UPDATE! Due to overwhelming demand, the ADSLA has added ANOTHER tour! Yes, tickets for a November 6th ‘encore tour’ are now available. Buy soon: we anticipate them to sell out rapidly! Click here! https://artdecola.org/events-calendar/spooky-oviatt-tour-2022-encore
It is the Spooky Month! There’s certainly no dearth of spookified going-ons around town, but if I may make a suggestion: endeavor to take the Art Deco Society’s upcoming Spoooooooky Oviatt Penthouse tour!
There are a number of reasons to do so—for example, if you’ve never been in the Oviatt penthouse, that’s some bucket-list-Art Deco right there, arguably the finest Deco interior in all Los Angeles. And if you have been inside, you ain’t seen nothing like this twist on the the tour, replete with tales of its resident g-g-g-ghosts!
This tour is being led by Marc Chevalier, who knows everything about the Oviatt Building in general, the penthouse in particular, and is hip to all the juicy details regarding it and its builder, James Oviatt.
But far be it from me to suggest something that doesn’t have a Bunker Hill connection—James Oviatt, on his arrival in Los Angeles, lived on Bunker Hill. In my book I cover some of the famed folk who bunked on Bunker Hill: Edith Head, Jack Webb, John Wayne, Lon Chaney, et al., but somehow haberdasher-to-the-stars James Oviatt was left off the list. So:
Oviatt was twenty-one when he came to Los Angeles in 1909.
He shacks up in a three-flat apartment house at 308-310 South Grand. There are two images of 308-10 in Bunker Hill, Los Angeles before and during its 1963 demolition:
A shot of the place about 1960, snapped by Arnold Hylen:
One can just imagine James going to work in 1909—suited up, heading out the door, during right down Third, taking Angels Flight down to Hill, crossing Broadway, to the Douglas Block at the corner of Third and Spring, where he was a window dresser at the C. C. Desmond haberdashery.
In 1910 Oviatt has made his way down to the flats, in a little two-year-old bungalow at 632 West 43rd Place. Evidently he realized “damn, it’s taking me forever to get to work” so in 1911 he’d moved back to Bunker Hill:
Oviatt returns to Grand Ave. about four blocks north of his old place at 308 South Grand, into the Carleton, 232-236 North Grand. The Carleton appears in Bunker Hill, Los Angeles on page 102.
The Carleton was designed and built in 1905 by Warren Chancellor Dickerson, who lived in and managed it until he passed in 1936, thereafter being managed by his widow Elmira. It was purchased by the Department of Water and Power after Elmira passed in 1942. The DWP intended its headquarters to go on that block, and demolished the Carleton in late 1950 (that and other adjoining blocks were later sold to the County for its Courthouse project, and the DWP built its General Office Building a bit further west).
James Oviatt lived at the Carleton through 1911, until in 1912 he resettled into the brand-new Los Angeles Athletic Club. From there, of course, it is a tale of his glorious ascendancy, from boardinghouse to penthouse, before his downfall.
But back to the Carleton for a moment—I’m going to share something with you no-one has ever seen. It’s a shot by Arnold Hylen, standing on the porch of the Carleton looking north, captured about 1949.
AAAAAAaaanyway, those then are two of the first places James Oviatt resided in Los Angeles, before fame and riches and building the world’s greatest penthouse. And now YOU are going on this tour:
And to do so all you have to do is click here: