3840 Wilshire Boulevard


The middle of a row of five similar houses built at a time when residential living west of Western Avenue still seemed safe from encroachment by trade, 3840 Wilshire Boulevard was built after a construction permit for it was issued on August 10, 1912. Located on Lot 18 of the Western Wilshire Heights Tract, the house appears to have been a speculative project of Frank D. J. Rice, whose wherewithal was apparently greater than his longtime occupation of traveling salesman; Rice lived at Ocean Park at the time and also maintained an apartment in the city at the Rampart. He does not seem to have occupied 3840, although his commissioning of top architect Frank M. Tyler as its architect might possibly suggest that he intended to. Rice either rented or sold the house to retired dairyman Gustave M. Escallier, who was in residence during the mid 1910s.

By 1918, Edward Eisenhauer had moved into 3840. A retired cotton broker who had recently arrived in Los Angeles from New Orleans, Eisenhauer had lived on the southern city's famous St. Charles Avenue. It is not known if he thought that living on Wilshire Boulevard, whose early reputation was one of a thoroughfare of fine residences, might replicate his Southern experience; but by the middle 1920s, he would have understood that, unlike St. Charles Avenue, still a street of 19th-century residential splendor (his former house still stands on it), Wilshire was doomed as a venue of salubrious domesticity. In early 1925, Eisenhauer and his wife moved to a house they'd recently completed at 531 South Rossmore Avenue in Hancock Park, a subdivision only just opened in 1921 and not yet Louisiana-leafy but still more gracious than Wilshire Boulevard had become by the mid '20s. The upside of Eisenhauer's investment in 3840 would have been that its much-appreciated value would pay for his new house on Rossmore Avenue.

By the 1920s, anyone who bought a house on Wilshire Boulevard, almost anywhere along its length, understood that its value was more in its lot than in the structure. After cement company executive Loren Chandler Barton moved into 3840 after the departure of Eisenhauer, he repainted and put on a new roof even though he did not expect to stay long. Within a few years Barton and his wife Jessie acquired Dr. Edgar E. Gelder's house next door at 3834; their intention was to demolish it and their own 3840 (which they did with permits issued on July 26, 1930) to build one of the charming Normandy-inspired retail buildings that came to characterize commercial Wilshire Boulevard before its high-rise era. The Bartons hired A. Godfrey Bailey for the new building, the building permit for which was issued on August 1, 1930, even before the houses on its plot were demolished. After some middle years of neglect, what is now 3832 Wilshire remains standing in very good repair. (The Bartons moved to Pasadena; it should be noted that Loren C. Barton was a great-nephew of Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, and that his and Jessie Barton's daughter was Loren Roberta Barton—named Roberta Amelia Barton at birth in 1893—who was per her biography a noted painter, printmaker, illustrator, educator, and lecturer.)

In the illustration above the title, 3840 Wilshire sits across from Manhattan Place, running north from Wilshire at left, in 1925. St. Andrews Place is at the 
lower edge of the view; Western Avenue crosses Wilshire at top.

The last owners of 3840 redeveloped their property into business use
with the aesthetic care that characterized early commercial Wilshire Boulevard.
Architect A. Godfrey Bailey's lasting French design was one that made the change
from the boulevard's original residential years to its era of trade less upsetting
than it might have been. The architect's rendering above appeared in the
July 27, 1930, Los Angeles Times; below, 3832 Wilshire in July 2014.

Illustrations: LAPLLAT; Google Street View