May 20, 2021
Westwood Village Rotary Club

Coming up on May 27 - Sam Yebri
Greg Fischer returns to the Westwood Village Rotary Club this week as our guest speaker to share a fascinating perspective on how the early development of Westwood, which began in 1922, came about. He is a long-time student of Westwood history and has in-depth knowledge about the social and economic forces that drove the growth of this unique district of this unique and vibrant Los Angeles neighborhood.
Westwood Virtual Rotary Club Meeting for May 20, 2021
At 12:30 p.m. precisely, President Nancy McCready welcomed all of us to “the warm and friendly Westwood Village Rotary Club”.  Eighteen members joined us from the Meet-and-Greet beforehand and more members filtering in as the meeting began, including our international member Nevin Senkan. 

The famous Jim Crane, a man of few words, led the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag. 

PP Aly Shoji shared her thought for the day.  Just some of the basics of “thankfulness for today.”  She shared with us that she has lost several family members through COVID. A wonderful prayer that touched all of us. 

PP Aly was followed by our Song Meister and Soloist – PP Ed Gauld, singing a rendition of “The Sidewalks of Westwood” stolen from “The Sidewalks of New York”.  I think I speak for all of your admirers in the Westwood Village Rotary Club (and your wife Kathy) when I mention how much nicer it is to listen to you sing than for all of us to participate. (Wars have been fought over less distressing matters.) 

Pres. Nancy welcomed our guest speaker, Greg Fischer. 

The District 5280 Conference - DGE Guity Javid is the incoming District Governor, and in tradition, gave outgoing DG Bette Hall a chance to pin DGE Javid with her Governor’s pin. President Nancy asked if anyone saw the “Celebration of Life” portion of the conference, which PP Gordon Fell did.  It included some of our past members lost this year. 

Several Clubs also were talking about getting back into personal meetings. 
Another Camp Pendleton collection is scheduled for June 5th and 6th.  There are four collection sites which have experienced enormous success this past year. Over 10,000 children under the page of 5 live in Camp Pendleton and 160 babies are born there every month. “This would be a worthy destination for anyone cleaning out closets and garages.”
Guest Speaker

President Nancy turned the meeting over to PP Tom Barron, who introduced Greg Fischer and “his favorite advocation, which is the history and development of the Westwood area”. This is his second visit to our Club after technical difficulties on the first visit, coming to us from his home in Texas. 

The greater Westwood area (roughly from the Santa Monica Mountains down to Pico Blvd and Beverly Hills West to where Sepulveda Blvd. is today) started as a 4,400 acre ranch in 1850. In 1895 Arthur Letts built the Broadway downtown, using his profits to start the development of Westwood. Very little is known about him.   He bought 2,296 acres for $2.0M in cash, an area roughly from Los Angeles Country Club (formerly El Rancho de Scherer 😊) to Sepulveda except for the Veterans Administration property, and from Pico to about where Sunset is today. 

A little about Sunset, Holmby Hills and the Wolfskill Ranch.  

Arthur married Florence Philp from Canada and built Owlwood in Holmby Hills, the largest property there, which eventually become known as the Playboy Mansion. (a favorite hangout during the '80s of Ron Lyster and Michael Newman). They had three children, including Arthur Jr.  The middle child, Gladys, married Harold Janss whose father, Dr. Peter Janss, was chosen to develop 3,299 acres of land, giving us the general boundaries of Westwood, Westwood Hills and Holmby Hills today. 

The Janss Investment Corporation was the developer of Westwood and shaped the look and feel of our community as we know it today. If you look at some of the cement cover plates for gas and sidewalk panels, you can still see the Janss name.  

The original shopping area was supposed to be located on the corner of Wilshire and Beverly Glen, designed as a commercial district, instead of Westwood Village, where it is today. Arthur Letts sat on the board of the Los Angeles State Normal School, predecessor to UCLA. (He died prematurely in 1923.) The school became the University of California Southern Branch and eventually became UCLA (downtown) where our main city library is today at Flower and Grand. His marriage to Florence did not go well and he announced their divorce in 1923, only to die of pneumonia a week later. His wife inherited his whole estate because he didn’t have time to change his will.  (there’s a lesson here – visit one of our Club estate attorneys soon! You never know when your time is up!) 
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. 
Right on time, President Nancy adjourned our meeting at 1:30 p.m. 

Respectfully submitted,
Mark Rogo

Westwood Village Rotary Club Rotarian of the Year 2015 – 2016
Chairman, Diane Good Fan Club 2018 – 2020
Chairman, Nancy McCready Fan Club 2020 – her retirement date of 2030
Eric Loberg never worked on my mouth
Sean McMillan never invited me up in his plane (Thank G-d), 
Gordon Fell actually does have a sense of humor for a CPA, and 
Your Windmill editor for May 20th 2021

WVRC 2020/2021 Leadership Team
President: Nancy McCready
Treasurer: Terry M. White
Youth/Vocational Service: Phil Gabriel
Director/Peace: PP Marsha Hunt
Foundation: PP Steve Day
Global Scholarships: PP Chris Bradford
Webmaster: PP Ron Lyster
Director/Merchant Minute: PP Mark Rogo
District Governor: Bette Hall
Immediate Past President: Diane Good
Secretary: PP Diane Good
Community Service: Aaron Donahue
International Service: Nevin Senkan
Program Chair: PP Tom Barron
Membership: PP Mike Newman
Director/Social Media: PP Aly Shoji
Windmill Editor: P Nancy McCready
Assistant District Governor: Michael Lushing