PLEASE ALSO SEE OUR COMPANION HISTORIES:
BERKELEY SQUARE WILSHIRE BOULEVARD ADAMS BOULEVARD
FREMONT PLACE ST. JAMES PARK WINDSOR SQUARE
HISTORIC LOS ANGELES
FREMONT PLACE ST. JAMES PARK WINDSOR SQUARE
HISTORIC LOS ANGELES
Introduction and Inventory
ELABORATELY GATED WESTMORELAND PLACE was just one of many residential subdivisions developed after Los Angeles emerged from the national financial doldrums of the 1890s and its burghers once again felt comfortable building statement houses. While the tract's founders had spent a decade studying the local real estate market, it seems they were short-sighted when it came to the effects of technology. As soon as the first automobile was seen chugging down Broadway in the afternoon shadow of Bunker Hill before the turn of the century, the civic die had been cast—the addictive allure of speed and convenience would mean dizzying suburbanization across Los Angeles and its continuing annexations, well beyond what had been created by the leisurely pace of local streetcars over the previous two decades.
Wesley Clark and Elden P. Bryan had teamed up as a real estate force in 1893, that fall establishing their Clark & Bryan Tract at the southeast corner of Eighth and San Pedro streets. Angelenos had already begun leaving their turreted piles perched atop Bunker Hill; despite the prevailing financial headwinds, Clark and Bryan began to faithfully promote the benefits of moving away from the congested downtown core of Los Angeles. The ever-increasing tide of newcomers to the city also needed to be accommodated beyond the capacity of the several existing Victorian suburbs: Angelino Heights was not far to the north of downtown; Boyle Heights east across the river was also reachable by streetcar. Most notably, as soon as the University of Southern California was founded in 1880, there had been rapid development of seriously scaled houses on generous lots south along Figueroa and Flower streets as well as on Grand Avenue, all leading to Adams Street, along which the high-end residential city would first move west. Soon after opening their original tract, which they followed with the South Bonnie Brae tract in the southerly Westlake district, Clark and Bryan realized that the future of residential Los Angeles would lie beyond Hoover Street, where the city's original grid, oriented to the northeast and southwest, met a new compass-point grid. Before long, they secured a large portion of the property of Bartolo Ballerino, an old Angeleno finally beginning to give up on something of a personal crusade against the voracious city itching to expand west over his quarter-section homestead. On Sunday, November 28, 1897, Clark and Bryan announced the opening of the Lone Star Tract on their new 50-acre acquisition, which would only be the beginning of their development of the Ballerino lands. In November 1901, the Ballerino family sold the rest of its property to Chicago real estate investor Mitchell Allen, who, by late 1902, had transferred it to Clark and Bryan and their silent partner, investor Henry E. Huntington—who was also busy building transit lines west across the city—each to hold an undivided third. Borrowing it from a famous private street in St. Louis—that city, much in the news at the time for its World's Fair, was inspiring private residential parks all over the country—the developers introduced to Los Angeles the name Westmoreland, suggestive of Anglo privilege and pastoral tradition. Clark and Bryan immediately began work on improvements in the newest parcels of their holdings. In addition to the middle-class 161-lot Lone Star Tract, there would now be the upper-middle-class 185-lot Westmoreland Tract and, at the northeast corner of Tenth Street (now Olympic Boulevard) and Vermont Avenue, the 14-lot Bungalow Row for those of modest means. The crown jewel of the new district would be private Westmoreland Place, with gates and stone entrance lodges connected by ironwork arches, fortifications intended to guard a projected full complement of palaces, many to be built on parcels comprised of more than one of the tract's 65 lots. Only nine houses would be built.
Clark and Bryan first concentrated on promoting the Westmoreland Tract and Bungalow Row, holding off on development of Westmoreland Place until, apparently, sufficient buzz on the new district had been generated. A map of Westmoreland Place prepared in late 1902—though not filed with the city until December 1904—indicates that all but five of the 200-foot-deep lots had frontages of 100 feet; two were 175 feet wide and three, 150. Documents prepared for later litigation over its uses continue the tract's description: "All of the lots face on private streets within the tract. On one side thereof high and ornamental fences and walls have been constructed on the street frontages adjoining the tract, with massive, ornamental gate entrances on those streets. The roads of the tract are graded and macadamized, cement curbs and sidewalks are constructed, and an attractive lighting system has been installed; parking spaces between the curbs and sidewalks are laid out, and the lots themselves are planted with palms and ornamental trees...." The luxury and exclusivity of Westmoreland Place, rather than mere bourgeois comfort of the Westmoreland tract or the practicality of Bungalow Row would now be the focus of Clark and Bryan's advertising. The partners purloined more than a name from St. Louis: Copies of William Eames's and Thomas Young's design of the east gate of that city's 1887 Westmoreland Place was lifted, almost brick by brick and tile by tile, it seems, and placed at one if not all six entrances of its Los Angeles doppelganger, of which there were two on Tenth Street/Olympic Boulevard and two on Pico Street (now Pico Boulevard). A trace of a pedestrian gate remains today at the southeast corner of Westmorland Avenue and Olympic, a tiny testament to Clark and Bryan's Westmoreland Place, architecturally poignant when one considers the intact splendor of its Missouri inspiration, which remains one of the most beautiful urban confections anywhere in the world.
The original building restrictions for Westmoreland Place were considerable, if not unusual for high-end subdivisions of the early 20th century. As enumerated in a later lawsuit contending that they had been breached—particularly item 1— the strictures were
1. That each and every lot and parcel of land included in said tract shall be used for residence purposes exclusively; that no building or structure pertaining to or for the conduct of business of any kind whatsoever shall ever be erected thereon.2. That no residence of less than two full stories above the basement shall ever be erected or placed upon said premises, and that no residence shall be erected or placed upon said premises that shall cost less than $15,000.3. That any residence to be built upon said premises shall front upon the private driveways shown upon said plat, and that the front line of such residence, including porch or piazza, but not including front steps, shall be placed on a line 60 feet from the front line of said property; that said front line of said property shall be considered to be 19 feet from the outside of the street curb; that no building shall ever be placed on said premises nearer to said front line of said property than said designated line.4. That no fence or wall on the side line of any lot or parcel of land situated in said tract in front of said house line shall ever be built or placed of a greater height than four feet from the ground.5. That no more than one residence shall ever be erected or placed or allowed to be upon any lot in said tract.6. That no double house or tenement house, that no flat nor any kind of a residence except a residence designed for use as a single residence, shall ever be erected or placed upon any of said lots.7. That no oil well shall ever be bored or operated upon any part of said premises; that no derrick nor machinery for conducting any kind of business whatever shall ever be erected or placed upon any portion of said premises.8. That no residence shall be erected upon any lot in said premises nearer than 15 feet to the north and south (or side) lines of said lots, not including steps and porte-cochère.9. That no transfer or lease of any portion of said premises shall ever be made to anyone other than to a person of the Caucasian or white race.10. That upon a breach of either or any one of the fore-going conditions, title to any property conveyed in said tract by said defendants, and to the whole thereof, shall become at once divested from the owner thereof, his heirs or assigns, and shall revert to and revest in... [developers] Wesley Clark and E. P. Bryan, their heirs and assigns.11. That said tract is intended to be used exclusively as a first-class residence property, and that each and every condition, limitation, reservation, restriction, and covenant above set out is intended for and is for the benefit of each and every lot in said tract, and of the owners thereof, and that a breach of any one of said conditions, limitations, reservations, restrictions, and covenants may be enjoined or prevented by any person owning any property in said tract.
The first lot sale in Westmoreland Place was to George P. Thresher, vice president of the Los Angeles Building Company; he built his own home on Lot 37 in mid 1904. It seems likely that Thresher was motivated to be an early purchaser when he saw that E. P. Bryan was building an extravagant home of his own within the gates and that Wesley Clark also had plans for one in the Place; Thresher's lot was the next one north of Bryan's. The next sale, in October 1904, was to the Los Angeles Building Company itself; this was a parcel comprised of Lot 43 and the northerly 50 feet of Lot 45, on which company secretary Oliver C. Bryant would build a large spec house in 1907. After both transactions in which the Los Angeles Building Company was involved were officially executed in January 1905, sales in Westmoreland Place stalled. Whether or not this lack of success had something to do with with the forthcoming dissolution of the Clark and Bryan partnership is unclear—the men denied rumors that the split wasn't amicable—but a parting came on November 7, 1906, by which time, nearly two years after the Thresher purchases, no additional lots had been successfully peddled. At the breakup, unsold frontage in Westmoreland Place was divided between Clark, Bryan, and Henry Huntington, who had his lots transferred to the Huntington Land and Improvement Company. Another year would pass before another conveyance would be made, that of Lot 33 at the southwest corner of Tenth and Westmoreland—adjacent to Thresher's home—to Alexander Parley Johnson on December 11, 1907. (Given that the Panic of 1907 had begun eight weeks before, this sale was significant, but still not an indicator of an upturn in the subdivision's rate of sales.) Johnson would complete a house on his lot by the middle of the next year.
The sale of 43 Westmoreland Place—the spec house built by Oliver Bryant—to miner and oil man Grant G. Gillette was made in February 1908. That year also saw a lot sale by E. P. Bryan to Harriett Hollingsworth, wife of real estate operator William I. Hollingsworth; it was not uncommon for purchasers of land to place deeds in the names of their spouses. It seems that in the Hollingsworth case the lot was held, unimproved, as an investment. Lot 61 and the southerly half of 59 was sold to real estate man William F. Young, who began building #59 for himself there in the fall of 1909. In March 1911, Clark sold Lot 143 and the northerly 75 feet of 145 to yet another real estate operator, Joseph E. Carr, who began construction of a massive Renaissance palazzo across Eleventh Street from Clark. What appears to have been a speculative venture straddling a parcel composed of the southerly three-quarters of Lots 60 and the northerly half of Lot 62—addressed 60 Westmoreland Place—was in place by 1912 but does not appear to have been bought until real estate operator W. Ross Campbell acquired it as his own home five years later, perhaps then securing it at a bargain price. By this time, the jig was up. Westmoreland Place, though during 1912 once again being promoted with vigor by the original three investors—Clark, Bryan, and Huntington—was an abject failure. Only one additional sale would result from the recent ballyhoo: Taxicab-company owner Ralph E. Wells bought Lot 156 in November 1912 and built the ninth house—and what is the only survivor—in Westmoreland Place, today addressed 1218 Menlo Avenue.
Why did Westmoreland Place fail? In a simple word—timing. Technology driven by petroleum, real estate mania, and the discovery of Los Angeles as the promised land were all coming together at the turn of the 20th century. After a decade of public demand for a tunnel though Bunker Hill—a virtual wall to the west thwarting the old pueblo-based city when the civic Manifest Destiny was naturally inclined toward the Pacific—a portal finally opened in March 1901. Suburban residential possibilities with easy access to the business district increased dramatically. Seemingly the entire plain south of the Hollywood Hills would be platted within another decade, by which time Hollywood itself had been annexed into the city. Adams Street was rapidly extending west and would become the established spine of the best neighborhoods, reaching an estate area beyond Western Avenue early in the new century. Streetcar service was extended along Adams and to Pico Heights, bounded by Tenth/Olympic, Pico, Vermont, and Western Avenue. Had Westmoreland Place been built west of the Heights, rather than between it and downtown, its fortunes may have been very different; after the huge increase of private automobile ownership after the introduction of the Model T in the fall of 1908, Clark and Bryan's advertising for the tract, touting 10-minute Los Angeles Railway schedules to downtown, had little impact on newly and excitedly motorized homeseekers.
While the Adams corridor had the cachet, it did not have a lock on the pocketbooks of the affluent forever. Wesley Clark had built his own home at 234 Adams Street in 1893; as a witness to that avenue's dramatic westward expansion of affluence, one might think he'd have left Westmoreland Place out of his plans for the Ballerino property, concentrating on middle-class development there—especially as he would have been aware of the emergence of similarly gated Berkeley Square in westerly West Adams, which occurred just as he was cutting up his St. Louis knockoff into lots. While Clark and Bryan may have studied the original Westmoreland Place itself, it was the full history of the Missouri city's famous gated neighborhoods that they failed to consider. Rather than enduring as has the St. Louis's has, their Westmoreland Place instead would suffer the fate of St. Louis's first private street, Lucas Place, built in 1851: It was too close to the congestion of a widening commercial core.
|Wesley Clark and E. P. Bryan, though no longer partners, continued to market Westmoreland Place|
along with Henry Huntington's development company despite the subdivision's having become
flyover territory. The newly motorized rich preferred farther-flung developments such as
gated Berkeley Square; somewhat less well-heeled homeseekers were finding lots
even beyond Crenshaw Boulevard in such new neighborhoods as Victoria Park,
opened in 1907. The year this advertisement appeared—1911—lot sales
were beginning in Windsor Square and Fremont Place, all but sealing
the fate of Westmoreland Place. The street lamps of the tract—
the one here, inset left, was in front of #41, E. P. Bryan's
house—were of an unusual type also once found,
interestingly enough, in Victoria Park (right).
After their last and unsuccessful push of Westmoreland Place during 1911 and 1912, Clark, Bryan, and the Huntington Land and Improvement Company would try to renege on their own original lot covenants, contending that it was a changing city and not their lack of foresight that had doomed the gated tract. George Thresher, Parley Johnson, William Hollingsworth, Joseph Carr, and Joseph H. Miles—who now owned #43, the Bryant/Gillette house—were seriously displeased to find that lots sold after they bought theirs were less restricted than their own, with, among other differences, clauses that provided for the expiration of restrictions whereas those on the original deeds were expressly stated as being meant to stand in perpetuity. William F. Young's deed, for example, provided for an expiration date in January 1916. Without sufficiently informing early purchasers of the changes, the developers formally agreed on February 6, 1911, to significantly change deed restrictions. The result was that during their extensive promotion of Westmoreland Place through 1912, tract covenant changes were various and unclear. The final provocation to the early owners came in November 1912 after unsuccessful promotions of the tract that year when Clark, Bryan, the Huntington Land and Improvement Company rescinded the 1911 agreement altogether. The owners with enormous sums tied up in expensive houses on what were turning out to be their own poor choices of location were extremely vexed when large billboards appeared along Tenth and Pico bearing the developers' names and offering Westmoreland Place lots as sites for apartment buildings and hotels. Adding insult to injury were large advertisements in the Times and the Herald and other dailies repeating the offering. Lawsuits ensued, with many hundreds of pages of documents being considered in court. On June 4, 1915, a ruling was handed down in favor of the plaintiffs—Westmoreland Place was to be reserved for residence purposes only. Naturally, the developers appealed, with further litigation continuing up to the California Supreme Court, which refused to hear the developers' appeal. Negotiations if not litigation between original homeowners—which in 1921 still included the Clark, Thresher, Carr, Wells, and Campbell families—and the three corporate holders of the rest of the tract continued all the way until January 25, 1929, when an agreement was reached whereby restrictions against multi-unit housing were finally rescinded. "Compromise succeeded where litigation failed," as the Times observed the next day. Presumably some kind of financial settlement was reached between owners; it must have been agreed among them that their investments in their lots, for which Ballerino had paid $1.25 and acre and Clark and Bryan $1,000, had been good to them all.
The atmosphere of uncertainty prevailing over Westmoreland Place since the first lawsuit was brought against the developers had naturally discouraged any further purchases in the tract, and each year was bringing new competition for the dollars of men of means. While the district was one of several in the city described as the "West End"—the vicinity of Adams and Figueroa streets had also been called this—the holder of the sobriquet during the 1910s was far out on Wilshire Boulevard, itself a residential thoroughfare not yet going commercial. Windsor Square and Fremont Place had opened in semi-rolling prairie in that West End in 1911; in 1920, lots sales in Hancock Park would be commencing. Beverly Hills was already active, as was far-flung Brentwood. The gates of Bel-Air would open soon after these. The fates and pretensions of fully developed Adams Boulevard and practically stillborn Westmoreland Place were sealed. Berkeley Square would thrive, more or less, for decades, surviving mostly intact until the Santa Monica Freeway and school expansion took out every last vestige when the road came through in the early 1960s. By then, however, in a movement that had actually begun 40 years before, the affluent had abandoned West Adams for the Wilshire Corridor and the Westside from Wilton to as far as the ocean.
Westmoreland Place, born in 1903, was dying on the vine less than a decade later, even as Windsor Square and Fremont Place were opening. One proposal that might have made considerable difference to Pico Heights and vicinity was that of the powerful Automobile Club of Southern California in the fall of 1923 as it was involved in the putting together the famous "Major Traffic Street Plan" of May 1924. The plan, developed by the office of Frederick Law Olmsted for the Traffic Commission of the city and county, suggested the widening of major streets, including Tenth and Pico. The idea of the city acquiring the empty acres of Westmoreland Place to create a park—there would still have been more than thirty acres, with trees planted in 1903 now nicely maturing—as suggested by the Auto Club might have made all the difference to the area. The pressures on housing with the dramatic population rise in Los Angeles during the '20s—it would more than double during the decade—rendered any such park a pipe dream; apartment houses and hotels it would be. On May 3, 1931, the Times reported that the first apartment structure in the original Westmoreland Place tract had just opened, a five-story Art Deco building still standing at 1036 Menlo Avenue. The Crestwood was the seed of dozens of apartment buildings that would rise over the next few decades within the Westmoreland Place tract. Only the original house on Lot #156 remains today, occupied by a Japanese language school; at the Olympic end are the New Seoul Hotel and a plastic-surgery center on the site of the Johnson residence. At the Pico corners now are a strip mall, a fire station, and the El Payasito party-supply store. Aerial photography suggest that the gates of Westmoreland Place began to disappear, apparently in anticipation of the agreement of 1929, in late 1927. Only a remnant of them at the southeast corner of Olympic Boulevard and Westmoreland Avenue, along with the house at 1218 Menlo Avenue and towering palms along the tract's old roadways, suggest what might have been.
A note on the street names of Westmoreland Place: Originally the street bearing the name Westmoreland, running south from Wilshire Boulevard to Tenth/Olympic, was appended as an "avenue," with its route north from Wilshire designated Miami Avenue until citywide address and street-name changes following the annexation of Hollywood in 1910. Until the mid-1920s, the specific designation "Westmoreland Place" applied to both gated roadways within the tract. Despite its paucity of houses, there was still considerable cachet around the name of Clark and Bryan's crowning tract, which prompted the "Place" nameplate to be used even for, unofficially, Westmoreland addresses outside of the gates. Once the neighborhood became ungated, Menlo became the name of the Place's westerly roadway south of Tenth/Olympic, then continuing beyond Pico along the route of the former Reid Street; the Place's easterly roadway is now part of Westmoreland Avenue, the segment of which south of Pico was originally Millard Avenue. The former two- and three-digit addresses of Westmoreland Place were altered to conform with those of other of the city's north-south 1000 and 1100 blocks.
Below appear images of the nine houses of Westmoreland Place. As their individual stories become available, the address below each will become a red link to them.
33 Westmoreland Place: The Alexander Parley Johnson House
41 Westmoreland Place: The Elden P. Bryan House
43 Westmoreland Place: The Grant G. Gillette / Joseph H. Miles House
59 Westmoreland Place: The Walter F. Young House
60 Westmoreland Place: The W. Ross Campbell House
141 Westmoreland Place: The Wesley Clark House
143 Westmoreland Place: The Joseph E. Carr House
156 Westmoreland Place: The Ralph E. Wells House
(now 1218 Menlo Avenue)