Bradbury

Lewis Leonard

Birthdate:

1823

Birthplace:

Bangor, Maine

Date of Death:

15 Jul 1892

Place of Death:

Oakland, California

Occupation:

Real Estate

Properties Owned:

Sections of Rancho Azusa de Duarte were purchased by L.L. Bradbury.  The part of Bradbury’s life  that he spent on Rancho Azusa de Duarte and the founding of Monrovia are closely entwined.  Without Bradbury, it is doubtful Monrovia would have the configuration it does today.  Without Monrovia, Bradbury wouldn’t have been able to add more money to his already healthy bank account.


Lewis Leonard Bradbury was born in Bangor, Maine, around 1823.  Accounts of his life are slim from his birth to the 1860s when he went to Rosario, Sinaloa, Mexico, and made his money in the silver mines of Mexico.  Off course, he didn’t actually sweat in the mines, but he did bring American dollars to invest in them.  At the age of 45, he married a Mexican woman, Simona Martinez, who was over 20 years younger than he and spoke no English.


The family moved to Oakland, California, in 1880, and they split their lives between Mexico, Oakland and Rancho Azusa de Duarte which Bradbury had bought in 1883.


Bradbury made even more money in California in real estate. One of his most famous legacies is the Bradbury Building, built in 1893. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designation as a National Historic Landmark, one of only four office buildings in Los Angeles to get that designation. Bradbury also left the town of Bradbury, Monrovia’s neighbor.


Lewis Bradbury and Monrovia had a close and contentious relationship for the first ten years of Monrovia’s existence.  Bradbury had sold a section of the western part of Rancho Azusa de Duarte to the Monrovia Land and Water Company, the consortium that 

had assembled the Monrovia Tract from Bradbury land and sections of the Santa Anita Subdivision.  That transaction went well.  It was the last one between Monrovia and Bradbury to do so.


Bradbury also owned land south of Foothill Boulevard that had been part of Rancho Azusa de Duarte.  The western boundary of his property included land on both sides of the Santa Fe railroad tracks and west of South Myrtle Avenue. He established a town site there, calling it West Duarte around the same time Monrovia was founded (1886).  There were stores and a hotel, and the railroad station serving Monrovia but which was referred to as the West Duarte Station.  There were bad feelings about this by Monrovians, so some began referring to Duarte as East Monrovia.  West Duarte didn’t do well, and the stores and hotel building were moved north into the Town of Monrovia.  Bradbury then subdivided his land in 1887 which became Bradbury’s Addition to the Town of Monrovia (Wiley 53).  Though he didn’t get his railroad, he still made a great amount of money.

In June of 1887, Bradbury, assisted with capital from some Monrovians, started the Myrtle Avenue Railway, which was a mule-drawn trolley that carried passengers from the train station up Myrtle Avenue, right on Lime Avenue past the Vista Grande Hotel, over to Heliotrope Avenue, then north to White Oak (Foothill Blvd.) and back down South Myrtle.  At the same time, William Monroe was working with Howard Huntington trying to establish an electric rail from Los Angeles which would go through Monrovia.  For this and other reasons (the mules), the company went out of business in 1890 (Monrovia Messenger 23 Oct 1890).


On 13 Aug 1887, the Monrovia Planet reported that a group of Monrovians bought 50 acres from the Bradbury Tract adjoining Monrovia on the east.  The price paid was $75,000.  


In October of 1887,the Town of  Monrovia and Bradbury went head to head again.  In the Monrovia Planet, Bradbury placed a terse notice that read:  Notice is hereby given that the petition to incorporate the town of Monrovia, including several hundred acres of my land in the Duarte Rancho cannot succeed (15 Oct 1887).  Incorporation was important to Monrovia because of the people preferred to have a “dry” town where no alcohol was served (except, perhaps in the hotel) commercially.  The next month, Bradbury’s agent reported to the Monrovia Planet that Bradbury’s intent was to block Monrovia’s incorporation only if it included parts of his property.  Perhaps the boundary lines had not clearly been established.  Perhaps the purchase of Bradbury’s property by different people had not been recorded property.  Whatever the reason, one may be sure that the attorneys for both sides made money.  Eventually things were settled, and Monrovia was able to incorporate.  

 

Legal battles also ensued over water rights and many other property rights issues.  Bradbury had an incredible amount of money for the time, but Monroe, E.F. Spence and John D. Bicknell had connections in Los Angeles.  Spence had been mayor of Los Angeles, and Bicknell was a well-known and respected judge. Monroe had been a Los Angeles City councilman, and then there was his friendship with the powerful Huntington family.


How long this would have gone on if Lewis Bradbury had lived is anyone’s guess.  But he died suddenly in Oakland on July 15, 1892. 


Sources

Bradbury Family Papers a Mexican-American Family’s Story, 1875-1965.  UC Davis Library, 2018, www.library.ucdavis.edu/exhibit/bradbury-family-papers-mexican-american-familys-story-1876-1965/.  

Monrovia Messenger

Monrovia Planet.

Wiley, John L.  History of Monrovia. Press of Pasadena Star News, 1927.

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