Eva Fenyes and Boadway Brothers Department Store

It was an enormous pit, a huge gaping excavation that threatened to undermine Cabrillo Place. The bungalows and shops teetered on the edge of a precipice, and the potential for collapse was undeniable. Wanting documentary evidence, Eva Fenyes methodically photographed the construction site and what seemed to her an impending disaster.

Inscription on back of photograph: Mrs. Fenyes stores on E. Col St. & excavations made by Crowell & Mason, 29 April 1912 (Fenyes Collection, FCP.40.2, p.130)

East Colorado Street in 1912 typified a burgeoning Pasadena, a city in transition; and, Eva’s  property, her “big bit” as she sometimes called it, (1) enjoyed a strategic business location which presently needed protecting.  In 1911, J. K. Dotten from the Pasadena investment firm of David Blankenhorn & Co. warned her that “Dr. Shiffman has just bought some of the property a little west of you, toward the Guirnaldo [Hotel Guirnalda], and it is announced that he will at once erect a building of several stores there to suit tenants.” (2) While the letter warned only of competition for securing shop leases, a physical threat to the Fenyes property was imminent. Perhaps Mr. Dotten had meant “several stories” instead of “several stores” when he wrote his letter in 1911, because on March 10, 1912, the Los Angeles Times reported that a permit had been issued for a, “…$72,800 business block at Nos. 268-278 East Colorado street [where the] building will be a three story brick structure, and will be used as a furniture store by the firm of Boadway Bros. …It is being erected especially for the firm, which has taken a long lease on it.” (3) The newspaper’s drawing illustrated the imposing facade. The lovely Spanish-style Hotel Guirnalda (4) stood solidly to the west while Eva’s single story structure to the east looked strikingly small and insubstantial. Her eight shops, built between 282 and 296 East Colorado, were just two years old and the bungalows behind just eight years old. Now someone was going to build a three story structure right next door and its massive concrete foundation would require deep excavation.

“Secures Permit for Fine Block,” Los Angeles Times, 10 March 1912. Accessed Pasadena Public Library, Proquest Los Angeles Times historical.

By April 29, 1912, either Eva or her representative was at the construction site snapping photographs. Her coverage of the situation was thorough and its personal significance revealed: she saved the pictures in her family photo album. These are the only album-mounted photographs of any of her many construction projects other than those of her much-loved homes. She introduced the album pages with the inscription, “Documentary evidence of undermining Mrs. Fenyes East Colorado St. property.” She wrote on the back of one of the photos, “Showing how the land was undermined to the east of my fence.” 

Looking southeast from East Colorado Street toward Eva Fenyes’ property, the western façade of her stores and one of the bungalows behind the stores, 29 April 1912. (Fenyes Collection, FCP.40.2, p.130)

Looking east from Hotel Guirnalda across the pit toward Eva Fenyes’ building. (Fenyes Collection, FCP.40.2, p.131)

Looking northeast from the Hotel Guirnalda toward East Colorado Street. The Wall Paper sign belonged to Dunlap & Boltonhouse, a store that carried wallpaper, paints, oils, pictures and frames. (Fenyes Collection, FCP.40.2, p.131)                      

As far as we know all went well, and in the end Boadway Bros. was built without toppling Eva’s row of shops or her bungalows. Boadway Bros. opened in the autumn of 1912; (5) and, quick to take advantage of the upcoming holiday season, as well as to secure the attention of Pasadena society, the Boadway brothers offered their new store for a uniquely staged Christmas Charity Shop.

“This is not going to be a bazaar…It will be conducted as a department store is conducted and will be essentially a place for Pasadenans and others to do their Christmas shopping…Nine different charity organizations will unite to make it a success and will derive the profits from it, which they will use for charitable purposes.” (6) “The many society women who are preparing the stock of goods to be sold are to conduct the store all by themselves. There will not be a man connected with the enterprise, although they hope to induce many men to become customers. There will be about thirty or forty saleswomen and fifteen floorwalkers, the elite of the city. The lunchroom, however, is to be the feature designed especially to attract the custom of the men. Here the prettiest young women are to wait on the tables, and delicious things to eat are promised, as well as smiles.” (7)

The Christmas Shop, slated for the week before Thanksgiving, was a carefully planned three day event. Each organization sponsored a department. They prepared and inventoried their stock, and then all the participants rehearsed their roles with the intention of conveying a “professional air.” (8) The Children’s Training School conducted the domestic department; the Home for Aged Women, the fancy work department; the Pasadena Presbyterian Church Auxiliary, the children’s department; the Day Nursery, the lunch room; the Neighborhood Church, handkerchiefs and boxes; the Opportunity Club, bags; the Training School Aid Society, the doll counter; the United Presbyterian Church, aprons; and, the Emergency League, the candy department. One might speculate that Eva Fenyes played a role in the candy department. (9) The Emergency League was administered from Eva’s bungalow #4 at Cabrillo Place, and she supported this and many other charitable organizations.

While Eva Fenyes was an active and generous benefactor, she was also a businesswoman who fairly defended her financial investments. She confronted the threat to her property with judicious determination. In the end, Eva successfully protected her bungalows and shops from actual physical collapse, Boadway Bros. was built to the benefit of the community, and Eva and the Boadway family served Pasadena shoppers side by side into the 1920s.

Advertisement in the Pasadena Daily News, Tournament of Roses Edition, 1913. One might imagine Pasadena’s society ladies costumed as saleswomen and conducting The Christmas Shop in these rooms at Boadway Bros. (Tournament of Roses Collection)

Business Advertisement from Thurston’s Pasadena City Directory, 1914-1915. (City Directories Collection)

By 1916-17, Boadway Bros. was a complete department store selling not only home furnishings, but also women’s wear, dry goods, and art goods. Boadway Bros. remained at the same East Colorado location until 1923 when it was replaced by Tooker-Jordan Corporation, which sold “Women’s, Infants and Children’s Apparel and Draperies.”

Business card of Walter M. Boadway, circa 1921. (Boadway Collection, Box 2)

Walter M. Boadway was the son of Leslie A. Boadway cofounder of Boadway Brothers Department Stores. Walter served during World War I in the Army Air Force and after his discharge became the treasurer for Boadway Brothers.

- Julie Stires

This article was originally published on the Hometown Pasadena website in 2013. 

(1) Letter, Eva Scott Fenyes to Adalbert Fenyes, 3 June 1927. (Fenyes Collection, FCP.12.15).

(2) Letter, J. K. Dotten to Eva S. Fenyes, 26 June 1911. (Fenyes Collection, FCP.19.1).

(3) “Secures Permit for Fine Block,” Los Angeles Times, 10 March 1912. Accessed Pasadena Public Library, Proquest Los Angeles Times historical.

(4) The Hotel Guirnalda was built about 1901 at 258 East Colorado Street where Dr. N. A. Dalrymple’s house had previously stood.

(5) Boadway Bros. remained at its East Colorado location until 1923 when it was replaced by Tooker-Jordan Corporation which sold Women’s, Infants and Children’s Apparel and Draperies. (Thurston’s 1923 Pasadena City Directory)

(6) “Society Plans Charity Shop, Pasadena People Will Adopt a Unique Method,” Los Angeles Times, 9 October 1912. Accessed Pasadena Public Library, Proquest, Los Angeles Times, historical.

(7) “Cities and Towns of Los Angeles County,” Los Angeles Times, 21 October 1912. Accessed Pasadena Public Library, Proquest, Los Angeles Times, historical.

(8) “Cities and Towns of Los Angeles County,” Los Angeles Times, 17 November 1912. Accessed Pasadena Public Library, Proquest, Los Angeles Times, historical.

(9) Society Plans Charity Shop, Pasadena People Will Adopt a Unique Method,” Los Angeles Times, 9 October 1912. Accessed Pasadena Public Library, Proquest, Los Angeles Times, historical.