If it were it still standing today, this month would mark the centennial anniversary of Wilshire Boulevard’s Hancock mansion, completed in March, 1913. Designed by John C. Austin for Ida Hancock, the property stood at one of the most prominent corners of Wilshire Boulevard, then lined primarily by large residences west of Westlake Park. The lavish Italian Renaissance Revival estate was of course financed by the Hancocks’ recent and fortuitous discovery of oil under their Rancho La Brea property.
The family likely failed to anticipate the rapid disappearance of their neighborhood’s quiet suburban air. Amid Los Angeles’ frenzied development during the 1920s, Wilshire Boulevard and Vermont Avenue became two of the city’s busiest streets. Curiously, the Hancocks at some point allowed for the construction of a small florist stall on their property’s Wilshire Boulevard frontage, pictured above. In a unique path to preservation, George Allan Hancock donated the property to the University of Southern California in 1937. While much of the house was demolished in the following year, four of its major rooms were moved to the University Park Campus, where they were incorporated into the new Allan Hancock Foundation Building.
The vacant property was sold in 1948 to Bank of America for the construction of a branch bank. That building and its adjacent parcels were eventually razed during the construction of Los Angeles’ first heavy rail subway, the Metro Red Line. The Wilshire/Vermont station opened in 1996 with a broad plaza and bus portal over the subway entrance. In 2007, the Metro-owned lot was redeveloped for one of the city’s largest transit-oriented development projects: a seven-story apartment and retail complex wrapped around the public plaza. Designed by multinational form Arquitectonica, the project also featured a large mural by April Greiman which hovers above the street corner on two separate walls.
1. “Hancock home goes on trek.” Los Angeles Times. 25 Jun. 1938. A1.
2. Hawthorne, Christopher. “Just keep your distance; The Wilshire Vermont Station is dramatic from far away. A walk in its courtyard exposes its flaws.” Los Angeles Times. 3 Oct. 2007. E1.
3. Simon, Richard and Jon D. Markman. “Future of Wilshire may ride on Subway Extension.” Los Angeles Times. 21 Jul. 1996. 1.
4. “Wilshire Blvd and Vermont property sold.” Los Angeles Times. 28 Oct. 1948. 1.
Original photo: Dick Whittington Studio. “DW-1931-02-28-181~09 – Scenes near 4th Street & Vermont Avenue, violations of zoning, traffic, etc., Los Angeles, CA, 1931.” Dick Whittington Photography Collection. USC Digital Library. USC Libraries Special Collections. http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15799coll170/id/17863.