Swami Vivekananda in Southern California

Swami Vivekananda visited Southern California from December 3, 1899 though February 22, 1900. He stayed at several homes in the Greater Los Angeles area and made at least one excursion to the San Gabriel Mountains and one to Redlands. While here, Swamiji gave talks at clubs, churches, hotels and meeting halls.

Vivekananda’s presence in Los Angeles made a lasting impression. Among the devotees he met and stayed with were the Mead sisters. One of them, Carrie Mead Wyckoff, affectionately know as Sister Lalita, was forever changed by her encounter with Vivekananda. In the 1920s, Sister Lalita offered her home in Hollywood to Swami Prabhavananda to open a Vedanta center, which grew into the Vedanta Society of Southern California.

*Violet indicates lodging

*Maroon indicates events


Stimson Mansion
2421 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles

December 3–8, 1899

We know that Swami Vivekananda stayed at one Miss Spencer’s house for a few days on his arrival in Los Angeles. Miss Mary Spencer then lived at Stimson Mansion with her widowed sister Mrs. T. D. Stimson (Achsah Jane, née Spencer), with her ailing mother and siblings. At the Stimson Mansion, Swamiji met many Los Angeles luminaries through Miss Josephine MacLeod. Notable among them were Judge William A. Cheney of the Los Angeles Superior Court and Bernhard Baumgardt. Mr. Baumgardt was the secretary of the Southern California Academy of Science and the chairman of the Math and Astronomy Sections; he arranged for some of Swamiji’s lectures, including the maiden one in the city.

Blodgett Home
921 W. 21st St.
Los Angeles

December 8, 1899–January 12, 1900

Swami Vivekananda moved to Mrs. Roxie S. Blodgett’s house on 8 or 9 December. Mrs. Blodgett had heard Swamiji’s Parliament of the World’s Religions’ opening address in Chicago in 1893. During this stay, Swamiji gave frequent informal talks and met the Mead sisters, Alice and Helen, on December 13. During the week of December 16, Swami met Mrs. Melton, a magnetic healer to whom he went for daily morning magnetic treatments. Her house was within walking distance of the Blodgett house. Sometimes Swamiji, along with Miss MacLeod, would walk on the unpaved roads through the neighborhood, surrounded with ornamental and flowering trees and bushes. Swamiji’s gave his Los Angeles lectures while staying in this house.

Echo Mountain House
San Gabriel Mountains

January 13–January 14, 1900

Vivekananda took a brief excursion with Mr. and Mrs. Baumgardt, Betty Leggett, and Josephine MacLeod to Mt. Lowe on the San Gabriel Mountains north of Pasadena. Swamiji gave a brief talk in the morning of the 14 th , after spending the night there. From the hotel the party took a trolley to Alpine Tavern and then stargazed at Mt. Lowe Observatory; the observatory still stands, modernized however. The hotel was completely destroyed by fire days after their visit, on February 5, 1900.

Newton Home
Corner of Fair Oaks Ave and Bank Street
South Pasadena

January 14–19, 1900

Swami Vivekananda spent five days as a guest of Mrs. Jacob C. Newton , a doctor’s wife, used to live at the west side of Fair Oaks Avenue, the first house south of Bank Street. The Newton residence is no longer standing; the spot is now occupied by a house of a much later vintage.

Bowler Home
63 S. Los Robles Ave.

January 19–24, 1900

Vivekananda was a guest of Mrs. Emeline F. Bowler, president of Shakespeare Club. During this stay, he delivered a number of lectures at the Shakespeare Club. Her house also doesn’t exist, the spot occupied by the Macy’s departmental store.

Mead Home
309 Monterey Rd.
South Pasadena

January 25–February 21, 1900

Swamiji suddenly wound up at the Mead home on 25 January 1900. Over the course of nearly a month Vivekananda stayed with the Meads, he often prepared one of the daily meals. He sat by the hearth with the family after dinner sharing stories and poetry and discussing the need for spiritual values in America. He also talked and played with the children to whom he loved to read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He frequently strolled and chatted in the garden with Mrs. Wyckoff. On occasion, he gave private interviews in the afternoon. Swamiji, accompanied by the Meads, Mrs. Bruce and other students, often picnicked on a nearby hill where he would give a talk. Swami Vivekananda left his pipe on the parlor mantle; Mrs. Wyckoff was later cured of an ailment by holding it. The house was obtained by the Vedanta Society of Southern California where a swami of the Vedanta Society lives and monthly retreats are held.


La Grande Station
Second Street and Santa Fe Avenue
Los Angeles

December 3, 1899

Swami Vivekananda arrived at La Grande Station where he was greeted by Josephine McLeod. Its Moorish dome was heavily damaged by the Long Beach earthquake. The station functioned as a freight depot from the 1940s until it was razed. The site is now used by the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Blanchard Hall
233 S. Broadway
Los Angeles

December 8, 1899–January 6, 1900

Mr. Baumgardt arranged for Swamiji to deliver several lectures here in downtown Los Angeles.

December 8          “Vedanta Philosophy or Hinduism as a Religion.”

This was Swami Vivekananda’s first public talk in Los Angeles, arranged by Mr. Baumgardt. Nearly 600 people attended, including the Mead sisters (Mrs. Carrie Mead Wyckoff, Alice Mead Hansbrough and Helen Mead). The Mead sisters did not meet Swamiji until a later date. The building no longer stands.

December 19         “Applied Psychology”  Approximately  200 people attended this lecture.

January 2, 1900 “The People of India”

January 6          “The History of India”

Unity Church
Corner of W. 3rd and S. Hill Streets
Los Angeles

December 12, 1899

Mr. Baumgardt also arranged for Swamiji to speak at the Unity Church. One thousand people attended this talk on “The Cosmos – The Veda Conception of the Universe”. Abbot Kinney, President of the Academy, or Mr. Baumgardt, the Secretary, introduced Vivekananda. Mr. Lloyd, a Harvard graduate who also held a degree from Germany, attended the “Cosmos” lecture and paid tribute to Vivekananda’s advanced thinking in psychology and modern thought. The lecture was a success according to Alice Hansbrough.

Home of Truth
1327 Georgia Street
Los Angeles

December 21–30, 1899

Swami Vivekananda gave a series of lectures at the Chapel of the Home of Truth. According to Mr. J. Ransome Bransby, the classes were attended by large appreciative audiences and Swamiji spoke with great charm and spirit. J. Ransome Bransby, along with his wife, was then directing the Los Angeles Home of Truth, a religious society of “New Thought” persuasion and Christian Healing and Teaching. The building no longer exists, a victim of downtown’s new constructions.

December 21   “Applied Psychology II”

December 22   “Applied Psychology III”

December 25   “Christ’s Message to the World”

December 26   “Mind and Its Powers”

December 27   “The Theory of Concentration”

December 28   “The Practice of Concentration”

December 29   “Spiritual Breathing, Hints on Practical Spirituality”

December 30   “Reincarnation”

Severance Home
806 W. Adams Blvd.
Los Angeles

December 23, 1899

Swami Vivekananda attended a morning reception at the home of Mrs. Caroline M. Severance, a founder of First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles and president emeritus of the Friday Morning Club. Mrs. Kate Tannatt Woods of Salem, Massachusetts, was likely at this reception. The John Tracy Clinic now stands at this location. The adjacent Severance St. was named after Caroline Severance, an abolitionist and a pioneering activist for women’s rights and social justice. She was known as “the mother of clubs” for creation of organizations supporting women.

Los Angeles Theater
227 S. Spring St.
Los Angeles

December 23, 1899

Vivekananda attended the performance of the farce “My Friend from India” with Miss MacLeod, Mr. Baumgardt, Mrs. Hansbrough and others. “The play was really very funny,” Mrs. Hansbrough assures us, “and Swamiji enjoyed it hugely. Professor Baumgardt, who had been the party’s host, said he had never seen anyone laugh so hard or so much.”

This play was the most successful production of American playwright Henry A. Du Souchet. It is a satire concerning the lionizing of Swami Vivekananda by the New York Society. It deals with a barber dressed in a yellow silk bedspread who is presented as who one has been studying mysticism of the East and has learned all there is to know of Theosophy and attained the most exalted state, Nirvana. The play later became a silent motion picture in 1927. The script can be found here.

Payne’s Hall
330 1/2 S. Broadway

January 2–8, 1900

Swami Vivekananda gave a series of talks at the Payne’s Hall. We have the titles for some, but not all, of these talks. The hall was filled to capacity, and more than 100 turned away for the January 7th talk. The January 8 talk was the last known in Los Angeles by Swami Vivekananda.

January 2   Subject Unknown

January 3   Subject Unknown

January 4   “What Brings Success”

January 5   “We Ourselves”

January 7   “Christ’s Message to the World”.

January 8   “The Powers of the Mind”

Orpheum Theatre
112 S. Main St.
Los Angeles

January 11, 1900

Swamiji attended a vaudeville show with Betty Leggett and others. He was invited by a dancer who had heard him speak in London in 1896, and was impressed. She later adopted Vivekananda’s precepts and used her dance to express them. California’s Department of Transportation building now occupies the site where the Orpheum once was.

Hotel Green
99 S. Raymond Ave.

January 15–19, 1900

Swamiji gave three lectures here. The main building still exists, but the East Wing where Swamiji lectured does not.

January 15   Swamiji gave his first lecture in Pasadena on “Bhakti yoga, or the Religion of Love.”

January 17   Subject Unknown

January 19   Subject Unknown

Casa Loma Hotel
Corner of Orange and Colton Streets

January 16, 1900

Swamiji visited Redlands with Betty Leggett and Josephine MacLeod where they had lunch at Casa Loma Hotel. There is a plaque at the corner where the hotel once stood.

Canyon Crest Park

January 16, 1900

After their lunch at Casa Loma Hotel, Vivekananda went to Canyon Crest Park with Betty Leggett and Josephine MacLeod. The area is now a residential area called Smiley Heights.

Shakespeare Club
Fair Oaks Ave. and Lincoln St.

January 16–February 3, 1900

Swami Vivekananda gave a series of lectures here. Due to construction of Interstate-210, the intersection no longer exists.

January 16                 “Religious Legends of India”

January 18                 “Women of India”. Swamiji was confronted by Christian missionaries during and after the lecture.

January 20                 “Persian Art”.

The Club honored Vivekananda with a reception at which he met Miss Lilian York.

January 22                 “The Ideal of a Universal Religion”

January 24                 Subject Unknown

January 25                 “The Science of Yoga”

January 26                 Subject Unknown

January 27                 “My Life and Mission”

Met Jesse Mead (father of Alice Hansbrough, Helen Mead, and Carrie Wyckoff) and housekeeper Miss Fairbanks.

January 30                 “The Aryan Race”

Met Annie Smith who watched seeds of his spiritual teachings grow all over the Pacific coast.

January 31                 “The Ramayana”

February 1                 “The Mahabharata”

February 2                 “Buddhistic India”

February 3                 “The Great Teachers of the World”

Universalist Church
Southwest corner of Fair Oaks Ave. and Chestnut St.

January 28, 1900

Swamiji lectured here on “The Ideal of a Universal Religion”. The Church is no longer there, replaced by some other building.

Throop Polytechnic Institute
Southwest corner of Fair Oaks Ave. and Green St.

February 6, 1900

Swami Vivekananda visited Throop Polytechnic Institute and Manual Training School, which developed into Cal Tech. Impressed with the concept of this school, Swamiji introduced the idea in India. There is a plaque on the outer wall of the present building at that corner identifying the location as the site of old Throop Institute Swamiji had visited.

For a complete account of Swami Vivekananda’s sojourn in Southern California, see the book Swami Vivekananda in America: New Findings, pages 677-748.