Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Bristol Avenue & H.R. Bristol

H.R. Bristol's first Santa Ana drug store, circa 1887.
Ever wonder how Orange County's Bristol Avenue got it's name? This major north/south thoroughfare extends from the Garden Grove Freeway in Santa Ana, past South Coast Plaza, down through Costa Mesa where it turns east, and into Newport Beach where it was once called Palisades Road. It dead-ends at Jamboree Road, just above Upper Newport Bay.

But who was Bristol named for?

Henry Richard Bristol was born on August 22, 1855 in Farmington, Illinois. He was the son of druggist Riley Bristol and his wife, Maria. Henry followed in his father’s footsteps and became a pharmacist. In 1877 he married Ella Frances Grouard. Their children would include Edna (1879), Henry Raymond (1885), and Marian (1891).  The family left Farmington and arrived in Santa Ana in 1882 and Henry initially made his living here as a farmer. But in the mid-1880s he returned to the pharmacy counter, establishing his business in a commercial space on the first floor of the Rossmore Hotel at Sycamore and Fourth Street.

The railroad boom of the late 1880s gave Orange County’s economy and population a big boost, and business was growing fast. In 1888, Bristol brought a partner into the business – druggist A. R. Rowley of Indiana, who’d moved to Santa Ana only the year before. The business became the highly successful Bristol & Rowley Drug Store. Soon, they needed a larger space, and they had a big two-story building constructed on the northeast corner of 4th St. and Main St., which would become known as the Bristol & Rowley Block. This is now the site of the First American Corp. parking lot.
Medicine bottles from Bristol & Rowley at Santa Ana Historical Preservation Soc.
Around 1908, Rowley retired from working in the store and handed over the day-to-day operations to younger managers and pharmacists. Rowley died in 1918.

For health reasons, Bristol sold his share of the business to Rowley in the early teens and moved to Los Angeles County – first to South L.A. and finally settling in the young community of Owensmouth, in the San Fernando Valley. There, he grew Valencia oranges. The Bristols regularly visited all their old friends in Santa Ana, and their Santa Ana friends reciprocated. In fact, for many years the Santa Ana Valley Ebell Club even held annual day trips to the Bristol’s ranch. 
Oranges and tract homes along Bristol Ave. near the I-5 Freeway, circa 1950s.
Ella died in June of 1924. Henry died Feb. 28, 1928, just a year after taking a trip to Hawaii aboard the S.S. Calawaii. Henry, Ella, and their son Laurence are buried together at Angelus Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Long after the drugstore was gone, the building at 4th and Main was called the Bristol and Rowley Block, although it eventually became known as the French Building before being bulldozed to make way for Montgomery Wards.

What lasted longer was the name Bristol Street, named for pioneer druggist H.R. Bristol. The street was called Newport Road until at least 1891 and was called Bristol Street by 1894.
Traffic camera view of Bristol Ave. at Santa Ana Blvd., 2014.
What remains a mystery is why a significant thoroughfare was named for a local druggist who'd only arrived a dozen years earlier from Illinois. He doesn't appear to have owned land or a business along Bristol Ave. Did he do something special to warrant this honor? If you know something more about H. R. Bristol, please let me know.
Bristol headstone at Angelus Rosedale Cemetery. (Photo from Ancestry.com)


Unknown said...

The only thing I know is that the History Room should be staffed! Such a treasure lost. SAHPS has donated many items to the history room thinking that they would be more available to the public there. So I am feeling a bit betrayed.

But I do have a question. The Grouard name sounds very familiar to me but I can't place it. Is there significance to Santa Ana/OC history that I am just forgetting?

Chris Jepsen said...

Mrs. Bristol's brother, Charles E. Grouard, was involved (either as an employee or a contractor) in the construction of most of Santa Ana's early large buildings. Charles also served two terms on the city council and, in partnership with his father, owned a brickyard.

A map for a tract called "Grouard's Addition to Sana Ana" (adjacent to Olive St. and Fifth St.) was filed in 1887. The property now appears to be part of the jail and the juror parking structure on the west side of the Santa Ana Civic Center. (Not surprisingly, next to the Santa Ana Bowl, which was once the brickyard.)