In memory of William J. Kirkpatrick, who came to see the 1932 Olympics, and died in a doorway on Vermont Avenue
Greetings from your friendly historic Los Angeles sightseeing tour company, now offering digital programming until we can again organize groups to gather and explore the city we love.
The 1932 LAPD crime scene photograph below is circulating online again, as it does periodically, with people sharing it commenting on the beautiful composition and noir details. We hate it.
Specifically, we hate that this image and others from the same period were plucked out of the LAPD files and published and sold as "art," without context of the situations and suffering they represent. Exploitation is not art, nor is it history.
About that crime scene photograph: coal dealer William J. Kirkpatrick was a tourist from Michigan, who was in Los Angeles to watch the Olympics. His wife Jean and son Leland were in the car in front of S.L. Broder’s jewelry store at 768 South Vermont Avenue when he went in to get his watch adjusted.
The store was being robbed, and Kirkpatrick startled the robbers, and refused their instructions to go into the back of the store with the other hostages. Kirkpatrick had often boasted to friends that if anyone ever tried to rob him, he would not submit.
But he was also deaf, and may not have heard or understood what was being demanded of him. He turned to walk out the door. The gang shot him dead and fled the scene with $4000 in jewels.
In August, the gang attempted to rob the Bank of America at 56th and Broadway, and got into a gun fight with pistol-packing bank manager Wetzel Ord. Robbers Frankie Alvarado and Henry Johnson were killed by Ord, and teller Harry Read gravely injured in the crossfire.
The surviving gang members were arrested. Dallas Egan (aka Robert York), confessed shooter and gang leader, interrupted his trial to insist that he had been in sound mind when he committed the crime, but “none of us is entirely sane. You yourself, your honor, probably are not entirely sane."
Egan said that George Turcott and Homer Rogers, the other men charged with Kirkpatrick’s murder, had not been present. Everyone who had been had died by violence, including one he’d killed for shortchanging him on the take in a drugstore robbery. He alone should die.
Dallas Egan said, “I want the rope. I gathered this gang together. Most of my pals were ex-convicts who weren’t chicken hearted. They shot to kill.” He asked to be sent to San Quentin; he didn't want Folsom guards "to have the satisfaction of standing around and leering at me in the death house."
He was hanged in October 1933, drunk on Kentucky bourbon provided by Governor James Rolph, who liked his style. Turcott and Rogers were imprisoned for their roles in the conspiracy. In 1955, Harry Read, who had been shot in the back during the aborted 1932 bank robbery, died by suicide, despondent over lingering health problems caused by the injury.
We wish we had a photograph of W.J. Kirkpatrick in life. We’ve looked everywhere one might be found, without luck. Instead, here’s an ad in his hometown Battle Creek newspaper for the coke and coal he sold, warming his neighbors’ homes with “satisfactory fuel since 1893.” A son kept the business going until 1938, when it was absorbed by U.S. Lumber. Maybe you’ll buy a window to remember him by.
As Los Angeles seeks to bring the Olympics back to a troubled city, W.J. Kirkpatrick's senseless death haunts us. He is more than an anonymous figure bleeding out on cold tile. His killers were more than unredeemable thugs. Our world didn't, and doesn't, have to be this way.
When we’re not memorializing crime victims who had the strange fortune to die in a particularly beautiful manner, we’re hosting webinars that dig into the secret histories of Los Angeles. You can tune in live on Saturdays at noon and pepper us with questions, or catch them any time as recordings on-demand.
This Saturday, May 15 it’s A Gallery of Downtown Los Angeles Artists Celebrated and Obscure. This week, we’re getting to know the visual artists who worked in the heart of the city, the buildings that inspired them and the curious tales they left behind. Well shine a light on Bunker Hill painters Leo Politi and Kay Martin, muralists Einar Petersen and Hugo Ballin, and on some of the lesser known visionaries and street hustlers who fascinate us—including the remarkable mixed media installations of the Clifton’s Cafeteria chain. Tune in and you might just find your new favorite artist.
And just added for May 22 is Precious Relics of Victorian Los Angeles. Join us on a treasure hunt for the loveliest 19th century residential buildings that have managed to survive into their third century, as we visit with the preservationists and historians who care for and interpret these lovely landmarks. From Carroll Avenue to the tip-top peak of Lincoln Heights, from Heritage Square to the gems of Pico-Union, a lost world reveals itself, and you just might wish you lived there!
Stay tuned as we roll out a new webinar program each Saturday. And remember if you can’t watch live or need to leave mid-stream, you can watch the recording for one full week. There’s still time to see Fourth & Main, Downtown Los Angeles’ Most Fascinating Intersection through Saturday night.
These webinars are now available as On-Demand recordings: Llano del Rio Utopian Colony • Downtown L.A. Treasure Hunt • Wilshire Boulevard • Sunset Boulevard • John Fante • Art Deco Leisure Suits • Paul R. Williams • Saving South L.A. Landmarks • Birth of Noir • Storybook Architecture • Dark Side of the West Side • Hotel Cecil • L.A. Historic Preservation, 1900s-1980s • Southern California’s Architecture of Death • Crawford’s Markets • John Bengtson’s Silent Film Locations • George Mann’s Vintage L.A. • Pershing Square • Cafeterias of Old L.A. • Programmatic Architecture • Angels Flight • Grand Central Market • Ohio River Valley • Bunker Hill • Charles Bukowski • Raymond Chandler • Black Dahlia • Dutch Chocolate Shop • Bradbury Building • Tunnels • L.A. Times Bombing and 13 Uncanny Crimes & Mysteries.
And we’d love to see you Saturday at noon for A Gallery of Downtown Los Angeles Artists Celebrated and Obscure.
yours for Los Angeles,
Kim & Richard
Subscribe! In the latest subscriber's edition of this newsletter—$10/month, cheap!—Peep Inside a 1930s Movie Theater Manager's Promotional Scrapbook—we get a glimpse of a lost world of thrilling ballyhoo in Old Town Pasadena.
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AND WHAT'S THE NEXT TOUR? WHO KNOWS?!
We're dark until public health officials and we determine that groups can gather safely. But in addition to weekly webinar programs, we've got 138 episodes of the podcast You Can't Eat The Sunshine free to download for armchair explorers, and videos of the Downtown L.A. LAVA walking tours, plus Cranky Preservationist videos.
AND FINALLY, LINKS
The Art Deco Society of LA has a social media challenge: do you have what it takes to blow minds in the 31 Days of Deco photo contest? (Our contribution is the former Jewish Educational Alliance of Beverly Gardens synagogue in East Los Angeles.)
Relevant Group's Tommie and Thompson hotels were in financial trouble, got bailed out. We're also concerned about two unoccupied Downtown landmarks in their portfolio that are supposed to be offset by creating 266 low-income units: The Barclay and Morrison Hotel.
What happens when a Los Angeles Planning Commissioner complains about public corruption surrounding Jose Huizar’s pet Downtown LA projects hearing? David Ambroz soon “resigns,” is replaced by a close associate of Mayor Eric Garcetti. He’s not just leaving the Planning Commission, but Los Angeles as well. Big decision.
Long Hot Summer: August 1965 KABC-TV newscast reports on the Watts Uprising before the National Guard arrived, with bullets fired at their helicopter and a cameo from planner Calvin Hamilton on car-owners opposed to subsidizing a rapid transit system.
Walking tours can be powerful acts of protest, which is why we're so adamantly opposed to mandatory guide licenses. Politicians, like billionaires, want citizens to shut up. Strike MOMA gave a Ruins of Modernity Tour, which turned violent at the museum door.
Do you live in Mitch O’Farrell, Nithya Raman, or Paul Koretz' district, or do you just care about Hollywood's low-income tenants and small businesses? Read this: The Flawed Hollywood Community Plan is a Giveaway to Developers. It Must Be Stopped.
Eli Broad put his billion dollar thumb on the scales of Los Angeles culture, education and land use, and made everything he tried to "fix" worse. We don't celebrate any man's death, but we resent having to live in the substandard city he leaves behind. How did he harm us most? In June 2003, he handed Jose Huizar the keys to LAUSD. Soon the Ambassador Hotel will be rubble, and a few years later foreign investors get the memo that all of Los Angeles is for sale. See Eli's guy Jose, 4th Floor, City Hall.
When Cardiff-by-the-Sea was funky, the community self-funded a sidewalk to the beach and wrote their names in it, inspired by Hollywood's Chinese Theatre. 40 years later, it's a unique preservation challenge for Encinitas.
The nameless public alley where early film masters filmed their greatest stunts is currently fenced off for pandemic outdoor dining, has no signage. Silent cinema sleuth John Bengtson (who we did a webinar with) thinks Hollywood tourists want to know its story, and is rallying reporters to the cause.
Coastal California's hot commercial real estate market nearly took out Warwick’s, La Jolla's 125 year old family-run book (and gift) store. But the landlord entertained higher bids, and fans came up with $8 Million to buy the building, extend their lease.
Ben Welsh, data journalist for the Los Angeles Times, has launched an elegant website to publish the poems of e.e. cummings as they enter the public domain. The URL, natch: https://cummings.ee
CEQA appeal filed by Coalition for an Equitable Westlake/Macarthur Park over proposed upzoned TOC monolith at 139-147 South Occidental Blvd. A dozen garden court apartment tenants displaced under the Ellis Act in 2017, the blighted buildings demolished last summer.
Is anyone watching Compton development? The blighted ZigZag Moderne Art Deco Office & Professional Building was demolished ahead of a co-working project, and no permits show on the city's website. It's cultural erasure not to build above good buildings.
It was a disgusting scene at City Council’s PLUM Committee, where with no discussion, a fake “landmarking” for a few salvaged pieces of Taix French Restaurant was approved at the request of councilman Mitch O’Farrell, for the benefit of developer Holland Partner Group. We live tweeted the hearing, and the L.A. Conservancy isn’t happy either: “PLUM's action and Councilmember O'Farrell's motion not only dismisses Taix as a historic resource but greatly undermines the City's Historic-Cultural Monument program and sets a dangerous precedent.”
There's something profoundly broken in Pasadena City Hall. First they let the clock tick out on eminent domain seizure of the derelict Julia Morgan YWCA. Now Central Library (Myron Hunt, 1924) has been shut down over overlooked seismic dangers. WTF?!
Happy belated birthday to Vermonica, the original Los Angeles street lamp sculpture! We're celebrating by exploring its newly launched website packed with history, vintage and recent photos and saving the date of 5/5/22 for a street party with artist Sheila Klein!
Long Beach redevelopment nightmare: the landmark Acres of Books was forced out of business, sat rotting for years, then demolished. Promised affordable housing for CSULB students is gone with the wind. And Onni Group, the Canadians seeking to demolish half of the Los Angeles Times complex. has a giant market rate Broadway Block.
Sylvester Dupuy's Pyrenees Castle (1925), most recently owned by Phil and Rachelle Spector, has finally sold—to a preservation minded buyer! Alhambra doesn't have a great preservation track record, so this is a huge relief.
New on our Egyptian Theatre petition: a concerned citizen has uploaded video of Netflix' Cultural Heritage Commission presentation, and public comment from concerned citizens who say if they gut the Spielberg, they'll kill small festivals in Hollywood.
As Malibu's beleaguered city manager Reva Feldman resigns, community critic Sam Hall Kaplan pens a reasonable letter to the Malibu Times urging reform in City Hall. Only to be smeared as a rabid nut by publisher Arnold York.
A campaign to recall councilwoman Nithya Raman has been launched by Los Feliz Ledger publisher Allison B. Cohen. It would be weird and troubling if, as claimed, she really scrubbed her Linkedin pages before the CD4 city council campaign. What was on them, other than a diabetic hosiery startup?
Is Santa Ana's derelict Cypress Fire Station No. 4 being quietly sold off to a favored developer? Concerned citizens demand transparency and a public conversation about the best public use for the landmark.
Despite the efforts of Bill Delvac and Teresa Grimes, former Los Angeles Conservancy preservation advocates who now work for property developers seeking to demolish significant landmarks, the Cultural Heritage Commission voted to give the Fairfax Threatre a new hearing! See our live tweets of the hearing here.
Our friend David Kipen has been lobbying for a new Federal Writers' Project in the spirit of the WPA initiative that supported creative Americans during the Depression and produced important regional histories. Now legislation has been introduced!
As demolition begins, Covina Bowl is dead, but the National Register landmark's defining features will be incorporated into a new housing development. And that's something worth celebrating. Thanks for all the hard work, Adriene Biondo and Friends of Covina Bowl!
Following demolition of the lovely potential landmark 1919 Whitley Heights Schmidt Residence, plans are filed to replace it with the usual file cabinet for humans. The Cultural Heritage Commission landmark nomination can’t be found on the city’s website, but we tracked it down (PDF link).
Jose Huizar's public corruption trial won't start until May 24, 2022. Let's hope we won't have to wait a year to hear handcuffs clicking shut on City Hall co-conspirators who continue to bend Los Angeles land use rules for the benefit of developers. The pre-trial calendar gets juicy in February (PDF link).
Watts Happening? Before the recent landmark nomination, the city was quietly selling this cultural treasure off for demolition to developer Thomas Safran. But now: "The City has canceled this contracting opportunity." Viva Mafundi!