Friday, September 12, 2008
The Burial Place of J.B. Lankershim
North End of Nichols Canyon Road – map
James Boon Lankershim was born on a Charleston farm near St Louis, Missouri, on March 24, 1850, the son of Isaac Lankershim and Annis Lydia (Moore) Lankershim. Isaac, a native of Bavaria, was a pretty big L.A. muckety-muck in his own right, becoming the principal owner of 60,000 acres of the former Mission San Fernando in 1869, and, nine years later, cranking up the city’s first flour mill.
The Lankershims moved to San Francisco when James was a boy. At seventeen, he began working for his dad’s grain business there. A year later, J.B. became manager of the 13,000-acre Lankershim ranch in Fresno County, then the manager of the family’s 40,000-acre El Cajon Ranch in San Diego. The young Lankershim settled in L.A. in 1873, becoming general manager of the 60,000-acre San Fernando ranch. James began stocking the land with horses, cattle, more sheep, and mules. Then he began experimenting with wheat (I did, a little, in college). Within a few years, Lankershim had a wheat field of a continuous 20,000 acres. He had also developed several thousand acres of orchards.
He married Caroline Jones in 1881. They had two children, John and Doria Constance.
In 1886, Lankershim was elected president of the Main Street Savings Bank of Los Angeles, a position he held for fourteen years (he was also president of the Bank of Southern California for two years). James Boon “at one time owned every corner which had a value as business property in the business center of Los Angeles.” He organized the Los Angeles Farming and Milling Company in 1887. While the new company purchased from him the bulk of the 60,000-acre ranch, he kept about 12,000 acres for subdivision. This land would go on to be the communities of Studio City, Universal City, and North Hollywood (itself called Lankershim until 1927).
Lankershim also played a big part in lobbying Congress for $3 million for the improvement of San Pedro Harbor. He organized a cavalry unit of the state’s National Guard in 1885 and the L.A. Cavalry Troop in 1897. Lankershim built the San Fernando Building (HCM No. 728) and his eponymous hotel and building. In 1900, Governor Henry Gage appointed Lankershim a lieutenant-colonel, assigning him to his personal staff. Mayor Meredith Snyder also made him Park Commissioner. J.B. was a Knight Templar, a Shriner, and a 32nd Degree Mason. He was one of the charter members and first president of the L.A. Athletic Club, and was affiliated with the Gamut, Ellis, California, Jonathan, Union League, Hollywood Athletic, and San Gabriel Athletic clubs.
James Boon Lankershim retired in 1900 and died in Brooklyn, N.Y., on October 16, 1931, with an estate valued at $8.1 million.
Oh. The landmark.
In his will, Lankershim asked his ashes “be spread over some portion of the lands in the San Fernando Valley which were owned by my family, and over which for many years I have had superintendence and management,” and that there be erected a “monument on some part of my present holdings in the San Fernando Valley in the form of an obelisk with a suitable inscription, from stone of the Madera quarries.”
Well, J.B. Lankershim donated somewhere between ten and nineteen acres of land at the end of Nichols Canyon Road, down from Mulholland Drive, to the Boy Scouts of America. (Once known as Camp Arthur Letts, it bordered the home of Errol Flynn.) In exchange, the Boy Scouts built in the early 1940s his requested fifteen-foot tall monument among his scattered ashes. The Scouts sold off most off the acreage in the 1950s, but kept the strip of land holding the monument and, for lack of a better word, stairs.
It’s been apparent for decades the upkeep on the city landmark has been lacking. There’s been talk over the years to relocate the monument, possibly to Campo de Cahuenga. As recently as last year, it was determined, due to construction and its location up the steep hill, moving it as a whole is pretty much out of the question. In any event, it’s lonely. Go and visit it.
Successful American Vol. 5, No. 5; May 1902, W.J. Hartford, New York City
The Los Angeles County Pioneer Society Historical Record and Souvenir, Times-Mirror Press 1923 Los Angeles
“Col. Lankershim Expires” The Los Angeles Times; Oct 17, 1931, p. A1
“Lankershim’s Will Revealed” The Los Angeles Times; Oct 22, 1931, p A1
Seekwerker, Joe and Charles Owens “Nuestro Pueblo” The Los Angeles Times; Jun 2, 1939, p. A1
Pitt, Leonard and Dale Pitt Los Angeles A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the City and County University of California Press 1997 Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA
Up next: Ivy Substation