Gould Castle was a widely known landmark in its day. And even though the castle was demolished many years ago, it is still a hot topic in the Crescenta Valley.
Author and historian Jo Anne Sadler devoted an entire chapter in her recent book, “Frontier Days in Crescenta Valley,” to the castle and the woman who built it in 1891.
“Probably no valley landmark has had more written about it than Gould Castle,” wrote Sadler, who researched original records and newspaper articles of the day to present a new look at what actually transpired.
She recently emailed me her discoveries.
She learned that “it was never called Gould Castle by the original owners; they called it ‘The Castle.’ Newspaper reporters and locals later gave it the moniker of ‘Gould Castle.”
Most articles in the last 60 years say the owner and builder was Eugene Gould.
“Actually, it was his wife, May, who designed, built, owned and paid for the castle,” Sadler wrote.
May was the daughter of George Briggs. He came west with his younger brother, Benjamin B. Briggs, (who has gone down in history as founder and developer of La Crescenta), during the 1849 Gold Rush.
Instead of looking for gold, George Briggs made his fortune by providing fresh melons and other fruit crops to the exploding population.
“He is reputed to be the first millionaire in this state,” Sadler added.
May Briggs married Gould, a superintendent on her father’s vineyards, around 1882.
Previous reports referred to Gould as a ranch hand, but Sadler discovered that he was from a very successful farm family.
“His father reported a $75,000 net worth in the 1860 census, a fortune at that time,” Sadler wrote.
George Briggs died in 1885, leaving a large estate. Daughter May inherited a significant sum, and she, by herself, bought the land from her uncle Benjamin Briggs for $12,000.
At that time, according to Sadler, a woman could own real estate as her sole and separate property — if it was purchased with money that she brought into the marriage.
The deed was recorded on July 2, 1890, at the Los Angeles County Recorder’s Office.
A portion of the property had once belonged to Southern Pacific. The railroad company sold it to J. L. Lanterman, who later sold it to Briggs.
Castle construction began the next spring, as noted in the Los Angeles Herald, May 22, 1891.
“Mrs. Eugene Gould’s place is, at present, the scene of more activity than any other one place in our valley. A beautiful and commodious house, worthy to crown this commanding height, is to be built at once, the grading for which is going on rapidly,’’ according to the Herald article.
The following November, the Herald noted that Mrs. Gould’s “beautiful residence upon the mountainside is progressing toward completion, and they hope to occupy it before the winter is over. It is one of the attractions of this locality, and makes considerable business for the Glendale branch of the Terminal railroad, as all the materials — except that found upon the place, is brought by the road to Verdugo Park, and from thence by wagon.‘’
The Gould family enjoyed a few years in their prestigious hilltop dwelling. Then their circumstances changed. More about that at a later date.
An email dated Oct. 22 from Carole Wong Sutherland, regarding Nami Ota-Donals, Verdugo Views, Feb. 28, 2016:
“Your article brought back fond memories. I remember Nami when I worked at Grandview Gardens. The Chinese Historical Society is considering putting together an exhibition of the old Chinese restaurants in Chinatown and we would like to contact Nami regarding her memories of working there and her co-workers,” Wong Sutherland wrote.
“I know you protect your sources, but I was wondering if you could give her my contact info if she is interested in participating. We would be honored if she would,’’ she added.
An email dated Oct. 16 from Brian Cylkowski of eMerging Productions LLC, regarding the USS Glendale, Verdugo Views column.
“I read your article with interest due to the fact that I have interviewed a veteran of the Glendale, and he spoke highly of the ship on which he served,” Cylkowski wrote.
“I am cutting the video and adding the extra material for the different actions in which the ship served. The story has been helped by my acquiring the ship’s log for her U.S. Navy World War II career. If you wish, I will send you a link to the video when it’s complete. Thanks for your article,” he added.
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