What if Everyone Had a Job?

Taub’s classic article provides a perspective shared by many since the beginning of industrialization and particularly since corporate capitalism emerged (with significant federal incentives) and took over local economies. It was the center of FDR’s Second Bill of Rights, and the ensuing legislation introduced by James E. Murray – the Full Employment Act of 1945. It is an important message that should ground all local economic development efforts.  (Picture: Sen. Murray rides with FDR and Eleanor). 

What if Everyone Had a Job?

By Richard Taub, Sept/Oct 1996

Richard Taub

Richard Taub

When I read about efforts to build community, I continue to be struck by the fact that those who operate at the neighborhood level seem not to pay real attention to the economic world. They focus instead on building housing, having more and better services including shops, getting people to work together, and having more programs to deliver services in some organized way.

Yet it does not take a lot of effort to see that if every able-bodied person in a community had a job, many of the other problems and solutions to them would decline in importance. Indeed, many of the concerns about community building are about replacing those things that money can buy.

Imagine, for example, wealthy people living in a high-rise community, say on Chicago’s Gold Coast, New York’s Park Avenue, or San Francisco’s Nob Hill. In most cases, their effective social community does not overlap with their territorial community. Instead, it is either built around work and/or some social clubs. They pay people to look after their children, to provide adequate education, to take care of their health, and, in addition to the good policing they get, they pay for extensive security systems including doormen, patrols, and alarms of various sorts.

As one moves down the economic scale, the role of voluntary community activity and coming together plays an increasingly larger part. Parents supervise the Little League, neighborhood watch programs are established, people keep their eyes on each others kids, they organize to keep some undesirable use (to them) such as a halfway house out of the community, and they may pester the teachers in the local public schools for delivery of better education or a good after-school program.

Normally, residents of urban communities do not work in the communities or neighborhoods where they live. One of the great inventions of modern cities was that areas developed specializations of use, and that residential areas often are some distance from where people work. To the extent, then, that community building is about jobs, efforts to create them must often take place outside the community.

That part of the story has gotten more complicated in recent years, because it takes two earners to make what one used to, and women who might do many of the activities listed above (e.g. keeping their eyes on their neighbors kids or putting pressure on the schools) are less likely to have the time. Moreover, as companies move to the suburbs, many of the jobs that people now go to are much farther away than they used to be, and most of the jobs are less likely to be industrial and more likely to be in some of the so-called service and retail areas.

As one moves further down the income scale, the role of the neighborhood working collectively seems to increase in importance. Because people have less, they need to help each other more. They have to band together to get the resources that are properly due to them; they have to police their neighborhoods aggressively because so many unemployed people are hanging around, some of them drinking too much or doing drugs or working in illegal activities to provide some sort of income. They must work together to supervise youth under threatening conditions and work with the police to crack down on troublemakers, even while frightened about possible retaliation.

One problem with community building as community building is that it confuses the results with the cause. Practitioners hope that by increasing the capacity of residents to work together to solve collective problems, these communities will be better places to live. To some extent, this may be true. But in some respects, it is a little like trying to gather up the water to pour back in the pipe after the water main has broken. The issue is not how to deal with the consequences of unemployment and lack of incomes, but how to deal with the unemployment and lack of incomes themselves.

Consequently, any community-building effort that is serious and not simply palliative must move economic questions to the forefront. The challenge is to figure out how to do that. There is no one magic bullet. Methods to encourage business start-ups and self-employment – such as for-profit business creation and individual development accounts – should be in such a program. Job training and placement programs designed by working with employers as Project Quest in Texas does are also important. Systems of transportation that bring workers to distant jobs may also be useful. In addition, youth apprenticeship programs, such as those by the Fifth Avenue Committee, which teach youth real skills in short supply in the labor market, would be desirable.

In short, community building must start with connecting people to the economy. Without incomes, it is hard to imagine what people in communities can do to really make a difference in their lives.

Copyright 1996

Original publication


A Wright favorite lives only on paper


Location and Site Plan

Location of “The Wave”

Deep in the Carmel Point neighborhood, where Scenic Drive bends at a right angle around the rocky shore, a home sits on legendary plot of land.  Stuart Haldorn and his wife Enid had grand plans for this parcel. In 1945, after selling their ocean front mansion on Cannery Row, the couple retained Frank Lloyd Wright to design their next home in Carmel, California. The couple was flush with cash, receiving a huge bequest when Stuart’s mother, Mary Murray, passed away in 1940. This windfall was on top of the millions they received when Mary’s wealthy husband, James A. Murray died in 1921.

Wright, who steadfastly refused to pick his favorite project, admitted that the Haldorn’s prospective home “was one of the best houses I ever designed.” Unfortunately, the home was never built, probably due to the unique and costly design. Wright commented that “the public road along the sea was a drawback hard to overcome.” His design reached under Scenic Road with a tunnel to connect the rocky shoreline with subterranean elements of the house. Windows in the home were designed to keep out the ocean spray, and the concrete roof was designed to accommodate landscape plantings. Wright didn’t let his work go to waste however, using some of the Haldorn design elements in future works – notably the window design for the Mrs. Clinton Walker House in Carmel.

scan0018Haldorn’s home design was called “The Wave,” and it is featured prominently in the preeminent compendium of Wright’s work, Frank Lloyd Wright Designs, The Sketches, Plans and Drawings by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, and published by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.  A sketch of the home (above) is the cover image for the book’s Introduction and four pages provide narrative on the project and various site plans.

Murray’s Monterey

Footprint and Postcard

Murray’s mansion and the property he held across the street (labeled a private park in property records).

Last month I travelled to Monterey, California to tie up loose ends on research for my biography of James A. Murray. I knew several things about Murray’s life in Monterey prior to my trip. He moved there in 1904, at age 64, eight years into his second marriage. He purchased the Tevis Estate from David Jacks, and was likely the home’s first permanent occupant. The home remained in the Murray family until it was demolished in the 1940’s to make way for the expansion of Cannery Row. Murray died in the home in 1921 and the battle for his estate played out in the Monterey Superior Court. Today, a portion of the residence (the horse stables and corral) is the site of the Monterey Bay Plaza & Spa. Five other buildings occupy the site as well. The Monterey Bay Inn sits on the location of his main residence. During the seventeen-year period that Murray called Monterey his home, he commissioned a monument to mark the location of Junipero Serra’s first mass, purchased a Leon Trousset painting of the same event, found work for a dear friend at the Monterey Cypress newspaper, buried that friend at the San Carlos cemetery, commissioned a monument to mark his friend’s grave, and loaned money to several Monterey residents, including artist Charles Rollo Peters. Murray’s wife remained in Monterey after his death, as did her son by another marriage, Stuart Haldorn, and his wife Enid Gregg.

Serra Trousett

Murray’s Trousset painting now hangs in the Carmel Mission.

My primary research objective on this trip was to define the relationship between Murray and Charles Rollo Peters. My secondary objective was very broad. I wanted to find any other information that would further define Murray’s role in Monterey’s early history. My advance work for the trip was aided by James Perry at the Monterey County Historical Society and Dennis Copeland at the City Library. Perry pulled the case numbers I needed to look up court records involving Murray – two of which involved Peters. Copeland pulled a glass negative of the Trousset painting that I could examine to determine if Murray’s version was the same one that now hangs in the Carmel Mission. My plan was to review the cases at the Superior Court, see if the negative matched the Trousset painting at the Carmel Mission and then spend time looking though reels of local newspapers at the City Library. My time flipping through the newspapers was just a hunt for random stories.

My time at the court went very quickly. The lawsuits between Murray and Peters were very revealing. Murray lent Peters a total of $15,000 in two loans between 1906 and 1907. This was a significant amount of money in that time period. It would take a blue collar worker 30 years to earn that amount, and a white collar worker ten. Both loans were secured against his estate (Peters’ Gate). This was at a time of lavish spending for Peters. He took in artists after the 1906 earthquake and opened a gallery at the Del Monte hotel. Both notes were due within one year, but as with many of his charitable loans, Murray did not make any effort to collect. When Murray died, he held over 50 uncollected private loans to individuals totaling over $1.25 million. Many were worthless and of a similar age to Peters’ notes. It seems he only moved to collect on these private loans if he felt slighted.

It appears Murray’s lawsuits were prompted because Peters sold his estate (Murray’s collateral) between 1909 and 1910, and did not use the any of the proceeds to repay Murray. This likely irritated Murray, so he foreclosed on the new property owner to assert his right to title. It appears he won his effort to gain title to the property, as new owner entered into a mortgage with Murray. Whether any money exchanged hands for the clouded title is unclear. Murray probably did not receive much, but the foreclosure process allowed him to go after Peters for some compensation. The court records indicate Peters was forced to sell two paintings hanging at the St. Francis hotel in San Francisco to make at least a symbolic payment to Murray. Paintings by established California artists at that time sold for $50 to $500.

The lawsuit with Hugh Porter revealed that Murray started the Monterey Cypress newspaper in 1907 and lent Porter, the paper’s editor,  half of the start-up money to be a partner in the business. Murray did this with a lot of people to avoid paying them a salary – instead, his partners worked for free and had to make sufficient profit to pay off Murray’s loan. In this case, Porter also had to make sure he could pay John Maguire’s salary as associate editor. Murray also owned newspapers in Pocatello, Idaho and Livingston, Montana where he had business interests. He also invested heavily in the radical Butte Bulletin.

Carmel Mission Basilica

When I visited the City Library I discovered that in the week prior, the library has just transitioned all of their microfilm roles to an on-line platform. I searched the database very quickly and found a great article on (new-to-me) renovations at the Carmel Mission funded by Murray in 1908. This work was completed shortly before the installation of his Serra Monument. I then spent some time in the California Room browsing through file cabinets and shelves. I found some good articles on Charles Rollo Peters to provide context for Murray’s loans and the disposition of Peters’ Gate. The image of Murray’s Trousset was out for scanning, so Dennis arranged to send me a copy via email later in the week.

Steps to Little Pulpit

Steps to small pulpit in Carmel Mission. Repaired by Murray.

I accomplished all of the goals I set for the trip, so I shortened my stay in Monterey and booked a room near U.C. Berkeley. I wanted to check out the Douglas Tilden papers to see if there were any mention of the base reliefs he prepared for the Serra Monument Murray commissioned at the Lower Presidio Historic Park. As I left town the next day for Berkeley, I stopped by the Carmel Mission to see if any of the work Murray commissioned still existed. The curator, Jewel Gentry, was kind enough to give me a tour of the mission. It appeared to me that only the work Murray did with the stairways remained. My last stops before leaving the area were the Monterey County Historical Society and the County Recorder. At the society office I had a chance to brief Perry on what I had found, and at the Recorder’s Office I found several new-to-me property documents that enlarged the footprint of Murray’s ocean front mansion.

IMG_0745My trip to Berkeley the next day only provided a couple bits of new information, but reading Tilden’s papers was a very moving experience. With a few extra hours I had, I made another unplanned trip to Mission Delores to see a bronze casting of the Tilden base relief that was part of Murray’s Serra monument.

HuntersHotSprings Tri-fold Post Card (2)

Murray’s Hunter’s Hot Springs Resort with Mission Style Architecture (Montana).

With my new research I have a fuller picture of Murray’s role in Monterey’s historic preservation, the lengths he went for his good friend John Maguire, and the secret role he played in funding the area’s artist colony. It also came clear to me just how much influence the mission architecture influenced his other projects. Two resorts that he developed in Montana reflected this influence. Monterey was fortunate that they were able to experience the best of Murray’s personality. Most places where he did business were not so fortunate.

Now back to writing the biography of my complicated relative……