BACK IN THE DAY — Residents debated heartily over the direction of the city’s newest approved project — one that would undoubtedly bring more people from Los Angeles to Santa Monica than ever before — forming coalitions, passing out buttons and pennants, and soliciting city officials.
Political disputes kept the project on ice for three years, but following City Council approval the mayor said, “Nothing can now prevent the consummation of the work.”
With funds already set aside and construction underway (being called “as high a class of work as has ever been done in the West”) but completion a long ways off, every city meeting circled back to the project.
This is not the Expo Light Rail line, a new development, or even October 2013. This was Pico Boulevard, October 1913.
One hundred years ago this month, City Council voted to pave Fremont Avenue from Ocean Avenue to Eighth Street and then to connect Fremont Avenue to Pico Street in Los Angeles, creating the shortest route, by more than two miles, from Los Angeles to the beach, according to Daily Outlook archives.
By the end of the month, they had also voted to change the name of Fremont Avenue, settling on Pico Boulevard to stay consistent with Los Angeles. In true Santa Monica fashion, they spent an entire night debating the name change. (They also voted to change the name of Nevada Avenue to Wilshire Boulevard. Catchy, I think it’ll stick.)
Pico to Santa Monica Highway Association was the foremost pro-paving group, consisting mostly of landowners along the avenue formerly known as Fremont.
Mayor Roscoe H. Dow, who was running for re-election, was also a strong supporter of the project.
By October, residents seemed to have accepted the impending project arguments began over the specifics. Debaters fell into two camps: “direct routers” and “wishbone routers”.
Wishbone routers felt it important for a vein of the new boulevard to head south to Venice. Direct routers wanted the project completed expediently and argued that routes to Venice could come later.
Pico Boulevard was projected to cost the city more than $140,000.
Los Angeles’ Board of Supervisors said that they approved of the project and hoped that other roads would soon lead to the ocean.
Other news of the day
• In other old news, the superintendent of schools estimated Santa Monica’s population at 12,000 using enrollment figures, according to Los Angeles Times archives. Enrollment jumped from 1,836 in October 1912 to 2,354 in October 1913, a 28 percent increase.
• Santa Monica Bay Woman’s Club held a popular event during which they judged flowers and babies. Mrs. Harrison B. Cowell took first place in the chrysanthemums contest and William Landes Yancey, 2, was named “best formed boy in the show,” according to Los Angeles Times archives.
• Santa Monica considered joining Los Angeles in order to procure drinking water. The Owens River, recently diverted via aqueduct by Los Angeles in the infamous water wars, made annexation attractive to Santa Monica.
• And the last bit of news from October 1913 centers on an event that happened 100 years prior. Daniel Turner, who claimed to be 107 years old and was believed by some to be the last remaining survivor of the War of 1812, died at the Soldiers Home in Santa Monica. It’s undisputed that he fought in the Civil War.
As Turner told it, he fired at the enemy during the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 while his father held the gun. It’s an unlikely story and even the article, which appears in the Los Angeles Times archive, admits that Soldiers Home records said Turner was actually only 93 years old, born five years after the war ended. But 100 years ago one reporter wanted to believe it was true and this reporter is no different.