Janss Steps to be renamed
Because of a racist incident in 1938 by the Janss Company (see below COMMENTS), UCLA will change the name of their world famous Jansss Steps. ,
[2 Articles and photos below]
I'm disappointed and even saddened, as most UCLA people will be. The Janss steps are one of the two or three most beautiful places on campus, and always signified our school. Personally, I question whether the 1938 incident warrants the name change, but I admit I am not affiliated with the aggrieved group, and I acknowledge their claim of offense and pain.
We have already seen the rather quick decision to rename the Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton, because Dr. Plummer briefly joined the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, The mitigating circumstance is that he didn't understand what he was joining when he signed up: the only name used was something like the Young Christian Men of America. That was the defense offered by Plummer's supporters. In addition, during the 1920s resurgence of the Klan, tens of thousands of men across the country joined and soon resigned: it was a common mistake. Dr. Plummer was the Father of Education in Fullerton and in virtually ways led an exemplary life of service and virtue. It seems a shame that one infraction ruined his reputation for many,
Other changes have been taking place nationwide. While all of readers deplore racism, prejudice and bigotry, there are other considerations in such cases, I believe. One is what used to be referred to as human frailty, and the way we all make mistakes. Another is that when we examine whether an individual deserves such a penalty as a name change on an auditorium or a stairway or a monument, I think we ought to consider carefully the entire scope of his or her life, and what it meant. We've spoken of Dr. Plummer. The Janss family built entire areas of Southern California including Yorba Linda. They sold major properties such as the UCLA site to local cities at well below market prince. It seems they were good or even excellent citizens.
We therefore wonder about the wisdom of this decision at the Janss Steps. There are hundreds of individuals who helped build and develop Southern California since about 1880, and two dozen in Fullerton alone. Almost every building on every college campus in the United States bears the name of a male or female professor or benefactor. Who will cast the first stone, and will the next denunciation be just and equitable? Who will it serve?
Exterior view of Royce Hall on the U.C.L.A. Westwood campus. View is looking at the hall from the bottom of Janss Steps. Building was built in 1928-29 and designed by Allison and Allison, Architects. It was constructed in a northern Italian Romanesque Revival style, inspired by Sant' Ambrogio in Milan (12th century).
The Janss Investment Company was founded by Peter Janss, an immigrant doctor from Denmark. Peter Janss graduated in the class of 1877 in Keokuk, Iowa, and by 1882 he was appointed Hall County physician. He moved to Los Angeles in 1893, planning to practice medicine but discovered the real estate industry was much more lucrative.
By 1906 he and his two sons, Edwin Janss Sr. and Harold Janss established an investment company, creating subdivisions in Belvedere Gardens, Boyle Heights, Monterey Park, and Yorba Linda.
Janss developed Ramona Acres in Monterey Park. Janss subdivided Highland Villa and Belvedere Gardens (now known as East Los Angeles) in Boyle Heights.
In 1909, Janss subdivided a 3,500-acre part of the Bernardo Yorba Rancho Cañón de Santa Ana property and named the new town "Yorba Linda".
After Janss sold the land to help build the UCLA campus, many organizations affiliated with university began to form. Many of these groups were fraternities and sororities whose members were mostly white men and women. The land for the university had been sold, but the land surrounding it still belonged to Janss. They sold the land along Hilgard Ave. to twenty one European American groups for the prices between $7,500 and $9,500, whereas the usual asking price was between $8,000 and $12,000.
In 1938 an Asian American sorority, Chi Alpha Delta, wanted to purchase the UCLA Religious Conference building with the hopes of setting up a home for its members and students near campus. The university appeared to be wanting to sell the building for this purpose, but while some of Janss was willing to sell, one was unwilling to sell to "Orientals".
The Janss Brothers' headquarters in Westwood Village, the Janss Investment Company Building or Janss Dome, was opened in 1929. The Dome stands today as one of the iconic buildings of Westwood Village. The firm's Janss Investment Co. "stamps" appear on sidewalks in many Westside residential neighborhoods.