LONG AGO — To give a sense of how hot the civic auditorium issue was for Santa Monicans a century ago, here are the headlines and sub-headlines for a single Los Angeles Times article in July of 1914:
“DECAPITATED BY MURDERER”
“Woman Mangled With Ax; Police Hunt Husband”
“Marriage License, Torn Up, Found Near Body”
“Voters Turn Down Municipal Auditorium Bonds”
That’s right, even an article about grisly murder works its way back to the issue of the auditorium.
The Times called decapitation “one of the most brutal murders ever committed in this city.”
Frank Moreno, the husband of the victim identified only as Julia, was believed to have acted out of jealousy.
“The deed was probably committed while the woman slept and a first blow split her head,” according to the Times archives.
Moreno then left home “clad in his best clothes” and carrying a guitar, apparently headed for Mexico.
The couple had been married for a year and their marriage license was found slashed with a knife.
Moreno, a gardener at the mansion of the razor baron King C. Gillette, had apparently found Julia with other men.
The ax murder garnered exactly one article, with no follow-up. The auditorium, however, was written about several times a week.
Today’s Civic Auditorium is in a kind of financial no man’s land, shuttered after City Hall lost much-needed redevelopment agency money to the state.
It’s unclear what will happen next for the building, which previously hosted Bob Dylan and the Academy Awards and needs tens of millions of dollars in seismic repairs.
But in late July of 1914, a special election was scheduled, with voters deciding whether or not to approve the whopping $150,000, 40-year bond that would cover the city’s first auditorium.
City officials estimated that auditorium would represent a cost of less than 43 cents per $1,000 taxable valuation.
The Sabbath preceding the big election was deemed “Auditorium Sunday,” with preachers at every Santa Monica church extolling the benefits of the new building.
Women’s groups, the Chamber of Commerce, the Merchant’s Association, and the Santa Monica Club were all on board with the auditorium, slated to be built on land gifted to the city, next to the municipal pier.
Alas, the measure fell flat. Needing support from two-thirds of voters, it failed to gain even a majority, with 1,045 votes for and 1,150 against.
Fourth of July
If you thought last year’s Jimmy Cliff concert was too crowded (city officials estimated that up to 30,000 people showed up) be glad you weren’t at the 1914 Fourth of July parade. The Times archives suggested that more than 100,000 people were in attendance, crowding the roads and the beaches.
When plans to pave a part (Ocean Avenue) of Santa Monica’s famous eight-mile road racetrack were first introduced in early July, auto enthusiasts feared it would be the end. The asphalt would put the course out of the road-race class.
By the end of the month, when they received assurances that the paving would not result in a disqualification, they were pumped.
The paving would lead to better races, they declared manically, “faster ones at that, with records on the block to be smashed by the speed demons of the whole world.”