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The City Archives is a regular contributor to Alive!, the newspaper for Los Angeles city employees. Some of the “History Comes Alive!” feature are adapted for radio and broadcast over KPCC in Pasadena as part of the “Offramp” program airing Saturdays at 12 noon and Sundays at 6pm. They are also archived on the KPCC website.

The current “Archivist Files” deals with the city’s coping with the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. Using reports and other documents from the city’s municipal collections, we try to open a small window into the past. These records are part of the public record and are accessible by contacting the archives during normal office hours. Details are available on the city’s website at http://clerk.lacity.org/CityArchivesandRecordsCenter/index.htm or calling the office at 213-473-8440.

But, here is a bit of history that we hope IS contagious.


IMG_1265Check out this new book about the Gilmore Oil Company by Charles G. Seims and Alan Darr.  A. F. Gilmore purchased 265 acres of land that included the corner of 3rd and Fairfax in Los Angeles.  Gilmore switched from dairy farming to the oil business and then in the 1930’s allowed farmers to park their trucks and sell there produce.   And that is how our wonderful Los Angeles icon Farmer’s Market was established.  This book focused on the history of the Gilmore Oil Company.  You can purchase it at the Farmer’s Market and also see a replica of one of the famous Gilmore gas stations on the Farmer’s Market property.  The gas station was  replicated there by Hank Hilty, the current CEO of the A.F. Gilmore Company and grandson of Earl Gilmore.



Jewish cemetery marker

Phil Blazer, author of Wrestling with the Angels:a History of Jewish Los Angeles, kicked off the Los Angeles City Historical Society 2015 lecture series today,  delighted a crowd who gathered at Los Angeles Main Library to watch three short historic  films.  Phil Blazer is president of Blazer Communications and publisher of The National Jewish News.  The first film chronicled the early Jewish immigrants to Los Angeles, eight bachelors that came from Germany and Poland. Many of these early immigrants to California worked at jobs that many do not associate with the Jewish community, such as cattle business.    The second film, narrated by Rabbi Magnin was about Jewish organizations.  The first charitable organization in Los Angeles was the Hebrew Benevolent Society founded in 1854.  The Society established a cemetery in 1855 on land acquired from the City of Los Angeles.  Today, a monument marks the site of the cemetery in Chavez Ravine, at the corner of Lookout Drive and Lilac Terrace area.  The third film was about the Jewish Aeronautical Society and included footage from the 1930’s.

Chasing Ghosts: Chronicling Los Angeles’ Hidden Italian History

Saturday, March 8, 2014, from 2:00-4:00 PM

Mark Taper Auditorium in the Richard J. Riordan Central Library

640 W. 5th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90071

Marianna Gatto of the Italian-American Museum of Los Angeles will speak on the history of L.A.’s Italian residents from 1827 to 1927, including rare and unpublished photographs and archival documents. Parking validation for 524 South Flower Street Garage is available at the Library Information Desk (first floor). Visitors qualify for $1 parking by presenting an LAPL library card, which they can apply for at the information desk. The validation is a barcode imprinted on the parking ticket.

Download the event flyer

California Hospital Anniversary LogoThis year marks California Hospital Medical Center’s (CHMC) 125th year of caring for the health of Los Angeles.  It’s seen the early frontier pioneering days of the city, the boom in population and business in the first part of the 20th century, two world wars, status as a celebrity hospital serving Hollywood stars, and the advent of high-tech medicine.  Today, the striking red-tiled high-rise hospital supports great diversity and an underserved urban population from its location at the intersection of Venice Boulevard and Grand Avenue.

California Hospital was founded in 1887 in a small and unpretentious two-story brick building on 6th Street in Los Angeles (population 80,000 at that time) by Dr. Walter Lindley, an enterprising young man born in Indiana.  Shortly thereafter he gathered together 21 fellow physicians, who each chipped in $1,000 to buy a plot of land on South Hope Street, where they built the first physician-owned hospital in the U.S.  It opened for business at 1414 South Hope in 1898, and was an attractive four-story wood-framed structure with gables, corner cupolas, awnings over the windows and a large well-landscaped garden facing 15th Street.  It had 30 beds.  The campus rapidly added three more buildings to house patients and facilities, employing the British-born architect John C. Austin, who also designed Griffith Observatory and many other iconic L.A. buildings.

A school of nursing, the California Hospital Training School for Nurses, was opened in 1898, and graduated its first class of four the next year.  The nursing school closed in 1984, but California Hospital still has grads and an instructor working in the hospital.  A brick apartment building now called the Villa Metropolitano, two doors north of California Hospital’s Emergency Department entrance on Hope Street, was originally the Metropolitan Hotel.  It was bought by the hospital in 1944 to house an increased number of nurses caused by the needs of World War II, and was called Moore Hall.

Building on 315 West 36th StreetIn 1916 an enterprising group of staunch Lutherans of Scandinavian heritage from the American Midwest formed the Lutheran Hospital Society of Southern California, with the express purpose of “establishing hospitals, dispensaries and clinics.”  The Society bought California Hospital in 1921, and successfully operated it and several other L.A. and San Diego hospitals for the next 70 years.

The turn of the century brick and wood buildings proved inadequate for “modern” healthcare, and in 1926 a new nine-story brick hospital was inaugurated at 1414 South Hope Street on the site of the old buildings.  It was deemed to be the most progressive medical building in the country at that time.  It served Los Angeles well until the Northridge Earthquake of 1994 damaged it to the extent that patients could no longer be housed there, and it was demolished in 2000.  Meanwhile the current patient tower at 1401 South Grand Avenue was opened in 1987 – Tibbitts Tower, named after a much-respected hospital administrator, Samuel J. Tibbitts.

Total bed capacity at California Hospital is currently 319.  There are 65,000 emergency room visits every year, 2,200 of which are trauma patients.  About 360-400 babies a month come into this world at the hospital.  The hospital’s new Los Angeles Center for Women’s Health opened in February of this year.  Also new are extensive remodeling and upgrades to the 1414 South Hope Street Emergency Department, now underway.

California Hospital in 1898Snippets from their history:

  • In 1910 California Hospital was put in charge of setting up the first-ever emergency aviation hospital – a portable cottage equipped with an operating table – at the country’s first air meet, the Dominguez International Air Meet, at Dominquez Field south of Compton.  A horse-drawn carriage “ambulance” stood outside.
  • The first X-rays taken in Los Angeles were performed at California Hospital in 1889 by Dr. Albert Soiland with equipment he built himself at home.  He was the founder of the Department of Radiology at USC’s School of Medicine.
  • Dec. 24, 1914:  Internationally known and respected naturalist John Muir, aged 76, died of pneumonia at California Hospital.
  • In 1917 thirty grads from the California Hospital Training School for Nurses joined the first World War I overseas nursing unit, the Naval Base Hospital Unit No. 3.
  • In 1928 the cost of three days’ stay with dressings, pharmacy and extra diet charges was $16.45.
  • In 1932 California Hospital served as the official Olympic Games Hospital when Los Angeles hosted the games.
  • A nine-story brick building belonging to California Hospital can still be found at 1401 South Hope St., and is now Esperanza Community Housing.  It was completed in 1957 and was home to many doctors’ and dentists’ offices at that time.
  • The first baby at California Hospital was born July 24, 1898.  Baby number 20,000 was born March 5, 1937; number 35,000 was little Michael Rawley on November 24, 1945; number 50,000 was Kathryn Eloise Thompson on December 12, 1950.  Labor and delivery continues to be a vibrant part of hospital activities.
  • In 1944 the hospital attracted world-wide attention for its “Fathers’ Room,” equipped with a loudspeaker so dads could hear the first cries of their newborns.  In 1956 the First Voice of Junior! program was inaugurated.  Babies’ first cries were broadcast and recorded in the delivery room and sent to the fathers’ waiting room.  A phonograph record of the event was presented to the happy parents when leaving the hospital.
  • PacifiCare health insurance was founded at California Hospital by its then-owner, the LHS (Lutheran Hospital Society) Corp.

For more information about California Hospital’s history or to arrange a visit to their archives, please visit http://www.supportcaliforniahospital.org or email susan.shum@dignityhealth.org.

Thanks to Judith Thompson, volunteer and former CHMC Medical Librarian, for preparing this information.