Prudent Beaudry (1818–1893) served as the 13th mayor of Los Angeles, California, from 1874 to 1876. A native of Quebec, he was the second French Canadian and third French American mayor of Los Angeles.
Prudent Beaudry was born into a wealthy French Canadian family. After studying in Montreal, he went to New York City to pursue graduate studies in business school. In the aftermath of the Rebellions of 1837 that shook the province of Quebec, he traveled in the United States and promoted the idea of annexing Canada to the United States. Around 1840, he settled in New Orleans, where he gained additional experience in commercial activities. In 1842, he returned to Montreal and created an import-export business with his brothers. Because he was responsible for buying stock, Prudent Beaudry frequently needed to travel to Europe.
His younger brother Victor left for San Francisco at the height of the California Gold Rush, and convinced Prudent to join him so that they might take advantage of the burgeoning business opportunities to be found there. After selling his shares in the Montreal business to his older brothers, Prudent Beaudry moved to San Francisco and invested all $26,000 of his share money in various enterprises targeting the needs of the Gold Rush miners.
Two fires and insufficient insurance left the retail enterprise with only $1,000 left of its stock. In 1853 Prudent moved alone to Los Angeles, and succeeded in regaining a respectable amount of floating capital. In 1854 Prudent decided to invest in capital assets in addition to his retail store. He bought different tracts of land, which constituted the "Beaudry Blocks". The rents he earned from his real estate assets yielded him $1,000 per month.
After Victor rejoined him in 1855, Prudent Beaudry left for Europe in order to consult a Parisian ophthalmologist for eyesight problems. He rested in Montreal for five years, limiting his activity. In 1861, Victor received a lucrative offer to furnish the Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War. This offer obliged Prudent to return to Los Angeles and take charge again of his business. His profits by that time amounted to a few thousand dollars per year, a considerable amount for the time.
Beaudry acquired the Slate Range Gold and Silver Mining Company at a bargain price when the failed Mojave Desert firm found itself unable to pay for goods purchased from Beaudry's store, though his investment failed when the mining enterprise was destroyed by fire set by disgruntled Californian Indian tribe member workers.
Beaudry then decided to use his savings to buy inexpensive, undeveloped parcels of land on Bunker Hill above central Los Angeles which featured views of the city at its base and the Pacific Ocean, and an undeveloped hilltop he named Angelino Heights. At both locations, Beaudry developed prestigious, upscale residential districts.
He also bought property near the Sierra Nevada, and built an aqueduct to redirect several mountain streams to his properties. He owned a great deal of real estate in Downtown Los Angeles, located for the most part around Temple Street, Bunker Hill, Bellevue Road, and in the Angelino Heights and Arcadia areas.
Beaudry also became interested in architecture and urbanization, and so decided to get involved in city planning. Notably, he planted many new trees and made plans for mansions and modest houses. The quality of his work was rapidly recognized, and the upgraded lands were sold at a very high profit. Most of his free time was dedicated to architecture.
Beaudry was elected to three one-year terms in the Los Angeles Common Council, the governing body of the city—in 1871, 1872 and 1873. In 1873 he became the first president of the Board of Trade of Los Angeles.
In 1874 he became mayor of Los Angeles. Coincidentally during this time, his brother Jean-Louis Beaudry was mayor of Montreal.
Later in his life, Beaudry decided to get involved in exporting water; however, the collapse of the Temple and Workman Bank in 1876 hit him very hard and ended the project. Beaudry also invested in the Second Street Cable Railway "cable cars" for people traveling up and down the hills of central Los Angeles.
He died in 1893 in Los Angeles. The L.A. Times praised him as one of the most visionary men in Los Angeles. Following his will, his body was brought back and buried in Montreal. Los Angeles County praised Beaudry in these words:
Prudent Beaudry has the record of having made in different lines five large fortunes, four of which, through the act of God, or by the duplicity of man, in whom he had trusted, have been lost; but even then he was not discouraged, but faced the world, even at an advanced age, like a lion at bay, and his reward he now enjoys in the shape of a large and assured fortune. Of such stuff are the men who fill great places, and who develop and make a country. To such men we of this later day owe much of the beauty and comfort that surround us, and to such we should look with admiration as models upon which to form rules of action in trying times.
Beaudry Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles is named for him. The street is on the far west side of his 1874 Bellevue Terrace Tract property, west of Olive Street and north of Sixth Street. The Los Angeles State Normal School, a teachers college and predecessor to UCLA, was built on the tract, where the present-day Los Angeles Central Library is located.
Beaudry was instrumental in helping found the towns of Alhambra and Pasadena.
- Antoine Bernard, Nos pionniers de l'Ouest, Presses de la survivance française de l'Université Laval, 1992
- Joseph Tassé, Des Canadiens de l'Ouest, Compagnie d'imprimerie canadienne, 1878
- Gaétan Frigon: Prudent Beaudry, and other pioneering Quebec businessmen, in Legacy. How french Canadians shaped North America. McClelland & Stewart, Toronto 2016; réimpr. 2019 ISBN 0771072392 p 59 – 83 (including sections Victor Beaudry, mining magnate and Jean-Louis Beaudry, entrepreneur, patriote, and politician)
- (in French) Bâtisseurs d'Amérique: des canadiens français qui ont faite de l'histoire. ed. André Pratte, Jonathan Kay. La Presse, Montréal 2016, p 215 – 242