Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A Frenchtown Christmas Carol

(Dear readers: the following entry was inspired by my friend Kim Cooper's sizzling-hot take on the "wonderful life" of Eric Garcetti.)

Raymond Taix was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The beloved restauranteur had passed away a decade earlier.

There was no need to change the restaurant’s name; Raymond’s son Mike had taken it over when Raymond retired, just as Raymond had taken over for his father Marius Taix Jr. many years earlier.

Ten years on, Mike Taix still owned the restaurant. The business end, that is. He’d recently sold the restaurant’s building and property - a generously sized parcel fronting Sunset Boulevard, with an adjoining overflow parking lot opening onto Reservoir Street.

In an off-market sale. 

To a notorious out-of-state developer. 

For the whopping sum of $12 million. 

It was chilly in Utah, where Mike now lived. He poured himself a glass of wine before bed, ruminating over the past week.

His family’s restaurant had been nominated for landmark status months earlier. It had just passed the second hearing with a unanimous approval recommendation.

Mike was pissed. He’d made a deal with Holland Partner Group, which intended to build a five-story mixed-use complex on the site, and he did not want anything to get in the way of the plan. It was his business and it was his God-given right to sell what preservationists had called “a rare commercial example of the French Alpine style”, “the last link to old French LA”, “a beloved city institution”, and “the most charming building on the eastern end of Sunset”, among other things.

Mike put the glass in the dishwasher and went to bed. 

Well, he tried to, anyway. No sooner had Mike closed the bedroom door behind him than he heard the front door of his house fly open with a loud BANG!

Mike heard footsteps coming through the door and through the house. All of the color drained from his face as the visitor passed THROUGH the closed bedroom door.

“Dad?!”

“You don’t believe in me,” the ghost of Raymond Taix replied. 

“No…of course I do. Wait - don’t ghosts wear chains in this story?”

“Ghosts wear the chains they forged in life, and I have none. If you could only see the one you’re forging for yourself,” Raymond chided his son. “I can’t stay, Mike. But I had to tell you that you may have a chance of changing your fate.”

“Dad, what are you talking about?” 

“You will be visited by three spirits. Heed their warnings; they are wiser than you may think. Goodnight, son, and do try to have a Merry Christmas.”

And with that, the ghost of Raymond Taix departed. Upon inspection, the front door was locked, just as Mike had left it.

Mike made a mental note to take a better look at that wine in the morning and went to sleep.

A few hours later, Mike was awakened by the clock chiming one a.m. The room filled with light, and Mike found himself face-to-face with a spectral man in glasses, a frock coat, and impressive mutton chops.

“This can’t be real,” Mike groused.

“Oh, I assure you, young Taix, it absolutely can be,” the spirit replied in a faint Quebecois accent. “Good heavens, where are my manners?! I’m the ghost of Christmas Past. Come with me, I have much to show you.” 

Mike grudgingly accepted the ghost’s transparent hand and found himself whisked away to a place he had only seen in old pictures.

City Hall towered over the scene from a few blocks away, but Los Angeles Street was completely different. Gone were the government buildings. Gone was the strip mall. And was that - 

“The French-Mexican Drug Company,” the ghost announced. “Your grandfather’s pharmacy. Shall we drop in?”

Mike watched his grandfather, Marius Taix Jr., accept a shipment of medicinal wine, fill several prescriptions, and dispense instructions to a customer over the phone in his thick French accent. Why was the spirit showing him this?

“That wine is really for the restaurant, of course,” the spirit noted. “It’s 1928. Prohibition killed off every other restaurant in Frenchtown,” he added, gesturing to several vacant restaurant spaces nearby. “But, your grandfather could still get wine because he was a pharmacist. About 12 years from now, the rest of Frenchtown will be gone, and the restaurant will be the only thing left.”

Before too long, Marius Jr. locked up for the night, lugging a crate of “medicinal” wine bottles. The ghost and Mike followed him around the corner and down the street to a more familiar address. 

321 Commercial Street. 

At this point in time it was the Champ d’Or Hotel, housing Taix French Restaurant upstairs. 

“Before your grandfather and great-grandfather built this place, the Taix bakery stood on this lot,” the ghost added. “I remember when your family first came to town and when they set up shop about 10 years later. Los Angeles was much smaller then. My brother Victor and I helped change that, of course, along with our friend Remi.”

Despite the long day at the pharmacy, Marius Jr. wasn’t done for the day yet. The restaurant needed attending to before the family could depart for midnight Mass.

As the Taix family walked into St. Vibiana’s, the cathedral’s bell began to toll.

“Your time with me is up, young Taix,” the spirit replied. “I’ll leave you in the capable hands of the next spirit." 

And with that, the spirit strolled into the cathedral himself.

“Michael Taix, I presume,” stated a woman’s voice.

Mike turned around to see a transparent brunette in a black dress, black beaded gloves, black boots, and a dainty silver guillotine-blade necklace.

“Come with me, Mike. We need to talk.”

“There’s nothing to talk about.”

She scoffed. “Who’s the Ghost of Christmas Present, you or me?”

The spirit removed one of her gloves and snapped her fingers.

In an instant, Mike was back on Commercial Street. But now it was 2020 again, and Taix was gone.

In its place were a jail, courthouse, and parking garage. Commercial had been rerouted into Aliso Street to accommodate a curve in the 101 freeway. 

The spirit guided him on a quick tour of the neighborhood. More government buildings, parking garages, weedy empty lots, a scuzzy strip club, a bus parking lot, an old industrial building...

“This was a thriving French enclave for over 80 years. Unfortunately Beaudry didn't have time to show more of it to you. And now it’s gone forever. Only one thing remains.”

She snapped her fingers again and they were whisked by unseen forces to Sunset Boulevard.

This being Christmas eve under pandemic lockdown, Taix was only open for takeout. But that didn’t stop customers from chatting while waiting for their food.

“Man, I love this place. I don’t want it to go.”

“I moved across the street to be closer.” 

“Do you really think Taix will come back?”

“What, if the complex gets built?”

“Yeah. I mean...it just seems like Mike doesn’t care anymore. And I heard he tried to sell out a long time ago. Echo Park’s a lot more expensive now, of course.”

“I feel you. He doesn’t even live here.”

“So he sells the property. He’s got the money. Why is he involved with the development plan?”

“No one knows. But the whole thing is fishier than last week’s leftover salmon.”

“Off market sale, shady developer, bigger price tag than expected.”

“Yeah, I think something’s up.”

"Did anyone actually fall for those giant glossy flyers he sent to everyone in Echo Park?"

“I just want to know what his end game is. What’s the point of all this?”

The spirit snapped her fingers again, muting the conversation.

“Mike, do you even want to continue with the business? Philippe Mathieu sold his sandwich shop and retired when he turned 50, you know. There’s no shame in it.”

"It's not your business."

"Damn right it's not. It's YOUR family's legacy business. Mike...do you understand how all of this looks to people?”

He didn’t answer.

“Do you even care what HPG is doing to this city?”

“Building housing,” Mike snapped. 

The spirit scoffed again. “Oh, they build, all right. But it’s not enough to build housing. The city needs good housing, managed well, with an appropriate mix of price points.”

“And what do you know?”

“I was an apartment manager,” she replied. “And I was a small business owner after that.”

Mike was surprised.

“That took the wind out of your sails, didn’t it? Now watch closely.”

She snapped her fingers again.

An image appeared on the wall before them, like a projection. It was a hallway in a sleek new apartment building.

People with suitcases and bags came and went, in time lapse speed, from sunrise until the following sunrise.

“This is one of HPG’s buildings, Mike. They’re allowing illegal short-term rentals on the site. Every short-term rental is a space that’s not lived in by long-term tenants. That drives down occupancy, keeps rents high in cities like LA, and does nothing for the community. You do know the value of community, right, Mike? Frenchtown was obliterated decades before I was born.”

“The building is coming down,” Mike replied. “It’s too big for the restaurant now.”

“It doesn’t have to be that way,” the spirit shot back. “But our time is up. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come will take over from here.”

And with that, she floated down Sunset Boulevard and out of sight.

Mike heard a low, raspy voice. “Mike...MIKE...” He nearly jumped out of his skin when a clammy hand came down on his shoulder.

Mike whirled around to see a tall, thin spirit in gray jeans and an oversized black hoodie, both having seen better years.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come hacked and coughed, finally clearing his throat. “Sorry about that. You get a lot of colds living in a public park. Especially with limited access to sanitary facilities.” 

“You’re homeless?”

“I wasn’t always. I had a place on Alvarado. But when the mixed-use complex went up, a lot of landlords raised rents, and there weren't enough low-income units in the complex to meet the demand. Not by a long shot. I was an essential worker, but I suddenly couldn’t afford rent anymore. And I work right down the street. You know how hard it is to commute and park in LA.”

“So what do you want with me? The property is sold. I can’t stop the developer.”

“You’ve still got some pull with HPG. And the building doesn’t have to disappear.”

The spirit waved his hand.

In an instant, the property changed. The restaurant now shared the lots with a bigger, French Alpine-inspired apartment building that matched it perfectly. 

“Come on,” the spirit urged, waving Mike through the door of the restaurant and towards the banquet rooms.

Mike was stunned to see a lawyer’s office in the first room...an accountant in another one...the CD13 office in the biggest one...small businesses in the other three.

“In this future, the building was adapted and the extra space rented out. You saw the apartments on the way in. The people who hated HPG’s original plan love it. This is what the project could be, Mike.”

The spirit waved his hand again. They were back out on Sunset. 

“Or this could happen,” the spirit added.

With one more wave, the proposed development appeared. It was, to be fair, ugly, and already suffering from visible maintenance problems. Traffic backed up in either direction as residents and patrons waited to access the underground parking garage. It was noisy, too, owing to its acoustics. And something was missing.

“Where’s the restaurant?”

“It never reopened, Mike. There were delays, there was red tape, there were disagreements, and you finally just gave up.”

Mike was stunned.

“You may not own the building anymore, Mike...but you can still put in a good word.”

The spirit vanished.

Mike woke up in his bedroom in Utah. What the hell had just happened?

Friday, December 11, 2020

Erase, Rewind, Erase Some More

I've previously written at length about the Beaudry brothers' vital roles in developing early downtown LA. 

The houses built under the Beaudrys' downtown development plans are all gone - except for the home of John J. Ford, which was moved to Heritage Square Museum. The Ford house stood on Beaudry Avenue, at a corner shared with Mignonette Street.

The surrounding neighborhood, Temple-Beaudry (formerly the Park Tract), echoes Bunker Hill a mile away. Originally a middle class neighborhood filled with modest Victorian homes, it slowly became less fashionable, less expensive, and less valued to city leaders who didn't live there. The original buildings were lost to freeway construction or redevelopment over the years. Only the Beaudry brothers' street names remained.

Until now.

Beaudry Avenue and Victor Street are still here, but we'll be saying goodbye to at least part of Mignonette Street.

The city has not only approved, but accelerated, a street vacation for about 230 feet of Mignonette Street. A street vacation is a type of easement giving a public street's right-of-way to a private owner. The City of Los Angeles requires about $15,000 in deposit fees to the Bureau of Engineering, environmental review, public investigation, and public hearings to proceed with a street vacation, and the process normally takes at least a year.

It took all of three minutes for me to find this and this

Long story short, it appears that billionaire developer Geoffrey H. Palmer is building another one of his big, faux-Italian complexes. The street vacation was most likely requested to turn that portion of Mignonette Street into a parking garage entrance (or something similar).

I have concerns about this. I'm surprised the city doesn't. 

Oh, wait, no I'm not. City Hall only cares about money, developers, and lobbyists.

Besides the $20 million negligence lawsuit against Palmer filed in 2016 (which the city settled for a mere $400,000), there's the matter of his buildings being a little pricey. Currently, a small studio at the Orsini will set you back at least $1600. While that's certainly not as expensive as some downtown apartments, it does nothing to fulfill the city's need for affordable units. Which isn't surprising

So we're losing at least part of a surviving French-named street. I will need to update my street-name list (and, possibly, my parking-lot list). I should be upset about that, but I'm more irritated that a billionaire who appears to despise historic preservation and poor people has seemingly been given carte blanche to do as he pleases, regardless of how that affects anyone else.

I used to manage two apartment buildings. I took my role as a housing provider very seriously, and if every landlord did, Los Angeles would probably not be facing such a severe housing usage crisis.

Friday, November 20, 2020

FYI: Email Link Broken

 Hi everyone:

I just found out my contact link isn’t working. I have no idea how long it’s been down.

If you’ve emailed me and have not received a response, sorry - the best way to reach me (until further notice) is to use the email app on your phone or computer.

My email address is still losfrangeles (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thanks for your patience!

C.C.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Why Losing Taix WON'T Fix Echo Park's Housing Crisis

Last Christmas, my brother and his new wife flew out from Florida to visit the rest of us.

My sister-in-law and I had a "girls' day out" - full day at the Huntington Library, side trip to the Plaza, and finally dinner at the Formosa.

The Huntington Library is, of course, tucked away in spotless, well-manicured San Marino. The Plaza is wedged between the Civic Center and Chinatown. The Formosa Café is in West Hollywood. In between those three locations, there's a whole lot of dirty, trash-strewn, maintenance-deferred LA - and believe me, it pains me to type that.

It also pains me to see human beings sleeping in tents while vacancy signs are posted all over town, even though I'm used to it.

My sister-in-law, who grew up in Florida, was horrified. Los Angeles County has a healthier economy than some countries - how was this possible? 

She'd seen homeless people before, but not living in tents. And she was shocked and dismayed by the sheer number of signs advertising vacant buildings (both commercial and residential), quite a few of them on blocks with homeless residents.

"Why is that building empty?...Why is THAT building empty?...Why isn't that a homeless shelter?" (This conversation ran from Highland Park to downtown to Hollywood.)

"Greed," I explained. 

I know I was oversimplifying, but it's largely true.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: developers (and many real estate investors) see "Los Angeles" and get dollar signs in their eyes. The vast majority don't build (or buy buildings) to better their communities, they build (or invest) to make money. And in Los Angeles, many of them build (or invest) to make LOTS of money.

Consider the fact that Holland Partner Group paid a whopping $12 million for the Taix property and its overflow parking lot nearby. They plan to make a lot more than $12 million by building on the site.

The few people arguing against preserving Taix in any way, shape, or form always fall back on "oh, we need the housing". 

Here's why that's not a logically sound argument:

  • Preservation and housing are NOT opposites. They can, and MUST, coexist for the good of the community. 
    • Preservation of historic buildings does NOT, as is commonly assumed, make neighborhoods more expensive. In fact, historic preservation overlay zones tend to be far more affordable than non-preserved neighborhoods (and tend to be more diverse).
    • Neighborhoods with a mix of older and newer buildings offer a wide range of rents (generally speaking, newer buildings are more expensive and older ones are cheaper). That allows a wider variety of businesses, and a wider variety of renters, to thrive. Jane Jacobs explained this better than I can in The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Also, the Preservation Positive Los Angeles study disproves a lot of myths (I watched the webinar, and if you care about Los Angeles, you should too). 
  • Adaptive reuse can and should be considered.
    • Many older buildings in and around Los Angeles have been adaptively reused (consider all the older buildings downtown that now have loft apartments on the once-empty upper floors - my best friend's sister lives in one). This has provided thousands of new housing units without the delays, disruption, and sheer wastefulness of demolition and new construction.
    • Think of all the municipal waste generated every day in Los Angeles alone. Very few people realize that construction and demolition account for MORE THAN TWICE the amount of municipal waste created each year. And of that, demolition accounts for a whopping 90 percent
    • The existing Taix building could be wholly or partially adapted to suit another purpose. Mike Taix says the building is now too big (fewer groups booking the banquet rooms, etc.)...but why not downsize the restaurant to part of the building and adapt the rest for other uses? Hell, adapt one of those banquet rooms into an apartment and I just might move in myself. 
  • Taix's parking lot is HUGE (for Los Angeles). It is possible to build housing units on the parking lot without losing the Taix building itself.

Still not convinced? Too bad, I'm not done.

  • The developer, Holland Partner Group, has been building LUXURY units around town (look them up). LA already has too much luxury housing.
    • Since the 1970s, Angelenos have been grousing - rightly - that there are too many high-end apartments and not enough affordable units. This situation shows no sign of improving because virtually no one in modern-day Los Angeles wants to spend the money to build inexpensive housing. Developers want a high return on their investment, not a low one (consider this case study). There was only one Prudent Beaudry, and we lost him in 1893. 
  • The proposed development for the Taix site will be 86% market rate. 
    • With 170 units planned, that means 146 will be market rate, leaving only 24 lower-priced units. Echo Park alone needs hundreds. And here's something most people don't know: in Los Angeles "affordable" units are typically only required to stay below market rate for 20 years. That means in the early 2040s, those 24 units would most likely rise to market rate, displacing 24 low-income households and making Echo Park even less affordable (if it's even still semi-affordable in 2040). And consider how expensive "market rate" is for luxury units (including HPG's) in the first place.
  • Since the proposed development includes apartment sizes ranging from studios up to 3-bedroom units, I would very much like to know if the low-income units would all be studios, or if any of them would be larger units that can accommodate lower-income families. 
    • This is ESPECIALLY important in Echo Park, where gentrification has been driving out lower-income (and mostly Latinx) families for years.
  • And speaking of gentrification (the elephant in the room)...adding new housing to a gentrified (or gentrifying) neighborhood can encourage existing landlords to raise rents. Which tends to push out longtime residents who simply cannot afford a pricey new-construction apartment.
    • If enough landlords raise rents so that more than 24 households are displaced, the proposed development could ultimately end up harming the lower-income households that need housing the most.
But wait, it gets worse:
  • HPG uses the "housing" excuse to request modifications and exceptions for extra density...then allows an illegal hotel in their own buildings (see below). That ultimately doesn't help. There's a reason the city has had to crack down on short-term rentals...namely, housing!
  • Former tenants have nothing nice to say about Holland Partner Group, which is vertically integrated (meaning they build and own properties and also manage them).
    • On a personal note, I used to manage two apartment buildings. Bad landlords disgust me.
  • Specifically, HPG has allowed illegal short-term rentals in their buildings.
    • Two people I know worked with a production company that rented a one-bedroom apartment in HPG's STOA building...for one day.
    • The Be LA building, formerly the Sofia, was being used for short-term rentals (according to  Yelp reviews, former tenants, etc.) when HPG was managing the building (one reviewer states that some tenants were subletting their units on Airbnb and implies the tenants were not actually living there). This seems to have stopped after HPG ceased to be the property manager.
    • Illegal hotels in general contribute to lower occupancy rates. Every short-term rental is a unit that isn't being rented to a long-term tenant. 
    • This has long-term implications for neighborhoods, since long-term tenants are more likely to contribute in some way to their communities. People who rent a space for, say, three days are unlikely to do very much for the surrounding area.
    • HPG likes to blame this on corporate tenants. So...rent to real human beings and don't rent to corporations without checking them out first? Or at least don't allow tenants to run illegal short-term rentals and cancel their leases if they don't comply? (Again, I used to manage apartments myself, so I just might know a thing or two about this.)
  • Should HPG someday allow illegal short-term rentals on the Taix site (and although I sincerely hope they never do such a thing, I cannot put it past them), it will drive occupancy rates DOWN in Echo Park. 
Bottom line? If you truly want to make more housing available to Angelenos of ALL social classes (not just the wealthy), don't blindly allow developers like HPG to do as they please. Push hard for adaptive reuse, preservation of existing affordable housing (i.e. older apartment buildings, bungalow courts, etc.), and more emergency and transitional housing for the homeless. 

And if you REALLY want to help the growing number of homeless people living in Echo Park, set up a homeless shelter on Taix's overflow parking lot. Even cheap portable buildings are better than sleeping in a tent (especially now that cooler/wetter weather has set in).

P.S. A few months ago, this project - which would preserve a 109-year-old house AND create 128 new apartments (100 percent of them affordable) - was announced. THIS is the kind of development LA needs. (Tellingly, the backer is a local firm, not some out-of-state carpetbagger.) 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Friendly Reminder: Lost French LA Tours Still On Hiatus

 Dear Readers:

I greatly appreciate your support, and the interest in my Lost French LA walking tour. I am deeply touched.

However...

All tours were postponed in March. A few people have, somehow, managed to purchase tour tickets anyway. 

That isn't supposed to be possible with postponed events, and I have emailed Eventbrite about this three times now, without any response. 

All tickets purchased for postponed events have been refunded, of course.

In order for tours to resume, the following criteria have to be met:

- LA County needs to fall into the orange or yellow tier, preferably yellow. Although I intend to restrict capacity to no more than 10 people (myself plus up to nine guests) until the pandemic is over, the tour does pass through the Plaza, which can be rather busy. I've heard it's quieter than normal right now, but it will pick back up. Angelenos have congregated there for 239 years, and probably always will. Also, the sidewalks aren't wide enough to distance properly.

- Additionally, while masks are helping slow the spread of COVID, they do interfere with my ability to lip-read. I need to be able to hear and/or understand my guests, and the traffic in the Plaza area can be too noisy for me to hear very much (hence reading lips).

- Some of this year's protests have, unfortunately, taken a violent turn. The tour route does pass fairly close to City Hall (often a target for protests). I have to be sure that my guests will be safe.

- The air quality needs to drastically improve. The ongoing presence of wildfire smoke has made it dangerously dirty.

One more thing: Eventbrite doesn't refund ticket fees. That means I have to eat them, and I just went back to my day job two weeks ago. So please, don't purchase a ticket YET (I will be back!).

I will definitely make an announcement when tours resume, or if I do another virtual tour via Zoom.

Merci,

C.C.


Sunday, October 18, 2020

Our Names Are On The Street Grid, For Crying Out Loud

 After 7.5 years of mapping about 500 Forgotten French LA sites, I think I have a pretty good idea of what was located where.

Most of what we had has been lost over the years. As a result, most people have NO idea about the city's French history. Out of sight, out of mind. But we did not, in fact, vanish "without a trace" as another historian has claimed. There's plenty of evidence if you know where to look.

Frenchtown is long gone - lost to redevelopment by about 1940 (except for the original Taix restaurant, which remained until eminent domain took it away in 1964). The El Aliso/Sainsevain Brothers vineyard was buried by the Civic Center, Little Tokyo, and the north end of the Arts District. The 101 Freeway wiped out the Jennette Block and half of the Garnier Building. Ducommun Yard is now a bus parking lot. Many, many properties became parking lots.

What we do still have, though, are French street names. 

It's unusual for street names to change. We did lose a few, but we still have most of our French street names.

Let's take a ride.

Plaza/Union Station


Chinatown



Civic Center



Boyle Heights


The Valley




Griffith Park area


The Hollywoods




(Normandie, one of the longest streets in LA County, runs through Koreatown and South LA, but it's included here because it begins in Hollywood. Also, the street may have gotten its name due to Mayor Joseph Mascarel, a retired sea captain who owned a farm in Hollywood.)

The Westside


Koreatown


Downtown

Beaudry Avenue and Victor Street. Not pictured because I can never find anywhere to park and I know better than to take a picture while driving. Also, honesty compels me to admit I'm not sure whether I should call this area "downtown" or refer to the older name of Temple-Beaudry (since Temple-Beaudry was razed for the 10).

Mid-City

Nadeau Drive. Not pictured because I'm never in Mid-City.

Mid-Wilshire

Masselin Avenue. Not pictured because I haven't been to Mid-Wilshire in years.

South Los Angeles


(To clarify: these are pre-1946 street signs from my personal collection. Nadeau Street is in South LA. Leonis Street no longer exists. If you want an antique LA street sign, hit up VintageStreetSigns on Etsy.)

Whittier


City of Industry



Not pictured: Amar Road. 

Vernon


Commerce


San Pedro


Lost to renaming:

Dupuy Street in Temple City ("too hard to pronounce", supposedly,). It became Primrose Avenue, but there is still a short residential cul-de-sac called Dupuy Circle.

Sentous Street downtown. The Sentous tract was redeveloped into (what else...) a parking lot for the Convention Center, and Sentous Street was renamed LA Live Way.

Lost to redevelopment: 

Leonis Street downtown - not the same as the Leonis Street in Commerce or Leonis Boulevard in Vernon. Miguel Leonis named the street during his lifetime. Commerce and Vernon would not exist for many years.

Marchesseault Street just below Olvera Street, which was likely obliterated because it ran into the Vice District. But it's coming back (sort of)! 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Prudent Beaudry (Probably) Didn't Name Bunker Hill After All

My lectures on Lost French Los Angeles tend to be well-received - in fact, yesterday I had a Zoom presentation with the French Canadian Heritage Society of California.

A few years ago, after one of my earliest public talks, one attendee asked me why I didn't mention that Prudent Beaudry had named Bunker Hill after the Revolutionary War site, out of gratitude for becoming a U.S. citizen.

Well, first of all, the subject of French and French-speaking Angelenos is a pretty deep rabbit hole to fall down, and the original draft of my talk was over three hours long. I had to cut a LOT of material to whittle my notes down to a 50-minute presentation. (My walking tours, when they're up and running, take 2.5 to 3 hours, depending on stoplights, traffic, and walking speeds.)

Second, I knew Prudent Beaudry had bought and developed Bunker Hill, but to this day have yet to see any proof that he was the one who actually named the hill Bunker Hill, let alone in tribute to the Revolutionary War location. Longtime readers already know how fussy I am about getting the details right. 

Well...enter Nathan Marsak's latest book, Bunker Hill Los Angeles: Essence of Sunshine and Noir.

My copy (finally!) arrived today. It is, of course, impossible to discuss Bunker Hill's history without a mention of Prudent Beaudry, and sure enough, sixteen pages in, Marsak states:

"With Bunker Hill Avenue crowning the hill after 1873, it has been generally surmised that the general geographic region took on the name 'Bunker Hill' about this time or soon after. However, an investigation of newspaper accounts reveals that through the remainder of the century, the area was generally referred to as 'the western hills' and 'the hill section' or 'hill district', and property owners often designated as 'hill dwellers.'" (Emphasis mine.)

A newspaper account credits Beaudry with naming Bunker Hill Avenue, possibly in reference to the famous battleground. However, Marsak notes that the hill might also have gotten its name from the bunkers (fortifications) dug into the hill by the Mormon Battalion in 1847 (about a year after Beaudry first joined his youngest brother Victor in Los Angeles, so the name may have been floating around before Beaudry even bought the hill).

Additionally, Beaudry bought the land in 1867. He had become a U.S. citizen four years earlier in 1863. It may be a bit of a stretch to claim he named Bunker Hill out of gratitude for his new citizenship, as it wasn't new at that point. 

Furthermore, Beaudry's body was repatriated to Canada when he died (he is buried at Montreal's Notre-Dame des Neiges, like his brothers). This suggests, to me at least, that even after so many years in Los Angeles (including two terms as Mayor and developing much of downtown), Quebec might still have been "home". (The word "home" still transports my brain to a specific tree-lined postwar tract in Sherman Oaks, even though I haven't lived there for a very long time.)

According to Marsak, the first recorded use of the term "Bunker Hill" describing the entire area did not occur until the Los Angeles Times published a blurb regarding a proposed "Bunker Hill Engine-House" on June 28, 1900.

Prudent Beaudry passed away in 1893. It's possible he didn't live to see Bunker Hill Avenue lend its name to the entire hill.

While Prudent Beaudry did indeed name Bunker Hill Avenue, no one seems to have called the hill itself Bunker Hill until many years later (and possibly not even within Beaudry's lifetime). 

It has been widely assumed that Beaudry named the entire hill. But the evidence says "not so fast". 

(Also, you should buy the book. My mom - who saw Old LA slowly being torn down as a child - already asked to borrow my copy.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Frenchtown vs. Little Paree

This entry is going to discuss some of old LA's unsavory history. Let's just get that out of the way.

I've mentioned previously that generally speaking, the French citizens of Los Angeles were a law-abiding bunch. There's a reason Michel Lachenais was lynched by a largely French-speaking mob.

There was, however, a French criminal element. In fact, there were so many French gangsters running saloons and brothels that they lent a nickname to vice-district undesirables in general. Dubbed "les mecs" ("the guys"), they were Anglicised in the English-language press as "macs". Readers of the historical novel Sporting Guide: Los Angeles, 1897 will know that "mac" referred to the gangsters and pimps who ran the vice district. (Beret-tip to David Kimbrough for that tidbit.)

Early LA's vice district stood east of Olvera Street and the Plaza. It was torn down, along with the original Chinatown, to make way for Union Station.

Frenchtown was south/southeast of the vice district. One old map shows brothels within half a block of the Hotel de France in either direction. (The Hotel de France stood on the northeast corner of Alameda and Aliso - the hub of French Los Angeles.)

The king of the vice district was Bartolo Ballerino, a Chilean immigrant of Italian descent. He wore several hats - crime boss, slumlord, and most notoriously, pimp.

Ballerino arrived sometime in the 1850s. After making some money as a vintner, he began buying up already-aging housing along and east of Alameda Street, and turned the area into one big open-air brothel. Frenchtown, just to the south, was growing exponentially due to a large wave of French and French-speaking immigrants.

Ballerino's business partner was a Frenchman from Alsace-Lorraine, formerly one of the world's very best wrestlers, by the name of Theobald Bauer. In fact, one of the vice district's passages was named Bauer Alley. The fact that the brothel district was often called "Little Paree" may not be coincidental. (Bauer reportedly told his family back in France that he had gone into the hotel business and owned the best hotel in town. He most assuredly had not and did not.)

A news article from 1900 strongly implies that Bauer, who by that time no longer ran Little Paree, still wielded a lot of power. The article names three different men, all with French surnames (one with a known address in Frenchtown), who had been charged with vagrancy and were suspected of, ahem, trafficking women. Bauer bailed out two of the men and made an appearance in the courtroom. (It gets worse: one of the men had recently arrived from Belgium with a young woman, who he placed in one of Little Paree's cribs. Her family repeatedly wrote to the Belgian consul requesting her safe return, stressing that the newcomer had lured her to Los Angeles under false pretenses and that she had only recently been released from a mental hospital.)

Just one year later, an article on Bauer claimed that he drank, from opening to closing, on a daily basis, at every bar around Alameda and Aliso. Bauer had made a lot of money on Little Paree, but also spent it as fast as he earned it. Unable to handle his own money responsibly after his wife died (she had always managed his finances very carefully), Bauer sold out to a prominent Chinatown pimp in an arrangement that gave him $5 a day for life, and proceeded to spend the rest of his life drinking away that daily $5.

Another infamous mac was Jean Rappet, a dark, black-eyed Frenchman with moles on both cheeks, who ran 32 cribs and owned the Basket Saloon at 719 N. Alameda Street along with his deaf wife Blanche. When the police began to crack down on vice in 1893 and took issue with saloons allowing prostitutes to mix with customers, Rappet simply made the saloon men-only. Rappet then fixed up an electric buzzer system that allowed the prostitutes (or their clients) to order drinks without having to leave the crib. The Los Angeles Herald decried this, as Rappet was effectively serving alcohol in 33 places instead of just one, and couldn't possibly keep a good eye on his customers' level of intoxication. The matter was referred to the City Attorney and Rappet faced the very real possibility of losing his liquor license.

The Rappets had bought some time, but they would have to face the music ten years later in December 1903. The city finally cracked down on the vice district once and for all, issuing warrants for all the crib owners. Jean had the good sense to turn himself in. Blanche was the last pimp to be arrested.

The Rappets couldn't pay their lease once the police had arrested or driven away all the prostitutes. One of the property owners, George Shaffer, suggested the Rappets convert the cribs into a hotel. Jean Rappet declined, and the lease was canceled.

In March 1904, the Rappet cribs were demolished. This had nothing to do with the crackdown - the Shaffer family decided they would only rent their land for industrial purposes going forward and planned to build warehouses on the site. The Ballerino cribs, by contrast, were reopened before too long.

Speaking of which, Maria Amparo Ballerino sued her husband for divorce in the 1890s - not because of his line of work, but because of a neighboring lady "causing trouble". The court system denied her petition for divorce, but the Ballerinos did separate. After this, the womanizing Bartolo Ballerino would fall into a pattern of luring young women with false promises. In particular, he would hire them as housekeepers, woo them, and dispose of them when he tired of them.

At least one of these young women, Jeanne Uhalt, was a new arrival from France. Ballerino asked her to marry him (fifty times, she claimed) and began to introduce her as his bride-to-be. He told her that he had been previously married, but withheld the fact that the courts had denied his wife's divorce petition.

He also hired Mlle. Uhalt as his housekeeper, but never did get around to paying her wages. She was understandably quite upset to discover that her employer was the biggest pimp in town. She was also quite upset about not being able to line up a different job and being snubbed by all her friends.

After three years as Ballerino's unpaid housekeeper, Jeanne asked him to set the wedding date. He finally had to come clean - he was still legally married. With no chance of respectable marriage prospects and no chance of getting another job, Jeanne Uhalt sued Ballerino for breach of promise and demanded three years of back pay in a separate complaint. She left Los Angeles for greener pastures in Australia, but returned for court. Unfortunately the court ruled that she hadn't sufficiently proven her case.

Jeanne contested Ballerino's will when he died a few years later. Ballerino had left multiple wills, one of which named her as a beneficiary. (He also claimed to have buried $500,000 in cash, allegedly for Maria, but refused to tell her where it was. The money, which may have been buried in a suburban lot he owned, has never been found, but it would not be out of character for Ballerino to lie. It's possible the money never existed and he made up the entire story to torment Maria.) Another will named Ballerino's nurse as the beneficiary (again, he had a habit of making promises to young women). Ballerino's wife and children, all disinherited, contested the will. It isn't clear if Jeanne ever got a cent.

Ballerino did get taken down a peg by another woman from Frenchtown, however.

Felix Clavere and his wife Marianne owned and operated Clavere House, a saloon and boarding house at 226 Aliso Street.

Ballerino had been getting a little too friendly with Marianne's 22-year-old sister, and suggested that she move in with him. The Los Angeles Herald reported that she relayed the story to Marianne instead.

Marianne Clavere promptly went to see Ballerino, insisting he talk with her outside. Ballerino finally relented and met with her out in the street. Marianne demanded Ballerino explain himself. When he could not do so to Marianne's satisfaction, she gave him a serious thrashing with her bare hands and a horsewhip. Ballerino sustained two black eyes and a severely bruised face (and, presumably, some markings from the horsewhip).

Felix, who had accompanied his wife to ensure her safety, reportedly watched the entire beating.

In an interesting twist, Marianne Clavere's maiden name was Marianne Uhalt.

Was Jeanne Marianne's little sister? I have been unable to find a family tree, and the details of Jeanne's story don't quite match the story of Ballerino's walloping. That said, Jeanne was about the right age, the time frame is about right, Uhalt is a rather uncommon surname, and Los Angeles was still a small city. It's very likely they were sisters or at least related in some way.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: don't mess with French women. We may be small (except for Marianne Uhalt Clavere, who was described as stout), but we can still inflict a lot of damage when the situation calls for it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

FOUND: Vintage Pictures of Taix

Recently, I asked for any vintage pictures of Taix that might be out there - it's an old restaurant; there had to be some. But they still proved maddeningly elusive.

More recently, the Getty shared a massive archive of photographer Ed Ruscha's pictures of buildings in Los Angeles.

The Sunset Boulevard series from 1974 includes several pictures of Taix.

This picture of the pharmacy that stood next door shows the porte-cochere creeping into the frame.

Keep clicking through the pictures - this view shows that the facade is pretty much unchanged, apart from one of the signs. 

Keep going until you get to this picture - when did that rooftop sign disappear?!

Thank heaven for Ed Ruscha, for the Getty, and for the friends who shared these (hi guys). I'm told the pictures will help with the landmarking process, as they prove the building hasn't changed.

Friday, September 4, 2020

To Los Angeles On Her 239th Birthday

Dear Los Angeles:

Whether September 4, 1781 was your exact founding date has been the subject of some debate, but no one alive today was there to see it, so like most Angelenos I'm content to consider today your birthday.

I know. It's a weird birthday and you can't celebrate like usual. Hopefully next year will be better. And ten years after that, your 250th should really be a big deal.

I think of you often, Los Angeles. I may live in a suburb (for reasons beyond the scope of this entry), but you've certainly been on my mind today. And it's because you're not okay.

I care about you, Los Angeles. I am bothered by the fact that you're not being looked after as well as you should be (with the exception of your wealthiest areas, you've been dirty and suffering from some degree of deferred maintenance for my entire life) and I am bothered that we keep losing so much of what makes you great to apathy, corruption, and greed. I am especially not happy with the poor stewardship you've been subjected to for all of this century and too much of the last one. It's not right and you deserve better.

I worry about you, Los Angeles. I worry about Angelenos who are struggling to survive on the street, or who are facing that prospect. I worry about you when a fire breaks out, and if a big enough earthquake hits (I haven't forgotten the 1994 Northridge quake), I'll worry then too. I worry about you when civilians clash with law enforcement. I worry that a certain subsection of the population - the people who just want to watch the world burn - hasn't learned anything from the 1871 Chinese Massacre, the 1965 Watts Riots, or the 1992 riots, and won't learn anything from 2020.

I weep for you, Los Angeles. I weep for the shameful and cruel way homeless Angelenos are treated. I weep for your public schools that are mediocre at best and shouldn't be. I weep for our losses - LACMA, Bunker Hill, pre-concrete Pershing Square. I weep for every exhausted commuter who can't live close to work due to finances or safety issues and rarely sees their loved ones. I weep for every Angeleno who doesn't have the right look or the right brand and thinks they're not enough (and I know a thing or two about this - I'm a pale, dark-haired, curvy Valley Girl who plays with scale models).

I pray for you, Los Angeles. I pray for civility, understanding, and peace between Angelenos. I pray that we'll stop losing the best of you to corruption, bribery, massive egos, and political favors. I pray for developers to think more like Prudent Beaudry (who developed for the wealthy, the working class, and everyone in between) and less like the people who plan to replace the Viper Room with a 15-story tower. I pray that we can save more of what makes you unique and special. I pray that the neglected Pico House doesn't rot from the inside out. I pray you'll have good, honest, and competent leadership in the near future, since in your 239 years of history you've had a lot of bad mayors and a lot of bad council members, and the people currently in charge are grossly unfit to care for you.

I love you, Los Angeles. Which is why I'm scared for you.

On this day I'm reminded of a scene from "Penny Dreadful: City of Angels". Tiago asks Lewis how they're going to save Los Angeles. Lewis responds that they're just trying to survive her. But how will you survive, Los Angeles?

My grandparents loved you so much. My parents say you used to be a great place to live. No one wants to see you turn into New York (both in terms of ugly skyscrapers and in terms of crime rate and livability).

Happy birthday, Los Angeles. May you rise from the ashes of 2020, no matter how impossible it seems (even Hurricane Katrina couldn't kill New Orleans).

With love from one of your millions of kids,

C.C.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Downfall of J.B. Monette

Most recently, we met Ora E. Monette, a banker and attorney of Huguenot extraction. He might not necessarily have been the perfect husband, but he was by all accounts a respected citizen.

His cousin, however, fell from grace after moving to Los Angeles.

Ora's cousin J.B. Monette had lived in other areas of California before (census records indicate he returned to his native Ohio for a time). He accepted a position at the California State Life Insurance Company in Sacramento and claimed he was granted a $150 advance (about $4,000 today, possibly for relocation costs), with the understanding that it would be deducted from his future commissions.

J.B. was soon offered a better position at the Southwestern National Life Insurance Company in Los Angeles. He packed up his family, moved south, and quickly became well-known in polite society.

About a month after moving to Los Angeles, on July 12, 1911, J.B. Monette was having lunch with new business associates at the posh Sierra Madre Club (composed mostly of successful oil and mining men). Deputy Sheriff Dave Lorimer entered the club, brandishing a warrant from Sacramento, arrested J.B. Monette, and took him to the County Jail.

J.B.'s employer in Sacramento was none too happy about the $150 he hadn't paid back, and they were having him charged with embezzlement.

J.B. was unfazed, telling the Los Angeles Herald that he intended to pay back the California State Life Insurance Company and had promised to do so later, but explained that he was broke at the moment.

He added "I think the only legal action they can have against me would be a civil suit to force me to refund the money, and this criminal action will surely result in my dismissal, although it may cause me considerable inconvenience and loss of prestige with those who do not understand the circumstances."

I understand these circumstances: J.B. was hobnobbing with the city's elite, but somehow couldn't make so much as a partial payment of what he owed his prior employer. Surely he could have arranged to make small regular payments?

J.B. was also ineligible for bail in Los Angeles, since he couldn't be bailed out until he had been arraigned in Sacramento, and had to wait for an officer to escort him.

However, when a sheriff's deputy did arrive from Sacramento, there was a technical error in the warrant preventing the transfer. J.B. was released on habeas corpus, with the embezzlement charge still pending.

Little did the city's elite know that J.B.'s personal life was no better off.

On the night of August 6, J.B. called his wife Frances. She and their son Jack had been living separately from J.B. - in fact, J.B. was already living at the Van Nuys Hotel at the time of his arrest. Frances had also filed for divorce.

J.B. spoke to her about his recent arrest and asked for a reconciliation. Frances wasn't having it and refused to speak to him.

J.B. called back, pleading with Frances. She again refused to speak to him.

J.B. then went to the house and attacked Frances.

Five-year-old Jack made it to the telephone, called the nearby University police station, and told them his mother was being beaten.

The police arrived and arrested J.B. so quickly that none of the neighbors noticed anything was wrong.

J.B. was again unable to procure bail, although this time it had nothing to do with jurisdiction.

Frances Monette told City Prosecutor Guy Eddie and Police Captain A.J. Bradish that if Jack had not called for help, she would probably have died.

Jack Monette was hailed as a hero by the Sacramento Union. His father faded into obscurity.

Friday, August 28, 2020

SIGNAL BOOST: 1960s-1980s Pictures of Taix Needed!

Hi Everyone,

The Historic-Cultural Monument application for Taix has been submitted. However, the Office of Historic Resources is requesting additional historic photos of the restaurant's exterior, dating from when the Taix family took it over.

Unfortunately, all my pictures of Taix on Sunset were taken in the last few years, and thus won't be too helpful for the purposes of getting Taix landmarked.

I know many of my dear readers have enjoyed Taix's hospitality over the years, and I'm hoping one or more of you might have some appropriately vintage photos of Taix's Sunset Boulevard location, taken after the Taix family took over the building in 1962.

If you have any such pictures, please contact Friends of Taix on Facebook.

If you are not on Facebook, no problem - email me (losfrangeles at gmail dot com) and I will forward them on to the right people.

Merci!

C.C.

P.S. An additional merci to Sandi of Avoiding Regret for linking my Taix entry.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

One Workaholic Banker and One Block in Koreatown

In the heart of Koreatown, six-tenths of a mile south of the Wiltern, is a side street that is easy to miss.

Monette Place is tiny. It's a narrow side street running between Western and Oxford, just above Olympic, and is only one block long.

Monette Place in Koreatown

The 1850 census lists a French-born watchmaker, Benjamin Monette. However, Monette Place was most likely named after a local banker, Ora E. Monette, who formerly lived not too far away at 350 Oxford Street.

Ora Eugene Monette was born in 1873 to a family of Huguenot extraction in Monnett, Ohio. He opened a law office in Toledo, but joined his father, Mervin, and a few business partners in a lease on a mine in Goldfield, Nevada.

Mervin Monette hit the jackpot. The mine produced the largest gold ore shipment on record at the time.

Ora joined his father in California, using his understanding of corporate law and banking to invest their new wealth in several bank mergers. If you've ever wondered how the Bank of Italy came to be called Bank of America...wonder no more.

Monette was active on the board of the Los Angeles Public Library, and served as its president for twenty years (1916-1936) until his death. Under his leadership, the library was modernized, and instituted a system for transferring books between branches (something that is still practiced, although I'm not sure LAPL is doing inter-library loan during COVID). He also served as president of the Huguenot Society, president of the Sons of the Revolution, and president of the Chamber of Commerce. He was a highly sought-after public speaker, and promoted sales of Olympic pins as treasurer of the 1932 Olympic Finance Committee.

Monette also had a vast genealogical library (more than 1,000 titles including books, journals, and other publications), which his widow and daughter donated to the Los Angeles Public Library in the 1950s. He was the author of several of the books.

Monette was married three times - first to fellow Ohioan Ella Elizabeth Crim in 1891. Ella was a decade older than Ora, and held rather radical views for the time (free love, universal suffrage, birth control). She also divorced him.

Ora's second wife, Carrie Lucile Janeway, also from Ohio, married him in 1895. It isn't clear when their marriage ended, but a 1909 newspaper blurb does reference a "Mrs. Ora Monnette" returning from a trip to her hometown of Columbus.

In 1917, Ora married Helen Kull, who had left her native Pittsburgh in search of secretarial work in Los Angeles. Their only child, also named Helen, became a licensed pilot and a librarian, and married Michel Amestoy.

Regardless of impressive accomplishments, no one is perfect. And in 1922, Ora was the subject of a minor scandal when Helen filed for legal separation.

Ora had, by all accounts, been very successful as President of the Citizens Trust and Savings Bank of Los Angeles (and went on to hold high offices at several more banks). But one newspaper hinted that there was trouble in paradise, dubbing Helen's complaint "sensational". Allegedly, Ora never allowed Helen to see him during business hours or call him at work, and was in Japan when the bank voted to replace him.

Living separately or not, Ora and Helen remained legally married until Ora's death in 1936, and were jointly honored by at least one social club.

It's said that no one ever lies on their deathbed wishing they'd spent more time at the office. Ora E. Monette, whose work habits allegedly precluded ever taking a single phone call from home, is nonetheless remembered in memorial plaques, the Los Angeles Public Library, Inglewood Park Cemetery, and on a little side street in the middle of Koreatown.

Friday, August 7, 2020

The Lost Legacy of André Briswalter

There was a time when fresh food was rather costly in Los Angeles. The pueblo was hot and dusty, the river periodically burst its banks and flooded, and your neighbor just might illegally divert water from a zanja for their own use. Los Angeles traded with San Bernardino for eggs, crackers, and other foods, but the long and hot wagon trip often meant food was well on its way to spoiling by the time it arrived.

If you had a talent for growing fresh fruit and vegetables, you could make a good living.

André Briswalter arrived in the Pueblo from Alsace in the early 1850s. He rented a plot of land on San Pedro Street, planted vegetables, and sold them door-to-door in a wheelbarrow. With high demand for fresh food and limited competition, he could charge whatever the market would bear.

Briswalter made so much money that he was soon able to buy his own plot of land, followed by a horse and wagon.

André Briswalter planted an orchard in a plot bordered by present-day Main Street, Ninth Street, Los Angeles Street, and Olympic. When I mapped the site I was shocked to realize I knew the area quite well. The California Market Center (my professors informally called it "the Mart") now stands on the site. I couldn't even begin to list how many times I went there as a young design student. Briswalter's fruit trees are long gone, of course, as is the house on the land (where he spent his last years).

Briswalter had another orchard, south of what is now the Wholesale Produce Market. He also began to grow nuts. City directories list Briswalter's longtime home at Washington and Main.

André Briswalter eventually owned a great deal of City and County property, notably much of present-day Playa del Rey.

Briswalter was active socially, belonging to Knights of Pythias Lodge 79, better known as "La Fraternité" due to the lodge being composed of French speakers and conducting everything in French.

André Briswalter died of blood poisoning in 1885. A large cemetery chapel was built at Old Calvary Cemetery in his honor and served as his burial site.

Briswalter left behind an estate valued at $375.407.76 - nearly $11 million in 2020 dollars. (His land holdings, of course, would be much more valuable today due to the higher demand for land in Los Angeles.) That estate was willed to a veritable 'who's who' of 1880s Los Angeles - Isaias Hellman, Henry Hammel, W.H. Denker, Rev. Peter Verdagner, Mary Agnes Christina Mesmer, Louis Mesmer, Mary Collins, and Alice Briswalter Meit.

The will was contested by Caledonia Guirado, who claimed that she had been married to the elder André Briswalter and that he was the father of her son Andre. Investigation showed that ten years before Briswalter died, she had married someone else and had five children with him. She had several other children by what one newspaper politely called "three other irregular connections". The matter took nearly two years to sort out in court, with a jury ruling that Ms. Guirado was not André Briswalter's wife and the boy was not his son. (Sound familiar?)

Regular readers may recall that Tina Mesmer inherited money and land from Briswalter, who was a friend of her father's (curiously, she was the only Mesmer child included in the will). This became a problem after she married Griffith J. Griffith, who would eventually falsely accuse her of poisoning Briswalter and attempting to poison him.

In 1915, St. Peter's Italian Church moved into Briswalter's old chapel, having outgrown a smaller church on North Spring Street (much of modern-day Chinatown was Little Italy then). By 1943, the parish had outgrown Briswalter's chapel and was raising money for a new church.

Ironically, St. Peter's didn't tear down André Briswalter's chapel. They didn't have to - a terrible fire destroyed the building. The current St. Peter's opened its doors in 1947.

It isn't clear if André Briswalter's remains were destroyed in the fire, reinterred at New Calvary, or if they remain onsite at St. Peter's.

An immigrant prospers...his considerable estate is contested...a phony heir pops up...everything he owned or built is long gone...and for extra fun, it's unclear where he's buried. Yep...it's another day in Frenchtown.