A vanished city lives again...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Whose palms are these, anyway?

Seems I've uncovered a bit of a mystery. Here, previously, I've told the story of "General Longstreet's palms." In it, I related information I found on the USC Digital Library site which stated that the palms and the house pictured in these two photos were on property owned by Confederate General James Longstreet, most notably of the Battle of Gettysburg fame.

Trouble is, subsequently, I have never been able to independently corroborate that James Longstreet ever lived in Los Angeles, or that he even owned property there. No biography of the man that I've been able to find thus far has him setting foot in California during his entire life.

Then, the other day, thanks to reader Gregg D'Albert, I got pointed to the hypercities site, and there I found an 1884 map of Los Angeles showing the ownership of plots of land in the old city. Of course, the first thing I did was go to Figueroa and Adams to see who owned the Longstreet palms.

Well, as you can see, the tract in question was, indeed, owned by a Longstreet, but it was "C.A. Longstreet," not "J. Longstreet." Puzzling. Then I thought, wait, there was that 1938 Nuestro Pueblo article about the palms that also referred to a General Longstreet. Surprise! I'd missed the fact previously that that article referred to a Gen. Joseph Longstreet, not James Longstreet. Also, this Joseph Longstreet's wife was named Lucy, not Louise, and Lucy had died in 1917, versus 1890 for the CSA General's wife.

So, who then was General Joseph Longstreet, and how was "C.A. Longstreet" related to him? I've tried finding info about the other Longstreet on the web, but my search has gone nowhere yet.

Whatever Gen. Longstreet planted those palms, though, they still remain historically significant as possibly the oldest living things in Los Angeles. It would have been nice to be able to connect them with the famous General Longstreet, but even a not-so-famous General Longstreet will do just as nicely, too. ^^

Read the next installment in the saga of the Longstreet Palms: 'Year of the palm?'



Susan Rosenvold said...

Dear Sir,
Those of us here at The Longstreet Society, a society dedicated to the memory of CSA General James Longstreet, can find no record of Longstreet in California, althought it is not impossible as he was a very popular speaker. You may find the genealogy at http://our-domain.net/Longstreet/index.html. I do not recall a Gen. Joseph Longstreet, but it is a large family. Good luck in your hunting!

Duncan said...

Hello Scott-- It's a mystery, and unlike alot of family lore. For example, the house my father grew up in in Louisiana was supposedly built by the Coty cosmetics people, which was perhaps not totally implausible in some people's minds given Louisiana's French heritage (the Coty firm was--is?--French). Anyway, at some point I found documents from the 1920s pertaining to the house, and on every legal document the name is CODY, not Coty. No connection to the French perfume company at all. (Still have obtuse relatives who need to cling to the mythology, but God bless 'em.) Anyway, my long-winded point is that someone may have once assumed or wanted to believe that CA Longstreet was the general, perhaps thinking it would confer some special status to the property.
Also-- maybe I missed something--but are the palms still standing?

J Scott Shannon said...

Some of the palms are still standing...


Paul K. Sholar said...

If you open the PDF (facsimile page) linked to at the bottom of this excerpt ( http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9C04E3DB133AE533A25750C0A9649D94609ED7CF ), you'll read an article from the NY Times of December 3, 1891, that mentions a "Mrs. C.A. Longstreet" attended a meeting, presumably in NY City, about the Columbian Exposition, which took place in Chicago during May through October of 1893.

I haven't found "C.A. Longstreet" himself via Google, but there are a number of "Joseph Longstreet" persons one can find mentioned using Google who might have been in Los Angeles in the timeframe proper to your story.

Using Google, I also found two different published accounts (one in an Auburn, NY, newspaper of 1878 and one in a book of reminiscences about Washington, D.C., that is readable online) that incorrectly refer to the famous CSA Gen. James Longstreet as "Joseph Longstreet."

Anonymous said...

"Mrs. C.A. Longstreet, H.B. Fox, H.C. Austin, H. Newmark and L.G. Weyse are among the Los Angelenos returning home by this morning's train."

Los Angeles Times
Oct. 8, 1882

Anonymous said...

Los Angeles TImes
July 8, 1938

Nuestro Pueblo
by Joe Seewerker and Charles Owens

"...The trees, forming a narrow driveway leading to the southern entrance of the hospital, were planted sixty-five years ago by Gen. Joseph Longstreet and his wife, Mrs. Lucy S. Longstreet. Mrs. Longstreet was an individualist in a day when men had fits if a woman engaged in any occupation other than raising babies and making a home. She was one of the first of her sex to engage in real estate projects here and, with her husband, pioneered the development of the Adams district west of Figueroa street. Mrs. Longstreet died in New York in 1917. Her last wish was that she be buried in the Los Angeles she loved. She would be pleased to know that the trees she planted on Palm Drive offer a vista of beauty to the crippled children in the Orthopaedic Hospital."

Anonymous said...

Hello, the property here was developed by Charles A. Longstreet, a native of Syracuse, New York, whose father, Cornelius was a very wealthy clothing dealer there and in New York City, where he is said to have shipped the first ready-made clothes to Gold Rush California. At the latter, he set up Charles in the wholesale clothing business in 1855 and, after about 20 years, Charles made enough money to relocate to Los Angeles and establish a home and grounds. The grounds were widely known for a remarkable variety of rare plants and it was said Longstreet spent $100,000 (an enormous sum) just on the landscape. Charles died in 1877 just shy of his 42nd birthday. His wife, Lucy and three sons, stayed for several more years, but, in 1887, during a great land boom in LA, the Homestead was subdivided into 34 lots. Paul R. Spitzzeri, Assistant Director, Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum (which has several photos of the Longstreet Homestead in its collection.)

Anonymous said...

Oh, one other item: an 1896 biography of Cornelius Longstreet stated that there were three Dutch brothers (Longstreet or Longstreth) who migrated from Holland to colonial America. One went to New Jersey (from whom Cornelius and Charles descended), another to Pennsylvania, and a third to Georgia. The last was, evidently, the ancestor of General Longstreet, who has mistakenly been identified as the Los Angeles Longstreet. Paul Spitzzeri.

Clark said...

> Great research on the Longstreet Homestead on Palm Ave. in Los Angeles. Very well done and thorough.
> Just wanted to make an observation based on my research. The Charles A. Longstreet (Charles Augustus Longstreet who married Lucy Eddy on 30 Oct 1861) referred to in your blog was a wholesale clothing merchant who moved to Los Angeles from New York and became very wealthy with the help of his father, Cornelius Tyler Longstreet. He and General James Longstreet were 3rd cousins once removed.
> General Longstreet did visit California once as part of his duties as U.S. Railroad Commissioner and briefly stayed at the house of Frederick Dent, a son of President U.S. Grant. Gen. Longstreet and U.S. grant were very good close friends before and after the Civil War. General Longstreet travelled frequently by rail inspecting the conditions, progress of, etc. of the U.S. railroad system in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
> I can find no instance, except in commentary, of Charles A. Longstreet ever being called General Charles Longstreet. As a mater of fact, there has never been a General Charles Longstreet that I have been able to discern in my research on this Longstreet family over the last thirty years. It may have been a courtesy military title (but these are usually Col., Maj. or Capt., etc), however, I cannot find a courtesy military title used at all for Charles A. Longstreet, before or while this Longstreet family owned the property in Los Angeles. It can only be found in commentary about the property.
> Just thought I would add my two cents worth.
> Regards,
> Clark T. Thornton

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