Henry Hammel and Andrew H. Denker
Henry Hammel (died 1890) and Andrew Henry Denker, known as Andrew H. Denker or A.H. Denker, (1840–1892) were business partners and brothers-in-law in 19th Century Southern California who ran hotels and owned an extensive spread of agricultural property that eventually became the city of Beverly Hills. Both born in Germany, they married sisters born in France. Hammel was a member of the first Kern County, California, Board of Supervisors in 1866-67 and later was on the Los Angeles Common Council, the governing body of that city. Denker was a Kern County supervisor in 1873-74.
He was married in 1869 or 1870 to Marie Ruellan of Paris, France. On July 26, 1875, their only daughter, Mathilde or Matilda, was born in the United States Hotel, of which her father was the owner. When grown, she married E.O. McLaughlin.
Hammel died September 3, 1890, at the age of 56 or 57, leaving his wife and their 16-year-old daughter. At the time of his death they were living in the family house at the corner of 7th Street and Grand Avenue.
In a will, he bequeathed his estate, valued at $400,000, to his wife and his daughter.
In 1865 Hammel was elected to the first Kern County Board of Supervisors upon that area's organization as a county., and he was later elected to represent the 2nd Ward on the Los Angeles Common Council for two one-year terms between 1882 and 1884. In that capacity he was noted for "saving the Westlake Park to the city, and was also prominently connected with obtaining the water right of the Los Feliz rancho for Los Angeles."
Andrew H. Denker
Denker was born in Brunswick, near Bremen, Germany, on October 17, 1840, a farmer's son. He began working in a shop in Brunswick, but in 1857 he sailed for New York City, where he again found employment in a store, then beginning a small business of his own. In 1863 he voyaged to San Francisco via the Panama Isthmus, soon prospecting for minerals in Arizona and New Mexico. He entered Los Angeles afterward, penniless, but found employment as a clerk in a hotel first named the Lafayette, then the Cosmopolitan and finally the St. Elmo Hotel. At that time it was owned by Kohl, Dockwiler and Fluhe, but later it became the property of Hammel and Denker.
Denker was married to Louise A. Ruellan of France, sister to Marie (above), and they had five children, Marie (later Mrs. Louis Lichtenberger), Antoinette (Mrs. George Lichtenberger), Leontine and Isabel, and Louis. They lived at 223 West 24th Street.
His will provided for legacies to his family, identified in the Herald at the time as wife Louisa A. and children Mary M. Lichtenberger, Antoinette Lichtenberger, Leontine V. Denker, Isabella C. Mayer and Louis A. Denker, and two brothers and a sister. His estate was estimated informally to be about a million dollars.
In 1873-74 A.H. Denker was elected as a member of the Kern County Board of Supervisors, and despite the fact that he favored retaining Havilah as the county seat, a popular election decided 354 to 332 to move the seat of government to Bakersfield.
Denker was a director of the Los Angeles Horticultural Society, which was dissolved in June 1882. The Times reported: "Thus passes to rest a society which started out under the most promising auspices, and after a varied career of five years gave up the ghost."
He was also one of the charter members of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce in 1888. One of his preoccupations one the construction of "the largest hotel in Southern California" on Tenth Street in Los Angeles, a development that was never completed because of economic conditions.
It was noted in 1904 that Hammel and Denker had been partners "in all their hotel and farming ventures, and when Hamel [sic] died his partner continued to administer the partnership as before until he, too, died. And even then it was a necessity almost to deal with the two estates as a single entity."
The two men had the same attorney, J.D. Bicknell, "and upon him devolved the burden of reducing order out of chaos." The appraised value of the Hammel estate was $534,428.04, and that of the Denker estate was $338,053.
In 1864 Denker was in Havilah in Kern County, where he was operating the Delphi Hotel with John J. Hendrickson. It was a profitable enterprise because Havilah was then the county seat and headquarters for stage lines running between Visalia, California, and Los Angeles.
In the same year Hammel sold his interest in the Bella Union and went to Kern County, where there was a gold rush. Both Hammel and Denker located in Havilah and built a hotel there, naming it, again, the Bella Union. It was a profitable business for a time, but when the rush declined, about 1868, Hammel returned to Los Angeles, with Denker remaining behind to close up the business.
According to most sources, the partners then leased the United States Hotel, at the corner of Requena and Main streets in Los Angeles, in 1869. (Another source states that Hammel "and a partner named Bremerman leased the United States Hotel on February 1st  from Louis Mesmer.") They kept the hotel until "the opening of the great real-estate boom of 1886."
Edward Preuss purchased the Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas in 1868 from landowners Benjamin D. Wilson and Henry Hancock "with the intention of establishing a colony for German immigrants"; these plans, though, were ruined by a drought and Hammel and Denker bought the land in the 1880s. It was noted as "a fertile stretch of over thirty-five hundred acres of valley and frostless foothill land lying between Los Angeles and Santa Monica." They "planted bean fields to help pay taxes[,] but their ultimate dream was establishing a North African-themed subdivision called Morocco. However, this fantasyland disappeared in 1888 when the national economy collapsed."
In 1889 A.H. Denker and Hammel donated a 30-foot right-of-way over the rancho to the Los Angeles and Pacific Railway, which was building a line to Santa Monica, "in return for ten-year passes on the railroad and the promise to build a depot and two flag-stops on the ranch."
The city of Beverly Hills, California, is the principal legacy of the two brothers-in-law. Their 3,055-acre swath of land "lying between Hollywood and Sherman and extending from the hills to the lowest portion of the plane [sic]," had "oil, plenty of water and fine high soil as well as low land, where the soil is of heavy body," as one account put it in 1905 when the rancho was about to be put on the market.
Earlier, though, shortly after Denker's death, there was an auction at the ranch of "Horses, cows, heifers, milk wagons, farmer wagons, carriages, four-seated tourists' wagon and buggies, two headers, mowers, barrows . . . All the farming implements and tools; also one team of imported Shetland ponies (black). The celebrated trotting stallion Prince Edward. . . . Lunch will be served."
References and notes
Access to the Los Angeles Times links may require the use of a library card.
- "Henry Hammel Dead," Los Angeles Times, September 4, 1890, page 4
- "Matriarch of Pioneer Family in Area Dies," Los Angeles Times, August 14, 1954
- "Gain in Values: Hamel and Denker Estates," Los Angeles Times, June 25, 1904, page A-2
- J.M. Guinn, Los Angeles and Vicinity, Containing a History of the City From Its Earliest Settlement as a Spanish Pueblo to the Closing Year of the Nineteenth Century," Chicago: Chapman Publishing (1901)
- "A Pioneer Gone," Los Angeles Herald, September 4, 1890, page 5
-  Location of the Hammel residence on Mapping L.A.
- "To His Wife and Daughter," Los Angeles Herald, September 13, 1890, page 3
- Chronological Record of Los Angeles City Officials,1850-1938, compiled under direction of Municipal Reference Library, City Hall, Los Angeles (March 1938, reprinted 1966). "Prepared ... as a report on Project No. SA 3123-5703-6077-8121-9900 conducted under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration."
- "A.H. Denker Dead," Los Angeles Times, November 14, 1892, page 2
- Camille Gavin and Kathy Leverett, Kern's Movers and Shakers, Kern View Foundation (1987), 208 pps., page 64
- Wallace Melvin Morgan, History of Kern County, With Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men and Women of the County . . . ., Los Angeles:Historic Record Company (1914)
- "Hic Jacet: And There We Laid It to Rest—Peace to Its Ashes," Los Angeles Times, June 14, 1882, page 3
- Sixty Years in Southern California, 1853-1913, containing the reminiscences of Harris Newmark. Edited by Maurice H. Newmark; Marco R. Newmark. The Knickerbocker Press, New York, 1916. "California as I Saw It": First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849-1900; American Memory, Library of Congress, page 340
- Sixty Years in Southern California, page 403
- City of Beverly Hills website
- Franklyn Hoyt, "The Los Angeles and Pacific Railway," Electric Railway Historical Association
- "Ranch to Be Cut Up," Los Angeles Times, September 21, 1905, page II-7
- (No headline) Los Angeles Times, January 4, 1893, page 8