3852 Wilshire Boulevard


Some Wilshire Boulevard houses remain pictorially only as ghosts. There are a number of them of which, it seems, no photographic trace remains; others reveal themselves only as blurred apparitions, both spectral states undercutting the fact that just as much domestic life took place within their walls as it did in any boulevard residence. The house once at the southeast corner of Wilshire and St. Andrews Place is one such example.

Born in Louisville on November 4, 1871, Peter Christian Gernert grew up to make a name for himself there as one of three brothers who developed a large retail lumber concern. Peter was the vice-president of Gernert Brothers Lumber, when, presumably on a business trip, he met Gertrude Kraft of Red Bluff, California, and, according to the San Francisco Call of May 17, 1901, became engaged to her. It is unclear as to what may have transpired in terms of the family business five years later that prompted Peter to strike out on his own, but by 1906 he and Gertrude were in Southern California investing with others in 2,600 acres of land east of Riverside, incorporating it as the Orange Lands Investment Company later in the year; apparently preferring to settle in the larger city 55 miles to the west, they were reported by the Los Angeles Times 
on August 5, 1906, to have also bought the 60-by-150-foot Lot 16 of the Western Wilshire Heights tract. Despite the patriarchy of the day, wives among the upper classes were often given title to a couples' main residence, especially if was being paid for with her separate funds; having commissioned architects Train & Williams to design a relatively modest two-story house at 3852, the Department of Buildings issued Gertrude permits to begin construction on July 19, 1907. It was smaller in footprint than many boulevard houses, including those of similar vintage just to its east, but seven rooms were apparently adequate for the needs of the childless Gernerts. Things would get a bit more crowded in the next decade.

By 1920, Ella Schulze, a Wisconsin widow with two grown daughters, had bought the Gernert house. She would remain there even after Marion Schulze married Charles D. Jones and he became, at least in the opinion of the 1930 census enumerator, head of the household. By this time, the invasion of commerce into the erstwhile residential neighborhood could no longer be ignored: The 13-story Wilshire Professional Building, (still) in all its Zigzag exuberance, had opened across the street in the fall of 1929. Sometime soon after 1932, the Jones/Shulze household moved to Bel-Air. The house at 3852 faded into commerce and then into the shadows before it was replaced with a drive-in branch of the Zinke Re-Bottoming Shoe Company in 1938. This single-story steel-frame store was replaced 18 years later with 3850 Wilshire, the three-story office building still on the corner.

In the illustration above the title, 3852 Wilshire sits at the southeast corner
of the boulevard and St. Andrews Place in 1925. Manhattan Place runs north from Wilshire at left; Western Avenue crosses at top.

Zinke's drive-in shoe repair shop replaced 3852
in 1938; 3846 Wilshire Boulevard is seen in the background
of these northeasterly views taken that year.

Illustrations: LAPLLife