3500 Wilshire Boulevard


As vice president of the Los Angeles Soap Company, native Alabaman John Joseph Bergin reaped great profits as indoor plumbing grew more common and cleanliness became easier to come by; with his new wealth he played the Los Angeles game of real estate speculation with aplomb. In January 1905, with J. A. Forthman, he bought 40 acres at the northwest corner of Wilshire and Western, then far out in the country, for $60,000. Nineteen years later, the value of the property had risen to 130 times that amount, or $7,845,000. Though Bergin had died in 1912, he and his family nevertheless did extremely well as individual pieces of tracts that came to be called Westminster Place and Westminster Square were sold off. Meanwhile, father and son investors John W. and Ernest L. Bowen were living in the house they commissioned top architect John C. Austin to build in 1908 at 3508 Wilshire, then at the southeast corner of Irolo (before that street's present curving connection to Normandie north of the boulevard); the Bowens built a second house on the lot next door to the east, again employing Austin, who was issued permits to begin construction by the Department of Buildings on September 23, 1909. It was this house, addressed 3500 Wilshire, that was bought by John J. Bergin in April 1910. After her husband's death two years later, Julia Rhodes Bergin stayed on at 3500 until 1924.

Years later, even as the Tishman building replaced the Schmidt houses next door at 3440 Wilshire in 1952, 3500 remained. The celebrated dance team of Veloz & Yolanda were then in residence, if not for long. The house became the property of the City of Los Angeles, whose Department of Building and Safety issued permits for demolition on November 30, 1953.

By 1950, Wilshire Boulevard was in as much of a transition as ever. The Gaylord apartments
stands tall at left; the tower of Bullock's-Wilshire is far in the distance at Westmoreland
Avenue with the steeple of the Immanuel Presbyterian Church at Berendo appearing
just to its right. The Ambassador Hotel lies low on the other side of the Cadillac
billboard, with the Tishman building soon to rise on the other side of 3500—
it is seen as a backdrop to the house in the top image—while Veloz &
& Yolanda had a few more years to dance in the old Bergin house.

Illustrations: USCDLLAT