We are quite frequently asked about the curious building we are located in, so in this post I am going to attempt to tell some of it's history, what has taken place here, and some of the characters who have been involved over the last 130 years. It’s a long and storied history that I will only be able to scratch the surface of. All the information presented here was found by poring through the LA Times archives at the downtown LA Public Library. I have yet to find a photo of the original building or the original inhabitants but am sure with more devoted sleuthing I will eventually unearth something.
THE GARDNER'S AND A PIANO HOUSE
Built in 1887 the building originally had two addresses, 118 AND 120 Winston St. 118 Winston St. was the address used for the ground floor which held A.G. Gardner Piano House. Mr. A.G. Gardner owned the building along with his wife (only referred to as Mrs. A.G. Gardner) and operated the businesses there. 120 Winston St. was the address for the second and third floors which were used as a hotel for recent transplants to the City of Angels. Mr. and Mrs. Gardner appeared in the society pages a few times announcing parties that were held in the building where the A.G. Gardner Trio would perform.
BLOOD IN THE STREETS
While the Garners' parties may have graced the society page, Winston St. itself was covered in the crime pages. Articles about young hoodlums, a stolen piano, a dead newborn baby and a mystery puddle of blood all on Winston St. between Main and Los Angeles Streets appeared in The Times prior to 1900. So it would seem that Winston St. has always been a gritty little stretch of urban real estate.
A DISORDERLY HOUSE
In 1911 a Robert Patterson was sentenced to 180 days in jail for running a “disorderly house” at The Yale located at 120 Winston St. I assume a disorderly house was essentially a brothel of sorts as The Times reports that “Patterson compelled the inmates of his house to pay him half their earnings” and that “this is the first time that a straight jail sentence has been imposed against the keepers of disorderly houses in Los Angeles”. YEAH! We’re number one!
THE UNACCOUNTED FOR YEARS
I have found very little information regarding the place in the teens and twenties. More research is needed there. Instead here are two photos, one of horses pulling heavy machinery up Winston St. in 1906 looking east toward Los Angeles St. The other is a photo from 1897 of an Edison Electric crew laying one of the city's first underground wires looking west up Winston St. towards Main St. Both look as though they were taken right in front of 118/120 Winston St.
ENTER THE COMMIES
In the early 1930s during the Great Depression the International Labor Defense had their offices on the first floor along with The Young Pioneers Society who were essentially the youth arm of the American Communist Party - like a commie Boy Scouts! There are many articles about these radical leftists as The Times wasn’t the biggest fan of labor and was instrumental in drumming up the Red Scare and smearing various labor leaders' names, one being Meyer Baylin, a famous and important labor organizer, activist and proud communist. In 1931 The Times reported “a communication addressed to Baylin at 120 Winston street” was found that had to do with the organizing of the repeal of the criminal syndicalism law, a vague law that was passed after WW1 and enacted in opposition to the radical left and labor unions.
GOING FOR THE GOLD!
In 1932 Baylin and several others were arrested for disrupting the closing ceremony of the Olympic games in a demonstration calling for the freeing of then-imprisoned labor leader Tom Mooney who had been framed for a bombing in San Francisco. The Times reports “Five men and two women, dressed in track suits, jumped onto the stadium front seats at the east end of the bowl, wearing signs on their backs, and shouting 'Free Tom Mooney!' Those booked at the police station, following the disturbance, and charged with suspicion of criminal syndicalism, gave their names as Jess Shapiro, 18 years of age, Benn Boots, 21; Ed Palmer 22, and Ethel Dell, 19, all giving their address as 120 Winston street, headquarters of the Young Pioneer Society”.
(seated center, Frank Specter of International Labor Defense, Los Angeles)
PART II | Coming Soon
The building becoming a rescue mission, Sister Sylvia's Soul Patrol, and how Indian Alley got it's name. Stay tuned.