655 Park View Street


Henry Martz is described, when he's described, as owning a great deal of Los Angeles real estate; judging by the little that can be found about his life, it seems that he went about his business quietly, largely avoiding the trappings and clubs of the usual L.A. mover and shaker of his era. Born in Detroit on May 12, 1850, Martz grew up to pursue the same trade as his father, a carpenter. The son was soon referred to in census and voter records as a builder, a skill he was to bring to Los Angeles with his bride, Elizabeth, soon after her immigration from Germany in 1880. By the end of the decade the couple and their two children were living on West Seventh Street in a house that, according to some accounts, was expanded after several years to provide income property by becoming the charming and surprisingly long-lasting Martz Flats.

At one point, the Martz Flats occupied nearly half the block bounded by Flower,
Hope, Seventh, and Eighth streets. Parts of the complex were demolished beginning in 1920,
though much of it was standing when the rendering below was made in 1957.

The Flats were described by one writer as having "a façade of Regency inspiration, maintained by the delicate details included in the formula for Classical Revival...[with] a series of recessed balconies, Palladian windows, and shallow pediments supported by pilasters." The same writer (circa 1962) maintained that it was built in 1898 and designed by Julius W. Krause (a contributing architect of the famous red sandstone Los Angeles County courthouse of 1888), who is known to have done other downtown work for Martz. At one point occupying nearly half the block bounded by Flower, Hope, Seventh, and Eighth streets, parts were demolished beginning in 1920. Somehow, though, much of it was intact, if down at the heels, as late as 1965, when the Martz family sold it. The parking lot it became is today the site of the Sheraton Los Angeles and Macy's.

As seen in the Los Angeles Times on December 27, 1903

Most of the mentions of Henry Martz are in tiny type in newspaper coverage of real estate transfers; there were many of those, but few to indicate his own domestic arrangements—unlike many real estate men, he didn't move often himself. We do know that he stayed on Seventh Street even as downtown Los Angeles boomed around him commercially, not leaving for the suburbs until 1904. When he did, he hired the best of architects, the esteemed John Parkinson, and built without modesty, except perhaps in terms of how he addressed his new house—what could have been 2400 Wilshire Boulevard became 655 Park View Street. Rising on a prime lot at the original foot of the boulevard but with its northerly side facing Harrison Gray Otis's house across the way, 655 outdid its neighbors in scale and in taking advantage of the view east across Westlake Park toward downtown. With a lovely cool front porch and a glassed-in third-floor tower room on its northeast corner, along with softening delicate Moorish details and a tile roof, the house appeared to be built for the ages—along with all the other substantial houses, apartment buildings, and hotels going up around the park, one can only imagine how lovely Los Angeles must have once been. But Henry Martz allowed himself his one great indulgence too late, it seems. He was there not much longer than a year before he died on November 15, 1905. His widow and Regina, now 26, and August, 24, remained in the house, mother and son continuing to run the family real estate interests for decades to come. August and Regina were still there in 1930, but 655's days were numbered. The neighborhood was still as good as any in town, still very grand, but a major change to Westlake Park would spell the end of the district's tranquility. Up to 1934, Wilshire was interrupted by the square, forcing east-west traffic around it to bypass the Martz corner. That year, the boulevard was driven through the park to create a direct connection from downtown to the Pacific. The traffic at the north side of 655 increased exponentially. While the house appears to have been ideally suited to become a consulate or club, it was gone soon after the Department of Building and Safety issued a demolition permit on February 23, 1938. Multistory buildings, some residential, some commercial, were better suited to the new transportation possibilities of Wilshire Boulevard, well on its way to becoming the new, linear business corridor of Los Angeles.

A cool outdoor room overlooked Westlake Park—until Wilshire Boulevard cut
 through the original peace of the green space and eventually
 contributed to the downfall of the neighborhood.

Circa 1935: An unusual view east from the eight-story Park-Wilshire Apartments over
the new Wilshire Boulevard connection through Westlake Park. The top of the
 tower of the Martz house at 655 Park View Street, not long for this world,
 is at the lower edge of the frame. City Hall is the pointed
 building above it in the distance.

The site of 655 Park View has been occupied by the American Cement Building since
1960, when the address became 2404 Wilshire Boulevard. The American Cement Building
was converted to condominium live/work lofts in 2002. The 1961 Kodachrome view above
and the 2015 image below were taken from inside MacArthur Park near the Otis statue.

A 2015 view of the American Cement Building from south of Wilshire includes at right the façade of
the 1957 Otis Art Institute across the boulevard, now an elementary school;looming above it
is the MacArthur, a special-events venue built in 1925 as the B.P.O.E.'s Lodge No. 99.

Illustrations: Private Collection; USCDLLAPLLAT