Westlake's Heyday

1934 Opening Ceremonies. 
Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.
The period from the early 1900s to the end of the 1920s has been described in romantic terms as Westlake’s heyday.  Parades, concerts, and public gatherings were held in the park with wide attendance.  It was also an era when the population of Los Angeles increased six-fold and Los Angeles’s wealthy occupied Westlake.[1]
By the end of the 1920s, the Westlake neighborhood was known to house some of the most valuable real estate in Los Angeles.[2]  Grand apartments were fully rented just days after opening.[3]
Open for business in the 1920s, the famous Westlake Theater was designed by Richard M. Bates in the Mission Revival style for $600,000 (quite a hefty sum!). 

View of Westlake Theater, 1937.
Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.
As a young community, Westlake had soon become the hub of a vibrant arts scene; delighting Los Angelinos’ imaginations with the presence of Otis Institute, the Westlake Theater, the Arts Center, and the Chouinard Art Institute with its satellite arts galleries in the Westlake area.[4] 

Westlake community was more and more accessible by public transportation when the Pacific Electric Subway (also known as the “Hollywood Subway”) was built in 1925; the subway ran from Beverly and Glendale Blvd to S. Hill St and W. 4th St. [5]

However in 1929, the city introduced a major plan to reconstruct of the disorganized streets of Los Angeles.[6] The plan focused on widening and expanding Wilshire Blvd, reducing congestion, and creating a grand Olympic Boulevard (formerly known as “10th St.”).[7]  The city even planned to extend Wilshire Blvd. through Westlake Park. Public transportation was becoming less popular, while cars were becoming more important.
Construction of Whilshire Blvd., 1933.
Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.

A political struggle over the extension of Wilshire ensued for years, with heated opposition from the Westlake Park Residents’ Association.  Long-time resident Emmet Wemple, according to his wife, Meg Wemple, said:

“A lot of people tried everything they could to keep…Wilshire out of the park.  Everyone who lived there [in Westlake] knew…it would ruin the Park. Some old timers, people who were really old when [Emmet’s father] was alive, they had parents who had given money to build it.  There was no way at all that they would let them ruin the Park, those residents. They formed a committee [the Westlake Park Residents’ Association].  They even went up to Sacramento to try to stop it.”[8]
In the end, the city won and Wilshire was brought through the park, changing the landscape forever.

Before, Proposed and After images
of Westlake Park, 1921-34. Construction of Wilshire Blvd.
Courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library.

[1] Strawn, James. "Whose Park: An Architectural History of Westlake-MacArthur Park." Page 38. Acessed September 2, 2011. http://search.proquest.com/docview/193342302?accountid=14749.
[2] Strawn, 54
[3] Strawn, 39
[4] Strawn, 41
[5] Electric Railway Historical Association, “Hollywood Subway.” Accessed September 9, 2011.  http://www.erha.org/pewhs.htm
[6] Olmsted, Frederick Law, and Bartholomew, Harland, and Cheney, Charles Henry. “A Major Traffic Street
Plan for Los Angeles.” Prepared for the Committee on Los Angeles Plan of Major Highways of the
Traffic Commission of the City and County of Los Angeles, May 1924. Page 5.
[7] Ibid at 40.
[8] Strawn, 58