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Old Posted Jan 28, 2014, 10:14 AM
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The Baldwin Hills Oil Field House

I am referring to the brick house in the Inglewood Oil Field, on a hill west of La Cienega Boulevard and Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area. The house has been described by a person who has been in it as “a kind of ‘grand’ cottage craftsman with gambrel gables, so a bit of English Arts and Crafts perhaps.” It is built of Los Angeles Paving Company clinker bricks. There are four bedrooms upstairs, with two en-suite shared bathrooms. A downstairs den has a ¾ bath:

June 2012 photo by me

Here it is from northbound La Cienega, about halfway between the oilfield service bridge and the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area bridge:

GSV

The website for the house (http://www.baldwinhillsoilhouse.com/index.html) has exterior and interior photos, but only says that the house, now available as a filming location, was built in 1896. [Thanks to fhammon for providing that website in this post: http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/show...ostcount=8400]

There are many stories about the house; because it is in the Baldwin Hills, most of which was once owned by E. J. “Lucky” Baldwin, it is often said that the house was built by one of Baldwin’s daughters, Clara Stocker or Anita Baldwin, or by one of their husbands. Another story has the house being built by a member of the Chandler family that owned the Los Angeles Times. However, the facts tell yet another story. A somewhat lengthy story. So get comfortable.

But first, some more photos:

Circled at bottom center is the Collins-Furthman Mansion (1915), at the northwest corner of Lenawee Avenue and Ivy Way. Circled at upper left is the Baldwin Hills Oil Field House. The wide street in the lower left corner is La Cienega Blvd.

April 2013 Google Earth

In 1940, from roughly the same southwest view, again circled at bottom center is the Collins-Furthman Mansion, and at upper left, hidden in the trees, the Baldwin Hills Oil Field House:

USC Digital Library -- http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/si...id/21938/rec/2

Looking, well, down, but north is at the top:

Bing

Since the house is in the middle of an oil field and has no street address, it's not the easiest place to research. But eventually I found the house on the Los Angeles County Assessor website, where it says the house was built in 1915:

Los Angeles County Assessor

The house is in Lot 19 of a subdivision of Rancho Rincon de los Bueyes, which in 1903 was owned by Bernardo J. Higuera. The big “V + E Sentous” parcel is in Rancho La Ballona; the rectangular “Artesian Water Company” parcels are in Rancho Cienega o Paso de la Tijera:

Ancestry.com

Bernardo Higuera obtained Lot 19 from Elpidio T. Higuera, who I believe was his brother, in October 1893:

Library of Congress -- http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lc...arRange&page=1

But I found nothing else on the house until last October when I discovered “My 50 Years in Palms,” the 1964 recollections of Palms historian David Worsfold, at Jonathan Weiss’s excellent expogreenway.org site (http://www.expogreenway.org/index.htm). In Part 2, Mr. Worsfold wrote, “In mid-January [1915] we walked to the big Rand house on a high point of Baldwin Hills.”

I figured “the big Rand house” must be the Baldwin Hills Oil Field House. This turned out to be the clue that unlocked the mystery, so thanks again, Jonathan (and Mr. Worsfold)! I also want to thank Eric Parlee and Alex King for their help with putting this story together. They all suggested that I check the Assessor Map Books at the County Hall of Records in downtown LA. The books listed the property owners’ names and the value of 1) land and 2) improvements (like a house).

The first book covered 1901-09 and showed Bernardo J. Higuera as the only owner. The 1909-14 book shows that the ownership for Lot 19 changed, apparently in 1913 or 1914, from Bernardo J. Higuera to Charles W. Rand:

Photo by me

The first improvement value for Lot 19 appeared in 1906 at $75 and stayed there until dropping to $70 in 1913. In the 1914-19 book, the value of improvements on Lot 19 went from $70 in 1914 to $2,650 in 1915 and $4,150 in 1916, so I think that tells us when the house was built –- in sync with Mr. Worsfold’s recollections.

Photo by me

If Charles W. Rand read this June 21, 1915 Los Angeles Times article, he might have chosen to be at his Baldwin Hills home to see this up close:

Los Angeles Times

But who was Charles W. Rand?

We know some about his family (http://wilshireboulevardhouses.blogs...e-see-our.html), which lived for a time at 2619 Wilshire Blvd. Charles Wellington Rand was born September 16, 1888, in Burlington, Iowa, as Hiram Higgins Rand, named for his maternal grandfather, who had 2619 Wilshire built. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wellington Rand; his father died at age 45 in 1900. His mother was Lilian (possibly born Cora Lilian), who liked to travel. A lot. For months at a time. He’s Hiram Higgins Rand on the 1900 census, so apparently he later changed his name to honor his late father. He had an older brother, Elbridge Dexter (named for his paternal grandfather), and a younger sister, also a Lilian. His mother said he had "ambitions in the direction of a military life," but seems not to have acted on them.

The Rands were close to Los Angeles Times publisher General Harrison Gray Otis and the Chandler family. Several social notices mention the two families; this article is from July 16, 1911 (of all the Rands, Charles is mentioned least often):


Los Angeles Times

Perhaps the families got to know each other by living a couple blocks apart on Wilshire Blvd (Otis was at 2401 Wilshire: http://wilshireboulevardhouses.blogs...e-see-our.html). Mrs. Rand sang at the funeral of Otis’ daughter Lillian in March 1906 . . . Otis was a pallbearer at the funeral of Hiram Higgins, Mrs. Rand’s father, in June 1906 . . . Otis signed as the witness on young Lilian Rand’s 1912 passport application (I don’t think he would do that for just anybody):

Ancestry.com

Mrs. Rand was even rumored to be in a relationship with General Otis, whose wife Eliza died in November 1905:

Carroll (Iowa) Herald, May 15, 1907 -- http://carrollpl.newspaperarchive.co...=1907&pey=1907

In addition to whatever was going on between Otis and Mrs. Rand, Harry Chandler’s nephew Ralph Chandler lived with the Rands at 2619 Wilshire in 1912-13; this is the 1912 LA City Directory:

Fold3.com

From 1911-1917, Ralph Chandler and Charles Wellington Rand were partners in an automobile business, which in 1912 and 1913 was at 1246 S. Flower.

Fold3.com

Rand and Chandler were dealers for Alco, the American Locomotive Company, which also built autos from 1905-13. This is from a March 23, 1913 article (Rrand is a typo):

Los Angeles Times

The 1914 LA City Directory shows they moved the business to 526 S. Flower:

Fold3.com

The 1914 LA City Directory also shows that Ralph Chandler had moved into the Hotel Rosegrove next door at 532 S. Flower:

Fold3.com

Here are 526 S. Flower (below ALCO are the words Flower Street Garage) and 532 S. Flower c. 1916, along with the seldom-seen rear (west side) of the State Normal School:

USC Digital Library -- http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/co...id/1361/rec/88

Charles Wellington Rand continued to live at 2619 Wilshire through 1916; the 1917 Los Angeles City Directory lists his residence as the Los Angeles Athletic Club. On January 5, 1917, He granted to himself and “Maddlene de Preese” a property at 209 N. Bunker Hill Avenue, just north of Court Street on Bunker Hill. Here it is c. 1955:

LAPL -- http://jpg1.lapl.org/00091/00091444.jpg

1920 LA City Directory (in the 1917 and 1918 directories it's spelled De Presse):

Fold3.com

Why would he buy a house for himself and this woman in January 1917? This February 17, 1917, Los Angeles Times article reveals some of their relationship:

Los Angeles Times

Can you imagine Charles Wellington Rand having to tell his mother that his spouse was still married to someone else? (Can you imagine telling your own mother that?) Perhaps the house on Bunker Hill was a quid pro quo so Ms. de Prees/Butler would not contest the annulment?

Charles Wellington Rand and Madeline de Prees Rand may be the subjects of this August 12, 1915, Los Angeles Times article –- the initials seem to match -– but I can’t be sure:

Los Angeles Times

Anyway, on June 5, 1917, Charles Wellington Rand signed his WWI draft registration card:

Ancestry.com

And on the morning of October 5, 1917, he decided to go squirrel hunting outside his Baldwin Hills home:

Los Angeles Times, October 6, 1917

I wonder what kind of shotgun it was? The supposition of how he may have died sounds a bit odd; perhaps it’s just how it’s written. Nonetheless, it is possible that given Mrs. Rand’s position in society, and with friends running the Los Angeles Times, this version of Charles Wellington Rand’s death may not be the entire story.

For example, despite what the article says, Charles Wellington Rand is not interred in the family vault back in Aspen Grove Cemetery in Burlington, Iowa. At least not according to the cemetery records, anyhow.

Findagrave -- http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg...&GRid=6207817&

A representative at Aspen Grove Cemetery said that back in 1917, keys to family vaults were controlled by the family and not the cemetery. So Mrs. Rand could have deposited her son’s remains in the vault without any record or marker. But why? He’s not interred anywhere in LA that I could find, either. Maybe she kept his ashes with her?

October 19, 1917:

Los Angeles Times

And so Lot 19 and the house passed from Charles Wellington Rand to his heirs:

Photo by me

I wouldn’t think his family would want to have anything to do with the house, considering what happened there. It doesn’t seem his mother and sister were around much; this is from October 30, 1917:

Los Angeles Times

Did Ralph Chandler and/or his family use his late partner’s Baldwin Hills home in the years after his death, or even before? I don’t know, but that might help explain the legend of Chandler family involvement with the house.

In 1923, Mrs. Charles Wellington Rand sold her late son’s Baldwin Hills home and acreage to Emma S. Cone. I didn’t take a blurry cellphone picture of it, but the 1919-25 Assessor Map Book shows “Charles W Rand Heirs of” and then “Emma S. Cone” with a little “23.” And there’s this from January 21, 1923:

Los Angeles Times

Today, Lot 19, the house (the almost five acres around the house were broken off from the rest of Lot 19 around 1940) and the 200-foot-deep strip of land immediately to their west are under the same ownership. Together, they do not add up to 40 acres, but Loma Lodge sounds like a logical name for the place, and how many properties would Mrs. Rand be selling to Mrs. Cone, anyway? The clipping has to refer to the same house and land.

Irving H. Cone (1856-1930) and his wife Emma S. Cone (1870-1937) were living by themselves in 1910 (per the census) at 442 W. 51st Street, shown below. Neither had an occupation, but Irving lists his Industry as “Private Means.”

GSV

In 1920 they were living with two young nieces at 3816 S. Harvard Blvd.; again, neither of the Cones had an occupation:

GSV

The Cones may have already had sufficient funds to plunk down $85,000 for Lot 19 and the house, or perhaps they used the funds they received from this:

NY Times -- http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstrac...DA415B818EF1D3

In any case, the 1930 census shows the Cones living in a $150,000 house at 12830 Beverly (now Sunset) Boulevard in Brentwood, with their chauffeur Leonard Anderson and five other domestic servants. And Mr. Cone now has an occupation -- Oil Company President! I guess it’s easy to become an oil company president if they find oil under your house. Standard Oil struck oil in the Baldwin Hills on March 7, 1924 and put the first well in the Inglewood Oil Field into production on September 29th of that year, so the Cones had very good timing in buying the property when they did. Cone Well No. 1 went into production on February 20, 1925:

Los Angeles Times

Emma Stobbs, later Emma Stobbs Cone, as a young woman:

Ancestry.com

In her will, Emma Cone left the brick house and the five acres of land surrounding it as a life estate to her chauffeur, Leonard Anderson. Anderson “had entered her employ in 1922 during the life of her husband, and who had thereafter become a member of her household driving her car and accompanying her on trips, he being generally accepted and regarded as her son."
Stobbs v. Coloneus, 1939 -- https://www.courtlistener.com/calcta...state-of-cone/

However, within a few years of Emma Cone’s death, problems arose. Perhaps not surprisingly, oil revenue was the issue.

Anderson objected to how the administrators of the Cone Estate accounted for the estate’s funds, “claiming that he was entitled to all the proceeds from two oil wells located upon the 5 acres of land in which he had a life estate from the date of Mrs. Cone's death for the remainder of his lifetime.”
Best v. FitzGerald, 1947 -- http://law.justia.com/cases/californ...2d/81/965.html

The administrators of Mrs. Cone’s estate did not agree, but they and Anderson reached a compromise (maybe Anderson got one oil well instead of two?). The 1940 census shows Leonard Anderson living in a rented house at 12931 Sunset Boulevard in Brentwood with his wife, two children, a butler and a cook. Until electric pumpjack motors replaced diesel pumpjack motors it must have been too noisy – let alone too stinky – to live in that house, once oil had been discovered in the Baldwin Hills. I haven’t found where else Leonard Anderson lived, or when he died.

The solid dots on this 1944 state map of the Inglewood Oil Field represent active, producing oil wells; the Cone properties are at lower right, with wells No. 3 and 4 closest to the house. Note the name Vickers on the property to the left of the Cone property; Los Angeles County records show that on February 5, 1918, Anna C. Vickers transferred a piece of land to Charles W. Rand (actually his estate at that point). It might have been that 200-foot-deep strip immediately west of Lot 19 that contains Cone wells 1, 2, 3, and 16:

UCLA Digital Library -- http://digital2.library.ucla.edu/vie...198/zz002c1cmq

At this point chronologically (1940s-50s), there is a story about the house that says one of the Los Angeles Times Chandlers hid a secret, second family here. It seems unlikely to me and on the same level as other tales about the house that might make a nice story but aren’t true.

In the 1960s and 70s, Ray Dunstone and his son Jeff were the caretakers at the house. The house had other occupants/caretakers into the mid-1980s at least, and presumably after. The house, controlled by the Cone Fee Trust, is said to now be empty.

It is remarkable that the house has survived not only for almost 100 years, but for almost 90 years surrounded by intensive oil extraction that has caused considerable subsidence in the area. However, the isolation of being in an oil field also helped preserve the house. But because the house is in unincorporated Los Angeles County, there are no safeguards protecting it. The Cone Fee Trust could tear the house down at any time. One can only hope that those who currently own the first home built atop the Baldwin Hills will be guided by the same vision and foresight as the man who built it, Charles Wellington Rand.


Bing

Some questions remain . . . How did Rand come to buy the land from Higuera? Who was the architect of the house? Were details of Rand’s death left out of the newspaper article? Where are Rand’s remains? What happened to Madeline Bruce/de Pleese? How did Mrs. Cone come to buy the house from Mrs. Rand?

Someone out there must know the answer to these questions . . . .

# # #

While preparing the above post, I came across the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning’s Baldwin Hills Community Standards District Final EIR [http://planning.lacounty.gov/baldwinhills/background] dated October 2008, which refers to the house as the Cone Trust House (I think Rand-Cone House is a better name) and says:

“It was apparently built in 1896 by a member of the Chandler family. The house was then purchased by Irving and Emma Cone either in the mid-1920s or mid-1930s. The house appears to be a shingle house, a style of Victorian house that was built between 1880 and 1900. . . . For architectural resources, the Cone Trust House appears to exhibit historic integrity. If any alterations were made over the years they appear to be minor and in a manner sympathetic to the original design. The house is considered a potentially significant historic architectural resource [because it] appears to be associated with the life of a member of the Chandler family, a family important in the past, and it also appears to embody the distinctive characteristics of a type or period of construction.”

The Chandler/1896 info was footnoted as coming from a 2007 personal communication with attorney Winifred Hoss. I googled Ms. Hoss and left a phone message, explaining that I am a volunteer at a nearby state park, and many people come to the visitor center and ask about the house [all perfectly true], so I was hoping she could provide some background on the building of the house.

I received a call back from Liz Gosnell, who is the contact at the Baldwin Hills Oil House website. She said it would violate her family’s privacy to discuss who built the house. She also asked, "How would you like it if someone wanted to know who built your house?"

# # #

UPDATE: When I originally researched this story, I failed to check old issues of the The Daily Gate City and Constitution Democrat of Keokuk, Iowa. Had I done so, I would have noticed this story sooner: http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/show...ostcount=29554

Last edited by Flyingwedge; Dec 26, 2015 at 5:56 AM. Reason: add update
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