Thursday, January 4, 2007
1897 Bill for Floor Brush Returns to Site of Sale
By ROGER M. GRACE
Purchased from eBay: documents relating to the $3.75 purchase of a floor brush, apparently for use at Los Angeles City Hall, from H. Jevne’s grocery store. There’s a requisition form, signed by the city clerk on Sept. 7. 1897, and bearing the stamped signature of the mayor, M.P. Snyder, affixed that same day, approving the request. That form had to be presented by the store in making its demand upon the treasury. The demand went to the City Council, was referred to the Finance Committee, approved the full Council on Sept. 13, 1897, and signed by the mayor on Sept. 14.
Presumably, Mr. Jevne received his $3.75 for the brush.
The documents are of particular interest to my wife and me not simply because of the bureaucracy involved in the simple purchase of a brush (things haven’t changed much), but because the store from which it was purchased used to be right where our newspaper offices are now.
Hans Jevne’s store occupied space in the Wilcox Building, constructed in 1896 at the southeast corner of Second and Spring Streets. The building was five stories then; it’s now one story (not counting the mezzanine or the basement), having been shortened in light of damage from the Sylmar earthquake in 1971. You might have seen a photo of our building in the L.A. Times last Thursday on the front page of the business section; it bore (until the city ordered an advertising company to remove it) an advertising “skin,” rendering the corner portion one big poster.
Jevne’s space was on the
first floor at the south end of the building, its centerpiece being an ornate
staircase (which still stands) leading to balconies on either side. When Jevne
opened another store in his own building at Sixth and Broadway in 1907, he
copied the interior of the Spring Street premises.
We know just when Jevne moved into the Wilcox Building. The Los Angeles Times on Saturday, July 25, 1896, carried this item:
“H. Jevne will do business at the old store until 2 o’clock today, and at 4 o’clock the new store will be open. No goods sold at the new store until Monday morning. New locations, Nos. 208 and 210 South Spring street.
The “old store” was at 136 North Spring Street, now part of City Hall.
Before that, Jevne opened up a smaller store at 38 and 40 North Spring Street in February, 1882, after arriving here from Chicago. “In less than no time, so to speak, the good housewives of the town were able to secure the rarest tidbits from all the markets of the world,” according to the recollection of fellow merchant Harris Newmark in his 1916 book, “Sixty Years in Southern California.” Lawyer/banker Jackson Graves, in “My Seventy Years in California,” published in 1927, said of Jevne: “He was a fine character, and excellent business man, and met with immediate success. He gained a very prominent position in the social and commercial world.”
Jevne moved into the Wilcox Building about the same time as the California Club, whose previous home had been over a livery stable at First and Broadway. That club occupied the entire fifth floor of the new gray sandstone edifice.
Lawyers (including the father of former Assembly speaker Robert Hertzberg), dentists, insurance companies, travel agencies, and so forth rented space in the building over the years. One of its early tenants was the University of Southern California’s law school. Our immediate predecessor in the space at 210 S. Spring Street was the Daily Journal Corporation.
But the tenant who most peaks my interest is Jevne, not only because he held the very space we’re now using, but came from Norway from whence my maternal grandparents haled. He was an innovative merchant and a civic leader.
More about Jevne next week.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company
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