On February 23, 2016 the WS/HP Historical Society had a private tour of the Judson Stained Glass Studio. The Judson Studio is now in the 5th generation of the family – having designed stained glass for such notable architects as Frank Lloyd Wright (Barnsdall and Ennis houses in Los Angeles) and Greene & Greene (Gamble House in Pasadena). The tour was well attended and interesting. Afterwards the group gathered for a lovely lunch in Pasadena.
4526 Wilshire Boulevard
Built in 1923
H.H. Whiteley, Architect
Tucked between two 1960’s modernist buildings lies a gem of a former era. The main residence at 4526 Wilshire Boulevard, was built in 1923 by H.H. Whitely a significant master architect and builder, for the family of W.I. Gilbert, a celebrity lawyer. The Mediterranean Revival style became popular in the early 1920’s with mansions on Wilshire Boulevard and is again visible one hundred years later in the Mansionizing of small homes throughout Southern California. The Pallazzo at 4526 Wilshire reflects the owner’s desire for a comfortable home and the elegance of a Mediteranian classical villa reflecting their professional and social status in a burgeoning 1920’s post war population boom in Los Angeles. H.H. Whiteley was influenced by the social, economic, and cultural trends of the early 20th century and his client, W.I. Gilbert, who played a prominent part in the lives of important historic personages. The 1920’s was one of the most important periods in the development of Los Angeles.
Harry Hayden Whiteley was born in Bakersfield, California, in 1890 and served in both World Wars. His architectural career included his years in Los Angeles and San Diego, and after WWII he found continued success in Las Vegas. By the time he graduated with a degree in Engineering in 1924 from USC he had already designed many impressive residences and some commercial buildings from Long Beach to Los Feliz. His designs are known for their blend of Spanish and Italian revival style elegant interiors which were popular with affluent clients. In Las Vegas he transitioned to the modernist style, building restaurants, jails, hospitals, churches, hotels, an amusement part, and the 1958 Clark County Convention Center
The original permit to H.H. Whiteley, architect and contractor, for Lot 26 of the Fremont Place Tract on land bought by William I. Gilbert, attorney, lists wife Lucy Gilbert, as owner. The Gilberts were perhaps lured to move west (in 1910 Wilshire Blvd. was still considered in the sticks), by developers publicizing plans to build impressive in-town estates on the boulevard for wealthy tycoons.
William Isaac Gilbert’s father was an attorney in Oklahoma. William followed in his father’s profession and became a favored attorney in Hollywood. W.I. Gilbert initially was in partnership with former California Governor Henry Gage but in 1918 he opened his own office. Some of his famous clients were Mildred Harris Chaplin who divorced Charlie Chaplin in 1919, Rudolph Valentino in 1922 , Aimee Semple McPherson in 1926, Clara Bow, Prince David Mdivani, Frank Mayo, Virginia Bruce, Maurice Costello, Mrs. J. Paul Getty (Helen Ann Rork Getty), Alexander Pantages, James Cagney, Paul Kelly, Kay Francis, and many more in addition to being Chief counsel for the Southern Pacific Railroad. On his way westward he married Lucy Witt in Dallas on Dec. 10 1898, and they had two children, Jeanne and William Isaac Junior. Like his grandfather and father, Junior also became an attorney and eventually a partner in his father’s law office where he added more celebrities such as Carole Lombard and Clark Gable.
Until his unexpected death from pneumonia November 28, 1940, W.I. Gilbert resided at 4526 Wilshire Blvd. in the elegant home designed and built for him in 1923 by architect Harry Hayden Whitlely. Lucy Gilbert and their daughter Jeanne and her son, Donald Rackerby continued to live there until the end of WWII. The home was sold to an oral surgeon, Berto Agave Olson and thus a second family began a residency of two decades before the next sale and commercialization and rezoning the property in the 1970’s.
After the Olsons moved, Dorothy Desbrow Bell took charge of the property. It was used as a party event site, then the Jocelyn Ryan Modeling Studios maintained offices there, and for several years the Self-Help Institute sheltered there. It was not until the fall of 1978 that a new owner Hank DiRoma filed requests to officially change the usuage of the three buildings. In 1978, the owner, BCD Properties (a business arrangement by Mr. Baker, Mr. Camusi, and Mr. DiRoma) began making changes including installing and removing partitions, designating the main dwelling to “office,” making the two story garage a “dwelling” by enlarging the first story of the former garage and connecting it with the floor above, and the smallest structure-a single story garage, became a “recreation and office space”. They added parking in front, fire doors, and a disabled access. Mr. John Baker hired architect Scott Macgillivray to add new partitions on the first and second floors and enhance the front of the main building with a raised patio and grand entrance flanked with rounded ballestrades in keeping with the original Italian revival style of the 1920’s. Although the property has been repurposed to a business, the original interior rooms are clearly recognizable and the elegant main curved stairway has the original spiraled wrought iron supports. The high ceilings add to the spacious feeling of the rooms and original fireplace can be seen in the library. The present owners have preserved the original distinctive stucco ornamentation especially the decorative molded masonry surrounding the front door. They have added classic fenestration and architectural details such as window balconies and molding along the roof in keeping with Italian revival style of the 1920’s.
OFF VINE: REMINDER OF HOLLYWOOD’S GLAMOUR IN A CRAFTSMAN BUNGALOW
By Carol Henning
A craftsman-style bungalow, built in 1908, hosts the restaurant called Off Vine at 6263 Leland Way. In its early days this bungalow was surrounded by fruit trees and located near a newly made country road called Vine, a street named after Senator Cornelius Cole’s vineyard. (In exchange for legal services, Cole was given 500 acres of Rancho La Brea by the Hancock brothers, Henry and John. His property was bounded by what are now Gower, Seward, Rosewood and Sunset. With his son, Seward, Cole established the town of Colegrove in the 1880s.) The property where Off Vine is situated was part of the Leland Tract, in Colegrove.
Alas, the names of the architect and builder of the house seem to have vanished in the fog of the past. The L.A. Department of Building and Safety has no records for the property prior to the mid ‘70s, and no one connected with the family that owns the property, or the business that occupies it, knows about its earliest days.
The first name associated with the property in the Los Angeles County Tax Archives is Albert C. Bollinger. From 1913 to 1928, the Leland Tract was apparently owned by Charles E. Toberman. Known as “Mr. Hollywood,” C.E. Toberman was a nephew of Los Angeles Mayor James Toberman. C. E. Toberman developed Hollywood and many of its landmarks, including the Hollywood Bowl, the Roosevelt Hotel, the El Capitan Theatre and the Egyptian and Grauman’s Chinese theatres.
Beryl Wallace—born Beatrice Heischuber in Brooklyn, New York—got a role in the 1928 Earl Carroll Broadway Theatre production of “Vanities.” Beryl and Earl began a personal relationship and, when Carroll moved his Ziegfeld Follies-type shows to Hollywood in 1938, Beryl Wallace was both his star and his life partner. On Sunset Boulevard, the Earl Carroll Theatre was a luxurious, thousand-seat, multi-tiered supper club featuring Busby Berkeley-style numbers on an elevated, revolving stage. The theatre’s façade was adorned with a 20-foot high neon facial portrait of Beryl Wallace.
After their arrival in Hollywood, Earl Carroll bought a house for Beryl’s mother and eight siblings. This was the craftsman bungalow at 6263 Leland Way. The family home contained a full make-up mirror upstairs so that Beryl could get ready to go on stage and take a short walk north to the theatre, where her neon face was surrounded by the words: “Thru these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world.”
Wallace appeared in 22 movies, including Monogram Pictures’ “Romance of the Rockies” with Tom Keene, and Republic Pictures’ “Sunset in the Desert” with Roy Rogers. She acted in 22 films but also continued to perform at the theatre and on the radio. In 1948, while en route from Los Angeles to New York City, Beryl Wallace and Earl Carroll died in a plane crash.
The house where Beryl’s mother and siblings lived, and which became the Off Vine restaurant, is still owned by the Beryl Wallace family. The proprietors of Off Vine–Richard Falzone, opera singer Greg Fedderly, and Tony Hernandez–have decorated both downstairs and upstairs with photos of Beryl Wallace, of her family, of artifacts of the Earl Carroll Theatre, and more. Scott Zone, Wallace’s nephew and himself an archivist and conservator, preserved and provided the photos to Off Vine to display. Zone’s sister, Fran, wrote a short biography of Beryl Wallace, which is available in the restaurant.
After the mid 1950s, the Wallace family moved from 6263 Leland Way, but they continue to own it.. A series of commercial tenants moved in. These included a recording studio and, for many years, the Howard Valentine Music Store. In 1985, Belainesh Belatchew got a permit to convert the property into a restaurant, and he opened an Ethiopian eatery. It had a brief life.
Off Vine opened as a restaurant in 1989. “We have taken the Arts and Crafts sensibility as our own,” announced the proprietors. One of them, Richard Falzone, started working at Off Vine as a waiter in 1997. He told us that, “People always seem very grateful that we kept the structure intact.”
A fire damaged the building, mostly the second floor, in 2009 and the restaurant had to be closed two years for a rebuilding project. This was led by architect Brant Douglas Gordon of Santa Monica, contractor Prestige Apartment Services, and engineer William Carl Howe of Woodland Hills. The second floor was expanded and converted from an A-frame design. The building got new bathrooms and a new kitchen. An unusable pantry door was blocked off and shelves were installed. Coffered ceilings, moldings and lattice windows downstairs were preserved. Fireplace and sideboard, which at some point had been painted over in pastel colors, were carefully scraped down to the original bricks and wood. Falzone looked at books about craftsman homes in order to see the colors that had been commonly used. Those colors now grace the restaurant’s interior. The result is a craftsman-style bungalow that feels even more authentic.
Just a short walk from busy, noisy Vine Street in Hollywood, sits a lovely survivor of a bygone era and a reminder of Hollywood’s most glamorous years.
NEW LIFE FOR HOTEL NORMANDIE
605 S. NORMANDIE AVENUE
WALKER & EISEN ARCHITECTS
2016 LANDMARK AWARD #111
By Laura Foti Cohen
The Hotel Normandie is having a moment. At age 90, she’s ready for her close-up, thanks to a lengthy and sensitive restoration by her current owner, architect Jingbo Lou. In addition to receiving the Windsor Square-Hancock Park Historical Society Landmark Award # 111, the Koreatown-based hotel is the recipient of a 2016 Los Angeles Conservancy Preservation Award. The hotel, at 605 S. Normandie Ave., is also Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmark #1013. Built in 1926 by Walker & Eisen, best known as architects of the Farmers Insurance Tower (Historical Society Landmark #98), the Oviatt Building, downtown’s United Artists Theatre (now the Ace Hotel), the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and many other treasures, Hotel Normandie features 103 rooms and has hosted many well-known names, including Under the Volcano author Malcolm Lowry, who wrote part of his famous work while staying there.
When current owner Lou purchased the building in 2011 it was structurally sound but rundown and just coming off a brief stint as a hotel for potheads. Lou rebuffed offers from large developers in favor of funding from smaller, preservation-minded entities.
During the rehab, decades of alterations were removed and missing windows replaced with replicas. The original roof cornice and tiled parapet, which had been removed in the 1950s, were re-created. The building’s Renaissance Revival roots are now again showing. Lou purchased iconic Cassell’s Hamburgers (est. 1948) in 2012, and moved it to the ground floor of the refreshed Normandie.
Judy Zeller was installed as President for 2016/2017 at the Society’s 40th annual meeting held in the gardens of outgoing President Patricia Rye. Zeller, who previously served as secretary to the group, is originally from London, England, where she studied French, German and Italian. She has lived in Windsor Square for 20 years.
Serving as Vice Presidents are Myrna Robin Gintel, Juanita Kempe and Carole Henning. Carol Wertheim is Secretary and Chris Blakely is Treasurer.