3143 Wilshire Boulevard


Born as Moses Kornblum in Poland in December 1857, Morris S. Kornblum was educated in Europe and in business there and then in Tacoma before settling in Los Angeles with his wife, Gusta, and their two children by 1895. He first bought the City Steam Dyeing and Cleaning Works, later establishing the Berlin Dye Works—renamed American Dye Works after the Lusitania—with branches all over Los Angeles and in many Southern California cities. His success allowed him to invest extensively in real estate and to move before long from East Washington Street to Wilshire Boulevard, rapidly extending residentially, and grandly, to the west. After acquiring two adjacent Wilshire-facing lots at the northwest corner of Shatto Place, he commissioned in-demand architect B. Cooper Corbett to design a faux-ancient house that might have indicated the desire of the self-made Kornblum to establish a sort of long-term family seat on a lot in the very same block as the Hancocks. This being Los Angeles and Kornblum being in real estate, however, he apparently had no such ambitions or soon shed them. Whether by design or luck, the choice of location and architect were to serve another purpose—profit. The Department of Buildings issued a permit for the construction of 3143 on October 29, 1908. Then, as the Los Angeles Times reported on March 10, 1911, "All records for rapid realty transfers were probably broken yesterday by Charles H. Sharp, a Kansas City millionaire, when he bought the mansion of M. S. Kornblum, at the corner of Wilshire boulevard and Shatto place."

Morris Kornblum appears to have financed another house designed by B. Cooper Corbett that was also built in 1908—ostensibly for his newly-married 24-year-old son Abraham—at 966 South Westmoreland Avenue, not far away from 3143 Wilshire. Morris and Gusta moved into 966 with his son and daughter-in-law May when they left Wilshire Boulevard. Morris died in 1916; in 1925 the Abraham Kornblums moved from Westmoreland Avenue to a recently completed house at 683 South June Street in Hancock Park, moved again three years later to 109 South Las Palmas Avenue, also in Hancock Park, finally settling in Beverly Hills by 1932.

As seen in the Los Angeles Times of November 15, 1908, the original
 version of 3143 Wilshire Boulevard appears modest in
 comparison to its later incarnation.

Charles Sharp was a large-scale railroad contractor who was apparently given to decisiveness. The Times described his having seen the house in the morning, plonking down $100,000 cash for it at noon—lock, stock, and barrel—and moving in with his family that evening. Kornblum had paid $30,000 to have house built two years before; while the included furnishings had to be deducted from his tidy profit, no doubt Kornblum was only too happy to leave his family seat. (He was ensconced at 966 South Westmoreland Avenue in short order.) The Sharps immediately themselves hired B. Cooper Corbett, who took his lovely, almost cottagelike design and greatly expanded it to mansion proportions without losing its delicacy. Deftly expanded to the west and given a symmetrical façade, the house gained more bedrooms on the second floor behind a second front gable, with a grand new tiled space on the first floor described variously as a solarium, loggia, or conservatory.

A first-floor plan of the expanded 3143 Wilshire reveals
the enormous glassed-in loggia added in 1911; below is
a view of the new wing from the west side of the yard.

Charles Sharp died at 3143 Wilshire on December 22, 1915, age 57. His stepdaughter and her husband, Gertrude and Everett Seaver, then living at 629 South Harvard Boulevard, sold their house within months and moved in with Mrs. Sharp despite the trend of moving west in Los Angeles to ever-newer suburbs. Katherine Sharp and her daughter and son-in-law would occupy 3143 until Seaver redeveloped the family property himself. The plan included the relocation of the house. On April 2, 1931, the Department of Building and Safety issued a permit for its removal to a large lot initially addressed 3151 West Fourth Street just three blocks north at the northwest corner of Westmoreland and West Fourth; its designation became 371 South Westmoreland Avenue. A commercial structure built to the design of architects Walker & Eisen, flush to the Wilshire sidewalk and now also vanished, quickly replaced the timeless Elizabethan manor first built 23 years before on Wilshire Boulevard. The Seavers' choice of a new location for 3143 seems curious in that most boulevard householders who decided to move their houses chose new neighborhoods miles to the west; it is perhaps telling that the house did not last long in its new location after the Seavers did finally move west. Permits for its demolition were issued by the Department of Building and Safety on March 1, 1939.

The house was drastically remodeled to extend westward
after the Sharps arrived in March 1911 and before 1914 when
Hollywood invaded the high-toned precincts of Wilshire and Shatto Place.
That year, Chaplin used the Sharp's corner in his short "Between Showers," as
seen below. The house's entrance, originally enhanced by marble
mosaics and iron grillwork, was also modified in later years.

On November 15, 1908, the Times described Cooper Corbett's plan for the original 3143 Wilshire in detail: 

"M. S. Kornblum has had plans prepared for a handsome Elizabethan style residence for the northwest corner of Wilshire boulevard and Shatto place, which, when completed, will be one of the most attractive dwellings in that section of fine home[s].
 "The grounds will be handsomely parked and beautified with trees and plants, and an ornate Chatsworth Park stone wall, with ornamental carving and columns at entrance gates and corners, will surround the property. Blue hard-burned brick work will be used in the exterior finish to the level of the second-story windows, with ornamental stone trimmings. The chimney will also be of brick. Above will be a half-timbered effect, with a red slate roof covering the peaked gables.
"There will be two entrances, one on Shatto place, and one on Wilshire boulevard. These will be of stone, with wooden beams overhead, ornate with carved work. A terraced porch will extend from the front door around the rear to the porte-cochère, which is supported on stone columns. 
"The interior will be finished in various hard woods, ornate with carving. In one room a Louis XV effect will be obtained. Others will conform with the style of the period in which the architecture of the house itself took shape. The dining-room is designed with the panel wainscot to extend the height of the walls, with a heavily beamed ceiling. The living room will be finished with a beamed ceiling, and a pilaster treatment of the walls. There will be a billiard room, with a den, and a breakfast room to the rear. The service portion of the house is very complete. 
"The second floor is finished in white enamel, there being a number of large chambers, with the usual baths and closets. On the third floor is a ballroom, 25x50 feet."

Elizabethan houses in England were three centuries old
by the time M. S. Kornblum built one in Los Angeles; there, an
Elizabethan house lasted just 22 years. The modern shop building cited
on the sign (and seen here lower down) was in place by 1931. Below: 
A wider
view from across Wilshire, near the end. The Hancock house stood at 3189
Wilshire at the northeast corner of Vermont Avenue, far left, until
1938; between it and 3143 is 3173, a holdout until 1963.

The Sharp house was featured in the Times on May 2, 1931, in the midst of its move to a new
location three blocks north. "To facilitate removal, the Kress Moving Company divided
the 400-ton building in half. The two sections are being joined and the house
returned original state." After all that work and expense, it lasted
only another eight years at 371 South Westmoreland.

Along with several other Wilshire Boulevard homeowners,
Everett Seaver redeveloped his own property; he commissioned
architects Walker & Eisen to replace 3143 with a new home, one much

 more of its time rather than a period revival, for the Seaboard National
Bank, which was moving its Wilshire offfice, including its huge three-
tiered rooftop sign, from across the boulevard in 1931.

Circa 1939: The Kornblum/Sharp house has been replaced by a commercial building; the
Hancock house at 3189 Wilshire has been replaced by a billboard; 3173 holds on.