2501 Wilshire Boulevard


A fter moving to Los Angeles from Philadelphia in 1895, Dr. Henderson Hayward did what many similarly situated contemporaries did on arrival in California: He turned from his original profession to buying, selling, and improving property. For his own residence he sought out the original Wilshire Boulevard tract, Gaylord Wilshire's new suburban development west of downtown. His story of divorce, and a later intrafamily lawsuit played out loudly in newspapers over several years, might have pushed one to consider seeking another physician if he had still been in practice, but scandal seems not to have damaged unduly the doctor's standing among fellow Los Angeles muckety-mucks. As they usually did, the titans circled their wagons when a lot of money commingled in business deals was at stake. Remarrying two weeks after divorcing his first wife in April 1897, Dr. Henderson Hayward was putting the finishing touches on 2501 Wilshire, at the northwest corner of Carondelet Street, six months later. Into his new transitional Colonial Revival house, with a tastefully low-scale Victorian turret and detailing redolent of the Eastern Seaboard, he would move with wife Number 2; they would have his 12th child in 1898.

Born in York County, Pennsylvania, on November 18, 1844, Henderson Hayward remained close to home until leaving to join the Union during the Civil War. The casualties he encountered in his service as a hospital steward didn't dissuade him from pursuing what had also been his father's path; after Appomattox he determined to secure a medical degree, which he did, from Georgetown, in 1869. He was settled in Chadds Ford, west of Philadelphia, by 1871. Little seems to have been recorded about Hayward's daily life as a physician during the next 20 years, though he was no layabout when not in his surgery. There was his part in the production of his and Roberta Piggott Hayward's 11 children, one of whom died as a young child and another at age 10, according to some sources, and there were his political activities. Though hardly alone, Hayward seems in retrospect to have been a poster boy for the Gilded Age. In addition to the prerogatives he claimed in the bedroom, Hayward was evidently willing to buy power as well, or at least to be suspected of bribery. He was arrested in July 1890 on charges of having arranged payola to swing the outcome of a Republican Congressional primary election to his liking. Though found not guilty by the courts, he was ordered to pay half the cost of the trial, suggesting that there had been some convincing evidence. But nevermind. Hayward's biographies—hagiographies, rather—in various Who's Whos of the era typified the general feelings toward power brokers. Malfeasance was ignored if not admired. And there were always new worlds to conquer among men who enjoyed tangoing with power. For Hayward, that meant California.

The Hayward house in 1904, about seven years from completion, as seen at top; utilities
intrude on the scene though Carondelet Street has yet to be paved. Effie Neustadt's
 Elizabethan-style 2515 Wilshire, one of Myron Hunt's first Los Angeles houses,
 has just been completed next door. Not seen are oil derricks just north.

While the man seemed the very definition of robust, some accounts have Henderson Hayward looking to a sunnier venue for reasons of health. Whatever the reason, too cold climatically or too hot politically, the doctor decided to give up medicine and explore West Coast possibilities. After a few trips to Los Angeles, he was sold. Even before moving permanently, he began buying property, including two lots in the Hammel & Denker Tract at Main and Ninth streets in May 1895, though deals were not always made without some of his characteristic litigation. Whether or not Roberta was interested in relocating is open to interpretation. She doesn't appear to have accompanied her husband on any of his exploratory trips to California, but she does appear to have finally moved with the Hayward children, the oldest of whom, Laura, was 17. Later in 1895, the family took a house at 1117 West 21st Street; Henderson plunged into his newest pursuits with gusto, his health most definitely restored, by becoming a principal in the first of several oil ventures in which he would invest to great success. Before he expanded his commercial interests, however, there was some personal business to attend to. Roberta was not happy, or Henderson was unhappy with her, perhaps lusting after an entirely new life, including a new wife. It appears in any case that it was Hayward who filed for divorce on grounds termed variously "incompatibility of temper" and "desertion and extreme cruelty" (which was sometimes a euphemism for denying a husband his connubial rights), perhaps understandable in a woman who'd given birth to at least 11 children and who seemed loathe to give into one more whim of her husband—relocation was probably as unappealing as the thought of another child. It seems that Roberta may have already returned to Philadelphia (i.e., deserted him) with the younger children. Waiting in the wings with a trousseau was one Julia Dibble.

The second Mrs. Henderson Hayward was a 43-year-old maiden lady at the time of her marriage, a native Michigander who gave up a serious career in education to become a bridge-playing society matron and, almost improbably except for her husband's fecundity, a first-time mother at 44. Teaching at various Midwestern schools after graduating from Kalamazoo College, Miss Dibble arrived in Los Angeles in 1894 after leaving a post reputed to be that of the first female high school principal in Minneapolis. How she met Hayward, a still-married Eastern physician turned Western capitalist, is not known. Roberta's recalcitrance, Henderson's drive, and Julia's trajectory were at any rate a perfect storm. The new house on Wilshire Boulevard, its deed in Julia's name, was an anchoring device for Henderson Hayward's revamped life. Once the newlyweds were at home at 2501 in late 1897, their social life began in earnest, as did the business dramas of the breadwinner. While it seems not to have fazed her, Julia got an idea of what she was in for when she and Henderson were sued in March 1898 by oil giant Charles A. Canfield—he was a partner of Edward Doheny—over what Canfield regarded as some funny business regarding oil stocks. This may well have been in the vein of typical benign business practices, more of a game between vintage Masters of the Universe; Hayward continued to be referred to reverentially as an oil producer and seemed only to gain in stature the ballsier his behavior. Though he appears not to have been charming enough to have made the top men's clubs like the California or the Bolsa Chica, his chutzpah earned him places on the boards of directors of several banks alongside leading L.A. commercial lights by the names of Sartori, HellmanLongyearO'Melveny, and Woolwine. He continued to speculate successfully in oil and along that other Southern California road to riches, real estate, particularly business-district lots. Hayward built two eight-flat houses in the Hammel & Denker tract in 1899 and began to buy property along Spring Street soon after, quickly making a 35 percent profit on a lot at Fourth Street he'd only just bought for $100,000.

The Hotel Hayward opened on the southwest corner of Spring and Sixth in 1906, site of the
first Ralphs store in Los Angeles. The influence of Louis Sullivan is evident in details
of architect Charles F. Whittlesey's design, such as the arched entrance and
hanging corner lamps. As the city boomed, an ungainly floor would be
added within a few years, and later, several large annexes. In
the midst of downtown's current revival, in which 
even a
new Ralphs has opened 
a few blocks away, the
108-year-old Hayward is seeing new life.  

Hayward's 12th child, little Julia, was born in September 1898. The older of his children may have lived in a blended family at 2501 at various times over the next decade, as Julia played cards and hung out with her lady friends at the Ebell and Friday Morning clubs. Henderson continued to wheel and deal, in 1901 securing among other prizes, singularly or as one of a party of mysterious "eastern interests," the southwest corner of Spring and Sixth streets from the Ralphs Brothers, on which stood their first grocery store opened nearly 30 years before. Replacing the store in due course would be another of Hayward's babies and what remains today as his primary legacy to his adopted hometown.

Though the Hotel Hayward still stands after 108 years, it replaced a store with an even older name, one practically synonymous with Los Angeles. In 1873, at the age of 23, George Albert Ralphs opened his first grocery on the southwest corner of Spring and Sixth streets, with his younger brother, Walter, on board within a few years. On March 15, 1901, the Herald reported that after 28 years and a good offer from "eastern parties" for their valuable property, the Ralphs brothers would be moving a block north. If there were other "eastern parties" involved, Henderson Hayward was in the end the sole owner of the 80-by-155-foot Ralphs lot. He leased out the old grocery store for a few years as he made big plans to build one of the first tall reinforced concrete buildings in the city. Hiring Charles F. Whittlesey, whose training under Louis Sullivan is evident in the hotel's original design, Hayward created a new landmark on the corner of Spring and Sixth that opened with great fanfare on June 23, 1906. Not interested in become an actual hotelier himself, Hayward leased the building from the beginning to experienced innkeeper Harry C. Fryman, who would remain in control until 1943, through multiple expansions and well beyond Hayward's death. The men insisted on the best; perhaps the pilfering of the California Club's chef for the new venture explains why Hayward was never asked to become of member of that severe organization—the appetites of captains of industry were never to be trifled with.

Meanwhile, back at 2501 Wilshire Boulevard, there was much commotion. As Henderson pursued deals, Julia entertained, and little Julia grew up, family matters took on a sustained air of melodrama as the scandal of a prodigal son unfolded. It seems that while most if not all of Henderson and Roberta's children lived with or near her in Philadelphia after the divorce, they desired to maintain ties to their father, as will happen when dad is a moneybags. By 1913, the youngest, 26-year-old James Lester Hayward, was "well known to the bright-lights habitues of a dozen large cities" in the Times's description and, among his other charming attributes, rumored to be the father of illegitimate children. From news reports one gets the impression that Lester would be just the sort of mess that would get himself caught in the web of an enterprising, not to say delusional, spiderwoman. It seems that the self-styled Mrs. Louise Russell Alexander Nicholson Hayes, a fortyish woman who'd made something of a career of attempts to gain control of other people's advantages, had managed to get Lester to a Baltimore altar in August 1913 after buying his discharge from the Army. A few years earlier the newest Mrs. Hayward had sued her sister, named as executrix of their mother's estate, for fiduciary control; she also appears to have enjoyed adding the names of illustrious relatives to her own, willy nilly, one real (her grandfather, Columbus Alexander, around whose money there was much family disputation), another imagined, her claim to Rear Admiral Reginald F. Nicholson being a relationship publicly and adamantly denied by his family in The Washington Post. At any rate, a few months after the wedding, with funds running low—Lester had of course boasted of riches not actually his own—the couple struck out for Los Angeles, where resided a new father-in-law who may have been Louise's target all along. Strangely, nine days after arrival, Lester pulled a disappearing act. According to the lawsuit filed on December 15 by drama queen Louise against Lester's father and two of his siblings, the family had conspired to fund her husband's departure from town without her. The Haywards had treated her dreadfully, not even deigning to meet their new daughter-in-law, and leaving her "prostrated with grief" and penniless in her hotel. Louise thought $100,000 in "heart balm" would be just compensation for her distress. On July 3, 1914, she settled for $25,000, but interrupting a story that was far from over was deeper sadness at 2501 Wilshire.

Julia Dibble Hayward had left teaching in frigid Minnesota to improve her health in California, where she improved her fortunes as well, probably beyond her wildest dreams. How much the stress of her stepson's disastrous marriage may have contributed to her yearlong illness beginning in the summer of 1913 is not known, but 11 days after Louise got her payola, the second Mrs. Henderson Hayward died. Grief may have only fired her widower to pursue recovery of what his inconvenient daughter-in-law had cost him. Uncovering evidence of possible blackmail by Louise, Henderson filed suit to recover the $25,000, which he succeeded in doing on March 10, 1915. But the only person in the room with balls as big as Hayward's was Louise. Never one to give up when the stakes were high, even with her reputation shot by this time but with few other chances to win life's lottery, she tried again in March 1916, filing another $100,000 suit for the same reasons as before. Reports as to the outcome of this action are contradictory; one has it that the new suit was dismissed, another that it was still pending when the third Mrs. Henderson Hayward entered the picture in January 1917.

Pictured in the Times aboard the SS Great Northern bound for Honolulu
on January 24, 1917, are 72-year-old Henderson Hayward and
his third bride, Florence. Is it seasickness or the cigar?

Within a few days of arriving in California from Knoxville to become the next chatelaine of 2501 Wilshire, 56-year-old Florence Clinton Moore was married to one of the biggest cigar-chompers in Los Angeles. Transported from provincial middle-class routine as was her predecessor, Florence had been a seamstress in Tennessee, separated and then divorced from or the widow of a merchant tailor. Henderson may have been introduced to her by his daughter Lillian, married to Dr. Robert P. Oppenheimer of Knoxville. Even in his senescence his possession of a big house on fabled Wilshire Boulevard would have been dazzling to a dressmaker; how much she understood about her new husband's messy family life is unclear, but a honeymoon in Hawaii diverted her from having to think about lawsuits and errant stepchildren, as did what appears to be a warm reception by the uptown matrons of her new hometown. The saga of Lester seems to have petered out with his death, described as pneumonia on his death certificate but possibly the flu, on October 14, 1918, the day after his 31st birthday. Where Louise Russell Alexander Nicholson Hayes Hayward got to is not known, but, curiously, Lester was referred to as a widower by the coroner—in any case, dead or alive, one suspects she had moved on to new prey.

Florence Hayward was catching life in a single-family neighborhood as it was fading fast, and fading not just within households. Within a few years commerce would come barreling down the original blocks of the boulevard, not unattractive lowrise commercial developments interspersed with expensive highrise apartment buildings, but generally there was too long a period of mixed uses, including automotive service stations and restaurants and empty lots even during the Roaring '20s. Harrison Gray Otis of 2401 died in 1917, Edwin Earl across Carondelet from the Haywards at 2425 in 1919. All the original owners, and most of the houses, were going to their reward. The Higgins-Verbeck house at 2619 was jacked up and moved to Windsor Square in 1923; the Sterry-Milbank house next door to it at 2607 was demolished soon after. Henderson Hayward lived out his days in the house he built in 1897, dying there at 79 on April 14, 1924. What provision may have been left for Florence in her husband's will is not known. By the end of the year, however, she was back in Knoxville, where she died in 1928.

Within three months of her husband's death, Florence was hustled
out of the house and a series of ads began to appear in the
Times; that of July 8, 1924, is typical. Julia Hayward
Thomas had big plans to wipe away the past.

The 27-year-old Hayward house never had an owner outside of the family, it having been left to little Julia, who in 1920 had married Charles Sharp Thomas, a man who would go on to become Eisenhower's Secretary of the Navy, president of T.W.A., and head of the Irvine Company. In the fall of 1922, the Thomases moved into a house designed for them by Gene Verge—said to have been a wedding present from her father—at 627 South Carondelet, just behind 2501 on part of the Hayward property that held its carriage barn. Given that the commercializing neighborhood was likely not at all where the Thomases might have preferred to live, it seems that a condition of Hayward's gift of a house may have been that it be built next door to his; after her father's estate matters were settled three years later, the Thomases decided to capitalize on their entire, wildly appreciated Wilshire corner, demolishing 2501 and in 1926 moving its barn and their own four-year-old house to their present location at 135 North Norton Avenue.

Henderson Hayward built 627 South Carondelet Street for

his daughter and her husband behind the house he had built
on Wilshire Boulevard in 1897; after the old man died in 1924, the
couple made plans to move their house to Norton Avenue in a district
much more fashionable for single-family residences than Westlake now
was. Above is the house as it appears today; below is the front as it
appeared in its first location. Below right is Hayward's 1897 barn
that was moved to the rear of 627's lot in 1907 and trucked
again to Norton Avenue with the Thomas house in 1926.

In late 1925, the Thomases hired no less than Stiles O. Clements to design the Hayward Building, a lovely jewel box with Churrigueresque detail that stands on the Wilshire property to this day. It originally housed dance studios, where taught, so legend has it, Rita Hayworth's father. Also in the building was the Vagabond theater, now the Hayworth, and, for many years, the restaurant La Fonda. If the houses of Wilshire Boulevard had to fall, their 1920s and '30s successors, just the sort of humanly scaled buildings that the new 2501 typified, were welcome. Many fortunately do survive, but in another 20 years from the first and best examples, tall concrete and glass behemoths began to replace them. Motorized, forward-looking Los Angeles was never going to stand still, not even for beauty or charm.

Morgan, Walls & Clements's Spanish Revival business and theater block became the new
2501 Wilshire in 1926. The lowrise commercial era of the boulevard had begun; the
corner's massing and scale became typical along the thoroughfare over the
next two decades until a highrise third wave began to occlude the sky.

§ § § § § § § § § §

While the exterior of the Hayward house reflected the emerging Colonial Revival style early for Los Angeles—tall Victorian turrets would be seen in new residential construction well into the new century whereas in the east they had largely been abandoned by the time of the Queen's demise—asymmetry was still the theme. On the inside, save for a detail here and there, it was still 1870. A glimpse into a domestic world light years from 1960, or now, or even from Greene & Greene's 1910, is preserved in rare interior photographs of the Hayward house, still dust-mite heaven:

Illustrations: Private Collection; LAPLLAT