3006 Wilshire Boulevard

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Beeves and victuals and esteemed architect John C. Austin built one of Wilshire Boulevard's most modern houses in 1908. Financed by the success of wholesale grocer Sylvanus Merriman Goddard, recently risen in business and society in Los Angeles from the hinterlands of San Bernardino County, the horizontality of 3006 Wilshire Boulevard was a significant design departure from the vertical Victorian lines of houses that went up just east on the block only a few years before. It was modernity that would last barely 23 years.

Following a common trajectory of Manifest Destiny toward Southern California from his birth in upstate New York in July 1854, Goddard, after growing up from a young age in midstate Elmwood, Illinois, went into business there with grain dealer James Lee. Within eight years of marrying his partner's daughter Margaret in 1875, Goddard moved with both of their families to recently founded Colton, a dusty railroad crossing 57 miles inland from Los Angeles. With declining grain prices, farm mechanization, and rough winters beginning to plague the prairie and construction of multiple new transcontinental links bringing on the fabled Pacificward boom of the '80s, the old far west was now officially the Midwest, and Southern California, the new American Eden. A growing Colton would need comestibles and banking, businesses in which James Lee & Company would prosper in short order. Even after the death of its namesake in 1886 through the inevitible late-'80s bust and national financial vicissitudes of the '90s, James Lee & Company endured with Goddard in charge; toward the end of the century, after Sylvanus and Margaret's daughter Bessie's marriage to Colton banker George E. Burrall in 1896 brought an energetic new in-law into the business, the bigger market and social opportunities of the metropolis 57 miles west began to beckon.

With their prosperity having rendered Colton too tight a fit, the Goddards and the Burralls and Mrs. Lee moved to Los Angeles early in the winter of 1902. Sylvanus and George resettled their business affairs in their new locale, continuing a long association with the Riverside grocer John R. Newberry and forming with him the J. R. Newberry Company in January 1902 and the Independent Wholesale Grocery Company with others in December 1905. Goddard and his son-in-law also acquired residential properties in different parts of town. Having gravitated at first to the settled air of West Adams, Margaret continued her Colton habit of throwing buffet luncheons and ladies' card matinees, which got her in with the prime power ladies of L.A.; over whist, five hundred, and bridge at home and at the Ebell Club the relative merits of emerging neighborhoods of fashion were no doubt discussed—in the seemingly boundaryless Los Angeles of the 1900s, the affluent had their choice of dozens of developments from the San Gabriel Valley to the Pacific. After several years in the city the Goddards and the Burralls decided on building lots around the corner from each other and equidistant between other lots the family had acquired just north of Westlake Park and on Harvard Boulevard. The Burralls built first, putting up 685 Wilshire Place in early 1906. Two years later the Goddards bought Lot 14 of the Sunset Park tract; in April 1908 bids were taken by contractor Thomas K. Miller for the building of Austin's 10-room frame-and-clinker-brick 3006 Wilshire Boulevard, with the Department of Building and Safety issuing its permit to begin on May 13. To better oversee construction, the Goddards (along with Margaret's mother as a permanent part of the household) moved temporarily from 1610 West 27th Street to the old Busch house at 3124 Wilshire before settling into their new home by the fall of 1908.

Over the following decade, as residential Wilshire Boulevard took its final though never consistent form, the business and domestic arrangements of the Goddard-Burrall clan evolved accordingly. Sylvanus and George left their partnership with J. R. Newberry to form Goddard & Burrall in 1911, quickly growing to 47 stores, only to sell the business four years later to their competitor Walter E. Smith. Sylvanus appears to have now retired, with his son-in-law moving on to another venture involving mastication. George Burrall became and would remain vice-president of California Dental Supply for nearly 40 years before he died at 91 in 1956. On the Goddard-Burrall home front during the 1910s, Susan Lee died; the Burralls appear now to have sold their Wilshire Place house and moved around the corner into 3006 with the Goddards for a year before that house was sold in late 1918. Sylvanus and Margaret moved to a small place on Coronado Street, the Burralls to 999 South Wilton Place. (Sylvanus Goddard would die in January 1920; by 1930, curiously, Margaret had bought a house in of all places declining Bunker Hill, with the census of that year counting two boarders living with her at 127 North Hill Street. She died in 1938.) As for the decade-old house they'd left at 3006 Wilshire Boulevard...it was ready for its second act, also brief, and one financed like the first by things we eat.




While the climate often drove Midwesterners to Southern California, sometimes more personal motivations could drive a family to the famous western haven of reinvention. Sometimes, even, as personal as the specter of murder in the family: For meat purveyor Reuben Lewis Bliss, the 1901 scandal of his patricidal half-brother Homer was no doubt worse than any harsh Michigan winter. That the newly married Reuben was cut out of his father's will entirely in favor of his stepmother and Homer—soon sent to the slammer for life—could only have added insult to injury. There was only one thing for Reuben and Julia Bliss, their infant son Howard and her mother Caroline Ruck to do, and that was to start over. Considering the financial and social rewards they would reap, their determination to succeed in Los Angeles appears to have been fierce. By 1903, Reuben had established himself as a cattle buyer. Even with a baby at home, Julia went to work as a clerk downtown at The Broadway department store. In August 1904 the Blisses had enough capital to form the Los Angeles Packing Company with her mother and two other directors. Their first house in the city was on unfashionable East 28th Street near the growing Vernon industrial district; later, and as late as 1911, the family, now with two more children, appear to have actually been living at the site of the packing plant on Santa Fe Avenue. But before long, it would be time to wash off the stench of the abattoir and move by impressive leaps and bounds farther up in the world, first to a rather grand West Adams house at 1101 Magnolia Avenue and then precisely nine blocks due north up to a street signifying definite arrival.

By 1918, the Bliss family was complete with the birth of their fifth child, Jewel Mary. Having  become allied with the Swift Company and then forming a new enterprise called California Dressed Beef in 1911, Reuben Bliss was on his way to making millions. In what must be a testament to her charm, still fluid Los Angeles society took up Julia with alacrity. She became a member of the local establishment's two most exclusive ladies' clubs, the Friday Morning and the Ebell. Before long, as it had alongside the name of the Goddards and the Burralls, "3006 Wilshire Boulevard" appeared in the Blisses' listing in the Southwest Blue Book. (Interestingly, just across the boulevard was Mrs. Nash, who'd built her house at 3001 in 1906 with the proceeds from her husband's Massachusetts packing house.) There was a beach house at Venice and social notes in the papers about moving there for the summer. Theirs was a bourgeois utopia far, far from not only the slaughterhouse down in what was now the Central Manufacturing District but from inconvenient relatives as well. Homer who?

And yet—the family life of the Blisses in Los Angeles seems to have closely paralleled the changing fortunes of residential Wilshire. While appearances were kept up for much of the '20s, trade was blowing down the boulevard from both directions. A tea salon opened right next door at 3002 as early as 1923—it was raided in 1926 as a ladies' daytime speakeasy—presaging art galleries, dress shops and the massive 241-foot allure of Bullock's-Wilshire that would open just at the corner in 1929. Among the presumably happy times at 3006 was the quiet at-home wedding of Reuben and Julia's 19-year-old son Stanley to a Texas gal in March 1924. There was still the patter of little feet through the house in the form of Roland and Jewel (who as a child rechristened herself officially as "Joan"). But the marriage of Reuben and Julia was unraveling right along with the domestic character of the boulevard. In contentious, well-publicized proceedings, Julia charged Reuben with desertion and misrepresentation of the value of their community property; Reuben charged her with cruelty and complained of her constant demands for money. The splintered family left Wilshire Boulevard, 3006 devolving into a boarding house complete with exterior fire escapes for the brief remainder of its brief life. With custody of Roland and Joan, Julia was living by 1930 in an apartment house on Park View Street, where she became the manageress, a job she would have in at least one other location before she died in 1943. Reuben appears to have bounced around before he died in September 1934. His obituary in the Times described him as the husband of Julia (had there been a reconciliation? They were indeed buried next to one another at Inglewood Cemetery) and, even more curious, as the father of a sixth child. Wayne L. Bliss appears to have been Reuben's son born in 1893 in Michigan to a previous wife who appears to have died—there was also a daughter, Martha, who died young. It seems that Wayne followed his father's new family west and held a position in his father's business for years, but lived apart. Adding to the sketchiness at the edges of Reuben Bliss's family life was Wayne's having been at one time dishonorably discharged from the military. In the way that all houses do, 3006 Wilshire Boulevard guarded many secrets for the family before its own ephemeral façade came down barely 20 years after it was built.

Once plans for Bullock's-Wilshire were made clear and the seemingly inexorable boom of the Roaring '20s continued, the boulevard's residential intentions crumbled. Limited only by the Pacific, the affluent decamped from the thoroughfare's original blocks to newer suburbs out along its path—Windsor Square, Hancock Park,  Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, Brentwood—leaving Wilshire-fronting property to commerce and to their own considerable profit. Among the houses in the vicinity of the new Bullock's, the Kellogg house at 3002 next door to 3006 was replaced in 1930 by one of the attractive lowrise buildings that came to characterize the boulevard after the residences came down, ones designed in a prewar era when architects knew their history and actually still had talent. The building that replaced the Kellogg house still stands, as does the one that took the place of the Goddard-Bliss house a year later. The J. Ross Clark estate bought 3006 Wilshire and commissioned the esteemed firm of Morgan, Walls & Clements to design a Frenchish replacement that was completed in the fall of 1931. This became the new home of the famous Stendahl Galleries and remains a charming structure that is still managing to resist the highrise, high-density fever of 21st-century Los Angeles.




The original 3006 Wilshire Boulevard
lasted 23 years; its replacement, the Clark Building,
went up in 1931 to the design of Morgan, Walls & Clements
and still stands as of 2014. It housed the famous Stendahl Galleries,
whose north-light-admitting skylights are seen in the circa-1936 east-
 southeasterly view above. Starting past its three faç
ade gables is the
 Cannell & Chaffin Building opened in 1930 on the lot of the former 3002
 Wilshire and sometimes confused with the Clark Building. (Also visible
 are the Bryson, at left, and looming Arcady apartment houses.)
 Corners of Bullock's-Wilshire, now the Southwestern Law
 School, can be seen at right in both views as well
as in that of the Goddard house at top.





Illustrations: USCDL; LAT; Google Street View