3240 Wilshire Boulevard

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Associated with a number of successful Los Angeles businesses and very active in community affairs, Louis Maurice Cole was a member of the extended Hellman banking family, several of whom built houses within two blocks of each other on Wilshire Boulevard. Cole's wife, née Frida Hellman, was the sister of Marco of 3350 Wilshire and of Mrs. Sollie Aronson—Amy—of 3325. The idea of family togetherness might have been more successful on a quieter thoroughfare; at any rate, while the Hellmans were known both for feuding and clannishness, when they were close, they were very close, even down to their architect: The firm of Edelman & Barnett designed all three of the family's Wilshire houses, in three distinctive styles.


Louis M. Cole in two clearly different stages of his
 career as a builder of the city of Los Angeles.


Louis M. Cole was born to a doctor and his wife in Chicago on March 24, 1870. Raised and educated there and in Denver, he moved to California at age 17, the road having been paved by members of his mother's family, the Dinkelspiels. Their connections landed Louis positions with the general merchandiser Kutner, Goldstein in the San Joaquin Valley before he opened his own store in the area. After a stint back in Chicago to further hone his business skills, he was made manager of the Dinkelspiel Brothers department store in Bakersfield. All of which primed him to become a leading citizen of Los Angeles, to which he moved for wider opportunities both business and personal. His engagement to Frida Hellman was announced in August 1903—even had he not had his natural business acumen, Louis was in like Flynn in L.A. 

Once in the familial and banking bosom of the Hellmans, it certainly wasn't all nepotism. Cole carved his own niche, buying into the ground floor of the Simon Levi Company, a wholesale grocer and produce dealer. In the indefatigable manner of many Los Angeles capitalists, he became president or director of a dizzying number of business, banking, and (of course) real estate ventures and was president of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, still with time for all the amusing and arcane men-only theatrics involved in the rituals of the Masons (he was a 33-degree Mason, whatever that confers upon a man), the Knights of Pythias, the B.P.O.E., and the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. And then somehow, between business and chants, he still had time for the Jonathan, Uplifters, and South Coast Yacht clubs and the Hillcrest and Flintridge country clubs to name some of his memberships. (Is it any wonder that he was dead at 60?)


A rendering of 3240 Wilshire, circa 1928, offering a view of the front of the house facing South
New Hampshire Avenue. The Wilshire Special streetlamps were being installed along the
boulevard that year; the Lacy/Bullock house has been moved from its lot at left.


As for the domestic arrangements of a man of such stature, much was expected and possible. On January 13, 1908, the Los Angeles Times reported the Coles' purchase of the 145-by-115-square-foot lot 22 in section D of the Wilshire Boulevard Heights tract; the Department of Buildings issued Cole and his architects a permit to begin construction on August 24, 1909. Approximately concurrent with their building of Marco Hellman's altogether different house the next year, Edelman & Barnett provided for Louis and Frida its take on the popular half-timbered English style—sometimes called "Stockbroker Tudor"—all the very American if unimaginative rage among nouveaux riches seeking a sense of the ages for themselves in new sections of a madly developing Western city. Most Wilshire Boulevard builders chose to go all the way, placing their new houses parallel to the street. Others, perhaps to add a dash of modesty, built facing the side street—another not unpopular affectation, although one often changed later to embrace the prestigious boulevard after all. The Coles, for instance, at first used the discreet address of 650 South New Hampshire, only to adopt the designation 3240 Wilshire within a few years. Frida raided every European style for the house's furnishings, with many Louis styles counterbalanced by Sheraton and Duncan Phyfe. Naturally, there was a room for billiards and another for the Steinway; in the garage, accessible by a rear alley off Wilshire, were chauffeur-driven conveyances eventually including a film-star-worthy Rolls-Royce town car.

And there would be children, if not the Coles' very own. Sollie and Amy Hellman Aronson died in 1919 and 1920, respectively, leaving two young sons, Marco and Irving. While their uncle Marco Hellman, Amy's brother, took charge of the Aronsons' business affairs, the Coles adopted the boys, who must have added some life to the studied grandeur of 3240 Wilshire. What was happening outside the door of the house was also signaling change. In 1922, just across the alley to the east at 3200, the Coles' neighbor William Lacy sold his house to a group of investors including John G. Bullock, who had plans for a suburban branch of his downtown department store. While a Bullock's billboard was all that would come to occupy the southwest corner of Wilshire and Vermont for many years after the Lacy house was moved to Windsor Square in 1924, and Bullock's-Wilshire would eventually open two blocks east five years later, the Coles stuck it out on a rapidly commercializing boulevard as property values soared. 




Commerce came as a whirlwind west on Wilshire Boulevard once
A. W. Ross began to develop the Miracle Mile in the early 1920s. By the
end of the decade, Bullock's-Wilshire was open (the tall building in the distance)
and a filling station had arrived at the corner of New Hampshire Avenue; Switzer's

department store is seen here under construction in 1931. A gable of the Cole house
house is seen at right and the towers of another residential holdout—the Hancock
house at Wilshire and Vermont—are just above the car at center. Below,
looking west, Switzer's is progressing. The Talmadge apartments
at right had replaced the Earle C. Anthony house in 1924.



The fortunes of the Hellman clan itself would be facing great change along with their neighborhood. Louis died unexpectedly of a heart attack on September 28, 1930, worn out by the demands of business and fraternal mysticism and club life. The Depression dealt additional blows to the Hellmans in financial form, forcing some into bankruptcy though not exactly the kind that landed others on Skid Row during the '30s. Marco lost 3350 in 1933, the same year he was being sued along with his brother Irving by the Aronson boys for mismanagement of their mother Amy's estate. It appears that the financial downdraft must have hit the Widow Cole as well. Auction advertisements in the Times in June 1934 described in detail the lavish contents of 3240 coming on the block. With a filling station now across Wilshire and a department store opposite across New Hampshire, the house was also a gonner, a white elephant of no interest even to anyone who could have afforded to move it. Whatever the money troubles the Hellmans suffered during the Depression, none seems to have suffered too much in terms of standard of living; Frida was before long living on Muirfield Road just south of Wilshire. Loyal to the boulevard to the end, she died in her apartment at the Gaylord, three blocks from her old house, on September 12, 1944.




An advertisement appearing the the Times on June 3, 1934,
 bared the contents of the Cole house; below, a wide view from a flower
shop that was now in front of the Hancock house shows the Bullock's billboard
 still on the Lacy corner next to a Roberts Brothers drive-in restaurant.
Switzer's is open, and beyond it are the Talmadge and the
Immanuel Presbyterian Church at Berendo Street.



A view west on Wilshire from Vermont Avenue circa 1933, not long before 3240 Wilshire
was demolished. Mrs. Louis Cole, former chatelaine of the house, died in her
apartment at the Gaylord, the tall building down Wilshire at right. Just
visible in the distance is the Pellissier Building at the
southwest corner of Wilshire and Western.




In westerly and slightly southeasterly views of
Wilshire Boulevard in 1939, the I. Magnin store, opened that
year, has finally replaced the Cole House at 3240.





Illustrations: USCDLLAT; LAPL; California Historical Society;
Private Collection; Google Books