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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ella Giles Ruddy House, 241 N. Western Ave., Irving Gill, Architect, 1913

(Click on images to enlarge)
Ella Giles Ruddy, ca. 1910. Photo by Hemenway. From "Mrs. George Drake Ruddy, Who Has Given Up Home Near Honolulu," Los Angeles Herald, August 22, 1910, p. 3.

Little is known of the house Irving Gill designed for prominent Los Angeles club woman, author and socialite Ella Giles Ruddy. In his monograph Irving Gill and the Architecture of Reform Thomas Hines had a house for Mrs. George D. Ruddy included in his list of Gill's unbuilt projects. Bruce Kamerling correctly had the Ruddy House listed as being built but did not cite a location nor did he make any other mention of the house or Ruddy in his Irving Gill, Architect. (Hines, p. 294 and Kamerling, p. 132).

The larger than life and much under-recognized Ella A. Giles was born in 1856 near Madison, Wisconsin to H. H. Giles and Rebecca Watson Giles. Her father was a member of the State Board of Charities and Reform from whom she inherited an abiding interest in social welfare. She attended the University of Wisconsin and for many years was one of Wisconsin's delegates to the annual national Conference on Charities and Corrections where she presented numerous papers. Her father was president of the organization in 1887.

Giles' primary interests however were in writing and music. She was very active in contemporary literary circles and was an intimate friend of Wisconsin authors Ella Wheeler Wilcox and Hattie Tyng Griswold. She corresponded with many Wisconsin and other American authors of the day and went on to author numerous books including Bachelor Ben; Out from the Shadows; Maiden Rachel; Flowers of the Spirit; Club Etiquette; and The Mother of Clubs, Caroline M. Seymour Severance. She had stories published in Harpers and also wrote literary sketches for the Chicago Times, The Century, the New York Evening Post and other period publications. (Finding Aid for the Ella Giles Ruddy Papers, 1861-1916, Wisconsin Historical Society. Author's note: Giles' interest in architecture was presaged by an article "The Architecture of Minneapolis" she had published in the April 1883 issue of Inland Architect and Builder).

The dynamic Giles moved to Los Angeles in 1895 for health reasons and immediately burst upon the progressive women's club scene. She became a founding member and officer of numerous organizations promoting women's equality and social progressivism. She also quickly began contributing literary pieces to the Los Angeles Times and music columns "Key and Bow" to the Los Angeles Herald and "Musical Matters" to the musical weekly The Capital. (See for example Giles, Ella A., "A Prose Pastel: After a Concert," LAT, December 29, 1895, p. 13, "A Prose Pastel: Like Music," LAT, January 17, 1896, p. 13, "Key and Bow," LAH, October 27, 1895, p. 15 and "Musical Matters," The Capital, January 11, 1896, p. 7).

Shortly after her arrival the Los Angeles Herald published a feature on her.
The Authoress 
The people of Los Angeles are to be congratulated upon the acquisition to social and literary circles of a prominent and talented woman, who comes to our city from Madison, Wis. This is Miss Ella Giles, the clever writer of a number of clever books and short stories and a poet of no small ability. 
In an informal chat with a Herald representative a few days since, Miss Giles expressed herself more than delighted with Southern California, and said that she had come to the state ostensibly for health, but the many charms of Los Angeles had so captivated her that she would make it her future home. Miss Giles is a tall, graceful brunette, and is as delightful and versatile in her conversation as in her writings. With a quick wit and a fund of information of places and people gathered in her extensive travels, she cannot fail to hold her listeners with unflagging interest and, as someone has said of her, "It is hard to tell whether she is most strongly intellectual or most daintily effeminate" in her make-up.
"Ella A. Giles; The Authoress," Los Angeles Herald, September 29, 1895, p. 18. 
Miss Giles' home in Wisconsin was the center for the meeting of Browning clubs, Emerson clubs and clubs for the study of political economy, etc. To her belongs the credit of penning the first article of prominence on the Norse dramatist Ibsen, and for some time her Scandinavian articles in the Chicago Times drew public attention. Her first story, Bachelor Ben, was begun and finished as a pastime during invalidism. It was published immediately, and less than sixty days the first edition of 1000 volumes was exhausted. Other books followed in close succession. Of short stories she has enough to make a good-sized book, and her essays and papers on social science subjects are numerous. For a number of years she was one of the directors of the Association for the Advancement of Women and has long been on its committee of journalism. Miss Giles is an accomplished musician, and her first contribution was in this line, but sickness and broken health shut off further musical advancement, and groping in the dark she reached out her hand and with her prolific pen touched the vain which has given to the world the benefit of her best thoughts. The author says of herself "I am merely an incidentalist, making use of opportunities only to meet with buffeting, baffling imitations, and from necessity changing my enthusiasms." Miss Giles possesses that rare quality of magnetism and unconsciously draws people about her. As a friend said of her, she has no sullen brow, no sarcastic smile and no bitter word for a sister's success; but her cheerful "she deserves it all" is as ready as her warm hand." (Ibid).
By March of 1896 the dynamic Giles was elected vice-president of the Southern California Woman's Press Club and would become president the following year. "Woman's Press Club," LAT, March 12, 1896, p. 12). She also served as president of the woman's suffrage organizations the Political Equality League and the Equal Suffrage Association as well as the California Badger Club of Los Angeles and numerous others. In what was possibly a marriage of convenience Giles married George Drake Ruddy "an attache of the Tax Collector's office" in August of 1896. ("Personals," LAT, August 29, 1896, p. 7). Ruddy was also vice- resident of the Los Angeles LaFollette for President Club. ("LaFollette Friends Organize Club Here," LAH, March 2, 1912, p. 1. Author's note: Coincidentally Robert LaFollette's three children attended fellow Badger FLW's aunts' Hillside School in Spring Green, WI with his sons Lloyd and John Wright.). 

The July 28, 1899 issue of the Los Angeles Times announced a "one-story frame and plaster residence containing seven rooms exclusive of bathrooms, pantries, closets, etc., for Mrs. Ella Giles Ruddy, of this city to be built on the north side of Wilshire Boulevard between Rampart and Benton streets." The same day the Herald reported "Mr. and Mrs. George Drake Ruddy are building a new residence on Wilshire Boulevard. It will be a one-story cottage in the modified mission style of architecture." ("In Society," Los Angeles Herald, July 28, 1899, p. 6).

Wilshire Blvd. Tract ad, The Capital, January 11, 1896, p. 16.

Perhaps the Ruddys had seen the ads for Gaylord Wilshire's new Wilshire Blvd. Tract in The Capital which ran Ella's column "Musical Matters" or some other period publication. In any event they purchased some prime lots destined to soon skyrocket in value (see above and below).

Ruddy Residence, "Mission Cottage," 2711 Wilshire Blvd., 1899. See "Women's Clubs," The Capital July 5, 1902, p. 13 and Historic Los Angeles.

On November 12, the Los Angeles Herald reported in its society pages that Mr. and Mrs. George Drake Ruddy had just moved into their new home at 2711 Wilshire Blvd. (see above) and would be giving "...a series of Sunday evenings with authors and musicians." ("In Society," LAH, November 12, 1899, p. 10). The Ruddys entertained frequently and their club and social activities were ongoing fodder for the social pages of the Herald and Times. (Author's note: From 1908 until the 1920s Gill colleague architect Harrison Albright lived in a house at 618 S. Benton Blvd. across the street from the northeast corner of the park right around the corner from the Ruddys (see map below). Albright thus could have introduced Gill to his well-connected neighbors. (1909-1921 Los Angeles City Directories).

Wilshire Blvd. Tract. Huntington Digital Library.

Ebell Club of Los Angeles, Broadway south of 7th St., ca. 1905. From USC Digital Collections.

Ruddy was also a prominent member of the Ebell Club of Los Angeles (see above) and served as the group's literary "curator." Her considerable club activity prompted her to author "Club Etiquette Over the Teacups" (see below) which included an introductory essay "Creed for Club Life for Women" by fellow Los Angeles progressivist and Ebell Club leader Clara Burdette.

Club Etiquette Over the Tea Cups by Ella Giles Ruddy, Out West Co., 1902.

Caroline Seymour Severance and Ella Giles Ruddy in Ruddy's Emerson Corner in her home at 2711 Wilshire Blvd. ca. 1906 (from below book).

Giles quickly befriended pioneering Los Angeles club woman Caroline M. Seymour Severance, founder of the Ebell Club, Friday Morning Club and Severance Club. Eminently book-worthy in her own right, Giles honored the venerable Seymour by editing a book The Mother of Clubs, Caroline M. Seymour Severance: An Estimate and an Appreciation (see below).

The Mother of Clubs, Caroline M. Seymour Severance: An Estimate and an Appreciation edited by Ella Giles Ruddy, Baumgardt Publishing Co. 1906.

Sunset (later Lafayette) Park, from the Bryson Apartments, ca. 1913. Dedicated in 1899 and landscaped in 1909. Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.

Shortly after the Ruddy's moved into their beloved "Mission Cottage," land for Sunset (later Lafayette) Park was dedicated across Benton Blvd. to the west the following year. The park was finally landscaped 10 years later (see above). Next door neighbor Ella Giles Ruddy and her California Badger Club sponsored the planting of one of the inaugural trees as did the Friday Morning Club, Charles Lummis and dozens of other individuals and organizations. ("Sunset Park Beautified," Los Angeles Times, March 14, 1909, p, I-8. Author's note: While earlier heading the California Badger Club, a women's philanthropic and social club of Wisconsin transplants, Ruddy directed the founding of the Badger Club Girls' Home in 1903. The purpose was to provide housing for self-supporting women and was located at 1046 S. Grand Ave.

Looking east across Sunset Park. Rampart Arms Apts. at 6th and Rampart on the left, Harrison Albright Residence at 618 S. Benton Blvd. in the center.

(Author's note: The above view looking easterly across Sunset Park illustrates some residences along the east side of S. Benton Blvd. across the street from the park. Gill-Laughlin colleague Harrison Albright moved into an existing house at 618 S. Benton Blvd. in 1908 (center above and Lot 13, Block 8 below). He took out a remodeling permit in 1908 and a permit for a new garage to house his Detroit Chalmers automobile in 1911 just before he hired fledgling architect John Lloyd Wright. John and Lloyd Wright would certainly have visited at some point, almost certainly in May of 1913 when their father was in town.). (Gill-Laughlin).

Excerpt from Plate 15 of Baist's Real Estate Atlas, 1910.

Bryson Apartments, 2701 Wilshire Blvd., 1913. Frederick Noonan and Charles Kysor, architects.

As property values along Wilshire Blvd. dramatically appreciated, around late 1911 or early 1912 the Ruddys sold their home to developer Hugh Bryson. After selling "Mission Cottage" for $1,000 to real estate investors Perry and Jacob Isenstein who moved it to 222 Gramercy Place where it still stands, Bryson immediately built the nine-story Bryson Apartments (see above). (Historic Los Angeles). Architects Noonan & Kysor were issued a building permit to begin construction of the Bryson Apartments on April 13, 1912 around the time Irving Gill was hired by the Dominguez Land Company to begin work on their new Industrial City of Torrance. Gill and Lloyd Wright were at the time also working on landscape plans for Homer Laughlin, Jr.'s Laughlin Park development. For much more on the Laughlin-Albright connections see my "Irving Gill, Homer Laughlin and the Beginnings of ModernArchitecture in Los Angeles" (Gill-Laughlin)).

Then needing a permanent place to live the Ruddy's temporarily moved into the Hershey Arms Hotel across the street from their old home (see below). They commissioned Gill to begin design on a new home for a lot they had purchased at 241 N. Western Ave. Despite by then being extremely busy with his Torrance projects Gill found the time to design a remarkable cottage for the Ruddys as will be seen in the below photos. 

Hershey Arms Hotel, 2600 Wilshire Blvd., John C. Austin, architect, 1907. From USC Digital Archive.   

The Ruddys most likely met Gill through Homer and Ada Laughlin and/or through Laughlin Bldg. Annex designer and tenant Harrison Albright who was their nearby neighbor in the above-mentioned Gaylord Wilshire Tract. Ada was a fellow prominent club woman and both of the Ruddys at times had offices in the Laughlin Building. George had a real estate brokerage office in the building as did Ella while she was secretary of the Humane Animal League of Los Angeles. (Gill-Laughlin).

The Ruddys were certainly given tours of and/or socially visited Gill's Laughlin House completed in 1908 and his Miltimore House in South Pasadena completed right around the time the Ruddys sold their house to Bryson. This can be surmised by the similarities between the Miltimore entrance pergola and the Laughlin central patio and their Gill-designed Western Ave. gem (see later below). After her husband's passing, Paul Miltimore became vice-president and her step-daughter Catharine secretary of the Los Angeles Olive Grower's Association whose office was for a time in the Bradbury Building (see below) directly across the street from the Laughlin Building. Catharine Miltimore and Homer Laughlin, Jr.'s wife Ada Edwards Laughlin were also fellow alumnae of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and served together on the organization's National Scholarship Committee. (1911 Los Angeles City Directory and Kappa Alpha Theta, L. Pearle Green, editor, Volume 24, 1909-1910). 

Thanks to an article written by erstwhile Gill draftswoman Persis Bingham which was published in the August 1916 issue of Bungalow Magazine we have the only known photos of Gill's wonderful design. (Bingham, Eugenia Persis, Ruddy Bungalow, Los Angeles, Sanitary Home, Rooms Reversed Bring Garden Nearer House, Bungalow Magazine, August 1916, pp. 492-499). Without her prescient piece the Ruddy House would not be known today. (I am very grateful to Gill historian Erik Hansen fro sharing these photos from his collection). Bingham had worked for Gill in 1914 on his Chapin House and her future husband John Cassiday worked for Gill two years later on his Sarah B. Clark House remodel for civil engineer William H. Code who purchased the house from Clark in 1916. The Cassidays were so taken with Gill's work that they closely modeled their own house built in 1921 after Gill's Chapin House. (For much more on this see my "Sarah B. Clark Residence, Irving Gill's First Aiken System Project" and "The"Dirt-Proof" House for Adelaide M. Chapin" Author's note: The Cassiday Bungalow had until now been thought to be a Gill design. For example David Gebhard first incorrectly attributed the Bingham Cottage to Gill in his "Irving J. Gill" chapter in Toward a Simpler Way of Life: The Arts and Crafts Architects of California edited by Robert Winter, University of California Press, 1997, pp. 207-08.  Thomas Hines then followed suit in his Irving Gill and the Architecture of Reform, 2000, Monacelli Press, p. 230).

Following are excerpts from Bingham's excellent article:
"As the house was built by day labor, no contract price is given but approximately $2,810 covers the cost. The sum is distributed as follows: Carpenter work, $1,000; heating and plumbing, $325; wiring, $50; electric fixtures, $60; excavating, $50; finish hardware, $100; concrete work and floors, $200; plastering, $600; painting, $300; roofing, $80; magnesite work, $45." (Bingham, Eugenia Persis, "Ruddy Bungalow, Los Angeles, Sanitary Home, Rooms Reversed Bring Garden Nearer House," Bungalow Magazine, August 1916, pp. 492-499).
Bungalow Home of Mrs. George D. Ruddy of Los Angeles, Cal., Designed by Irving J. Gill, Architect (Ibid). (Author's note: I have not as yet been able to determine whether the landscaping for this project was designed by Lloyd Wright who was still in Gill's employ at the time.).
"The green of the foliage, red of the gladiolas and purple of the bouganvillia find their ideal background in the soft gray finish which stucco acquires so easily. The plain, solid surfaces are the positive element with which the trailing, wandering vines unite to form beauty--the beauty which Nature shows us so positively when she draws her gentle tracery of vines and moss over the giant mass of a great, grey boulder on the ragged mountainside. It is the combination which we admire, not the separate elements which have been united, but this combination must follow certain unalterable laws of Nature if beauty is to be the result." (Ibid).
To Bring the House and Garden Into a More Sympathetic Relationship, the Usual Placing of Rooms Has Been Completely Reversed (Ibid).

Note the Effect Produced by those Wandering Vines and Delicate Plants on the Simple White Walls. (Ibid).
"In order to bring the house and garden into a more sympathetic relationship, the usual placing of rooms has been completely reversed. The living room and one bedroom are at the rear of the house, while the kitchen and screen porch face the front lawn. The living room is entered through a spacious fern-hung patio. This is often used as an outdoor sitting room and affords many gleaming vistas, besides entrances to various parts of the house." (Ibid).
It is the Combination We Admire--Plain Walls, With Delicate Clinging Leaves or Trailing Vines (Ibid).  (This photo courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library).

An Effort Has Been Made to Avoid Useless Ornament in Construction of Bookcases and Fireplace (Ibid).
"For sanitary reasons there are no door or window casings used in this house either inside or out; no cornice and no stucco ornament. Climbing plants and shrubbery have been depended on to furnish all exterior decoration and pictures and furnishings the interior. The living room is twenty-two feet long by sixteen feet wide. It opens to a garden on the west, with a patio on the east. Glass doors have been used for all patio entrances so that light is received from both sides in the living room. Bookcases with a fireplace between them occupy the north end of the room and every effort has been made to avoid useless ornament in their construction. There is a border of plain, flat tile around the opening and the balance of the mantel front is of hardwood enameled white. The shelf is three inches deep and extends over the bookcases on either side of the fireplace. There are no brackets under the shelf and no filigree work or panels on the woodwork. No ceiling beams, picture molds or baseboards are used, as the owner considered them useless and the house is much more easily cleaned and dusted without them. The walls are tinted a warm neutral tan, which forms an excellent background for any color or material. Figured draperies which hang to the floor from a rod above the window constitute an attractive window treatment which serves as a substitute for shades. The hangings are lined and have proven a most satisfactory window decoration." (Ibid).
For Sanitary Reasons, There Are No Door or Window Casings in This Home Either Inside or Out (Ibid).
"Double doors lead from the living room to the dining room. Doors are treated with hangings of the same material as the windows. Double glass doors lead to the dining room which opens on the south to the patio, where ferns and palms have been placed as an added attraction. Good light and excellent ventilation are assured by the southern exposure and wide, glass doors, in spite of the fact that there is no window on the north side of the room. The house to the north was so close that no view was obtainable in that direction and not enough light was available to make a window worth while, so none have been provided on the entire side. A plate rail was thought more harmful as a dust catcher than useful as an ornament, and consequently was dispensed with. (Ibid).
Gill originally hoped that the Ruddy House would be the first to employ the Aiken System but per the November 20, 1912 building permit it ended up being built by C. D. Goldthwaite using more traditional construction techniques. Gill's Concrete Building and Investment Company was listed as the contractor on the permit issued on April 29, 1913 to build the 14x16 ft. board and batten frame garage. ("Sarah B. Clark Residence, Irving Gill's First Aiken System Project").

Friday Morning Club, 940 S. Figueroa St., ca. 1900. Arthur B. Benton, architect, 1900. Photographer unknown. Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.

Gill's move into C. E. Fout's Victorian mansion converted into a rooming house across the street from the Friday Morning Club (see above) seems somehow to be connected to prominent club member Ruddy. After permanently relocating from San Diego shortly after completion of Ruddy's house Gill moved into the rambling mansion at 913 S. Figueroa St.. He was obviously attracted by the huge back yard in which he had ample room to conduct his reinforced concrete experiments. Gill remained at that location until 1921 when the building was demolished. (For much more on this see my "Irving Gill, Homer Laughlin and the Beginnings of Modern Architecture in Los Angeles, Part II, 1911-1922").