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Dextra Baldwin McGonagle, Grand Daughter of one of California's renowned pioneers of California business, Elias "Lucky" Baldwin bequeathed The Dextra Baldwin McGonagle Foundation in 1967. Lucky Baldwin's influences can be found from Northern California to the Greater Los Angeles area.
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Larger than life Elias J 'Lucky' Baldwin strode across California from the 1860's until his death in 1909 establishing successful ventures wherever he went, some profitable, some less so financially profitable, but ever increasing his business savvy and crafty methods securing him as a true pioneer of the West. Although his initial fortune was made in Nevada, his legacy lies in California, all the way from the Northern part of the state in San Francisco, and ultimately to the Greater Los Angeles Area of Southern California. His influence can be found up and down the Golden State’s coast and inland area alike.
Left: Elias J. "Lucky" Baldwin at age 47.
He was always shrewd, working his way west from Indiana, where he was born in 1828. While traveling a true Western Stagecoach experience filled with adventure, he traded horses, owned grocery stores and even sold brandy to Brigham Young's brother while in Salt Lake City. When Baldwin landed in San Francisco, he continued to trade, bought a hotel and got involved in making bricks for the government; but the lure of the Comstock Lode drew him to Virginia City during the 1860's, where he ran a lumber yard while learning about mining. His various successes resulted in him going on a world tour in 1867, soon after, thanks to his varied success he earned the nickname "Lucky" when stock he thought he'd sold off actually stayed in his name long enough to see a bonanza spike and make him a multi-millionaire.
Right: Elias J. "Lucky" Baldwin with his parrot.
The longer story is that he left orders with his broker to sell his dwindling investment in a failing mine if his stock rose to his original purchase price. Lucky, however, didn't leave a key to the safe where the shares were held; so they could not be retrieved when they rose to his price. Then silver was discovered and when he returned from his travels, he sold his shares for 15 times the original price!! Baldwin did not like the nickname, 'Lucky'; and once, when asked, replied "That's a hard one. I've worked hard for everything I've gotten in life." He remained in Comstock until 1875. Then he headed south with $5 million and Jennie Dexter. Shortly thereafter, he purchased Rancho Santa Anita, about 10,000 acres encompassing what is now Arcadia and Monrovia.
Left: Map of Lucky's Rancho Santa Anita purchase.
Anita continued to run the farm after Lucky's death in 1909, reorganizing it into the Anoakia Stock and Breeding Farm; and building her landmark Arcadia house, Anoakia in 1912. Anita's 100-room Arcadia house was built on 20 acres in 1913 for about $250,000. It contained stables, barns, a swimming pool, bowling alley and a tennis court; and Anita lived in it, semi-reclusively, until her death in 1939.
In the 1920s, the Baldwin luck continued as oil was discovered on Baldwin land, and the Montebello and Inglewood Oil Fields were developed thereafter.
Right: The beautiful Anoakia exterior.
Left: The Tallac Casino/Hotel . While developing Rancho Santa Anita, Lucky also owned hotels. His Hotel Tallac on Lake Tahoe served 8-course meals and boasted "a cuisine equal to any and excelled by none".
Rancho Santa Anita evolved into a thriving farm under Lucky's, and then Anita's, direction, producing everything from peaches and oranges to livestock, wine and brandy; and importing trees, flowers and peacocks.
Left: Anita Baldwin and Red Star Equestrians at The Rose Parade. She was always a favorite at the Pasadena Rose Parade, where she came out of seclusion dressed in formal habit and sitting atop of her prancing, high-tailed horse. Less is known about Anita than might be, since her papers were burned as requested in her Will.
During that time the city of Arcadia was formed, Lucky was its first Mayor and the railroad came to town. But for Lucky, his crowning achievement was in 1907 when horse racing occurred at his Santa Anita Race Track; and he declared, "I desire no other monument. This is the greatest thing I have ever done, and I am satisfied."
Right: A gambler at heart, Lucky with a winning hand.
EJ was unarguably a philanderer, but Jennie Dexter was purported to be his one true love. Their daughter Anita was born in 1876. EJ built the cottage for Jennie in 1881, but their union was short, as she passed from tuberculosis in 1883. Anita named her own daughter Dextra, after her mother.
It is thanks to Anita's daughter and Lucky's granddaughter, Dextra Baldwin McGonagle, that the Dextra Baldwin McGonagle Foundation was created upon Dextra's death in 1967.
Above: Jennie Dexter, Lucky's "one true love." and Anita at five years old. Left: Anita Baldwin posing for bust. Jennie's Cottage, which still can be seen today at The Los Angeles Arboretum.
Right: Dextra and Baldwin Baldwin, 1915.
Lucky's horses won derbies, his wine won awards and he brought peacocks to California; but his legacy is his gardens and trees which have lasted to this day, as the center of the former Rancho Santa Anita is now known as The Los Angeles Arboretum.
Left: Anita Baldwin by Weston.
"I have seen a number of botanical gardens in different parts of the world, but there are few more beautiful than the grounds about this home of Lucky Baldwin. It is one of the prettiest places in the world, and every tree and shrub connected with it has been planted by his direction. He took this vast estate when it was practically a desert, and he made it a land of flowers, trees and of fruit-bearing orchards" [LAT 6/11/83]
The Foundation would like acknowledge Sandra Snider and recommend the biography, "Elias Jackson 'Lucky' Baldwin, California Visionary", Sandra Lee Snider, 1987, The Starwell Group Publishers.
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Beginning in December 1st, 2020 till March 31st, 2021 will be considering projects specifically geared toward 5013c Organizations fighting in the area of Wrongful Convictions.
If you would like to be considered for funding, please include a one paragraph summary of your project, including a budget and your most current Form 990. Proposals should also include your latest income/expense statement along with any other pertinent information regarding your organization. Email the address below.