Saturday, January 14, 2012

Reuben Shettler Residence

Reuben Shettler Residence, (1949, Architect Unknown)
444 Chino Drive

I’ve always been curious about this discreet little Spanish Colonial that has resisted the changes that have resulted in a number of McMansions in the neighborhood. This one was built for Reuben Shettler and appears to be largely unaltered. Shettler was the millionaire inventor of the friction clutch, as well as one of the early investors in the Reo Automobile.

In 1906, Shettler built his Los Angeles home at 3100 Wilshire Boulevard designed by Hunt, Burns and Eager. Later, Bullock’s Wilshire would be built next door. The residence survives today, but has been sub-divided into shops.

The following is a brief biography of Shettler: “Reuben Schettler. In the making of his choice of a permanent location as well as in his identification with a growing industry Mr. Schettler feels that he has been especially fortunate. His interest in Los Angeles dates from the year 1895, when for the first time he came here there to spend a season where the climate was less trying than in the middle west, or the greater part of his life had been spent. After a number of seasons similarly spent he decided to take up his permanent residence here, a decision which has proven of mutual benefit to Mr. Schettler and to Los Angeles as well. Born in London, England, in 1853, he was a lad of seven years when with his parents he came to the United States and settled on a farm near Canadaigua, Ontario County, N. Y. He was educated principally in the public schools of that vicinity and at the age of 20 years he took up the burden of self-support. Of a mechanical turn of mind he naturally looked for employment in that line and was more than ordinarily successful in his efforts. Going to Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1873 he took up mechanics, having a natural inclination for that line of work and in his experience in running threshing machines made observations which led to the manufacturer of the Schettler thresher. The machine was at first manufactured at Battle Creek by the Upton Manufacturing Company, but later the plant was moved to Port Huron, Mr. Schettler becoming largely interested in the company, and until 1853 was superintendent of the plant.

In the meantime Mr. Schettler invented the friction clutch for use in the mechanism of traction engines and threshers, a basic patent which marked the beginning of the great success in the running of rapid moving machinery. Prior to this the positive clutch of been the embodiment of the highest knowledge along this line. The friction clutch is now used universally the world over and it can be safely said that automobile he would not be a success were it not for the basic principle which it involves. It was in 1886 that Mr. Schettler located in Lansing, Michigan, and established himself in the jobbing business, representing Huber Manufacturing Company, manufacturers of threshers and heavy machinery. The business grew to a large proportion and gave great promise of continued success, but notwithstanding this Mr. Schettler finally withdrew his interest in the business, having in the meantime become largely interested in the manufacturer of automobiles. Coexistent with his invention of the friction clutch was the possibility of its application to the running gear of the automobile, and his interest in the manufacturer of this machine to be said to date from this time. In 1886 he rode in a steam automobile, made by R. E. Olds, a car which afterwards sold in Australia. Two years afterwards, in 1888, Mr. Schettler became associated with Mr. Olds in the manufacture of gas engines and gasoline automobiles. Mr. Schettler being the first person interested with Mr. Olds in what later became the Olds motor works. In 1903 Mr. Schettler organized the Reo motorcar company, of which he is still vice president, and during that year the company erected shops in Lansing and began the manufacturer of the Reo automobile. The sale of the Reo in the United States is eclipsed that of any other automobile, a statement which is borne out by the fact that in 1907 a manufactured 4,250 cars, the business amounting to $4.5 million. As an index of the business which they expect to do during the year 1908 it may be said that they have increased the size of the plant to an extent that will enable them to turn out one third more business than during the previous year, or over 6,000 cars. An indication of the appreciation in which the employee of the company are held it may not be out of place here to mention that during the year 1907 the company paid to them a dividend of 5% on the amount of their yearly wages, this applying to each and every employee.

Mr. Schettler's marriage united him with Sarah B Thorpe, who was born and Tecumseh Michigan, a descendent of Governor Winslow of Massachusetts. She is a woman of rare literary qualities and is well known and club circles in Los Angeles, being a member of the Ebell, Friday morning and Ruskin Art clubs as well as of the Young Women's Christian Association. Both Mr. and Mrs. Schettler are members of the Episcopal Church and politically Mr. Schettler is a Republican. Their only son Leon T. is the Pacific Coast agent for the Reo automobile. In addition to the business and interests already mentioned, Mr. Schettler was an important factor in financial circles in his former home city, being one of the organizers of the Capital National Bank of Lansing, and he is now a director of the American National Bank of Los Angeles. Personally no one is held in higher esteem than Mr. Schettler. Qualities of a high order endear him to a special circle of friends, both in business and social life no worthy undertakings are carried forward without his support, in fact no one appeals to him in vain for sympathy and help, and much of his needs is given for the uplifting of his fellow man. Though at one time he was very actively identified with business affairs he is now living practically retired.” - A History of California and an Extended History of Its Southern Coast Counties by J. M. Guinn, A. M. Published by the Historic Record Company of Los Angeles California, 1907.

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