by Keri Johnson West
When I first moved to sprawling Los Angeles from Seattle, WA in 1997, in search of my roots, I stumbled upon them while walking the reminiscent sidewalks of Hancock Park in what is otherwise known as the “old world charm” neighborhood of Los Angeles. Its eclectic period architecture, pre- war buildings and quaint Larchmont Village reminded me of home.
While I ultimately settled elsewhere, a seed was planted that would years later influence my husband and I to purchase and furnish a beautiful Mediterranean style 1924 fourplex, once rumored to house Cary Grant and Charles Bronson, which continues to serve as “home” to our clients, many whom work in major studios nearby- as they did many years ago.
Sitting regal and high above street level, the grand Mediterranean fourplex is ideally situated just a half block to Paramount Studios and two blocks East of Larchmont Boulevard, a wonderful stroll to the Village. Each of the four uniquely furnished suites, the Lucy, Gable, Monroe and Bronson, offers the feel of “boutique hotel,” with the perfect blend of character and creature comforts, with flexible monthly stays.
“What a great find! Walking up to the entry, you feel the history of this beautiful building. The Monroe suite is so charming, romantic and spacious- the natural lighting is lovely at all times of day- yet every room has a unique chandelier or lighting fixture on dimmers. Elegant, but not fussy. Excellent neighborhood, close to everything you’ll need”- Kelly from Seattle
Let’s take a stroll back in time to visit the early origins this fascinating neighborhood- as well as the urban revitalization of its renowned cultural institutions in the works!
Beyond the rows of CA palms, jacaranda trees and birds of paradise, it is easy for forget that you are in Los Angeles! In the “center of it all” and as surrounding communities continue to develop and commercialize, somehow Hancock Park has remained nearly unfazed, like a capsule in time.
As set forth by developer G. Allan Hancock in the 1920’s, its homes and mansions with sprawling lawns are customarily 2 stories, set back 50 feet from the street with side driveways generally leading though a porte cochere to a rear garage. Telephone lines are buried underground, devoid of obtrusive powerlines, with original street posts lining its stately well- manicured streets.
Designated as a Historical Preservation Overlay Zone area, Hancock Park is an architecturally diverse neighborhood who traded the gated for an upscale yet laid back, up and personal glimpse into its past and present-day charm and walkability.
Per Eric Brightwell of CA Fools Gold Exploring Hancock Park, Hancock Park is within the borders of Melrose Avenue to the North, Wilshire Boulevard to the South, North Arden on its Western edge- as well as La Brea along its Eastern perimeter (though some claim its Highland). It is neighbored by Larchmont and Windsor Square to the east, Windsor Village to the Southeast, Brookside and Sycamore Square to the South, the Fairfax District to the West, Hollywood’s Theater Row to the North, and the Hollywood Studio District to the Northeast.
100 years prior to the Hollywood Golden Age when movie makers flocked to Hancock Park, Mexico emerged victorious in its independence from Spain and in 1828, granted the 4,400 acre Rancho La Brea to Portuguese-Mexican Antonio José Rocha and Nemisio Dominguez, who later transferred his share to Antonio.
First discovered in 1769 during the Portola Expedition, the Spanish later founded Rancho La Brea (Brea meaning “tar” in Spanish) or “El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles del Rio de Porciuncula” in 1781, just “four kilometers to the east of what’s now Hancock Park” per Brightwell.
The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which saw the addition of 525,000 square miles to United States territory- including the land that made up present-day California, required that Spanish and Mexican land grants would be honored by the conquering Americans.
In 1851, Congress passed the California Land Act to review the validity of land titles, whereby the La Rocha family’s accumulating financial debt to prove their claim to the land led them to enlist the aid of lawyer and surveyor, Henry Hancock. Although ultimately successful, the legal expense took its toll on the family and in 1870 Jose Jorge Rocha, son of Antonio, deeded two-thirds of Rancho La Brea to Henry, which included what is known today as the La Brea Tar Pits.
Henry would later deed 1,200 acres to his brother John in 1877 as well as 500 acres to US Senator Cornelius Cole for successfully litigating the land grand title before the supreme court. This land named “Colegrove” which spanned from Sunset Blvd to Rosewood and Gower to Seward, was later annexed in 1909 by Los Angeles as the Colegrove Addition, followed by Hollywood in 1910.
Following Henry’s death in 1883 at the age of 61, operations were overseen by wife Ida Haraszthy Hancock, who secured a 24-year drilling lease with the Salt Lake Company to save the debt laden land. Son George Allan Hancock joined the company in 1907 and with the assistance of William Orcutt, drilled 71 oil wells on the rancho, forming La Brea Oil, resulting in substantial wealth for the family.
Eventually, Hancock’s oil was viscous and no longer producing, whereby in 1916 George Allan donated roughly 23 acres of land around the tar pits to Los Angeles County. In 1919, he began subdividing most of the remaining land into residential lots, ultimately driving the subdivision and development of Ranch La Brea – as well as preservation and stipulation of its tar pits, asphaltic deposits and fossils for scientific use.
Rossmore Avenue notable architects, early famous inhabitants
By 1910, new homes in Windsor Square and Fremont Place neighborhoods “began to take shape” and by 1921, the “Hancock Park development from Rossmore west to Highland formed one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Los Angeles” as described in “Hancock Park- A Place Apart,” by Keldine Hull.
While glamorous residential high-rises weren’t especially common in LA, they arose in Hancock Park, where this early residential development was centered along the more densely populated and traveled Rossmore Avenue, still one of the more striking, beautiful corridors in Los Angeles today.
Some of the more notable architecture along the corridor includes the 1926 Chateauesque Country Club Manor, designed by Leland Bryant, the 1927-1929 Spanish Renaissance Revival El Royale, designed by William Douglas Lee, as well as the Max Maltzman designed Art Deco Ravenswood – which in addition to early residents Clark Gable and Ava Gardener, housed Mae West in its Penthouse from its opening in 1930 until her death in 1980.
Built at the height of the depression in 1934, Actor Jack Haley (best known as the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, 1939) commissioned Milton J Black to design the 10- unit Streamline Moderne Mauretania Apartments, located at 520-522 N Rossmore, whose Penthouse was also home to John F. Kennedy during the 1960 Democratic National Convention. Built the same year, Milton, best known for his art deco-moderne masterpieces, also designed the 19- unit Norman Revival Chateau Rossmore, located at 555 N Rossmore, just a few doors down.
Chateau Rossmore, 555 N Rossmore, photo courtesy Avesha Michael
Notable Hancock Park homes and mansions, early inhabitants
Outside of the urban vibe of Rossmore Avenue, early architects that opted to design the many grand revival period homes and mansions of Tudor, Mediterranean, Monterey, American, English and Spanish Colonial styles include Charles Gault, Elmer Grey, William Pereira, Frank Israel, John DeLario, John Austin, Lester G Scherer and Raymond Kennedy, Frank Lloyd Wright and Wallace Neff.
Built in 1921 for Chicago-based Weber Iron Works owner William Weber, the Weber house, located at 3923 W 9th Street in the Wilshire Park neighborhood, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and was the artists first commissioned work, in collaboration with his Father. The three-bedroom, two-bath Prairie-style residence still features many original features, including the original built in desk and shelves, art glass and cedar moldings.
Paul Revere Williams, the first African American certified West Coast architect and member of the American Institute of Architect, known for “combining styles,” designed homes throughout Los Angeles including the English brick Tudor Leistikow house at 554 S. Lorraine Boulevard, built in 1923- the same year he launched his private practice.
The 30-room hacienda 1928 Spanish Colonial built for Eva K. Fudger, located at 211 S Muirfield Road, was designed by Roland E. Coate Sr and due to the proximity to the Wilshire Country Club, later home to avid golfer and versatile millionaire manufacturer, aviator and film producer Howard Hughes.
Wallace Neff, famously referred to as the creator of the “California” style architecture of Hollywood’s Golden Age, built a spectacular Neoclassical estate at 105 N Rossmore, which features 8,000 sq ft of living space on a half- acre lot adjacent to and looking out over the Wilshire Country Club. Built in 1960 for Ralph J. Chandler, nephew of LA Times publisher Harry Chandler, the home remained in the family for over half a century and retains many of its original features, including a stately portico of Ionic columns and dramatic 30- foot- high rotunda entry hall.
Notable Hancock Park early residents, deeply rooted families
Hancock Park’s ties to Hollywood go as far back as the rise and fall of the silent film era, where the eclectic 1920’s Hancock Park architecture attracted both their use in film locations as well as early famous inhabitants. In addition to its film roots, some of Los Angeles’s most prominent families and their descendants, including cultural philanthropists, musicians, architects, entrepreneurs and early shapers of Los Angeles have called-and continue to call Hancock Park home.
The Getty family owned several homes in the neighborhood, including what is now designated as the Mayor’s residence at 6th and Irving, built in 1921 and purchased by the Getty Oil company in 1958, later donated to the City of Los Angles in 1977 (Tom Bradley was the first Mayor to live at the Getty House from 1977-1993, with First Lady Ethel Bradley and daughters, Lorraine and Phyllis). Previous renters of the home included John Barrymore, silent film star, Dolores Costello and Lee Strasberg, inventor of “method acting” and Artistic Director of the Actors Studio.
The American Beaux Arts Dorothy Chandler Estate, located at 455 Lorraine Boulevard, home to cultural philanthropist Dorothy Chandler and her husband Norman Chandler, publisher of the LA Times from 1945-1960. Originally built in 1913, the landmark estate on nearly an acre was registered as a Historic-Cultural Monument in 2004 and later coined the “White House of the West” due to its impressive list of presidential guests including Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.
Los Angeles pioneer music impresario and Hancock Park resident, Lynden E Behymer, produced cultural programming in Los Angeles for fifty years and founded the LA Philharmonic with friend and conductor, Harley Hamilton. In addition, the two founded the Women’s Symphony Orchestra, which brought the newly composed “La Boheme” by Puccini, via an opera company from Turin, Italy, to the LA Theater for the first time in 1897. Deeply rooted in the Windsor Square- Hancock Park neighborhood, Behymer’s descendants lived at homes on June Street, Muirfield Road, Arden Boulevard, Poinsettia Place, Gramercy Place and Citrus Avenue.
Nat King Cole and his wife, Maria, who moved to Hancock Park in the 1948 and lived at 401 N Muirfield Road, were shunned and harassed by neighbors and newly formed Property Owners Association at a time where racist covenants were in effect not only in Hancock Park, but throughout Los Angeles. Covenants were eventually deemed unconstitutional, meanwhile, Cole gritted it out, remaining in the house until his untimely death in 1965 at the age of 45, ultimately integrating a neighborhood that at one point intentionally excluded both blacks and Jews, the latter who were barred by law.
Other Hancock Park celebrities-both past and present- include Judy Garland, Mary Pickford, Buster Keaton, Natalie Talmadge, Ava Gardner, Clark Gable, Patricia Heaton, Muhammad Ali, Shonda Rhimes, Manny Pacquiao, Frank Powell, Courtney Vance, Angela Bassett, Judy Greer, George Takei, Sean Hayes, Courtney Kemp, Game of Thrones creator D.B. Weiss, Patrick Stewart, Leonard Cohen, Kathy Bates, Megan Markle, Milla Jovovich, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, Natalie Cole, Patricia Arquette, David Arquette, the late French fashion designer Christian Audigier and politician Maxine Waters.
Hancock Park-Wilshire Notable Architecture
Falling outside of the Hancock Park Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, Park Mile was part of LA’s Wilshire District Plan in 1979 to prevent Hancock Park’s southern Wilshire stretch between Wilton Place and Highland from being developed in neighboring Koreatown to the East and Miracle Mile to the West.
Notable architecture that stands today includes “The Deco Building” located at 5209 Wilshire Boulevard, one of the city’s last remaining black and gold art deco buildings, with its characteristic zig zag moderne pattern, popular in the 1920’s. The diminutive yet eye catching two story high structure was designed by Morgan, Walls and Clements, one of the oldest operating architectural firms on the West Coast and driver of revival and modern architecture in LA.
Also designed by Morgan, Walls and Clements and completed in 1930, the Dominguez-Wilshire building, located at 5410 Wilshire Boulevard is another of the last “iconic Art Deco towers on the Miracle Mile” according to the Los Angeles Conservancy, and was at one time the second largest office tower outside of the Wilshire Tower. The building is now owned by Carnegie-Hill Properties, undergoing restoration by hired local architect John Kaliski, with guidance by the Conservancy.
Meyer and Holler designed the 13 story Art Deco E. Clem Wilson Building, located at 5225 Wilshire Boulevard, completed in 1929. The buildings once portrayed the offices of the fictional Daily Planet on its first season of the TV series, Adventures of Superman (1952- 1958), and was the tallest commercial building in the city at the time.
Some of the structures west of the Park Mile preservation zone which met the wrecking ball include the Fox Ritz Theater at 5214 Wilshire (corner of Wilshire and La Brea) which opened in 1926 and was demolished in 1977. The office tower at 5055 Wilshire Blvd, built in 1949, was formerly home to the manufacturers of Carnation Instant Breakfast and once portrayed as the fictional Commerce Bank of Beverly Hills in the TV series Beverly Hillbillies. The 899-seat Art Deco Gordon Theater at 5100 Wilshire Blvd in Sycamore Square, designed by Clifford A. Blach and opened in 1938, now stands the new 132- unit residential complex called The Mansfield, completed in 2018.
Today, the densely populated southern stretch of Hancock Park-Wilshire maintains a blend from mid to high- rise commercial to luxury residential apartments and upscale mid-century flats. In addition to its museums and world renown cultural institutions, Hancock Park- Wilshire offers proximity to world class shopping including the Grove, as well as nearby ethnic enclaves of Koreatown, Little Ethiopia and Little Bangladesh.
Urban revitalization, cultural institutions
It’s an exciting time along the half-kilometer stretch west of Hancock Park’s Park Mile (between Highland and La Brea), which currently hosts composite plans for its three cultural institutions on the 34- acre park, where LACMA and the LA Brea Tar Pits reside- as well as the new 1,000 seat Academy Museum, dedicated to the art and scene of filmmaking, set to open this December.
Previously existing independently of one another, plans are in motion that “promise to join these disparate pieces into a museological collection unparalleled in the western United States” as described by writer, curator and photographer Shane Reiner-Roth’s “Hancock Park may become Los Angeles first true urban microcosm.”
William Periera’s LACMA (The Los Angeles County Museum of Art), Hancock Park’s first cultural institution and driving force of the project, which opened in 1965, is ever increasing its efforts to “cast LA in the role of art-world magnet,” with “indications of the institutions desire for outward growth” as described by Reiner- Roth.
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, which manages the occupying Eastern 13 acres of the park or La Brea Tar Pits, elected multidisciplinary firm, WEISS/MANFREDI to push ahead in plans in preserving the park’s treasured elements, including Lake Pit and the original Page museum, while tying them together with a 3,200-foot-long looping pedestrian path. Architect Michael Manfredi summarized the scheme’s “intention to pull back the curtain on the museum’s ongoing paleontological research to the public.”
The film museum has served as inspiration for both LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits to reinvent themselves, connecting the parkland between both campuses while “unifying Hancock Park and its aggregate cultural and recreational offerings” per Reiner- Roth.
A neighborhood for Art enthusiasts, additional museums include the Craft and Folk- Art Museum, Ace Gallery, Petersen Automotive Museum, ANN 330 Gallery, Aran Cravey, Couturier Gallery, GUSFORD and Merry Karnowsky Gallery.
Community core and continuity
The Windsor Square Hancock Park Historical Society, founded in 1976, continues to serve the neighborhood and community spirit in preserving the illustrious history of the Greater Rancho La Brea and recognition of its architectural landmarks, historical sites and homes.
Resting on 104 acres and formally organized as a corporation in 1919, the Norman Macbeth designed Wilshire Country Club gives the unique neighborhood its grand, pastoral feel with its rolling lawns and stately fairways.
Near the country club on Clinton St, the Los Angeles Tennis Club, which opened in 1920, currently remains an important tournament, recreation and community center, hosting several amateur, collegiate and charity tournaments.
Hancock Park is home to the official private residences of the Canadian and British Consul, the latter having hosted the Duke and Duchess during at least one of their visits to LA. Additionally, the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office resides in Hancock Park, along with the Iraqi, Royal Thai, Egypt, Kenya and Spain consulate offices.
Christian houses of worship include Christ the King Catholic Church, established in 1927, which features a beautiful stained- glass atmosphere with scents of frankincense and myrrh.
Demographics, highly rated schools
With a little more than 10,000 residents occupying its 1.52 square miles or roughly 6,500 residents per square mile, Hancock Park holds the lowest populations density in the city of Los Angeles, per the September 9th, 2019 LA Times Mapping LA.
According to its stats and graphics below, 70.7% of its residents are non-Latino or white, primarily of Irish or Russian descent, 13.1% Asian American, mostly Korean and Filipino descent, 8.5% Latino, 3.8% are black and 3.8% other, moderately diverse for the city and county of Los Angeles.
An exclusive and affluent neighborhood with homes ranging from $1.5-$10 million, 47.3% are homeowners (mostly older aged and highly educated) and 52.7% of its residents are renters.
The median age is 37 and median income slightly above $85,000, with a percentage of households making north of six-figure salaries, extremely high for the county.
One of the more cerebral parts of town, 56.2% of its residents age 25 or older hold at least a 4- year college degree, high for the county of Los Angeles.
Many families are likewise drawn to the area’s esteemed and highly rated public schools, which include highly rated Third Street Elementary and Hancock Park Elementary Schools, John Burroughs Middle School, who offers advanced STEM courses and Larchmont Charter School.
Private schools include Page Academy, founded in 1908, Marlborough High School, a highly regarded independent college- preparatory secondary school for grades 7-12, Yavneh Hebrew Academy, Christ the King School, a Montessori school and Wilshire Private School, a primary and secondary school sponsored by the Korean Institute of Southern California. Jewish schools include Samuel A. Fryer Yavneh Hebrew School and Yeshiva Rav Isacsohn Academy.
Centrality, ease of transit
In contrast to its more quiet and stately residential tree lined streets, Hancock Park’s main drag and thoroughfare of central Los Angeles, Wilshire Boulevard, makes it one the most central, trafficked, accessible neighborhoods, further adding to its appeal. The 101 freeway to the East and 10 freeways to the South, both an equal reach from its center.
In addition to ease by car, the neighborhood is equally friendly by foot and is an inviting walking experience. A convenient ease to all that will be further enhanced via the Purple Line extension, which will create a transit connection to the Westside when it is scheduled to arrive at the Wilshire/La Brea station in 2023.
With its more prominent cultural institution’s revitalization in the works, the addition and first of seven new stations to the Metro D Line along Wilshire Boulevard will further enhance its accessibility.
According to the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, LACMA has indicated it would fund a second station entrance on its campus, further connecting the block to the city at large in a more seamless fashion.
Pedestrian friendly, optimal walkability
Pedestrian friendly Larchmont Village, Windsor Square’s central hub, stretches between Beverly Blvd and 1st Street, and was first established in 1921 by Julius La Bonte as part of a rapid population growth from downtown. Larchmont Village today remains a favorite spot to LA locals with its unique eateries, Farmer’s market, cafes and specialty shops, including Landis Gifts and Stationery, Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits & Cheese, Lemonade, Larchmont Sanctuary Spa, Art Works Studio and Classroom, Go Get Em Tiger Coffee Shop, Vernetti, Larchmont Village Farmer’s Market, Village Pizzeria, Salt and Straw, Café Gratitude, Bricks and Scones, as well as the oldest independent books store in Los Angeles, Chevalier’s Books.
As described by the Larchmont Buzz, Larchmont Village/Hancock Park area was once served by the Pacific Electric (1901-1961) R Line streetcar, which went up and down the boulevard until the 1940s with its clanging bell, ultimately replaced by diesel buses March 31st, 1963 by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Today, the quaint yet bustling stretch in the heart of LA continues to draw both its residents as well as other Los Angeles locals – a welcoming and “calm smile between frantic downtown and the congested West Side” as described by the Larchmont Village Business Improvement District.
Other neighborhood favorites include:
Mario’s Peruvian & Seafood, Tere’s Mexican Grill, Café Bleu, Osteria Mozza, chi SPACCA, Café Sicily, La Brea Bakery(one of the oldest in LA), Olio the Crepe Kitchen, Pizzeria Mozza Xiomara, Providence, Stir Crazy Coffee Shop, Grounded Café, Twist Eatery and Republique. The neighborhood offers at least two kosher markets, Ariel Glatt Kosher Market and La Brea Kosher Market.
A short stroll from the Village at Beverly Blvd and Van Ness at 4900 Beverly Blvd is Robert L. Burns Park, which opened in 2014. Named after a former LA school board member and City Council member, the park offers a quaint setting with picnic tables, open grass and children’s play area to enjoy the fresh air and outdoors.
Hancock Park stands like a steady pillar amidst kaleidoscope Los Angeles – and without pretension, strikes a more rare, delicate lifestyle balance between big city living and intimate neighborhood feel. Unlike the rise and ravage of concrete high rises and parking lots found in neighboring cities, Hancock Park’s core remains a well- preserved neighborhood where adults, children and their furry friends walk and play.
Whether you are relocating, visiting family, working in film or exploring the area, the Lucy, Bronson, Monroe and Gable offer a rare, affordable and flexible opportunity to stay and experience the neighborhood firsthand, where hotels are virtually nonexistent.
Each suite is uniquely furnished, complete with fully equipped kitchens, housewares, linens, centralized A/C and heat, wi-fi, expanded cable, in suite washer-dryer as well as a 1 car, detached private garage. Perfect for those who prefer fewer neighbors, ornate character features over straight lines- as well as the ease of stepping out the front door for a stroll over an elevator ride!