As Wilshire Boulevard cemented its status as Los Angeles’ premier highway during the 1920s, it also emerged as the locus of high-end commercial development for the city’s affluent and growing west side. This dual identity was exemplified by the California Petroleum Corporation’s flagship service station, shown in the top photograph at the boulevard’s northeast corner with New Hampshire Avenue. Although the demolished depot has now been largely forgotten, it surely ranks among the most distinctive lost buildings of Wilshire Boulevard.
Upon its completion in 1927, the facility was touted by Calpet as “California’s finest super service,” and not without good reason. The central filling station occupied an eye-catching Moorish Revival building, elegantly ornamented with mosaic tile trimmings and decorative grilles. A separate structure at the rear of the lot housed an automatic washing and polishing unit, tire and battery service areas, an accessory shop, and a small cafe. As a final touch, the station’s paved areas were buffered from the sidewalk by lamp posts and small landscape planters.
The depot was given such importance by Calpet that it received a two-day opening ceremony as well as a full-page advertisement in the Los Angeles Times. In true Hollywood fashion, Calpet orchestrated the opening-day appearance of a number of film stars, including Norma and Constance Talmadge, Owen Moore, Ralph Graves, Lawrence Gray, Belle Bennett, Buster Keaton, and Katherine Perry. Each of them of course, arrived by car. By the time its second day closed out with a colorful light show, the service station had sold nearly 20,000 gallons of gasoline.
Although Calpet was acquired by the Texas Company in 1928, the station continued to operate under the Texaco brand until its demolition in the mid-1950s. In 1956, the site was replaced by a Modernist office building and adjacent parking lot, built for the Pioneer Savings and Loan Association. The relatively unremarkable six-story building remained occupied by bank tenants through the late 1980s. Since then, it has served as the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Los Angeles.
1. California Petroleum Corporation. Advertisement. “Famous stars will attend formal opening of California’s finest super service.” Los Angeles Times. 21 Jan. 1927. 8.
2. “Calpet station is opened with big ceremonies.” Los Angeles Times. 23 Jan. 1927. G8.
3. “Ground broken for new office.” Los Angeles Times. 26 Feb. 1956. E18.
4. Newman, Morris. “Korean investors view Wilshire as ‘Main Street’.” Los Angeles Times. 1 Apr. 1990. 1.
Original photo: Dick Whittington Studio. “DW-1930-04-02-10~03 – Service station at Wilshire Boulevard and South New Hampshire Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, 1930.” Dick Whittington Photography Collection. USC Digital Library. USC Libraries Special Collections. http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15799coll170/id/16521.