Albert and Henrietta Ecke
The history of the Paul Ecke Ranch, Inc. begins with the arrival of the Ecke family in the United States in 1902. Albert Ecke arrived in 1902 from Germany with his wife, Henrietta, and their four children, Hans, Margaret, Paul (1895-1991) and Frieda. Prior to the move, the Eckes owned and operated their own vegetarian sanitarium, an investment made possible largely due to Henrietta's inheritance. Albert, a former school teacher, looked after the daily operations and Henrietta prepared the vegetarian meals. It was a successful enterprise and the family decided to move to Fiji to establish a similar business. En route, they decided the climate of California was better suited for such a business.
They arrived in Ellis Island and made their way to Eagle Rock, Hollywood, where they cultivated vegetables, apricots and flowers (iris and some poinsettias). In 1906, the family moved to Hayward Avenue in Hollywood. Later that year, Margaret died unexpectedly in a shooting accident and the family briefly returned to Europe (Zurich, Switzerland). However by October, they were back in the United States. Albert leased a block of 10 acres for $150 a year and grew melons and tomatoes, with chrysanthemums and poinsettias in the north portion.
Around this time, Albert also began to invest in real estate. He sold one of his lots on Hayworth Ave. for a profit and bought another one at 7204 Sunset Blvd. where he built a four-family 17-room flat in 1912.
In 1915, Albert bought five acres in El Monte to cultivate poinsettias exclusively. He took out a loan from the bank for the crop, which was a failure. The Eckes used money from their dairy to finance another poinsettia crop. In 1916, the crop froze and the family lost the El Monte land, in addition to owing the bank $500. Revenue from the dairy helped abate the loss. In 1917, they finally got a break and Albert was able to sell his finest blooms at Christmastime.
By 1918, the Eckes established a successful business selling cut flowers and began shipping to New York, Chicago and St. Louis.