Juana Egurrola (Jean Etchemendy, Pierre Larronde and Their Wife Juana Egurrola)
The life stories of Jean Etchemendy and Pierre Larronde are so alike that they should be told together. They both left Argentina to make California their home. Jean Etchemendy arrived in 1847, and Pierre Larronde (recorded as “Larrondo” is baptism records) in 1851. After working in the gold mines up north, the two friends traveled to Los Angeles, but they parted company for a while. Etchemendy opened one of the first bakeries in Los Angeles with the money made during his gold-digging period. Larronde, on the other hand, entered the sheep business, becoming a joint owner of Rancho San Pedro near Wilmington. Soon their paths crossed again when Etchemendy tried his hand in the sheep industry, too, where he became a joint owner of the same ranch. Over the years, both friends engaged in larger businesses separately.
In 1865, Jean Etchemendy married Juana Egurrola in Los Angeles, a Basque woman who was originally from Ondarroa, Bizkaia, who migrated with her parents to the U.S. early in her life. The couple had three daughters: Madeleine, Marianne, and Caroline.
The marriage didn’t last long because Etchemendy died in 1872 at the young age of 43. By then, he was already one of the largest sheep ranchers in the estate. A couple of years later, Pierre Larronde married his friend Pierre’s widow, Juana. The couple also had three children: Pierre Domingo, Antoinette, and Jean.
Larronde sold his sheep in 1889 to manage his growing properties in Los Angeles full-time.
The Larronde Block
Escualdun Gazeta, a Basque newspaper published by M. V. Biscailuz in Los Angeles, published a short article about the Larronde Block on the front page of its first issue. It announces the impending spring addition of two stories, with a second floor for rooms and a third, larger room for the local Freemason Society. The newspaper author noted that at that time, the Larronde’s property “is among the most valuable in town.”
By the 1880s, the Basque population in Los Angeles was growing considerably. The Los Angeles Herald stated that “to a newcomer the ownership of many of our more prominent business blocks by Frenchmen and Basques is noticeable. Miguel Leonis, Domingo Amestoy, Pierre Larronde, Bernard Etcheverry, Domingo Bastenchury (sic)….”
Pierre Larronde and Juana Egurrola’s Home on North Hope Street
The once fashionable Bunker Hill neighborhood, known for its Victorian style houses, evolved into a working-class district in its later years. The mansions there were divided up into multiple-family rentals, some only ten or twenty years after their construction.
Few houses remained as single-family residences in Bunker Hill including the house at 237 Hope Street. This was the Larronde’s home for almost 80 years. Even when Juana lost her second husband Pierre in 1896, she remained in the house. She shared it with her three daughters from her marriage with Jean Etchemendy, and Pierre Larronde’s son Jean/John until her passing in 1920 at the age of 85.
According to John Steven McGroarty, Juana Egurrola was well-known among the Spanish and French pioneers of Los Angeles County. She was a firm supporter of progressive initiatives, as were her daughters. The three sisters were often mentioned in the press for their social work and involvement in social causes. In McGroarty’s words, “from the moment Pierre Larronde settled in Los Angeles up until this day, the Larrondes have been some of the most upstanding developers of the city of Los Angeles.”
McGroarty, John Steven (1921). Los Angeles from the mountains to the sea: with selected biography of actors and witnesses to the period of growth and achievement. Chicago: American Historical Society.
McGroarty, John Steven (1933). California of the South, Vol. V, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis.