“An important epoch in the history of Los Angeles” was marked 110 years ago today (on March 28, 1903), according to the Los Angeles Times. The event was the laying of the cornerstone for the new Chamber of Commerce building on Broadway, its 5th home since its founding in 1888.
An estimated 8,000 people were “congested in the block and surrounding buildings…So dense was the throng in the street that all traffic was barred, the electric cars…Flags fluttered in the breeze from the tops of many buildings in the vicinity, lending a gala appearance to the scene.” Reading like a press release, the LA Times reported, “Under a turquoise sky, flecked with fleecy clouds that linked mountain and sea with a filmy band, and in the presence of a great assemblage of citizens and visitors, the principal foundation stone of the new structure was placed in position by the Grand Lodge and Masons of California.” The Masons were present in full force – 800 of them from all over Southern California parading from the Masonic Temple on Hill Street to the Chamber site at 103 South Broadway.
The ceremonies, as you might imagine, were mostly speechifying. On a less serious note, the newspaper published a tribute to the chamber by an anonymous poet:
How dear to our hearts is the Chamber of Commerce
With its hall of exhibits that all of us know;
The elephant, turtles and eke the big pumpkins
And ev’ry old freak that this climate can grow;
The tempting display of the fruits of the orchards
And all the good things that abound in the land;
The board of directors, the obliging attendants,
And genial Frank Wiggins who gives the glad hand—
That dear old Frank Wiggins, the long legged Wiggins,
The wonderful Wiggins who gives the glad hand!
In 1903, newspaper readers knew Frank Wiggins as the legendary secretary of the Chamber, tireless and innovative promoter of Los Angeles, and creator of a larger-than-life elephant made of walnuts.
Presumably on purpose 21 years later, on March 28, 1924, the Chamber celebrated the laying of another cornerstone for another bigger and better building at 1151-12th Street. In all, the Chamber has occupied 8 building locations in Los Angeles. This year, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce celebrates its 125th anniversary.