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What was happening 100 years ago? (Part 1)

1919: News stories from the local press

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The following is Part 1 in a series of columns documenting Long Beach’s history one century ago. Today’s column is focusing on some of the residential developments in the community during that time.

Airfields
With World War I over, servicemen returned home, trying to get on with their lives and to attempt to pick up where they had left off. One of these returning veterans was aviator Earl Daugherty, who had planned on opening an aviation school northwest of Long Beach in 1917, before his plans were interrupted by the war.

Materials for housing and other construction, in short supply during the war, were available once again. In April, George W. Hughes bought 200 acres of land lying north of Wardlow Road for $250,000 from the Jotham Bixby Company to build homes. The subdivision was christened “Chateau Thierry,” in honor of America’s great battle in France. This was the area Daugherty had been looking at for his proposed aviation school before the war. Arrangements were made to build Daugherty’s school and a passenger carrying station at Chateau Thierry. In May, building began on his 30×45 foot hangars. On June 6, 1919, the aviator opened the Daugherty School of Aviation, with passenger-carrying on the side, at the Chateau Thierry tract. Records show he carried 1,785 passengers that first year.

Public domain
Earl Daugherty School of Aviation

When Earl and his father bought the Willow Street and Long Beach Boulevard property, it was mostly willows and water with a small pond where youngsters sailed small boats. Father and son pulled up the trees and built a hangar. The Daughertys purchased 20 acres of the Chateau Thierry land and, through the years, most of it was sold off and subdivided. In 1923, Earl would convince the City to set up a new airfield a few miles away at Cherry and Spring– the current Long Beach Municipal Airport. But one of his hangars, labeled the Daugherty hangar, remained at Chateau Thierry until Sept. 26, 1957, when it was torn down. Many protested the demolition, saying the City should have acquired it for an aviation museum, but the City said the building was a fire hazard and too much work would have been needed to bring it up to code.

Daugherty made headline news in the Nov. 10, 1919, Los Angeles Herald as Long Beach’s first aero policeman. G. E. Thomas was taken to the Long Beach city jail as the first prisoner to be “hooked” by Daugherty. Thomas was charged with colliding with a truck while intoxicated. According to the police report, Daugherty spotted Thomas speeding along American Avenue (now Long Beach Boulevard) and was flying above it when the collision occurred. Before the policeman-aviator could land to make an investigation on the ground, the driver of the automobile sped away from the scene of the accident. Daugherty flew to his aviation field, landed and instructed assistants to telephone the police for a motorcycle officer. The aerial policeman was off again in his airplane and took up the trail of Thomas. As a motorcycle officer sped along American Avenue, Daugherty flew in the air above the automobile as a “marker” to direct the policeman on the ground. After being overtaken, Thomas was driven to the police station in his own automobile. Daugherty flew back to the aviation field and then proceeded to the police station to make his report.

Public domain
Earl Daugherty at Chateau Thierry airfield

Residential development
Long Beach experienced tremendous growth during the war as people flocked here to work in the shipyards and other industries. All efforts were made to win the war, and materials that would have been used to build houses were requisitioned for battleships and military equipment. Now that the war was over, proper residences could be built.

Riverside Daily Press (July 11, 1919)
The 250-acre Chateau Thierry tract opened on Bastille Day– July 14, 1919. It lay between Wardlow Road and Downey Boulevard, with a mile of frontage on Long Beach Boulevard. It was adjacent to the new Virginia Country Club in the Los Cerritos area of the city. Most of the lots were 70×180 feet to 92×190 feet and cost between $5000 and $7000. The subdivision claimed the highest elevation between Long Beach and Los Angeles, which kept it free from fog and dampness. It also had macadam streets, underground wiring, gas, water, telephone lines and electricity. No public garages, bungalow courts, apartment houses or stores were allowed. Terms were 20-percent down, with the balance to be paid in three to six years. Generous discounts were offered to those paying cash, and still greater discounts to the first few who started to build within 60 days. An added incentive to buy was an offer for a free airplane ride from Chateau Thierry to Long Beach to anyone who bought a lot.

The following day, July 15, contractor Earl Lowe began work on the first residence– for himself. Costing $10,500, the house was of Dutch Colonial design and faced Long Beach Boulevard.

North of Chateau Thierry and Los Cerritos, along Long Beach Boulevard, the Fertile Farms Tract was also being developed. It was billed as “a high-class suburban farm subdivision with some of the richest land in the state.” The ground was advertised as “being naturally fertilized in the form of a thick sediment-silt soil, which would never deteriorate, yielding possibilities limited only to the grower’s own efforts.” Lots were available from two-and-a-half to 10 acres. It was everything you wished for– a small farm near Long Beach. Eventually, it would become part of north Long Beach.

Los Angeles Herald (Nov. 20, 1920)
On Dec. 20, 1919, the Belmont Pier Tract Corporation announced it was reclaiming 100 acres of “water lands” fronting the ocean east of the Belmont Pier. On this land “exclusive residence sites” would be created. The enterprise included filling up the West Naples canal, which extended from near Mira Mar Avenue, eastward 4,200 feet. It also entailed digging away 14 acres of land (at a cost of $65,000) for material to fill the canal and raise the level of the 100-acre tract high enough to give the residents unobstructed views of the ocean. After 90 days, the dredging was complete, and a new lake created for boating. 530 lots were initially developed, 35 facing Ocean Boulevard. Dredging and sale of the lots began Jan. 15, 1920. Total cost of the project was to be around $400,000.

Belmont Shore Place advertised that every mile of street was paved with solid five-inch concrete pavement, something no other subdivision could claim. It also had sidewalks, curbs, water, gas and a sewer system. In addition, the proposed Coast Highway and the Pacific Electric railway ran in front of the tract. Until the dredging was done and the property complete, lots were sold at “virtually the cost of production.” The W.A. Heitman Company handled the sales, taking prospective buyers by auto from Long Beach to the bay for a free tour and lunch. Miss Mary F. Mecredy bought the first lot (lot 4, block 23) for $2750, and lot 4, block 5, for $3750.

Further development in Belmont Heights, Alamitos Peninsula, Naples and what would become north Long Beach would occur in 1920. In November 1920, Atlantic Heights, another piece of “choice residence property” was placed on the market. Lying on the northeast corner of Atlantic Avenue and bounded on the south by Willow it is now in the area of the city known as the Wrigley District. Its value was enhanced by being near a new Long Beach park that included a 160-acre water lands tract west of Cherry Avenue. This park, it was said, would surpass the famous Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and would also include an open-air theater and stadium capable of seating 5,000 in the arena and 20,000 more on the adjoining hillsides. The park was never developed, becoming instead the site of our present day municipal airport.

Burnett is a former Long Beach librarian who, during her 25 years of researching local history, has uncovered many forgotten stories about Southern California that she has published in nine books. She has degrees from UC Irvine, UCLA and Cal State Long Beach. For more information, visit claudineburnettbooks.com.

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What was happening 100 years ago? (Part 1)