7 Berkeley Square

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The Welsh name of Llewellyn might conjure for some people—well, maybe one or two at this point—the early years of building the great city of Los Angeles. The Llewellyn Iron Works, founded in 1890, supplied much of the structural and decorative metal that literally made the city—including the gates of Berkeley Square in 1904. There was also the implication of the iron works in the turbulent history of unions in militantly open-shop Los Angeles. The infamous bombing of the fortresslike Los Angeles Times building at Broadway and First Street on October 1, 1910, was followed on Christmas Day of that year by the dynamiting of the Llewellyn Iron Works on North Main—both Harrison Gray Otis of the Times and the Llewellyns were fiercely anti-union. Perhaps the bombings had something to do with the Llewellyn family's move soon after to the suggested safety of a gated enclave.




The Llewellyns didn't build the house, which was originally addressed #6 for its primary lot. In April 1908, Los Angeles real estate man Waller G. Chanslor bought from the Burkes the 80-by-250-foot Lot 6 as well as a 20-foot strip of Lot 5 adjacent to the east, announcing his intention to build a $15,000 residence. Chanslor appears to have already engaged the estimable Arthur B. Benton to design the house that rose on Lot 6 in 1909—on May 8, the Department of Buildings issued him a permit to begin construction. (The architect did not, as one web source claims, "[design the] neighborhood known as Berkeley Square," but #7 was one of three houses the architect designed on the street.) Benton designed many other Los Angeles buildings as well as of the famous Mission Inn in Riverside—no slouch he. The Times of December 26, 1909, describes Benton as having designed for Chanslor a house of the "Spanish type" and noted that it was nearing completion. Chanslor lived in the house only briefly; real estate investor A.L. Schwarz appears to have assumed ownership within a year, he in turn selling it at the end of 1912 to Elmer E. Cole for $55,000. How long either Schwarz or Cole may have actually lived at #7 is unknown; they, like Chanslor, may have only been looking to flip the property.


"We built this city..."


By 1914 the Llewellyns and Milners were in residence—later court documents have William Llewellyn and three of his four brothers, as well as their sister Winifred, living in Berkeley Square early on, in addition to Winnie's husband, John Milner, who was working for the family firm. The extended family would remain at #7 for nearly 35 years. The Milners had two children—Gwendolyn and Reese (sometimes called "Bud," though these were no Andersons). Gwen married Walton Hubbard at #7 in 1932. Perhaps Hubbard, who would become a well-known Southland yacht dealer, was introduced to Miss Milner through his fellow yachtsman Willis Hunt Junior, who grew up next door to Gwen, first at #5 and then #3. Both the boys were described as wild (Monty Beragon comes to mind), and of course we've read of Hunt's Hollywood exploits in the story of #3. Actually, it seems that the '10s and '20s passed in mostly unsudsy fashion for the family, with just the usual births, ladies' luncheons, weddings, and deaths. Then in 1929 the Llewellyn company was sold and combined with both the Baker and Union iron works to form Consolidated Steel, the influx of cash from the sale sowing further seeds of discontent in what must have already been the fecund soil of too much family under one roof. Dallas, anyone? 




In 1937 John Milner died suddenly at #7, age 50. Fourteen months later, his widow married one Bert C. Clark of New York, with the reception held at #7. Apparently the newlyweds' move East left only the elderly William Llewellyn and his nephew Bud—another of the Square's wild progeny—at #7. (The original Llewellyn brothers other than David—who wisely lived in Hancock Park—appear to have died by this time.) The cops were to come looking for Bud at #7 in the summer of 1941, so the Times reported on August 24, arresting him there in connection with the hit-and-run of a man and a woman on the Roosevelt Highway (now the PCH). According to the Times, Reese, who was sleeping when the police called at #7, said that he knew he had hit someone with his car, but not believing it to be serious, continued on home to Berkeley Square, "intending to report the matter to police later." (Of course he was.) So far I have been unable to find out what ultimately happened to the female victim, who was severely injured, but it seems that the young man of good intentions was held only briefly in the West Los Angeles jail. It could be that the 25-year-old Reese was treated like the rich fraternity boy he more resembled, receiving just a slap on the wrist; the oligarchical wagons may have circled, the young lady, if she survived, perhaps becoming the recipient of a yearly stipend and a new Lincoln-Zephyr. At any rate, things were beginning to boil over at #7 Berkeley Square.

Clark—the man and the name—seems to have been shed by Winnie around this time, as was this mortal coil on February 5, 1942. She was 59. (Her Times obituary refers to her confusingly as "Winifred L. Milner, widow of John Milner"—no Clark in sight.) Winnie left her estate to Reese and Gwen, but her demise seems to have raised tensions at home between the septuagenarian William and his nephew Bud even further. William frequently went to live at one of his many clubs, in this case the downtown Jonathan, to get away from Reese's indulgences at #7. His health deteriorating, the old man signed a new will on March 12, 1945, that cut his wayward nephew and his niece out in favor of his brother David. Inevitably the charming Bud and his sister Gwen (now Mrs. Cheesewright, having moved on from Walton Hubbard) contested the new will after William died on September 11, 1945, charging that Uncle David had unduly influenced his brother in the execution of the new will. Court records available online about the case demonstrate how human lives can be reduced to legalese that could provoke a sane person to gouge out his own eyes—words, words, and more words...in other words, we could not make heads or tails of how the case turned out. More interesting to us is the note in the record that a prior will of William's was executed by his next-door neighbor at #9, attorney and later Superior Court Judge Paul Nourse, and the lesson that the Southfork model is inadvisable, in Texas, California, or anywhere else.


Mr. and Mrs. Milner in a moment
 of happiness at Ciro's


During the the will battle, Bud followed the model of his one-time neighbor Willis Hunt Junior and discovered Hollywood. On February 16, 1946, he married none other than Miss Ann Miller, she of the big swoopy hair and 500 taps a minute. The former Johnnie Lucille Collier, a small-town Texan who was hitting it big in Tinseltown, liked her husbands rich, but, at least in the case of Bud, she was the one who paid. Ann Miller Milner got pregnant forthwith, just as the bumptious Llewellyn-Milner clan was moving out of #7, thus ending the family's 32-year tenancy. According to one David Patrick Columbia, "Milner had a legendary temper, so vile that he eventually ended up behind bars. He was also an alcoholic. One night in the bedroom of their Holmby Hills mansion, when Miller’s pregnancy was close to term, the couple got into a quarrel.... Milner picked up a gun and threatened to shoot his wife. She ran and he shot. Bang-bang. She was able to dodge the bullets by making a fast exit down the grand staircase.... [Her escape down the stairs unsuccessfully executed,] Miller gave birth shortly thereafter and her only child died three hours later." Always one to face his responsibilities head-on, Reese is said to have had the baby buried in a location kept from its mother until 1999; both Ann and her daughter are now buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City. (Miller once claimed that her difficulty maintaining relationships with men was due to her being an Egyptian queen in a past life and executing any men who displeased her, so it seems a shame that she and Milner hadn't met circa, say, 50 B.C.) By 1975, Reese was being described as a Beverly Hills oil man and an Ojai rancher. That summer, according to the Times, he pleaded no contest to charges that he had hired two ex-convicts to break into the Ojai home of a "former woman friend," a former actress (not our Ann), trussing her and her two children, and attempting to sever one of the lady's fingers, apparently in retaliation for her having bitten off a finger on Milner's right hand. The judge in the case ordered that Reese undergo a 90-day psychiatric evaluation at the California Institute for Men at Chino, which by this time would seem to be distinctly pro forma.

          
The house as seen in the Los Angeles Times on December 26, 1909 



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Exit the Llewellyn-Milner clan. Enter the Bilickes in the spring of 1946. Albert Constant Bilicke was the son of Oregon-born, San Francisco–raised Albert Clay Bilicke, noted Los Angeles booster and builder. Among the downtown buildings he put up are the Title Insurance Building and the Hollenbeck and Alexandria hotels. Albert Clay died on May 7, 1915, not on the Lusitania itself but when the lifeboat he and his wife were in accidentally tipped as it was being lowered. Bad luck, to say the least. Gladys Bilicke survived, plucked from the sea; now a widow, in a reversal of typical migration, Mrs. Bilicke left South Pasadena for West Adams, settling into the still-extant 825 West Adams, to be precise—curiously enough, a house just down the street from the J. Ross Clarks, who'd lost their son, Walter, on the Titanic a few years before. Bilicke fils Albert Constant and his wife, who shared digs with Gladys on their visits to town from their date ranch near Indio, sold 825 a few years after the senior Mrs. Bilicke expired in 1943; once the sordid air of the latest Llewellyn unpleasantness was Airwicked from #7, the Constant Bilickes moved from the ranch back into the city to Berkeley Square. While the life of his father Albert Clay Bilicke is well chronicled, from his childhood in Oregon and California to his colorful time in Tombstone, Arizona, to his days of building in L.A. to his date with Davy Jones's locker, his son is a relative enigma. It seems that he once had a scientific bent, as his 1927 master's thesis at Caltech was titled "The space-group and molecular symmetry of beta-benzenehexabromide and hexachloride." I wondered if Constant, as the Bilicke son was known, might have followed his father into the hotel business, and it turns out that he did—at least as a child:


The Los Angeles Herald, April 9, 1905: Little Constant with his parents,
Mr. and Mrs. Albert Clay Bilicke, at the ground-breaking of the
Alexandria Hotel, still standing at Spring and Fifth streets.
At right is Robert A. Rowan, who was associated with
Mr. Bilicke in many land and building enterprises.
Rowan was also a developer of, among other
tracts, Windsor Square, a street of which
bears his daughter's name (Lorraine)
and to which many West Adams
residents retreated over
the years.



January 18, 1950: Among attendants to Lucienne Bilicke were her young
 sister, Mary Margaret (closest to the bride), and Mrs. Anthony
 Bertucci, who as a young married once rented a garage
 apartment at #7 from the Bilickes.



Constant had married Margaret Lucienne Gray in 1923. Her parents, attorney Lucien Gray and his philanthropist wife, Blanche (no relation to the Grays of #1), seem to have been considered particularly ancien régime in Los Angeles and were to live for over 50 years in the West Adams house they built in 1909. (In an interesting crosscurrent, their house, at 2515 4th Avenue, is the one to which Dr. Ruth J. Temple of #5 would move after she left the Square.)

Bilicke supported his family in Berkeley Square splendor, even if the street was fraying precipitously around the edges, as a real estate investor. The family's first few years on the Square seemed to pass quietly, but soon all hell was to break loose. The Bilicke's daughter, Lucienne, named as was her mother for her grandfather, became engaged to what would be her second husband, the son of the rector of Los Angeles's Old Guard St. John's Episcopal Church on Adams Boulevard. Much rejoicing in the society columns. Twenty-five-year-old George Bindley Davidson was also an Episcopal minister (his father was also confusingly a George). The wedding on January 18, 1950, was an intimate affair, with 1,000 guests at St. John's for the service, 700 of whom made the cut for the California Club reception afterward. Six months later Constant was no doubt trying to ignore thoughts of the thousands he turns out to have flushed in January for yet another of his daughter's failed marriages—Lucienne was suing the young Reverend for an annulment. According to the Times of July 18, 1950, the cryptic grounds were that the young Reverend Davidson had "falsely represented himself as qualified to be a true, competent and dutiful husband and citizen." Well, well. The paper reported less cryptically on September 27 that Lucienne had also charged her husband with cruelty and physical violence and that the divorce had been granted the day before in Santa Monica Superior Court. Lucienne Bilicke LeBlanc Davidson was soon back on Berkeley Square having resumed her maiden name; her ex became an expert on Pekingese dogs and died in Monterey in 1968, age 42.



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Mrs. Perry W. Beal surrounded by her six children at 7 Berkeley Square,
 Mother's Day, 1957: from left, Reginald, Michael,
 Louise, Perry Jr., Ronald, and Linda. 



It seems that the Bilickes were anxious to put some distance between themselves and West Adams after Lucienne's marital mess—#7 was soon on the market, and the family was to depart the Square by late 1951. Dr. and Mrs. Perry W. Beal, newly arrived in Los Angeles from Houston, were in residence by mid-1952. Mrs. Maggie L. Lee soon joined her daughter and son-in-law and their five children on the Square, and baby Linda would arrive within a few years. Dr. Beal became president of the Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association; his wife was very active in the charitable auxiliary of the Association and in the mothers' clubs of her children's schools. She also directed the musical development of all six children. It was said that music from #7 could often be heard wafting over the Square during the '50s—to entertain the 50 friends invited to young Louise's 16th birthday, however, her siblings were not pressed into service—a four-piece orchestra was hired. Sadly, the sound of bulldozers would drown out any music in the house before long—as Jet magazine was to report in its November 5, 1959, issue, "Construction of the Los Angeles Freeway is forcing the Perry Beals, whose impressive address is Seven Berkeley Square, to find a new home—one with a four-car garage to house the family's Cadillac, Mark IV, Thunderbird and Galaxie." By 1961, the Beals and Mrs. Lee were living in a duplex a few blocks away at 1855 West Adams. The wrecking ball was about to drop on #7—as with all north-side Berkeley Square addresses, there were no listings for it in city directories published after 1960.




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