2720 Wilshire Boulevard


Born in England in 1838, Jonathan Dent emigrated to America 10 years later, the same year his wife Amelia was born in Ohio. Described, as were many denizens of Wilshire Boulevard, as a "capitalist" and as possessing his "own income" once he and his family arrived in California, Dent had apparently done very well as a coal dealer and grocer back in Columbus, Ohio. Jonathan and Amelia and their daughters, Margaret and Esther, began spending winters in Los Angeles in 1899, soon buying a house at 839 South Flower Street for a permanent move west. Mrs. Dent, who would die within five years—perhaps health had been a factor in the family's winter sojourns—was described in her obituary as having been "one of the prominent women of Columbus." Perhaps family funds on her side came into play; the Los Angeles Times of August 16, 1903, reported her as the purchaser of a 80-by-150-foot lot at the southeast corner of Wilshire and Benton boulevards (the latter now South Lafayette Park Place). On September 12, the Los Angeles Express noted that Mrs. Dent had just been issued a permit for a seven-room house on the corner. The Dents possessed the charm to have been taken up quickly by local society. If Amelia's health hadn't been compromised, perhaps it was the social whirl that did her in: She died on July 2, 1904, hardly having had a chance to issue invitations for teas and bridge parties at her new house. Jonathan and the girls stayed on at 2720, he until his death in 1917, Margaret and Esther—who that year had turned 45 and 43, respectively, and who never married—until at least 1923, by which time the die of the commercial future of Wilshire Boulevard had been cast. The Dent house appears to have left its corner lot with Margaret and Esther; there are indications that, among frequent house-relocations in the neighborhood, the sisters may have taken their house with them when they moved north across the park to 401 South Hoover Street in the latter half of 1923. While no specific permit has been found, the house that appeared on the southwest Hoover/Fourth Street corner was not there prior to 1923; its roofline in aerial views taken before its 1971 demolition appears to be the same as that of 2720 Wilshire. (The house next door at 411 South Hoover was relocated from Coronado Street in 1922.) The Dent daughters no doubt did well financially with the sale of a prime Wilshire corner with a view due north over Lafayette Park. Photographs reveal that the Wilshire lot was cleared before construction began on the 13-story Arcady Apartments across the boulevard, planned as early as 1923 and not begun until early 1927. In the view at top, the Dent house is seen from Lafayette Park at far right—the house with the columned portico—when it stood on Wilshire Boulevard. At far left is the Bryson, completed in 1913; just to its right is the Mission-style 2721 Wilshire and, peering above it, a tower of the Shoreham Hotel on Carondelet Street; the towered, darker-appearing Hershey Arms, opened in 1907, is next to the right, followed by 2702 Wilshire, 2706, and the Dent house.

A circa-1938 image shows the Bryson and Arcady apartment houses across the still-empty lot on
which the Dent house had stood from 1903 to 1923. At right is 2706 Wilshire Boulevard.

Illustration: LAPL