Remembering the Honorable David A. Workman (1930-2020)

March 30, 1930 – March 23, 2020

The Honorable David A Workman passed away on March 23, 2020, just a week before his 90th birthday.

He was born in Los Angeles and his family roots are connected with Boyle Heights. 

His maternal great-grandfather was Andrew Boyle for whom Boyle Heights was named. 

His paternal grandparents were Boyle Heights founder William H. Workman and Maria Boyle Workman. 

His parents were Thomas E. Workman and Margaret Kilgariff.

He served in the United States Marine Corps, including its reserves, and retired in 1985 with the rank of colonel.

The Boyle Heights Historical Society would like to share some of our memories wherein we had the pleasure and honor of meeting Judge Workman and interacting with him throughout the years.

Judge Workman was the family historian and gatekeeper of the Workman family historic records and photos. Therefore, as the Boyle Heights Historical Society was organizing fifteen years ago, we reached out to him to learn about the rich history and early beginnings of Boyle Heights.  We knew Judge Workman was very busy but he contacted me and said he would be happy to attend our meeting.  

SHARED MEMORIES – Diana Ybarra, Boyle Heights Historical Society
We had the honor and pleasure of meeting Judge Workman in 2005.  The Boyle Heights Historical Society was just organizing and held its second outreach meeting at the beautiful Neighborhood Music School on Boyle Avenue.  We had approximately 40 community members in attendance, including representatives from our newly formed Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council.

This was a very important meeting and Retired United States Air Force Colonel Melvin “Bud” Weber, founding member and organizer, discussed the goals and mission of the Boyle Heights Historical Society.  He was born and raised in Boyle Heights, was a 1944 graduate of Roosevelt High School, and stayed connected with the Roosevelt Alumni Foundation, although he resided in Laguna Woods. He was very honored to meet a descendant of William H. Workman (founder of Boyle Heights) and appreciated Judge Workman coming to our meeting and sharing his memories and ideas.

A wave of changes was about to take place in Boyle Heights.  There were meetings and discussions with the CRA for new development, and significant changes were already underway in Boyle Heights. 

We were also fortunate that Paul Spitzzeri from the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum was able to attend our meeting. Paul prepared a very informative presentation and answered questions from the attendees.  The slide presentation showed vintage photos of Andrew Boyle and the Workman family, loaned by Judge Workman from his family’s collection, as well as other earlier period photos of Boyle Heights.  

The vineyards that once graced the area of Boyle Heights were replaced with various structures, such as St. Mary’s Catholic Church.  It was an enlightening presentation, and many of the photos and much of the information he shared had never been seen by residents. Usually, the history of Boyle Heights and early Los Angeles is shared and discussed at universities and museums.  Paul‘s knowledge was greatly appreciated.

[Andrew] Boyle Workman, grandson of Boyle Heights namesake Andrew A. Boyle and son of founder William Henry Workman and City Council president during much of the 1920s, with his nephews (left to right), Thomas, Henry, David and Richard, upon the publication of Boyle’s book, The City That Grew, published in 1935.
Redevelopment and changes were in the future of Boyle Heights
We shared our concerns with Judge Workman regarding the future of Boyle Heights.  Many new projects were going to be developed in the coming years and older, historic homes were going to be demolished.  He gave us his thoughtful input regarding the significance of historic preservation and historic districts.  

He then directed everyone’s attention to the property directly across the street on Boyle Avenue.  This was where the Workman family homestead once stood.  It was the site where Andrew Boyle built his brick house.  The property was later sold to the Jewish Home for the Aging and the Workman home was demolished, and in the 1970s it was sold again and reopened as the Keiro Retirement Home. 

Judge Workman shared his recollections of visiting his Aunt Mary Julia Workman (daughter of William H. Workman) and driving around with her on her errands throughout Boyle Heights. She was the founder of the Brownson Settlement House in 1901 and which is now part of the Catholic Youth Organization of the Catholic Charities of Los Angeles.  She was involved in social services and politics in Boyle Heights and Los Angeles.

As the meeting concluded, I realized that this was no ordinary day in Boyle Heights.  In fact, Judge Workman’s presence at the Boyle Heights Historical Society meeting was truly a special moment in time. Listening to him speak and share these wonderful memories helped paint a picture of what Boyle Heights was like many years ago.  He truly made our meeting even more memorable. It was an historic moment for all of us.

It was a great honor to have a descendant from Andrew Boyle and William H. Workman sharing his memories with us, and being seated across the street from the Boyle and Workman family homestead—where the history of Boyle Heights began.

At right, David Workman, a retired United States Marine Corps colonel and longtime Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, with retired Air Force colonel Melvin “Bud” Weber at an organizing committee meeting for the Boyle Heights Historical Society, Neighborhood Music School, 2005.  Photo courtesy of Diana Ybarra.
Revisiting Boyle Heights
After our meeting, I kept in touch with Judge Workman. He had expressed his desire to visit several historical sites in the community.  On several occasions when we drove through Boyle Heights he would point out certain places that he recalled visiting, adding his vignettes with historical insight and new information.

Iglesia Bautista Unida, formerly Hollenbeck Presbyterian Church, built in 1895.

Judge Workman expressed an interest in visiting the Hollenbeck Presbyterian Church (built in 1895) on Chicago Street, the building now serving as Iglesia Bautista Unida.  I arranged for Judge Workman to visit with the current pastor.  Judge Workman’s great grandmother, Nancy Hook, was a member of the original church and donated one of the stained glass windows, so he hoped to see the window.  We learned that most of the original windows had been replaced.  However, a portion could still be seen—a small piece of the American flag that had been part of the design.

On another occasion that I fondly remember, I asked Judge Workman if he would be available to drive through Boyle Heights with Jay Platt (formerly with the Los Angeles Conservancy) and me. The purpose was to identify significant sites in Boyle Heights that could become historical landmarks or historic residential districts.

During our tour through the area, we made a stop at La Mascota Bakery on Whittier Boulevard to purchase some tamales.  Judge Workman had mentioned to me that he really enjoyed the tamales from this well-known neighborhood establishment. 

The Boyle Hotel – Landmark Application
The amazing history of the López family of Paredón Blanco and the history of Andrew Boyle and William H. Workman are interconnected. 
In 2006, I was contacted by Catherine López Kurland, a descendant of George Cummings and Sacramenta López de Cummings (her great-grandparents), who had built the Boyle Hotel as the Cummings Hotel and Business Block in 1889. Catherine and I discussed how the Boyle Heights Historical Society could assist and support nominating the Boyle Hotel as an historical cultural monument (HCM).
I reached out to Judge Workman to share our concerns about the historic Boyle Hotel and our efforts to have it nominated as an historic landmark.  I also explained that Catherine was a descendant of the López family of Paredón Blanco and of George Cummings who built the hotel.
Judge Workman was interested in hearing more about the historic Boyle Hotel and mentioned that he might have some documents that Catherine may want to review.   Soon thereafter, Catherine, Judge Workman, his nephew, Paul Workman, and I met for breakfast at Du-par’s in the Original Farmers Market.
It never occurred to me the types of documents Judge Workman would have in his possession nor could I have imagined what he was going to share with us.  It is difficult for me to describe how I felt at that moment when Judge Workman showed several significant documents representing the history of the community of Boyle Heights before it evolved.  To be present and witness these historical documents, and to be at a breakfast meeting with the descendants of the two most significant families of Paredón Blanco and Boyle Heights was something I had never imagined.  Personally, this moment in time was absolutely significant and historical.

SHARED MEMORIES: Catherine López Kurland 
My first meeting with Judge Workman was memorable, pivotal in fact. Just months before, Diana Ybarra, the founding president of the Boyle Heights Historical Society, and I recognized our mutual concern for the future of The Boyle Hotel, which was in imminent danger of being demolished. Saving the historic 1889 structure was beyond our means, but we could work together to obtain an historical designation for posterity and to slow down the wrecker’s ball. This required researching the history of the hotel for the nomination.
I knew that my great-grandfather George Cummings had built the hotel, but I didn’t know that it was on land that had been in the family of my great-grandmother María Francisca del Sacramento López (Sacramenta) since the 1830s. I proceeded to learn about my mother’s ancestors’ connections in the area, but was stumped by not being able to pin down something Sacramenta’s sister Francisca Lopez de Bilderrain had written: the second wife of their grandfather sold the López adobe, farmlands and vineyards at the bottom of the bluff “to a new arrival in town…none other than the affable and jovial Irish gentleman, Mr. Andrew Boyle.” 
Nowhere, however, in any history of Boyle Heights could I find a mention of the seller from whom Boyle had bought the land that became the residential development his son-in-law William H. Workman named in his honor. Thanks to Judge Workman, the missing piece of the puzzle was soon to be revealed at Du-Par’s one morning when Diana arranged for me to meet Judge Workman and his nephew Paul for the first time. 
It was thrilling to meet Judge Workman and hear his riveting stories about the history of Boyle Heights, when, to everyone’s surprise, he quietly pulled from his briefcase the handwritten deed of sale from Petra Varela to Andrew Boyle. Petra Varela was the widow and second wife of Estevan López, to whom the Ayuntamiento of Los Angeles in 1835 gave permission to build a house and granted him the land at the bottom of the bluff where he raised stock and cultivated crops, including wine grapes. (Fortunately, prior to his death, Estevan gave large parcels of the property to his children, including Sacramenta’s father, Francisco “Chico” López.)

From left to right, Paul C. Workman, Catherine López Kurland, Diana Ybarra and David Workman.
The revelation of the deed of sale was one of two instances when Judge Workman shared with me items that were key to our knowledge of the foundations of Boyle Heights and, in the second instance, the Boyle Hotel-Cummings Block, aka Mariachi Hotel. 
Under the sponsorship of the Boyle Heights Historical Society, and with the support of longtime residents, preservationists, and the new owners of the hotel—the East LA Community Community Corporation (ELACC)—the City of Los Angeles designated the Boyle Hotel-Cummings Block as a Historic-Cultural Monument in October 2007. ELACC purchased the property with the intention of saving and restoring the historic, but deteriorating, old structure. 
Unfortunately there were no photographs of the front facade on Boyle Avenue (then López Street). Once again, out of the blue, Judge Workman came up with a treasure: a photograph of the Cummings Block that was probably taken for the grand opening in 1889. I was moved beyond words to see the the distinguished brick building with William H. Workman on the sidewalk and George Cummings on the parapet. The image came to light just in time to submit critical information for the architectural restoration of the building. In December 2012 the Boyle Hotel-Cummings Block reopened, a proud landmark in keeping with its original design—thanks, in part, to Judge Workman.
These were but two of the many times that Judge Workman invited Diana and me to look over his historical documents and images. We three reveled in our shared passion: the multilayered history of Boyle Heights. It was always a pleasure to be in Judge Workman’s company, a gentleman with a dignified and gracious manner, infused with a subtle sense of humor belied by a barely concealed grin and a twinkle in his eye. He never hinted at the wellspring of knowledge beyond what we covered. 
Later, Judge Workman gave me carte blanche to avail myself of material from his family collection for the book I was working on, Hotel Mariachi: Urban Space and Cultural Heritage in Los Angeles (University of New Mexico Press, 2013). His profound knowledge of Los Angeles history and Boyle Heights in particular was only matched by his generosity in sharing it. I am indebted to Judge Workman, and grateful for having had the honor of knowing him.

A detail of the Boyle Hotel-Cummings Block.
The Boyle Hotel-Cummings Block was landmarked, restored and reopened in 2012 as affordable housing and Judge Workman joined Catherine and her family for this special ceremony and celebration.

Judge Workman and Catherine López Kurland at the reopening of the historic Boyle Hotel-Cummings Block in 2012.  Photo by Diana Ybarra.

2011 Exhibit: Images and Essays, Boyle Heights, 1850-1900

In 2011, I was assisting with a special exhibit for the Boyle Heights Historical Society.  I met with Paul Spitzzeri and Judge Workman to review photos from the Workman Family Collection that we could possibly use for the exhibit.  The exhibit was displayed for three months at the William H. Perry Mansion at Heritage Square Museum. The Society also displayed the exhibit at the library of Occidental College.  The Boyle-Workman family history panel shows photos of Andrew Boyle; his brick house and wine cellar; William H. Workman; Maria Boyle Workman; and their children: Boyle, Elizabeth, Mary Julia and William H., Jr.

David Workman and Diana Ybarra in 2019 with a display panel of the Boyle and Workman families from images provided by the Workman Family Collection.  Photo courtesy of Vivian Escalante.
Judge Workman was very helpful and gracious in providing me with the photos, as well as directing me to see the materials in the Workman family collection housed at Loyola Marymount University’s Department of Archives and Special Collections in the William H. Hannon Library.
Sharing Historical Documents
In 2019, Gary Temple and Judge Workman, whose ancestors William and David Workman were brothers, shared some historical materials relevant to the early development of Boyle Heights.  We met at the historic Blanchard House.  Rose Acosta Yonai, Chief Financial Officer with the Boyle Heights Historical Society, hosted the afternoon with lunch and her husband John gave a tour of the beautiful home.  Judge Workman commented that he recalled visiting with his aunt many late 1800s houses in the area that were very beautiful.  Sadly, many of the homes of that period were modernized or demolished.
On this lovely afternoon, I also introduced Judge Workman to Vivian Escalante who was Vice-President of the Boyle Heights Historical Society and Chair of the Preservation Committee for the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council.  Ms. Escalante shared with him her commitment to help preserve the history and important structures in Boyle Heights. 
Judge Workman was very happy to share several historical documents with us. The documents are pertinent to the history of Boyle Heights and could serve as supportive documentation for creating historic landmarks or districts in Boyle Heights.  They are visual records of how Boyle Heights came to be.
This was a delightful afternoon we shared with wonderful conversations and refreshments. 

David Workman with Boyle Heights Historical Society members Vivian Escalante (seated left), Rose Acosta-Yonai (seated right) and Diana Ybarra (standing right) and with his cousin Gary Temple at the Blanchard House in Boyle Heights, 2019.
With great appreciation for Judge Workman’s kindness and willingness to help us share the extensive history of Boyle Heights and Los Angeles, we will continue to share, respect and preserve this history for future residents of Boyle Heights and generations to come.
We Salute You Colonel David A. Workman – Semper Fi!