James H. Dodson Residence
859 West 13th Street, San Pedro – map
Moved a bunch of times over its 1.2 centuries of existence, the old James H. Dodson residence is now pretty much blotted out by trees, bushes, shrubs, and more trees. Some of its history is a little obscured, too.
James Hillsey Dodson’s bio lists gigs in the building supplies and contracting business with his brother John and as a junior partner in the meat-packing firm of Vickery & Hinds. He was also a member of the San Pedro School Board, Director of the First National Bank, and San Pedro’s postmaster between 1893 and 1897. If that’s not enough, Dodson twice served as president of the San Pedro Board of Trustees, the precursor to the City Council.
From 1930, that's James H. Dodson on the right. The quintet is clearly celebrating the birthday of Methuselah, standing next to Dodson. Photo from the L.A. Public Library.
In 1879 or 1881, he married Rudecinda Sepulveda (b. 1857), the daughter of Maria Elisalde and Jose Diego Sepulveda, owner of the 3,200-acre Palos Verde Rancho. If not quite royalty, Rudecinda and Dodson – a descendent of the Dominguez clan – were certainly at the center of the social world of early San Pedro. It’s said the Sepulvedas built this twelve-room, two-story Victorian house with its three-way fireplace as a wedding present for the young couple. I’ve seen constructions dates of 1881, 1882, 1885, 1886, and even 1890. From USC's Digital Archive, Rudecinda:
In any event, the home was built on Sepulveda property at the northwest corner of Beacon and 7th Streets on the edge of Vinegar Hill. Just after the turn of the century, the Dodson Residence was moved to another plot of Sepulveda-owned land, roughly bounded from Leland to Meyler and from 15th to 17th Streets, school land today.
(Aside: Later on, the Fox Cabrillo Theatre was built on the original site of the Dodson House at 115 West 7th. It opened in November 1923 and was demolished in 1958.)
To accommodate the needs of the growing high school, the house was relocated in the mid-1930s a few blocks to the north side of 13th Street. After a short time, it was moved again, this time to its current site at 13th and Parker. Here, it took on life as a rooming house. (Rudecinda died in 1929; James moved out in 1931, dying eight years later. They, along with their children – Carlos, Florence, and James Jr – are interred in the Rudecinda Crypt, part of Historical-Cultural Monument No. 53.)
John and Betty Reed bought the house in 1954 and began a decades-long restoration of the old home. The grand Victorian remained in the Reed family as late as 1989. I don’t know who lives there now, but, whoever it is, they sure like shade.
Vickery, Oliver “The Dodson House Restoration” The Shoreline Jan 1978, Vol. 5, No. 1
Vickery, Oliver “Rudecinda Sepulveda” The Shoreline Sep 1977 p. 12
Houston, John M. “The Dodson-Sepulveda Home” The Shoreline Jun 1989 p. 47
Up next: Coral Trees