This is the Westwood tower that buyers would climb to view the property lots available in Westwood. The lightning bolts and lettering itself lit up at night.
The original Bullocks sat on corner of Westwood and Weyburn. The third Bullocks was built in 1952 on Weyburn Avenue in response to the new J.W. Robinsons in Beverly Hills. The original Desmonds building in Westwood Village was located on the southwest corner of Westwood and Weyburn.
Greg showed us a series of early photos of Westwood, showing an ice-skating rink, the original Ralph's, the Sears corner tower (neon signs were very popular), the Fox theatre, etc. even the original Westwood Village sign on Wilshire Blvd and Westwood Blvd., showing the entrance to the Village commercial district. Greg attributes all of this to Arthur Letts who is largely unknown. There is a plaque to him in Holmby Park dedicated to his memory by Dr Edwin Janss and his brother Harold Janss.
President Nancy opened up the meeting for questions from the membership. PP Michael Newman talked about the open parking lots that were in the village many years ago. Phil Gabriel asked about Ships Restaurant and when it was built. PP Tom Barron asked about the resources Greg used to develop this rich history of our community. Greg’s grandparents moved to Warner Ave. in 1939 and kept a lot of records. “UCLA owes its existence to Arthur Letts’ estate and the Janss Investment Company.” When the trustees of UC arrived in Los Angeles in 1925, Janss sent three limousines to the main train station in downtown on Alameda Blvd. to pick them up. They were here to look at three potential sites for the Southern California campus; Palos Verdes and then to Van Nuys and finally to Westwood. Arthur instructed the drivers to keep the limo windows down in Palos Verdes so the Trustees would freeze. Then put the windows up in Van Nuys so they will heat up. Afterwards to return them back to Westwood at the perfect time of the day. It worked. But the Trustees wouldn’t purchase the land. Arthur lowered the price per acre, and the three adjoining cities of L.A. and Beverly Hills and Culver City bought the property and donated it to UC in order to assure that the campus would be located in Westwood and provide the “anchor tenant” for the community. That’s how UCLA ended up in Westwood.
In the 1920s, the student population was very limited at UCLA. The second floor of a Westwood Village office building was the dormitory for the entire female student population of the campus.
Phil asked about doing a book – but Greg declined because it would be “longer than the Bible”.
Greg now lives in Houston, but retains an interest and fascination with Westwood. Los Angeles is the second oldest town in California. It began earlier, which can explain why it is as spread out as it is today.
Brian Whitney asked about the Sonia Heady ice-skating rink – It was built in the 1940s on Kinross. It was on property that belonged to Veterans administration and not really in the Village. Somehow UCLA ended up with that property.
The UCLA extension was actually an extension of UC Berkley because the Trustees didn’t want a Southern California branch. But this became an issue when it was disclosed that over 50% of the money supporting the UC System came from South California. The Janss family benefited by the establishment of UCLA as part of their development of Westwood, which they marketed to death.
Greg has a 100+ slide history of Westwood if anyone is interested. Contact Nancy.
PP Tom Barron asked about land values. His grandparents leased a Janss Spanish 3BD + den spec house on Warner near Rochester in 1939, but soon afterward the owner offered it for sale for $11,000. Tom’s grandfather went nuclear over the outrageous price but ended up buying the property.
PP Michael Newman mentioned clients who bought several homes north of Wilshire in the 1930s for $6,000 each.
PP Steve Scherer asked about the Los Angeles Country Club - the LACC property was originally part of the Rancho and sold for $48/acre as part of a rail line on Santa Monica Blvd to the beach area. They drilled a lot to find mineral rights or oil but never found anything in 1904. There was a rest stop at Wilshire Blvd and Santa Monica Blvd called the “Country Club Stop” where members called LACC which would send wagons to collect you and bring you into the LACC property.
This is the story of the Westwood Mortuary on Glendon adjacent to the Los Angeles Public Library Westwood Branch which dates back to 1844 – part of story about how the Wolfskills lost 600 acres to the federal government and it turned into a small town on paper only, referred to as the Sunset Town and the cemetery was part of it. Somehow the Wolfskills lost the rights to a small patch of land, which became what we know as the Westwood Mortuary today.
Wilshire Blvd. and Westwood Blvd. was the site of Truman’s Restaurant, where the WVRC used to meet in the 1950s.
PP Steve Scherer asked about the CC&Rs that restricted people of color and followers of the Jewish religion from owning in these neighborhoods. All of these provisions were nullified shortly after the war and declared illegal by federal law with the passage of the 1966 Civil Rights Act. (Note from the author – I discovered those exact provisions in my CC&Rs when I bought my home on Manning Avenue about 1988, and sat down with my two daughters to read it to them as part of a civics lesson about discrimination).
President Nancy thanked our speaker for his knowledge of Westwood and announced a donation in Greg’s name to the Westwood branch of LAPC. And thanked him again.