The Witmer Family story started with the Witmers as a banking family in Switzerland. Part of the family ventured to America in the 1700's and, along with banking interests, developed the largest wagon building and wagon train outfitting operation in the world to support the westward expansion.
Income for this period represented monthly income in the $50,000 range.
With this success, banking was expanded in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Real estate development became a mainstay and the Witmers built bridges and other city infrastructures, offering these as donations to the improvements of the city and life for it's residents.
In 1850, part of the Witmer family moved to Los Angeles. There were 5,000 residents in L.A. at that time.
In 1883, my great grandfather and uncle started WITMER BROTHERS COMPANY.
The company bought and developed real estate, then in 1885 developed the
"Second Street Cable Car," L.A.'s first horseless cable car.
In the same year, 1885, we began construction on our California Bank Building, as seen to the left in this 1886 photo.
Our doors opened for banking in 1887, as seen to the right.
There were 10,000 residents in L.A. in 1887 and California Bank was the state of the art in banking. California Bank took center stage as L.A.'s first bank for the new downtown Los Angeles.
One of the first residences built with financing from our California Bank was the Sam Lewis House.
Sam Lewis served as a captain in the Civil War, where he participated in the siege of Chattanooga, battles at Peachtree Creek, Chattahoochee River and Jonesboro.
Sam Lewis had married into the Witmer family in 1865 and then in 1884 had become a partner in our bank in Wisconsin, The Citizens Bank of Monroe.
The Sam Lewis house still stands today at 1425 Miramar Street in Los Angeles, around the corner from Witmer Street and the Witmer estate, which is on the national register of historic properties. The home has been used throughout the years for different movie sets and backdrops.
-Peter M Kendall