Andrew B. Bennett
Do you know who Andrew B. Bennett was? Do you know why his fellow citizens considered him so outstanding that they decided to name a school in his honor?
Andrew Bennett of a distinguished pioneer family was for many years an outstanding figure in Inglewood, greatly respected by all who knew him. His untimely death on November 23, 1940 when only 64 years of age was a shock to the entire community that was used to seeing that robust man ride along with three of his brother on beautiful horses each year in the parade for Inglewood’s birthday celebration, Centinela Days.
Bennett was killed as he started to walk across the street in Las Vegas, Nevada. He had wanted to see Boulder (or Hoover) dam so had gone to Las Vegas at the end of a trip home from Arkansas. Death was instantaneous. Services were held in the Beaver Matson Chapel in Inglewood with a combination of Masonic and Christian Science rites. One eulogy in the local papers spoke of his “high ideals and exceptional intelligence” band said he was “a civic leader whose judgment and advice were often sought. He was universally liked and respected.”
Bennett came to Centinela Valley in 1894 and leased 2000 acres and later 3000 more from Daniel Freeman’s Centinela Ranch. He planted the vast area stretching from the present Los Angeles International Airport to the ocean to wheat, barely and beans and farmed very successfully for many years. During the Depression many people would go to the ranch top pick up beans left on the ground by harvesting machines. Later the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts did the same thing as a means of fund-raising. One former Girl Scout recalls the aroma of beans being cooked for dinners I n1940 to raise funds for building the Girls Scout House that had to be torn down later to make way for Inglewood’s New City Hall. It fell before a bulldozer in 1971 and on March 20 new building in Centinela Park facing Warren Lane street was dedicated.
In 1924 Bennett gave over the actual operation of his ranch to his-in-law, Don Marrs, built himself a new home on West Kelso Street and began devoting himself to construction in Inglewood. He erected the Granada Theater building; glowingly described in Constance Zillgitt’s book “Men of Inglewood,” published in 1924.
“This theater, which is being built by Mr. Bennett at a cost of $100,000, when completed, will be one of the showplaces of Inglewood with a seating capacity for 2,000 people. This beautiful building which is in construction at the present time will be elegantly furnished, and plans have been made to accommodate the best musical comedy shows in the West in conjunction with the latest high class motion pictures which will be shown nightly. This fine new theater building is symbolic of the progressiveness of the owner who has associated with him in this enterprise D. W. VanDerlip, owner of the Inglewood Theater and the West Coast Pictures Corporation.”
The property on which the theater was built was formerly occupied by the spacious Bennett home, later referred to as The Bennett Hotel at 107 N. Market Street. It was occupied by the family from 1907-1915. A home had been built on the Bennett Ranch and a new one had replaced it shortly before the ranch was taken over the Airport. One photo of it shows a family reunion of over 30 people in the 1920’s. Another interesting photo shows the Bennett brothers in a 1935 Centinela Days parade driving a span of mules instead of riding horseback as they usually did. A team of mules regularly was driven to Los Angeles to buy provisions. Mule bells worn by the team are preserved in the 1887 Freeman Land Office on the Centinela Adobe grounds.
For eight years Bennett was a member of the Inglewood Elementary School District Board of Trustees. He was affiliated with the Inglewood Masonic Lodge, Woodmen of the World, and Inglewood Chamber of Commerce. His hobbies were race horses and the great outdoors. He was survived by his wife Phoebe (the former Phoebe Davies of Long Beach) and two daughters, Edna Marrs and Vera Warnell. Other survivors were two brothers, two sisters, three half-brothers and one half- sister.
His love for Centinela was carried on by his daughter Vera (Mrs. Charles Warnell), who was charter member and very active in La Tijera Parlor no. 282 of Native Daughters of the Golden West, the organization responsible for beginning the fight to save Centinela Adobe from being demolished to provide more lots became a charter member of the Historical Society of Centinela Valley when it was organized in 1965 and a tireless worker in it for many years.
During his life in Centinela Valley Bennett saw the area grow from a population of a few hundred to well over 650,000. Inglewood alone boasted 30,114 in 1940 when he died. When he came to the area now covered by Inglewood, Lennox, Hawthorne, Lawndale, El Segundo, Westchester, and Playa del Rey was little more than one vast grain field. Now it is covered with high-rise buildings and one of the mayor airports of the world. When he first came there was only one school in Centinela Valley, the Queen Street Grammar School in Inglewood. By the time of his death in 1940 there were in Inglewood alone six elementary schools, Inglewood Union High School and George W. Crozier Intermediate School.
It was over 10 years after he came to Centinela Valley that the big change of 1905 began to make Inglewood better known. The Poultry Colony was established in North Inglewood and became world-famous. Inglewood Park Cemetery was started and. Along with it, a streetcar line to bring both coffin and mourners to the cemetery. Inglewood Union High School District was authorized.
Bennett’s daughter Vera did not attend the new high school, but went to Manual Arts in Los Angeles because she wanted some subjects Inglewood did not offer. ( In later years she regretted her decision because she wished she had been one of the early students in that high school which was produced so many famous graduates, such as Clyde Woodworth, Marvin Hatley or Robert Finch—even Sonny Bono of the sonny and Cher team!)
Bennett was here when the earthquake of 1920 put Inglewood on the map because people coming out to see the damage and liking the little city so much that they flocked here to live and made it the fastest growing city in the nation. The population doubled in two years from 3500 to 7000! He was there when the Airport was established, when the National Air Races flew over what had once been his grain fields, and the famous Graf Zeppelin landed in the bean stubble!
The Story Behind the Name
Do you know who James Kew was? Do you know why his fellow citizens considered him so outstanding that they decided to name a school in his honor?
One reason is summed up in the words of Lloyd Hamilton in his “Inglewood Community Book” published in 1947. “Mr. Kew is a citizen who has always been ready to lend his time and effort for anything of benefit to the community, and the example set by such a worthy pioneer citizen as he should be a splendid inspiration to the younger generation of the city.”
He came to Inglewood in 1898 just 10 years after the new town had been laid out on 11,000 acres of Daniel Freeman’s Centinela Ranch. He had first come to California in 1887 because of ill health and had gone to San Diego because his brother was an attorney there and owned a ranch on which James Kew stayed for three years to regain his health. After coming to Inglewood he, for several years, served as manager of Daniel Freeman’s 25,000-acre Centinela Ranch.
Munch of his life was devoted to the Masonic Lodge and its many ramifications. The school was not named for his because he was mason. His extreme devotion to the principles of Masonry, However, was very responsible for main him the kind of man he was. The Masons, founded in the 1600’s, have always been interested in education. Public Schools Week is observed by every Masonic Lodge with such things as special programs, essay contests and awards. Out of the 12 Inglewood schools named for influential Inglewood people, nine bear the names of Mason—Andrew Bennett, George Crozier , Claude Hudnall, William Kelso, James Kew, J. Warren Lane, Albert Monroe, Frank Parent and Clyde Woodworth.
In addition to those name George M. Green Auditorium at Inglewood High School honors the memory of another Manson who form 1913 to 1939 served as principal of
Inglewood Union High School and Superintendent of the high school district. Many other city names also attest to the importance to the community of local Masons, street names such as Aerick, Darby, Dixon or England. There were Masons among city officials, school boards, Fire and Police Departments, newspapers, business men.
The background of this Inglewood organization was supplied by James Kew. He was the principal person responsible for organizing the Inglewood Lodge. In 1910 he had joined the Redondo Lodge, but immediately began working to obtain one in Inglewood. At first Grand Lodge was very skeptical of Inglewood with only 1500 population being able to support one, but James Kew was determined. He had to get the support of 13 lodges in the space of two months. Permission could be obtained only at a stated meeting, so one night, in order to make the deadline; he had to attend meetings in three different towns!
Finally the necessary consents were all obtained and Inglewood Lodge 421 Free and Accepted Masons was instituted in January, 1911. Kew was its first Master and served as its secretary for 16 years. Forty years later, in 1951, that Lodge celebrated James Kew Night to honor its first master. Kew died October 16, 1955 and the next year a new Inglewood Lodge, James Kew Lodge, was instituted in North Inglewood. Because of changing conditions in the city, that organization later was consolidated with the original Inglewood Lodge, which from then on bore the name Inglewood- James Kew Lodge.
James Kew was prominent in Inglewood in may other areas also. He served as City Clerk from 1910 to 1920. For a few years he was Street Superintendent and had charge of building many of Inglewood’s most important streets. During World War II he was secretary to the Red Cross Committee. For several years he was treasurer of Odd Fellows Lodge 420. For two and a half years he was with First National Bank of Inglewood, but left that position to take over the management of the estate of Grace Howland, daughter of Daniel Freeman. The high esteem in which he was held by Mrs. Howland is evidenced in the fact that he is buried in the Freeman family plot in Inglewood Park Cemetery.
James Kew was born in Beamsville, Ontario, Canada where his father, William Kew, manufactured cabs and carriages and was a man of note in the community. After graduation from the University of Toronto he studied law, but because of coming to California to improve his health never practiced. After regaining his health he was employed by the East Fruit Company in San Diego, also lived in Riverside for some years before coming to Inglewood.
In 1951 the Third Annual Progress Edition of the ‘Inglewood Daily News” was dedicated to “James Kew, Inglewood pioneer who made a major contribution to the development of Inglewood and Centinela Valley.
When James Kew died in 1955 at age 91 he had lived in Inglewood for nearly 60 years, very interesting years in a changing community. When he came in 1898 the ten-year-old town of approximately 300 population was the only town in Centinela Valley, an area now occupied by seven cities. Inglewood was the center of an agricultural community. There were no sidewalks except for wooden ones built by merchants in front of their own businesses.
In 1905 the Poultry Colony had been established in North Inglewood and soon became world-famous. A high school district had been organized in 1905 and seven and a half acres for a campus were purchased in 1906 for $5,000. A building was completed in 1908 in time for the first graduating class of one boy and four girls to hold its Commencement. One of five diplomas hangs on the wall of the Freeman Library in the Centinela Valley Heritage and Research Center on the Centinela Adobe grounds.
Inglewood Park Cemetery had also begun in 1905, followed by a streetcar line to bring both mourners and coffin to the cemetery. Kew was here for Inglewood’s incorporation as a city and as city clerk was a part of the new city government. He was here during the disastrous 1920 earthquake which put Inglewood on the map. He saw the population double in the next two years to 7000 and the price of front footage on Market Street rise from $35 or $50 a front foot to $1000 or more.
He was here during the 1930’s when Inglewood businesses were serving a retail territory of 100,000 people within a ten-mile radius. He watched the rise of an airport replacing the Andrew Bennett ranch, the growth of the airplane industry and the great changes brought by World War II.
When James Kew first came to Inglewood there was only one school, the Queen Street Grammar School. When he died in 1955 there were 13 elementary schools, including the one named for him, two high schools and two junior high schools. The pupils who attend James Kew Elementary School today may well be proud of the rich heritage which this outstanding man helped so greatly to make possible.