3124 Wilshire Boulevard


A longtime holdout along Wilshire Boulevard was the family of Albert Hamilton Busch, who, in 1895, on the capital strength of a successful plumbing-supplies business, had bought a sizable plot at the southeast corner of Vermont Street and Wilshire—then still designated as Sixth Street. The idea of the westward expansion of Los Angeles, founded hard by the river, might seem obvious today, but it was generally only the most prescient who invested in property in the path of the city's future. Gaylord Wilshire's seminal subdivision a half-mile east was not yet even platted when the Busches bought their eight acres. The family was headed by Augusta, born in Prussia in April 1821, widow of Benjamin Reinold Busch and mother of Albert, Reinold, Louise, Clara, and Augusta. In the matriarch's declining years, with A. H. married and living in West Adams, middle daughter Clara appears to have become the acting head of the family; it was she who was reported to have been issued building permits in November 1898 for what would be designated 3124 Wilshire Boulevard. Notices in the Times just a week apart—on the 11th and 18th of that month—refer to her intention to build a two-story residence at the northeast corner of the Busch property on Wilshire, facing up what was then the dead end of Juanita Street, which later became Shatto Place. This does not seem to be the sort of pretentious pile—pretentious being a word, by the way, without the negative connotations it has today—that other families would soon build nearby on Wilshire, but rather a simple frame residence along the lines of the Sumner/Brown house just to the east at 3078. (No images of either have yet been found.) The Busch house would be the only significant structure built on the family's property until 1923. 

Augusta Busch would die in the new house on December 1, 1902. Clara, who had married Arthur C. Wilson in 1900, died in 1906, A. H. Busch then becoming the patriarch, if not yet the outright owner, of the corner. It was presumably he who made the decision not to develop the family's prime property as the residential character of Wilshire Boulevard took formidable shape with such pretentious houses as that of Ida Hancock Ross at 3189, finished across the street on the northeast corner of Wilshire and Vermont in 1909. Joseph Burkhard had built on the northwest corner in 1906 (discreetly addressed 641 South Vermont) and William Lacy on the southwest corner in 1906 (3200). By the time of his death in 1920, signs of what Busch must have sensed were appearing: He seemed to understand that the boulevard's residential character could not last and that it was best to sit tight while the boulevard's cachet and value grew—commerce would win out. The Busch Building—seen here above the title—would be in place on the family's corner in 1923; the year before, the Times had estimated that the value of its unimproved holdings had increased in value from $3,000 in 1895 to upward of $700,000.

Even if Albert Hamilton Busch had decided to hang on to the family corner, his widow Eliot and their two children, Amy Busch Jarvis and Albert Hays Busch, apparently now the sole owners, were ready to sell. Their plan to subdivide the property and sell off lots was announced in April 1922. Part of the development scheme was to cut through an extension of Shatto Place (originally designated Wilshire Terrace) running south slightly to the west of the Place's northerly path, from Wilshire to Seventh. Small apartment buildings—among them, those still at 666 and 687 Shatto Place—went up on the new block almost immediately. Whether the property's corner cutout facing up Shatto had been sold or rented to those who lived at 3124 after the Busches left it is unclear, but it is known that the 1898 Busch house still stood, even with the massive Busch Building in place, for at least the time being. Within three years, Wilshire was widened and decorated with its famous and distinctive "Wilshire Special" lamps, this renovation having taken place from 1927 to 1929. Photographs with the lamps in place reveal the Shettler house still standing at 3100 next to the empty 150-by-65-foot lot of 3124. Between the house's last tenancy by a member of the Busch clan and its demise, various families were in residence. Mrs. Frank Burlingame was there in 1905; William D. Howarth, a real estate man, was in the house in 1909 when he married Frances Marsden of Chester, Pennsylvania. In 1910 and for the next five years Grover I. Jacoby, associated with his family's Main Street clothing firm, was at 3124. Mrs. Emelia M. Salter followed for a stay of several years, succeeded by the widow Agnes E. Jones in 1920. Mrs. Jones, who moved in with her son Wilson, her mother, and two sisters, was listed in city directories up to and including the 1927 edition. (One sister, Helena B. Neece, built 518 South Lucerne Boulevard in 1920, perhaps as a new home for the family; however, she sold it in 1921 and remained at 3124.) After the departure of the Jones clan, the old Busch house at 3124 Wilshire Boulevard disappears...but not quite: When the ladies of the august Ebell Club sought to move away from their clubhouse down on Figueroa Street, their first choice, before their current quarters at Wilshire and Lucerne, was the southeast corner of Shatto Place. Part of the plan of acquisition, as first reported, called for the relocation of the old Busch house; a building permit for the move was issued on March 17, 1927. Dan Boone, apparently a construction engineer and possibly the mover, had acquired 3124 and planned to truck it five miles across town to 8471 Blackburn Avenue, where it lasted another 30 years before being demolished in 1957. As it happened, the value of the Ebell's new property went up so high so quickly in the rush of Wilshire to commercial zoning that the girls were advised by bankers to snatch a lovely profit and secure a lot even farther west—the one at Wilshire and Lucerne—which they wisely did.

As for the building that went up on the primary southeast corner of Wilshire and Vermont, it too appeared to be doomed after only five years. As downtown retailers sought space on the new commercialized boulevard, there was a scramble for prime real estate. In 1928, clothier J. J. Haggarty announced his intention to build a store as high as 150 feet on the site of the five-year-old Busch Building. Meanwhile, John G. Bullock, who had bought the southwest corner holding 3200 Wilshire with the idea of opening his own deluxe emporium, decided instead to move the former Lacy house on the lot to Windsor Square as a home for himself and quickly buy the southside Wilshire blockfront between Wilshire Place and Westmoreland, site of 655 Wilshire Place and, at one time, the Sumner/Brown house at 3078. Bullock's reasoning was that the huge, then-barely-regulated traffic increase at the Vermont intersection that came with the widenings of both avenues would discourage custom. J. J. Haggarty's project was never built; the grand and defining Bullock's-Wilshire opened at 3050 on September 26, 1929.

Mid 1928: The Wilshire Special streetlamp was just installed during a major boulevard widening and
improvement project. The Busch house at 3124, in place since the '90s, has been moved from
the lot in the foreground; Shatto Place at right has only recently been cut through south of
Wilshire. Appearing overgrown, the Shettler house would be gone within a few months,
having been used in recent years for commercial purposes. Just getting underway
at left beyond the trees are the massive excavations for the game-changing
241-foot-tall Bullock's-Wilshire, which would open in September 1929.

Illustration: LATLAPL