Living in a ‘Chic Suburb’

Pico-Union sign

The Cheshires lived in a fashionable LA suburb,  today an urban, Central LA neighborhood known as Pico-Union

Ursula Cheshire was 5½ years old when she and her parents moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles in late 1907/early 1908, settling in at 1422 Malvern Avenue. Built in 1903, their new house — which they rented — was located in the area now called Pico-Union, an urban neighborhood in central LA. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Pico-Union district was originally developed between 1880 and 1930 “as a chic suburb for oil barons and others, including European and Mexican immigrants” and is “one of the city’s most architecturally diverse communities.”

Ursula’s father, Alfred, was no oil baron, but he did all right. Several years before, he had sold his San Francisco funeral home business at a good profit, and the 1910 U.S. Census lists his occupation as “Own income.” That year, the Cheshires’ neighbors included another man of independent means, as well as households headed by teachers, printers, real estate brokers, engineers, salesmen and more. A few of the families on their block employed live-in servants.

I believe this photo was taken at Ursula's 6th birthday party, on the front lawn of the Cheshires' home in LA

The Cheshires’ new home at 1422 Malvern Ave., circa 1908

The Cheshires’ new home was just 1 mile (a 20-minute walk or a quick trip on the Pico Boulevard streetcar) from the Egan School, where Ursula studied with the best dancing, drama and singing instructors of her day. You can learn more about Ursula’s experience at the school and about her dance teacher and Shakespeare and opera coaches in these earlier posts: A Jackpot of Clues, Part 2 and Ursula’s Teachers: The Best in the West. (Note: If you’re having trouble viewing some of these posts’ image links in Chrome, try Firefox.)

1422 Malvern Avenue

1422 Malvern Avenue as it looked three years ago

The house at 1422 Malvern Avenue is still standing today — painted teal and sprouting palm trees in the front yard — albeit in a changed neighborhood. Now home to immigrants from Central America, Mexico, Cuba and Korea, Pico-Union is, according to the Office of Historic Resources, a district of great ethnic and socioeconomic diversity with a mixture of single-family and multi-family housing. If you’re ever in LA and want to see the ‘hood — which was designated a historic district in 2004 — check out this self-guided walking tour.

Share

Happy Birthday to Ursula!

Ursula's 6th birthday celebration appeared in the society column of the Los Angeles Times in 1908

Ursula’s 6th birthday celebration appeared in the society column of the Los Angeles Times in 1908

In the summer of 1908, Ursula turned 6 — and the Los Angeles Times took note, as I discovered in my Internet research. Nestled among descriptions of other local events, this blurb appeared in the paper on June 14, 1908, under the heading, “Some Notable Festivities Incident to Society During the Past Week”:

“Mrs. A.D. Cheshire of No 1422 Malvern avenue gave a party in honor of the sixth birthday anniversary of her daughter, Ursula.”

Imagine my delight when I found the picture below in my “Mystery Dancer” antique photo album. I think it’s probable that this is a photo of said party! Ursula (at far right, squinting in the sun) looks to be around the right age, and this looks to be a kids’ party. And…with my magnifying glass, I can barely make out the numbers “1422” over the front door. (I love the little boy’s outfit, at far left, with tennis racket.)

I believe this photo was taken at Ursula's 6th birthday party, on the front lawn of the Cheshires' home in LA

I believe this photo was taken at Ursula’s 6th birthday party, on the front lawn of the Cheshires’ home in LA

Their house is still standing today…but more on that in my next post. Good night!

Share

1908: A New Year in a New City

Times Square ball drop rehearsal 1907

Seen in 1907, the Times Tower was in rehearsal for what would become its first New Year’s Eve time ball drop. (Photo from signindustry.com)

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe another year has passed and we are now in 2014 — 106 six years after our Mystery Dancer story left off! In Ursula’s world, it is January 1908, a year of firsts: The first Times Square Ball drop ushered in the new year; the world’s first airplane passenger flew with the Wright brothers; and the first Ford Model T made its debut. It also was the first year of the Cheshires’ new life in Los Angeles, California.

And what better way to start a new year than with a party? On January 29, 1908, the Los Angeles Herald’s “Society” column reported that a “do something” party had been given the previous day in honor of “Mrs. Alfred Dudley Cheshire, late of San Francisco, who will, with her husband, make her home in Los Angeles.”

Ursula Cheshire society column

The Los Angeles Herald reports on a party held in honor of Mrs. Cheshire, who had just moved to LA with Mr. Cheshire and “little Ursula.”

What is a “do something” party, you might ask? It actually sounds like fun: guests are asked to participate in a “do something” program by presenting an original story, poem or musical performance. At this particular party, Ursula’s mother, Clara, played one of her own compositions on the piano, while other contributions included an impersonation of a “young lady on a street car”; a humorous account — in rhyme — of “an experience in a Turkish bath”; poetry, and more. The partygoers then enjoyed a buffet luncheon under a bower of pepper boughs in a sun parlor festooned with pink carnations.

There was no information on the back of this photo of Ursula (on Mama's lap). Perhaps she was tuckered out after a party like the one at which she greeted guests in January 1908.

There was no information on the back of this photo of Ursula (on Mama’s lap). Perhaps she was tuckered out after a party like the one at which she greeted guests in January 1908.

The newspaper report also includes the first mention of Ursula in a “Society” column. At 5½ years old, she was one of three children who greeted guests at the door and acted as pages during the party, as was common at afternoon events in those days. I have a feeling we’ll be reading a lot more about Ursula and her mother in the society pages of Los Angeles!

Share