Saturday, May 17, 2008
2054 Griffin Avenue Residence
2054 Griffin Avenue, Lincoln Heights – map
This masonry Victorian house in Lincoln Heights is one of the oldest in the community. The street on which it sits is named for Dr J.S. Griffin, “The Father of East Los Angeles.”
John Strother Griffin was born in Fincastle, Virginia, in 1816. Raised in Louisville, Kentucky, he went to med school at the University of Pennsylvania, and became a doctor in the U.S. Army. As head surgeon for Gen. Stephen Kearny, he not only tended to the injured in the battle of San Pascual in December 1846, he also was on hand for the American capture of the city of Los Angeles the following month. (Buy his diary of his Mexican War experience here.) He returned to settle in L.A. in 1854.
Griffin was interested not only in education – in 1856 he was elected superintendent of the first public school in L.A. – but also in educators – he married Louisa Hayes, the city’s first female public-school teacher. With Prudent Beaudry and Solomon Lazard, he set up the Los Angeles Water Company, obtaining a thirty-year lease to oversee the city’s water system beginning in 1868 (he built the first irrigation ditch taking water from the Arroyo Seco to water the region). Griffin was the first president of the County Medical Society (1871) and served as a director on the city’s first Chamber of Commerce, then known as the Board of Trade (1873). (A lot of firsts in this paragraph. - ed.)
One of L.A.’s early physicians, he bought up land like nobody’s business throughout the 1860s, including two thousand acres in East L.A. in 1863 for fifty cents an acre. In 1873 he sold 4,000 acres of Rancho San Pascual (which he had bought from Don Manuel Garfias some fifteen years earlier) to an organization from Indiana which renamed the land Pasadena.
With his nephew, Hancock Johnston, Griffin laid out and planned the streets of East Los Angeles, selling the land little by little. (It’s ironic a large chunk of his old property is Lincoln Heights. According to Harris Newmark, Griffin was a staunch Southerner who lost his senses cheering Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865.)
Dr Griffin spent many years living on Main Street between First and Second, but died in his home at 1109 Downey Avenue, now North Broadway, on August 23, 1898.
This landmark was built around 1887. Various city directories list residents Joseph and Rosina Thompson and Pearl Treon (1936) and osteopathic physician C.E. Broadhead (1939). Walter H. Klapper owned the house during its designation in 1975, and architect Bruce Boehner and his wife, Gloria, soon after purchased the home with plans to restore it.
It looks to be in great shape today, but I can’t figure out what that solitary second-story window on the north side indicates in terms of the floor’s layout. It looks original to the building’s design, too.
“Founder of Cities.” Los Angeles Times; Aug 24, 1898, p. 11
Newmark, Harris. Sixty Years in Southern California Houghton Mifflin Company 1930 Boston and New York
Up next: 3537 Griffin Avenue Residence