3968 Wilshire Boulevard

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Like its neighbors on either side, 3968 Wilshire came late to the boulevard. Details of its construction are elusive; it appears to have been built at the same time as 3974 to its west—circa 1920—but before the next to the west, 3986, arrived two years later. All three houses were very modern revival designs in the postwar vein, foursquare and stately, shunning the Craftsman style that was already old fashioned among architects of larger houses. While 3974 remained residential as late as the second World War—and in fact still stands—the other two were given over within only a few years to the commerce that swept west on Wilshire once the full impact of A. W. Ross's plans for the Miracle Mile became evident and zoning was altered away from residential use all along thoroughfare. It is likely that the original builders of the three houses at the southwest corner of Wilton Place were simply caught in that pocket of time before boulevard owners to the east realized that, though it may have cost them their homes, it was in their best interests financially to push for rezoning. The house at 3968 may have had a short life as a residence, but there would be nothing to cry over in terms of the value of its lot, not even with the major dent the Depression would put into the equation.


As seen in a long shot from the Wilshire Professional Building at Western Avenue, 3968 Wilshire
is partially obscured by one of the many billboards that lined the boulevard from the 1920s
into the '50s. Beyond the house are 3974 and 3986 Wilshire; from the left edge of
the image are 3938, 3944—which along with 3974 still stands—and 3950.


It's possible that Poverty Row producer Morris R. Schlank built 3968 Wilshire; he was in residence, if only briefly, by 1922. Born in Omaha in 1879, Schlank appears to have arrived in Los Angeles around 1906, taking a job as a clerk at The Broadway. His experience with dry goods would soon merge with the coming thing. By 1914 Morris was in the costume business, which would acquaint him with the movies. Before the end of the decade he was not only outfitting actors, he was giving them work in low-budget comedies and westerns and other action pictures ground out in a few days. His chief star appears to have been comedian Hank Mann, who was one of the original, and some say brainchild of, Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops of earlier years. Schlank's wife Bess took over the costume work as he turned to producing. The couple lived at 3968 for only about two years before moving on; Bess later ran successful ladies'-wear shops on Wilshire and Hollywood boulevards. Morris died in 1932, apparently having been unable to make the transition to talkies.


A wide view east on Wilshire, circa 1930; 3968 Wilshire hides behind vegetation on the
south side of the boulevard just to the right of the Wilshire Special lamp. The
Wilshire Professional Building, from which the aerial view above was
taken, was completed in 1929 at Manhattan Place.


The next tenants of 3986 bore a legendary Southern California name. Portions of the land grant made to Bernardo Yorba in 1834, the Rancho Cañon de Santa Ana, came down to family members including Porfirio Yorba, who sold most of his land in 1907. The Janss Investment Company began developing Yorba Linda on the site two years later. Porfirio, a rancher, acquired 3968 in 1924. He and his wife Sarah and their three sons lived in the house for four years before they tired of ever more thousands of motors throbbing daily outside their door and decamped for quieter Arden Boulevard.


From the Los Angeles Times of January 7, 1934


Decorator Ann Holland was soon in living at 3968 and conducting her business there. Residences on the block were falling for dedicated commercial structures of the sort just going up across the street on the site of the Harrington house at 646 South Gramercy Place; all but a tiny handful of the houses remaining on Wilshire Boulevard had become at least partially given over to business. Succeeding Mrs. Holland was Carl W. Johnson, purveyor of massage, who stayed until 1939. It appears that the house served into the war years as the real estate offices of Daniel Jones, Arthur Pollock, Harry Rogaff, and Harry Gordon, and then lasted much longer than might have been expected: The Department of Building and Safety issued a demolition permit for the house and its detached garage on May 26, 1977. A brick apartment block called the Wilton-Wilshire Arms is now on the site, its ugliness mitigated only by a couple of thin palms.






Illustrations: USCDLLAT; Google Street View