Prudent Beaudry, 1884
Los Angeles Public Library
From 1870 to 1872 the
population of Los Angeles swelled from 5,700 to 9,000 thanks to shrewd land
speculation which lead to the construction of over 2,000 homes. Prudent Beaudry,
brother of Victor who was busy running a successful mining business (the ghost
of which is well known to California backcountry explorers today) was primarily
responsible for the building and population boom of the future megalopolis.
Even after his death,
Beaudry's accomplishments earned praise in the book, Sixty Years in Southern
California by Harris Newmark.
"Prudent Beaudry has the record of having made in different lines five large
fortunes, four of which, through the act of God, or by the duplicity of man,
in whom he had trusted, have been lost; but even then he was not
discouraged, but faced the world, even at an advanced age, like a lion at
bay, and his reward he now enjoys in the shape of a large and assured
fortune. Of such stuff are the men who fill great places and who develop and
make great country. To such men we of this later day owe much of the beauty
and comfort that surrounds us, and to such we should look with admiration as
models upon which to form rules of action in trying times."
In spite of this early
visionary, most Angelinos are hard pressed to know how the Los Angeles street, Beaudry
Avenue, earned its name.
Map of downtown Los
Angles, 1928. Beaudry Avenue is outlined in red.
The David Rumsey
Historical Map Collection
Prudent was born in St. Anne
Des Plaines, Province of Quebec, Canada. His native Canadian parents were of
French ancestry. His father provided for the family with his earnings as a
merchant, and served as an example that Prudent, and his brothers followed. The
French schools of Canada provided Prudent's early education. He went on
to pursue graduate studies in business at the English schools of New York City.
The Canadian Rebellions of
1837 had just ended by this time, spurring Prudent to join efforts touting
Canada's annexation to the United States. As efforts failed to annex Canada,
Prudent decided to head to the United States himself, and wound up in New
Orleans. Here he gathered experiences in commercial activities which would help
him in his further venues throughout his life.
As 1842 rolled around,
Prudent found himself back in Montreal with his brothers forming an
import-export business. Travel to England and Scotland was necessary to purchase
stock. He continued in this business until sometime in 1850, when he decided to
sell his interest to one of his brothers, and follow another to California.
The 1849 California Gold Rush
brought Prudent's brother, Victor, to San Francisco. When Prudent arrived the
climate was right for a general mercantile business. His entire capital of
$26,000 was invested in the venture. The possibilities of business related to
the construction of the Nicaragua Canal called to Victor, however, leaving
Prudent with everything in San Francisco.
Within two and a half months
Prudent cleared $33,000. Unfortunately, soon after his financial success, two
fires nearly destroyed his retail business. Not long after the fires, large
shipments of sugar and other commodities arrived at the sea ports. Prudent along
with many other San Francisco merchants found themselves in an overstocked
market. In an ironic twist of the economy, he found himself walking Montgomery
Street sidewalks which were now built of the boxes of plug tobacco and other
goods that could no longer be traded.
Finding himself left with a
thousand dollars or so of goods and two or three hundred dollars in actual cash,
Prudent Beaudry traveled south to the pueblo of Los Angeles. On Main Street
across from the Abel Stearns home, he set up a small store. Within thirty days
he had $2,000 and only part of his stock left. This prompted Prudent to move to
Commercial Street where he formed partnership, first with a man named Brown, and
then with one named Le Matre. A short time later he bought them out and ran the
successful enterprise by himself, catering to the more wealthy clients.
View of 1850's Los
Los Angeles Public
By 1854, Prudent found he was
able to invest in more property at the corner of Aliso and Los Angeles streets,
which subsequently became known as the "Beaudry Block." Following an initial
investment of $11,000, he added $25,000 in improvements. The now elongated
adobe enabled him to bring the rents from $300 to $1,000 a month.
As a sleepy pueblo grew,
Prudent Beaudry's success and wealth also increased. The hard work began to take
a toll on his health, however. In 1855, finding California lacking in the latest
medical procedures, he traveled to Paris where he consulted unsuccessfully with
the eminent oculist, Sichel, for problems with his eyes. Prudent's interests in
Los Angeles were left in the hands of his brother, Victor, who had returned from
Central America. This enabled Prudent to return to Montreal for five years where
The Civil War called to
Victor Beaudry in 1861 bringing Prudent back to Los Angeles so his brother could
pursue merchandising efforts with the Army of the Potomac. Prudent remained in
business in the Beaudry Block until 1865. After three years, and a profit of
over $40,000, health issues again forced Prudent into short retirement.
Aside from benefiting from
miners by providing much needed supplies and services to them, Victor Beaudry
dabbled in the mining industry itself, with interests in the San Gabriel
Mountains, and eventually found big time success in the Inyo Mountains at the
Cerro Gordo Mines.
Prudent was prompted to try
his hand at mining when the Slate Range Gold and Silver Mining Company became
indebted to Prudent for a large amount of goods he had sold them. The company,
consisting of a thirteen stamp mill, twelve buildings, and six mines was sold at
a sheriff's sale. Prudent saw his opportunity and bid on it. Unfortunately,
roving bands of Indians discovered the mine and buildings and burned them to the
ground. Prudent was left with $6,000 in insurance, and a strong distaste for
By 1867, Prudent Beaudry saw
even more promise of growth in Los Angeles. He capitalized on it by buying real
estate. He purchased the steep hillside of New High Street for $55, opposite the
Pico House. He built houses and made improvements, then proceeded to purchase
another twenty acres bounded by Second, Fourth and Charity Streets. The original
investment of $517 for the second piece of property soon turned into a profit of
$30,000 as Beaudry sub divided it into eighty lots and put them up for sale.
Map of downtown Los
The David Rumsey
Historical Map Collection
Another acquisition of thirty
nine acres between Fourth and Sixth streets and Grand Avenue and Pearl Street
included some of the finest property in Los Angeles at the time, putting over
$50,000 in his bank accounts.
It was said that many a happy
home became the property of the poor man because of Prudent Beaudry's ability to
popularize real estate and bring it to reach of the common man by selling on
small monthly payments. Beaudry not only bought and sold properties; he made
sure the communities were provided with appropriate water systems, graded
streets and eventually, public transportation systems as well.
View of Los
The Library of Congress
By the 1880s circulars could
be seen throughout Los Angeles printed in red ink with bold headlines reading:
NOW IS THE TIME! DON'T
SHUT YOUR EYES AND TURN YOUR BACK!
Have a home on the
Hills! Stop paying rent in the Valleys! View from your own home the broad
Pacific, the green hills and the model city! Best Water supply. Drainage
perfect. Best sunny exposures. Pure air, and away from fogs! Have a Home on
the line of the great Cable Railway System! Mark your calendar before the
day of sale! February 15,16, 17, at 10 o'clock each Day. Bear in mind that
this property is on the HILLS, and on the line of the Cable Railway System!
No such opportunity has ever been offered to the people of Southern
California. Public School and Young Ladies Seminary in the immediate
View of Bunker Hill area
of Los Angeles, 1885.
Los Angeles Public
The Los Angeles City Water
Company was organized in 1868 under the leadership of Prudent as its first
president. Water mains were built to supply water for the properties he had
purchased and sold to others. Once the lower regions were supplied, Prudent
devoted himself to perfecting a high service system that supplied water to hills
west of the city. This system would ultimately be responsible for turning barren
land into elegant residences and business blocks for the most agreeable
properties of the city.
Prudent, also joined forces
with George Hanson and others in creating a canal and reservoir system that
brought water from the Los Angeles River. In addition to building waterworks,
Beaudry was the first person responsible for paving the streets of the growing
From 1874 to 1876,
following service as a member of the Angeles City Council, Prudent Beaudry
became the city's thirteenth mayor.
In his later years Prudent
continued to keep himself busy with water, real estate, and transportation, to
help meet the needs of the little pueblo which had now grown into a major city
of over 13,000 citizens. As time went on, he withdrew from public service
enjoying good health until the last week of his life.
Prudent Beaudry, a
lifelong bachelor, died in the spring of 1893. Upon his death the Los Angeles
"In his official
capacity he was noted for his fearless honesty and his active advocacy of
all measures looking for the benefit of the city.. Only those who have lived
in Los Angele can form an idea of how great a debt the city owes to this
unobtrusive quietly energetic man. His wealth was always kept occupied in
developing new enterprises, and thus was diffused among the poorer people.
His philanthropy was of that best kind - he furnished work whereby a man
could earn his livelihood."
City-Makers: The story of
SouthernCalifornia's First Boom
by Remi Nadeau
Trans-Anglo Books (Out of Print)
Sixty Years in Southern California 1853 - 1913, Containing the reminiscences
of Harris Newmark
by Harris Newmark; Maurice H. and Marco R. Newmark
(Out Of Print)
Los Angeles Times archives via Pro Quest
Los Angeles County Biographies
The Library of Congress Map collection
The David Rumsey Historical Map Collection
The Los Angeles Public Library Photo collection