666 South Berendo Street
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The most distinguished of Wilshire Boulevard survivors was also one of the few houses along the thoroughfare given a modest side-street designation. While in a testament to the rapidly changing character of the boulevard it only stood at the southeast corner of Wilshire and Berendo for a brief dozen years, Earle C. Anthony's deceptively unassuming 666 South Berendo Street was, happily, not lost; rather, it has been standing eight miles west of its original location for over 90 years. Picked up and moved to Beverly Hills in 1923, it remains one of Charles and Henry Greene's few legacies outside of Pasadena.
Earle C. Anthony was an early automobile enthusiast who, in partnership with his father Charles E. Anthony, founded the Western Motor Car Company in Los Angeles on March 8, 1904. Not a little self-promotion resulted in the Anthonys eventually becoming almost synonymous with Packard on the West Coast. Earle further encouraged Southland motoring with an intercity bus line and a chain of filling stations, which, along with its chevron logo, was sold to Standard Oil of California in 1913. The newest technologies were always a passion of Earle C. Anthony, credited by some if not others for bringing the first neon sign to Los Angeles, one spelling out P A C K A R D with great modern impact at night; once California was thoroughly motorized, he turned precociously and perhaps most famously to the development of local radio. His clear-channel KFI began broadcasting in Los Angeles on April 16, 1922. It was at about this time that Anthony decided that the ambiance of his first major residential commission, his Greene & Greene house at Wilshire and Berendo, had been thoroughly compromised by the noise and fumes of the exponentially increasing numbers of the cars he himself had brought to rapidly commercializing Wilshire Boulevard.
|This advertisement appeared in the Los Angeles Times within days of Western Motor's|
incorporation; the company's success would enable both Charles E. Anthony and
his son to build on Wilshire Boulevard within a few short years.
A little more than a decade before—back before radio and, in the days when Gaylord Wilshire's original concept of a residential boulevard still held—Earle C. Anthony decided to build a house at the southeast corner of Wilshire and Berendo. His father had recently built at the southwest corner, moving to 3300 Wilshire with his family, including Earle, from Menlo Avenue by 1908. After Earle married Irene Kelly on December 1 of that year, he began to look around for an architect to design a house of his own—and eventually, if not surprisingly given his progressive imagination, he chose the Greenes, who had innovatively moved on from the prevailing gabled styles of the aughts. Citing what was apparently an initial address of 656 Berendo, the Department of Buildings issued Anthony a permit to begin construction of the brothers' design on April 13, 1910. As described by the Greene & Greene Virtual Archives, the house he moved into in late 1910 "had many of the characteristics of previous Greene & Greene commissions but without expensive materials and elaborate details. The house plan is L-shaped and designed for an urban lot.... The exterior has split-shake-cladded open porches.... The living room fireplace has a raised hearth of thick paving tiles.... Off the living room, a small den provides a secluded retreat and French doors offer outdoor access and garden views. A darkroom was included in the original plan but not executed. Additions of leaded art glass, a more expansive sleeping porch, and breakfast room were commissioned in 1913. Lanterns and living-room mantel carvings were designed at this time but not executed. In 1917, a bath was added to the residence and a garage constructed." According to Randell L. Makinson in his Greene & Greene: Architecture as a Fine Art, some of the alterations to the interior of the house were to appease Mrs. Anthony, who had become "disenchanted with the dim interiors, the abundance of wooden expression, and the bungalow character of the house."
The Greenes were not only called back to tweak the Anthony house over its first decade; in 1920, despite his wife's reservations about their own house, Earle had the brothers design a residence at 2550 North Aberdeen Avenue in Hollywood for Mrs. Anthony's mother, Kate A. Kelly, one in the coming Mediterranean style that departed significantly from what had become the architects' signature style. Only a few years after Anthony made the latest changes to 666 South Berendo, no doubt putting two and two together when he took notice of increasing Wilshire traffic and developer A. W. Ross's purchase of property for the beginnings of the Miracle Mile not far to the west on Wilshire, he determined that any residential peace and quiet on the boulevard was doomed. While of course Anthony also understood Ross's boon to the potential value of his lot, it appears that he may not have been ready to simply flatten the house. Stories of what was on Anthony's mind at this time vary; according to the Greene & Greene Virtual Archives, "Anticipating the sale, relocation of the house, and redevelopment of the expensive Wilshire Boulevard property for a multi-story luxury apartment building, Mr. Anthony asked Henry Greene to design a model and topographical map of the property in 1921." Acccording to Makinson, "At this time the original Earle C. Anthony house was set for demolition [our emphasis] to allow for the construction of a multi-story apartment building when it was rescued by the distinguished actor of the silent screen, Norman Kerry. He and his wife had the house moved in three sections to Beverly Hills and engaged Henry Greene to handle the re-siting and rejoining of the structure and to design the grounds and gardens." The exact timeline of ownership of the house and grounds in its last year are a bit difficult to sort out; newspaper stories varied widely.
|While not clear enough to read in this early photograph of what became the|
Talmadge Apartments, the name above the door reads FRANCESCA.
A tall building did rise on the site of the Earle C. Anthony house, a 10-story red-brick apartment house of Georgian detail, much touted as being the equal of buildings going up at the same time along Park Avenue in New York. Originally announced as the Marie Antoinette and then known as The Francesca, with that name carved above the entrance, it was designed by the prolific team of Aleck Curlett and Claud Beelman. Reference to The Francesca and a plan for it to be ready for occupancy in June 1923 was made by the Times as early as July 25, 1922. The same article states that the Anthony house (even including, as would the Drake house, its walks and gardens) would be moved by real estate man A. C. Blumenthal, manager of The Francesca, to a lot he owned at the northwest corner of Wilshire and Lucerne boulevards; according to drawings in the Greene & Greene Collection at Columbia University, Blumenthal went so far as to have Henry Greene draw up plans in anticipation of such a move. It seems that as plans evolved, it was decided that the house would be spared, if its new ownership and the site to which it would be transferred remained unsettled. On September 24, 1922, two months after announcing The Francesca, the Times was reporting that Anthony himself had hired George Kress to truck his Greene & Greene to a lot he'd bought in the Hollywood foothills north of Los Feliz Boulevard. This was apparently a reference to property that Anthony had bought at 3431 Waverly Drive near his mother-in-law; as plans evolved, Anthony would have Bernard Maybeck design a well-known house on his Los Feliz spread, one that until 2011 was the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary convent.
Fortunately for architectural posterity, the Anthony house wasn't demolished and did finally make its move to 910 North Bedford Drive, where it stands today nearly as originally built on Wilshire Boulevard. The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety issued a permit for the removal of 666 to a location "outside of the city" on December 26, 1922. While the Times reported that master house mover George R. Kress was in charge of transport for the Kerrys, the city permit cites the owner as McDonald & Kahn, the large San Francisco firm with offices in the Loew's State Building downtown that was apparently being employed by Norman Kerry to oversee the project.
Large advertisements for The Francesca, referring to its already being occupied "by representative families," began to appear in the Times soon after and continued even as late as four days before the same paper reported the formal opening celebration of "the new Talmadge apartments" on July 10, 1924; the Department of Building and Safety issued the certificate of occupancy on August 4. Presumably it was before the party that the carving above the door was changed to THE TALMADGE, though some indirect advertisements, one as late as January 1, 1925, still referred to 3278 Wilshire as The Francesca. Silent-screen star Norma Talmadge owned it, reportedly having received it as an income-producing present from her husband, producer Joe Schenck; curiously, perhaps coincidentally, the actress had appeared in a 1911 release called Paola and Francesca.
The Talmadge became the address of several former owners of large single-family Wilshire Boulevard houses, among them Mrs. Walter H. Fisher of 3043.
After spending its first 13 years on Wilshire Boulevard,
Greene & Greene's 1910 Earle C. Anthony house has now been
at 910 North Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills for over 90.
Illustrations: you-are-here.com; LAT; LAPL; Google Street View;
Beverly Hills Heritage; LACurbed