3580 Wilshire Boulevard


Native New Yorker Charles Martin O'Leary was a physician in his early 40s who had arrived in Los Angeles by way of San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century intending to do something other than remove appendixes; investing patient fees in Southland oil quickly provided him with the capital to buy and sell and develop a great deal of Southern California property over the next several decades. When he decided to move from Miami Avenue—now the continuation of Westmoreland Avenue north of Wilshire Boulevard—O'Leary chose a house at the southeast corner of Wilshire and Kingsley Drive that contractor William K. Peasley, then in the midst of building sections of May Rindge's Hueneme, Malibu & Port Los Angeles Railway, had built a few years before as his own home. A design of leading architect Frank M. Tyler, the Department of Buildings issued a permit to begin construction of 3580 Wilshire on June 25, 1907; Peasley remained in the house for just a couple of years before moving on to projects in the Imperial Valley.

Dr. O'Leary spent a good part of 1906 in San Francisco aiding earthquake victims, returning south to marry 23-year-old Vera Fleming of Los Angeles on November 20, a week after his 47th birthday. O'Leary clan lore has it that Charles's namesake son was born in the house on September 5, 1907, but the family didn't arrive on Wilshire Boulevard until Junior was about two years old. By now clearly enjoying speculation and having for the most part left medicine to go into stocks and bonds as well as oil, O'Leary acquired 3580 in the latter part of 1909 or early 1910. After being issued a building permit on December 18, 1911, he hired carpenter Jacob Smith to add a garage to the property.

The residential era of Wilshire Boulevard lasted little more than a generation; 3580 was not among
the few that were moved to newer neighborhoods to the west. It lasted 22 years before it
was demolished and replaced with the low-rise commercial building seen here at left
circa 1937. While the Wilshire Boulevard Temple at right remains, as does the
Wiltern tower in the center distance and, remarkably, the steep-roofed
Mullen & Bluett branch store this side of it, 3580's replacement
is now the site of a typical mid-Wilshire glass high-rise.

By the mid 1920s, with commercialization blowing wildly west from its eastern reaches toward the emerging Miracle Mile, Wilshire Boulevard was clearly now no place for homes. Even if residents were forced to give up on what they might have originally thought would be long-term domestic stability, they would be compensated by exponentially increased property values. While it is unclear as to where O'Leary—now retired—might have been living at the time even if he was apparently still in possession, the Los Angeles Times reported on March 7, 1926, that Lawrence W. Snell of Detroit, a prominent real estate man and friend of Henry Ford who appears to have been renting the house for the winter, had died at 3580 the day before. A few years later, according to O'Leary's grandson, while the family retained ownership of the land, the house itself was sold to a developer. The Nolan Wrecking Company is listed as the owner of the house on a demolition permit for it issued on August 16, 1929, but Los Angeles real estate man Sol Malsman was the developer of 3580's commercial replacement cited in an announcement in the Times on October 20, 1929, and on the building permit issued for it on August 1, 1930. Considering that Wall Street had crashed resoundingly just nine days after the permit was pulled, it is remarkable that the lot did not remain vacant for decades, as many Boulevard parcels did. It appears, however, that Malsman defaulted on his arrangement with O'Leary, who then became the owner of the new structure. (One O'Leary descendant, it should be noted, remembers the building as their family's project—they would in any case retain ownership of it until the late 1960s and of the land until 2000.) While the loss of a Tyler-designed residence, and one only 22 years old, was certainly lamentable, the building that replaced it as Wilshire Boulevard entered its new low-rise commercial era might have been some architectural consolation if it, too, had not eventually been lost. S. Charles Lee, noted for his scores of flamboyant movie theaters throughout California, was the architect for the replacement of 3580, which would wrap around the Kingsley corner. It would house a number of businesses, including, briefly, Marmon and Duesenberg agencies in the last years of those makes. In 1930—after a brief stop at the Ansonia apartments on the north side of Westlake Park—Charles and Vera O'Leary followed the residential trend away from aging and/or commercializing districts of Los Angeles toward newer western suburbs such as Windsor Square and Hancock Park; they settled into a 1922 Robert Farquhar–designed house at 201 North Rossmore Avenue. Charles died there on March 1, 1937.

As of yet, only oblique images of the Lee design have surfaced; it is reported to have been stripped of it architectural character in the 1950s, and then replaced with the present unremarkable high-rise in 1972.

The O'Leary house was pictured in the Los Angeles Times on October 18, 1912, when a controversy
arose over the move of a house from the Westlake District to the lot just behind 3580. A neighbor
of O'Leary managed to get a court injunction stopping the placement of what he deemed
too modest a residence for the neighborhood; the house stood on trucks blocking
Kingsley Drive for days while the matter was sorted. (The neighbor was
successful; the unworthy dwelling wound up at what is today the
northeast corner of Olympic Boulevard and Serrano Avenue.)