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The Offices of Adalbert Fenyes, M. D.

May 17, 2015
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Adalbert Fenyes M. D., circa 1900. (Courtesy Pasadena Museum of History Archives, PHS18-2b)

Near the turn of the twentieth century, on April 26, 1902, Adalbert Fenyes leased from his wife Eva Scott Fenyes the four rooms on the second floor of the Wetherby & Kayser building in Pasadena, California. He agreed to pay $30 a month for rent beginning October 1st, plus “all water and artificial light used upon the said premises.” She would “make such changes in the second floor of said building as have been agreed upon by the parties hereto.”[1]

Eva and Adalbert had moved to Pasadena a few years earlier as newlyweds, arriving by train from the East Coast. He was originally from Hungary, she from New York, and they had met in Egypt at the Helouan Hotel, a health resort near Cairo where he was a physician and she a guest. They were married on April 25, 1896 in Budapest, Hungary, and settled down in Pasadena that November. Six years later, and one day after their wedding anniversary, Adalbert and Eva signed their curious contract for the rooms in Eva’s business block on East Colorado Street.

The Wetherby & Kayser block, numbered 55 through 61, stood on the north side of East Colorado between Fair Oaks and Raymond Avenues. It was built in 1889 as the original Pasadena location for Francis B. Wetherby and Emil Kayser’s shoe store. The two story building had come under Eva’s ownership in 1898,[2] and this investment may have been her first business venture in Pasadena. Over the years she would lease rooms in this building to various companies including the Newberry & Nash grocery store, the California Portrait Studio of Albert Hiller, and the Southern California Edison Company. When Eva and Adalbert signed their contract in 1902, the building’s occupants were Wetherby & Kayser, the portrait studio of photographer L. George Thompson, and the studio of view photographers Charles J. Crandall and William D. Medill. Within a few months of the signing, 61 East Colorado Street would also become the medical offices of Adalbert Fenyes, M. D.

 

East Colorado Street looking west from Raymond Avenue in the 1890s. The building on the right, closest to the viewer, is the Wetherby & Kayser block where Dr. Adalbert Fenyes had his medical offices for over 25 years. (Photograph by Jarvis studios. Courtesy PMH Archives, S41-23)

East Colorado Street looking west from Raymond Avenue in the 1890s. The building on the right, closest to the viewer, is the Wetherby & Kayser block where Dr. Adalbert Fenyes had his medical offices for over 25 years. (Photograph by Jarvis studios. Courtesy PMH Archives, S41-23)

 

Dr. Adalbert Fenyes stands at his office door at 61 East Colorado Street, Pasadena, California, in 1906. (Photograph by Albert Hiller. Courtesy PMH Archives, PHS18-2e)

Dr. Adalbert Fenyes stands at his office door at 61 East Colorado Street, Pasadena, California, in 1906. (Photograph by Albert Hiller. Courtesy PMH Archives, PHS18-2e)

 

Prior to signing the lease for the new location, Dr. Fenyes had maintained medical offices almost directly across the street from Wetherby & Kayser in the Macomber building at 50-54 East Colorado Street.[3] He also had an office at his home on South Orange Grove Avenue and later at his home on North Orange Grove Avenue. His home offices, however, may have been libraries and studies used for his equally important work in entomology.

 

The Fenyes home at 251 South Orange Grove Avenue was built in 1897. Dr. Fenyes’ office is the single story wing to the right of the domed porte cochère. (Photograph by C. J. Crandall. Courtesy PMH Archives, PHS1-1)

The Fenyes home at 251 South Orange Grove Avenue was built in 1897. Dr. Fenyes’ office is the single story wing to the right of the domed porte cochère. (Photograph by C. J. Crandall. Courtesy PMH Archives, PHS1-1)

 

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“Dr. Fenyes in his beetle room” at 251 South Orange Grove Avenue, circa 1899. (Courtesy PMH Archives, FCP.40.1.14a)

 

The Fenyes home at 170 North Orange Grove Avenue viewed from the northeast, circa 1911. Dr. Fenyes’ offices were in the lower level, northeast corner of the mansion. (Courtesy PMH Archives, PHS2-21)

The Fenyes home at 170 North Orange Grove Avenue viewed from the northeast, circa 1911. Dr. Fenyes’ offices were in the lower level, northeast corner of the mansion. (Courtesy PMH Archives, PHS2-21)

 

Dr. Fenyes in his study at 170 North Orange Grove Avenue. Built in 1906-07, the Fenyes Mansion is now home to Pasadena Museum of History. (Courtesy PMH Archives, PHS18-1)

Dr. Fenyes in his study at 170 North Orange Grove Avenue. Built in 1906-07, the Fenyes Mansion is now home to Pasadena Museum of History. (Courtesy PMH Archives, PHS18-1)

 

When Dr. Fenyes moved to his new rooms in 1902, his plan was to specialize in innovative medical work and introduce Pasadena to the fields of electro-therapeutics, x-ray therapeutics, and x-ray photography. This venture was supported by an informal partnership between husband and wife wherein Adalbert would study and train in the field, establish a practice, and work to earn a steady, if not substantial, income. Eva would provide the office space and the capital for its renovation, as well as the money for the office furnishings and medical equipment. Eva also funded the specialized training courses Adalbert would take at the Illinois School of Electrotherapeutics.

Within two days of signing the lease, Adalbert was on a train, the California Limited, bound for Chicago and a six week stay at The Virginia Hotel. As soon as he arrived, he wrote to Eva reminding her that only he should oversee the office renovation and that she should “…have nothing altered in the W & K block, as I have to supervise every change myself. I intend to put in an electric bath too, and therefore it might be necessary to leave the middle partition unchanged.”[4] He sketched the layout,[5] enthusiastically described where he would place each piece of equipment,[6] and made repeated requests for money to buy the very specialized apparatus he was going to need. One of his longer lists included a static machine for $300-350, a coil for x-ray for $400-500, a galvano-faradic outfit for $100-150, a dynamo for $50, and a microscope for $100.[7] He visited several Chicago manufacturers and examined and tested their instruments. He studied x-ray photography and x-ray therapeutics with several physicians he met while in Chicago, took courses at the Illinois School of Electrotherapeutics, and trained privately with Dr. Arpad Barothy, a distant relative of Hungarian descent, “…who has a large practice, exclusively electric work, and who will introduce me in the mysteries of electr-trtmt for a moderate sum of 25 dollars…”[8]

He was enthusiastic about the specialty and excited about his training. One of his first letters to Eva written from The Virginia Hotel begins, “My Dear Eva; My head whirls. Where shall I begin? – It will perhaps interest you the most how my studies get along…I spent the afternoon in his [Dr. Arpad Barothy] office and saw the following cases and their treatment: exophthalmic goiter (x-ray treatment); lymphatic glands (x ray treatment); locomotor ataxia (faradic current).”[9] Adalbert told Eva about treatments for lupus erythematosus and cancers of the nose, throat, eye, and uterus.[10] He was particularly impressed with, “…the picture of the arm of a woman, who has been shot three months ago by her husband, and the bullet could not be found. Well, fancy my pride when after exposing the plate 2 1/2 minutes, washing and soaking it in Rodinal for half an hour and transferring it to the hypo-solution, we actually found the bullet! It was embedded in the shoulder and could not be felt from the outside. We are going to print from the plate tomorrow and see what picture it will give.”[11]

Eva stayed in Pasadena scouting the competition. She reported that at least one other physician in Pasadena intended to offer the same therapies. Adalbert was undaunted. “I shall not enter in partnership with the other doctor, the place is of course, open to competition and the better man will win; we can not keep out rivals, except by our own abilities, and that is what I am getting here now.”[12] But by the end of June, when Adalbert learned that Dr. H. Macomber also intended to work in the field, he sounded less confident. “…it looks to me, as if he would work electric machines too, as he spoke to me about the electric apparatus he bought in Chicago, it will be a bad thing for me, but have to stand it; so there will be 2 rivals, instead of one.”[13]

 

Portion of letter. Adalbert Fenyes to Eva Scott Fenyes, 11 May 1902

Adalbert expressed his affection for Eva with this sketch from his May 11, 1902 letter. In every letter he wrote that spring he told her how much he missed her. (Courtesy Acequia Madre House Archives, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Fenyes-Curtin-Paloheimo Collection)

 

Adalbert was back home in Pasadena by June 10, and since Eva had gone to New York to visit her daughter, he took his midday meals that summer at local hotels such as the Guirnalda and the Spalding, at nearby restaurants such as the Arlington, and sometimes with friends in their homes. He wrote almost daily, told her about the neighborhood pepper trees stricken by black scale, about his day trips to Redondo Beach hunting beetles with colleagues, about excursions into the mountains and foothills again collecting beetles but also contending with “oak poisoning,” and always he told her how very much he missed her. He supervised the renovations at the office and kept Eva apprised of his progress. Electrical and x-ray equipment arrived, books and furniture were delivered. He interviewed nurses for the new office. “The matron in the hospital has sent a trained nurse to me, for my future office…but asks 7-8 Dollars a week; I am afraid this too much; for the beginning, anyhow.”[14] “I had another young lady applying for the position, at less salary, but she was too pretty to be put in the waiting room, all the ♂ patients would have flirted with her.”[15] After a June 18th meeting of the local Medical Society, Adalbert was pleased to tell Eva that, “The doctors are all much interested in my future work, almost every one of them came up to me and asked when shall I be ready; I hope good results.”[16] By July 16th he was ready to move in and establish his practice. His office hours would continue as before: 10 am to 12 pm and 2 pm to 4 pm. He had just one patient consulting with him for “electric treatment.”

Dr. Fenyes needed to attract patients to his practice, but he also needed to promote his work within the medical community. In October he hosted a group of local physicians. “The monthly meeting of the Pasadena Medical Association will be held this evening in the office of Dr. A. Fenyes, who will read a paper upon the ‘Diagnostic and Therapeutic Uses of the X-Ray,’ giving a practical demonstration.”[17] During the coming year, Dr. Fenyes would also read papers at meetings of the Southern California Electro-Medical Society. The Los Angeles Times introduced the June 1903 meeting with the following headline and opening paragraph. “MEDICOS MEET: Doctors Have Banquet, Speak About Electricity and Show up Their Theories by Various Machines. Electro-therapeutics, x-rays and high-frequency currents were handled without insulation yesterday in the Hollenbeck Hotel, the occasion being the semi-annual literary and practical session of the Southern California Electro-Medical Society. About sixty members and spectators were present and the sessions were interesting as showing the value of the different forms of electrical energy in medical science.”[18] Adalbert had secured his place in the field, and his practice in Pasadena was underway.

It is not known which treatments Dr. Fenyes pursued within the specialties of x-ray therapy and electro-therpeutics. There is, however, solid evidence that he used x-rays for diagnosis. Receipts from his neighboring tenant, photographer Albert Hiller, itemize films developed and printed for Dr. Fenyes’ practice. We know little of the financial success of Adalbert’s practice, but we do know he kept his medical offices at 61 East Colorado well into the 1920s. By that fact alone, we might conclude that Eva and Adalbert’s partnership, formed in the spring of 1902, had achieved success.

 

Receipt for processing x-rays, August 1911. (Courtesy PMH Archives, FCP Papers, FCP.11.24)

Receipt for processing x-rays, August 1911. (Courtesy PMH Archives, FCP Papers, FCP.11.24)

 

“Mrs. F’s hands,” though not dated, is an example of a print from an early x-ray. It is not known if Dr. Fenyes took this x-ray or if Albert Hiller developed it. (Courtesy PMH Archives FCP Papers, FCP.68.27)

“Mrs. F’s hands,” though not dated, is an example of a print from an early x-ray. It is not known if Dr. Fenyes took this x-ray or if Albert Hiller developed it. (Courtesy PMH Archives FCP Papers, FCP.68.27)

 

When Eva died in 1930, Dr. Fenyes moved out of the Fenyes’ mansion and married Louise Hiller, photographer and sister of Albert Hiller. During his few remaining years, Adalbert stayed in close touch with his step daughter and granddaughter, “the two Leonoras.” Just before he died in 1937, he wrote, “My Dear Two Leonoras, …I am fearing that this is my last letter to you (miracles, of course, excepted). Let [me] express my deepest gratitude for all that you have done for me in the past..–The pain became unbearable…and cannot eat. God bless you, my dear girls, I still shall think of you–to the last minute–with thankful heart. Yours for ever A. Fényes.”[19] His death certificate lists the cause of death as carcinoma of the tongue, cheeks and cervical glands. In his February 23, 1937 obituary, the Pasadena Star News said, “Dr. Adalbert Fenyes, 74, noted X-ray specialist and world famous entomologist, died yesterday at his home, 361 South Parkwood, after a short illness…He was a pioneer in the field of X-ray for medical use…operating the first X-ray machine in this city…Although he has been retired for the past 10 years, he continued to use his knowledge for the benefit of his fellowmen, never refusing to give aid to those who sought his help.”[20]

The Wetherby & Kayser block, where Dr. Fenyes had his office for so many years, came to be known as the Fenyes block. It was reconstructed in 1919-1920 as part of a project to widen Colorado Street, and the facade we see today may be the same glazed brick used the by D. C. Mc Callum Company, the contractor Eva Fenyes hired for the job. Ten years after Eva Fenyes sold the 251 South Orange Grove house, Adalbert’s old home office survived a devastating 1915 fire which destroyed the rest of the mansion. The single story wing was moved to the Linda Vista neighborhood in Pasadena in 1917, and today it is a private residence.[21] Finally, Dr. Fenyes’ study and library at 170 North Orange Grove Avenue is again office space available for lease from Pasadena Museum of History.

Pasadena Museum of History staff would like to thank Acequia Madre House Director Bunny Huffman for sharing the letters from their archives that Adalbert Fenyes wrote to Eva Fenyes in 1902.

My very special thanks and appreciation goes to Pasadena Museum of History volunteer Bob Bennett who patiently sorted out early Pasadena addresses and identified the Wetherby & Kayser building in the amazing photographs he found of 1890s East Colorado Street.

Julie Stires
Pasadena Museum of History
jstires@pasadenahistory.org

Pasadena Museum of History, 470 W. Walnut St., Pasadena 91103. Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, noon-5 p.m. Admission: $7, general; $6, students and seniors; complimentary admission for members and active duty military personnel. PasadenaHistory.org.

 

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Upcoming Program presented by Pasadena Museum of History – Kenton Nelson: American Idealism

 

On June 16, PMH will host a lecture by Kenton Nelson – a painter of watercolors and oils, a maker of mosaics and murals, and a builder. One of Nelson’s recent works, a mural entitled “Woman with Umbrella,” is based on Eva Scott Fenyes and is located on the building where Adalbert’s office was once located. Nelson will speak to his artistic processes, and how they unfold into his signature paintings. He will share his current projects, his objectives, and what inspires his work, as well as his future plans. The program will be held offsite, in a lovely private Japanese garden, and the wine for this program is sponsored by Old Oak Cellars.

 

Kenton Nelson: American Idealism, a members-only event, is part of the Museum’s At Home series, which combines presentations by outstanding speakers with visits to architecturally unique homes. The At Home series is open only to PMH Members. For more information on Museum membership and At Home series tickets, visit PasadenaHistory.org/members-events.

 

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[1] Indenture. Eva Scott Fenyes (ESF) lessor and Adalbert Fenyes (AF) lessee, 26 April 1902. Fenyes-Curtin-Paloheimo (FCP) Papers, FCP.8.1. Pasadena Museum of History (PMH) Archives, Pasadena, California.

[2] Daggett & Daggett, Real Estate and Financial Brokers, Notes regarding the Wetherby & Kayser Property, 28 January 1898. FCP Papers, FCP.16.4., PMH Archives.

[3] Receipt with letterhead for A. Fenyes, M.D., Physician. 26 May 1903. FCP Papers, FCP. 9.3, PMH Archives.

[4] AF to ESF, 1 May 1902. Fenyes-Curtin-Paloheimo (FCP) Collection. Acequia Madre House (AMH) Archives, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

[5] AF to ESF, 15 May 1902. FCP Collection, AMH Archives.

[6] AF to ESF, 11 May 1902. FCP Collection, AMH Archives.

[7] AF to ESF, 1 May 1902. FCP Collection, AMH Archives.

[8] AF to ESF, 1 May 1902. FCP Collection, AMH Archives.

[9] AF to ESF, 1 May 1902. FCP Collection, AMH Archives.

[10] AF to ESF, 12 &13 May 1902. FCP Collection, AMH Archives.

[11] AF to ESF, 12 May 1902. FCP Collection, AMH Archives..

[12] AF to ESF, 12 May 1902. FCP Collection, AMH Archives.

[13] AF to ESF, 28 June 1902. FCP Collection, AMH Archives.

[14] AF to ESF, 25 June 1902. FCP Collection, AMH Archives.

[15] AF to ESF, 7 July 1902. FCP Collection, AMH Archives.

[16] AF to ESF, 18 June 1902. FCP Collection, AMH Archives.

[17] “Pasadena Brevities,” Los Angeles Times, 14 October 1902.

[18] “Medicos Meet,” Los Angeles Times, 3 June 1903.

[19] AF to Leonora Scott Muse Curtin and Leonora Frances Curtin Paloheimo, 30 January 1937. FCP Papers, FCP.97.7, PMH Archives.

[20] “Notes X-ray Specialist Passes,” Pasadena Star News, 23 February 1937.

[21] Linda Vista History Book Committee, Linda Vista: Portrait of a Neighborhood. Nugent Printing: Pasadena, California, 1988.




2 Responses for “The Offices of Adalbert Fenyes, M. D.”

  1. Such a wonderful article! It makes me want to wander inside all the buildings you mention.

  2. Sheryl Peters says:

    Julie:

    What a wonderful article!!! It brings the relationship between Eva and Adelbert vividly to life! Thank you for this!

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