A Pioneering Los Angeles Business: The Los Angeles Furniture Company
by Geraldine Knatz, LACHS Board Member
Los Angeles was not much more than a pueblo when J. C. Dotter arrived in 1859 from Kansas, via Salt Lake City. He started a furniture business in the 1860’s just off the old plaza on Commercial Street. He and his early partners would supply furniture to the surrounding haciendas, their stock coming by ship to San Francisco and then by wagon down to Los Angeles. In 1870, Dotter hooked up with a new partner, C. H. Bradley, calling their operation the Los Angeles Furniture Company. They moved the business to 259 and 261 Main Street. In January 1884, a candle dripping tallow caused a devastating fire in the upholstery department. Smoke poured from the upper floors of the building owned by I.W Hellman but employees escaped unscathed. Loses were estimated at $150,000 and were not fully insured. Yet, the business survived. Dotter and Bradley incorporated in 1891 installing H.H. Markham as its president. Markham would keep an office at the furniture company during his stint as California governor.
Twelve years after the fire, in 1896, the Los Police Commission received a report from Fire Chief Walter S. Moore regarding which buildings had not yet installed fire escapes as required by city ordinance. One would imagine that the furniture company would be one of the first to comply considering its history and the flammability of its goods. But surprisingly, the Los Angeles Furniture Company, now located at 225-227 South Broadway, still had no fire escapes. Chief Moore publically reported the company’s intention to comply.
The company moved many times, to Spring Street and later Hill Street. They were not the only furniture company in downtown Los Angeles. In 1904 the Furniture Journalreported that the Los Angeles Furniture Company furnished the California Club while their competitor Barker Bros. did the same for the Jonathan Club. Both organizations would more spend $30,000 furnishing their clubhouses. By the mid-1930’s, the Los Angeles Furniture Company showroom was located at 724 S. Broadway. Here they would use copper tokens to promote one dollar off a purchase of $25 or more. Like other early Los Angeles retailers, the Los Angeles Furniture Company is no longer but it retains its status as one of the pioneering retailers in Los Angeles.