair shop stood on the land. Today, there are multiple commercial properties, a government office...and two parking lots. 
  • Louis Mesmer's house. The approximate location of 127 S. Broadway is now the entrance to a courthouse parking garage.
  • André Briswalter's home (possibly). Briswalter lived at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Main Street. One of the four corners of the intersection is now a large parking lot. 
  • Dehail House Hotel. Like all the other French-owned boarding houses in the area, it's long gone. Most would have been too close to the 101 Freeway to survive the 1950s, but this one is - you guessed it - a Little Tokyo parking lot. 
  • Charles Ducommun's mansion. By 1892, the Ducommuns had moved out, and the house became a boarding house for newsies and other young working boys. It later became a men's boarding house, and finally a boarding house for Japanese tenants. And now the site is a parking facility.
  • Victor Dol's house. There's ONE parking lot on this block...and its location corresponds to the talented chef's address. 
  • Old Calvary Catholic Cemetery. The Diocese of Los Angeles decided the cemetery would better serve its needs as Cathedral High School's parking lot and athletic fields. Numerous Catholic Angelenos, many of them French, had to be re-interred at New Calvary. (Marcelina Leonis' original headstone is installed in the field fence like it's an art if dying of smallpox at age 20 wasn't bad enough. I, personally, find it disrespectful.)
  • City Cemetery. The French Benevolent Society had its own parcel at the cemetery for members. Now it's a parking lot for the Board of Education.
  • Champ d'Or Hotel/Taix Restaurant. The Taix family tore down their circa-1882 bakery to build the hotel in 1912. In 1927, Marius Taix Jr. took over the ground-floor restaurant from a tenant. Taix opened its current location in Echo Park in 1962. The 1912 building was torn down in 1964...for a very large parking structure across Alameda Street from the Justice Department and the Metropolitan Detention Center.
  • Portions of Germain Pellissier's sheep ranch. It's unclear how much land Pellissier actually owned (sources disagree wildly). However, there are parking facilities adjacent to the Wiltern Theatre, which was built by Pellissier's grandson on land Pellissier had owned (and now my newer readers know why the entire 12-story structure is called the Pellissier Building).
  • The Godissart home. Cosmetics mogul Joseph Godissart and his family moved to 810 S. Harvard Boulevard, which has been replaced by an apartment block...with a parking garage.
  • Léon Bary's home. French actor/director Léon Bary's home is now an auto body shop...and its parking lot.
South Los Angeles
  • Firmin "Frank" Toulet's house. Frank Toulet, founder of Musso and Frank Grill, was living at 1813 W. 79th Street at the time of his death. Now it's a fenced parking lot behind a commercial property.

The Hollywoods
  • Paul de Longpré's home and gardens. The great painter's roses are long gone, with a parking garage occupying part of the site. 
  • Various swaths of Victor Ponet's farm. Ponet owned much of modern-day West Hollywood. There are too many parking facilities, public and private, to list.
Santa Monica
  • L. Giroux's grocery and home. Monsieur Giroux spotted Santa Monica, fell in love with it, and built a combination home/grocery store (Santa Monica's second house, supposedly, after Eugene Aune's). The house is long gone and the land is occupied by Parking Structure 6. (And I thought I'd run out of reasons to hate the Third Street Promenade!)
  • Le Mesnager vineyard. As glad as I am that the Le Mesnager family's barn survived (and reopened to the public in 2022), Deukmejian Wilderness Park's parking lot IS uncomfortably close to the buildings. I'm just saying, it *could* have been placed closer to the park's entrance.
And one "near miss" that was saved...

In 1962, the Leonis Adobe was very nearly torn down to make way for a grocery store parking lot (are you #$%@ing kidding me?!). For the second time in its existence, the adobe had been abandoned for years and left to rot. Thankfully, the newly established Cultural Heritage Board intervened...and the Leonis Adobe became Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #1.

Honorable Mention: the original intersection of Alameda and Aliso - the core of the French Colony - was erased and paved in the 1950s. When you drive under the Alameda Street overpass on the 101, you’re driving through Frenchtown. In theory, the 101 is a freeway. In practice, it becomes a sort of parking lot when traffic is heavy enough.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Bread, Crackers, and Augustus Ulyard

On New Year's Eve, 1852, a French American and his English wife arrived in Los Angeles.

Augustus Ulyard, born in Philadelphia to French immigrant parents, was a baker by trade. The Ulyards rented a house near the Plaza and set up a bakery, using yeast Mary Field Ulyard had brought with her from Missouri. There were other bakers in town*, chief amongst them Joseph Lelong and his Jenny Lind Bakery**.

The only bread baked in Los Angeles until 1853 was French bread. Which should surprise no one, since all the bakers in town were French.

Of course, by 1853, increasing numbers of Germans and Yankees had moved to Los Angeles. Ulyard - the first baker in Los Angeles to diversify his wares - soon added German and American varieties of bread and cake, which proved very popular.

An advertisement in the Los Angeles Star (November 12, 1853) stated "...I am prepared to furnish individuals or parties with Pastry, Pies, Cakes, Bread, etc. at short notice, and of a better quality than can be obtained at any other establishment in this town...".

Ulyard moved his bakery to the southwest corner of Main and First Streets. He was successful enough to make some real estate purchases - including the southwest corner of Fifth and Spring Streets. The Alexandria Hotel has stood on the site since 1906.

In early Los Angeles, food often arrived in poor condition because it took so long to arrive from suppliers in San Bernardino or San Francisco (and anything coming from San Bernardino could be spoiled by the desert heat). Crackers in particular tended to arrive stale. Late in 1860, Ulyard began to advertise "fresh crackers, baked in Los Angeles, and superior to those half spoiled by the sea voyage."

Ulyard eventually sold the bakery to Louis Mesmer, established a dairy in Cahuenga, and went into the grocery business. He was a member of the Odd Fellows' Golden Rule Lodge, a member of the Common Council, and helped to organize California's first Republican League, supporting John C. Frémont's presidential bid (Frémont ultimately lost the nomination to Abraham Lincoln).

The Ulyards had no biological children, but they did adopt seven homeless children over the years. The youngest, Sarah Nelson, was just starting high school when Augustus retired from baking at age 63.

Augustus Ulyard died in 1900 at age 83. Mary died the following year. The Ulyards are buried at Angelus Rosedale.

*Ulyard's obituary in the Los Angeles Herald claimed he was Los Angeles' first baker. He was not - at minimum, Lelong had already been in business for at least a couple of years.

**Don't ask me why Lelong named a French bakery after a Swedish opera star. I have no idea.