Tuesday, September 26


Wednesday, February 12, 1997sleepy little village. A college
hangout. A parking nightmare. A movie mecca. The site of a murder.
A ghost town.

All ephemeral images of a town known as Westwood Village. The
village has endured many phases, yet not one definition can be
agreed on today. A source of controversy since its birth in 1929,
students, merchants and residents have all argued over what the
village should be. With so many viewpoints and expectations, The
Bruin looks at what the village once was.By Rachel Muñoz and
Michelle Navarro

Daily Bruin Contributors

he Westwood Village that lives today was merely a vast domain of
agriculture at the turn of the century. Only one ranch dominated
the land. The owner, John Wolfskill, a 49er and future state
senator, purchased the area in 1884 and farmed the land well into
the next decade.

Westwood Village, as yet, was not even a dream. Wolfskill’s
property remained stagnant until six years after his death, when
Wolfskill’s sons sold the ranch to Arthur Letts, founder of
Bullock’s and the Broadway department stores. This change in
ownership was the beginning of the gargantuan development that was
to storm the sleepy Wolfskill ranch.

The majority of development in the village occurred during the
’20s, making it more than a "roaring" decade for the budding

The seeds were planted with the marriage of Harold Janss and
Gladys Letts, Arthur’s daughter, and the purchase of the land south
of Wilshire. Following Letts’ death in 1923, the Janss Investment
Corporation took over the entire estate.

Almost simultaneously, the site for the second University of
California was in the works, and in 1925, Los Angeles Regent Edward
Dickson supported the decision to construct it in Westwood.

Three years later, construction of the university as well as the
village began, allowing for the opening of the dynamic duo in 1929.
Westwood had arrived.

At the time of the opening, over 2,000 homes were established,
25 shops had been erected, as well as a number of churches, schools
and apartments. Westwood was on its way.

Harold and Edwin Janss gave strict guidelines for the style of
their district. A primary Mediterranean-style, architectural theme
was established, as well as a height maximum of two or three
stories and regulations regarding business signs.

The first building was constructed in 1929. Known as "The Dome,"
the structure housed the Janss Investment Corporation headquarters.
The building now holds The Wherehouse music store.

Other buildings completed that year were the Ralph’s Grocery
store, now La Salsa; Bullock’s Department store, now The Gap; the
Masonic Lodge, now Geffen Playhouse; and the Holmby Clock Tower,
now Le Pafé Bakery.

Herbert Foster, a UC engineer, donned the streets with names in
memory of his Berkeley professors, "Little Joe" Le Conte, Harry
Mills Gayley, and Dean Eugene Hilgard.

The ’30s continued to power the development of Westwood Village,
mainly with entertainment additions. It began to take on an image
of a college town.

The pride and joy of Westwood, the famed Fox Village Theater,
opened its doors to the community in 1931. The 170-foot tower
serves as a beacon in the Westwood skyline, locating the theater
for cars turning off of Wilshire.

The Fox Village thus began its role, serving as a prime spot for
movie premiers and a magnet for desired crowds.

The heart of the decade saw the additions of the Fox Bruin
Theater and the Tropical Ice Gardens, more affectionately known as
the "Sonia Henie Ice Rink," in honor of the Olympic gold

The ice rink, which was the nation’s first outdoor year-round
rink, and movie theaters helped give Westwood an edge above the
other towns.

"Westwood was unique from the beginning in two ways. It was
unique because it was owned by one developer and had a unifying
architectural theme, and it was unique in that it had entertainment
amenities like the Village and Bruin theaters and the ice rink.
They were all tastefully done and were balanced by high quality
retail stores," said Steve Sann, UniCamp board member and UCLA

Westwood boasted another "first" in the ’30s, the first drive-in
type restaurant, the Hi-Ho Cafe ­ later known as Truman’s
Restaurant and Drive-Inn.

Hotspots like the Hi-Ho Cafe and Tom Crumplar’s, a "legendary"
malt shop, made Westwood the college town it was.

Not only were there a number of hang-outs for students to flock
to, but the first dorms, at a time when the university lacked them,
were located in Westwood.

"On the second floor of the Dome building was the first men’s
dorm and on the second floor of the clock tower building was the
first women’s dorm," said Greg Fischer, long-time Westwood resident
and history buff.

A commercial boom emerged in the ’40s for the village. One of
the major developments, the construction of a new $3 million
Bullock’s department store, sparked controversy.

A rezoning ordinance allowed construction of Bullock’s, closing
off Glendon Avenue.

This move was met with a protest from 2,000 UCLA students.

"I surmise that the protest was due to the fact that the land
was adjacent to the Masonic Club House, a place where students
lived," Sann said. "It was, historically, a site untouched by
commercial development. Also, it was directly across from the
campus and Glendon would be closed off. It was like the commercial
district was creeping on campus."

Linda Abell, daughter of long-time village merchants Lenny and
Sunny Friedman of Crescent Jeweler coined the phrase "a sleepy
little village," describing the village of the ’50s. The university
existed, but it was only 11,140 students strong.

In 1955, Janss sold 50 percent of the commercial area of the
village to Arnold Kirkeby. This change left lasting results on the
future of the town.

With this purchase, the "Watershed Period," as referred to by
Fischer, began. Before this point, the village had been
micromanaged by the Jansses.

With the $6.5 million purchase, Kirkeby ultimately had the power
to change the development of the village.

"The layout, architecture and who they would sell to went by the
way," Fischer said of the transaction. A long-term decline of the
college town began that year, according to Fischer, and has yet to
be reversed.

But the ’50s also had one other significant change that would
forever impact the village ­ the 405 Freeway was routed
through Westwood ­ making it more accessible to the residents
of the Valley. Although the freeway wasn’t opened until 1962, this
was the beginning of a new era in Westwood Village.

The 1960s proved that a new era really did begin. The first high
rise building in Westwood was built in 1960. Between 1960 and 1964,
the office space in the village doubled and UCLA was growing
rapidly. The growth of the university transformed UCLA into its own
city, giving the students less of a reason to travel into the

In 1965, a detrimental blow hit the merchants of Westwood. The
closure of Westwood Boulevard through the campus closed the main
route between Wilshire and Sunset.

Gone were the days of easy access to the village for the Bel Air
residents that helped the village thrive. In addition, the high
rise trend continued and a new light system in the village gave it
the brightest illumination in Los Angeles.

Crowds began to accumulate in 1969 with the semi-annual Westwood
Sidewalk Arts & Crafts Show.

"Westwood became a night place in addition to a day place. There
was a lot of student activity through the village," Abell noted of
the 1960s.

The new student interest could be attributed to developer Manuel
Borenstein, who wanted to bring the atmosphere of Disneyland to the
college age, according to Fischer. The entire character of the
village changed because the neighborhood serving stores
metamorphosed into a regional entertainment area.

By the 1970s, the village proper had 10 new theaters and the
grocery stores, as well as other service stores. With the 16
screens a new economy and clientele emerged along with a new type
of business owner. The weekend visitors demanded a new breed of
mall type chain operations to service the many teenagers and
college kids that frequented the village.

"I remember being in Westwood more in high school than in
college. It was a big deal to go to Westwood for a date. We felt
like hanging out with a college group," said Mark Terman, a UCLA
alumnus, of his days in Westwood as a high school student.

When his college years brought him back to Westwood from 1975 to
1979, Terman said the village was still a fun place to go.

"We would walk to Westwood, go to the movies and go out for
drinks," he said.

The ’70s also brought to Westwood the famed movie premieres. The
initial blockbusters were "Love Story" and "The Exorcist,"
producing movie lines for over two years. With the decline of
Hollywood, the closure of many theatres in Beverly Hills and
virtually nothing in Santa Monica, Westwood became the regional
entertainment center in Los Angeles.

With the new crowds and high rises, many believed that Westwood
was losing control and needed some sort of guideline. In 1972,
backed by both business owners and residents alike, the Westwood
Community Plan was developed to steer developers in the right
direction with housing, commerce, traffic and parking.

The ’80s continued to draw people into Westwood. The village
boasted 84 restaurants and attracted over 5,000 cars on Wilshire in
the Westwood stretch.

When Los Angeles hosted the Olympics in 1984, the Westwood
Olympic Village was bombarded with visitors. The thriving nightlife
was often captured on television giving Westwood even more

After his college years, Terman believes that Westwood got too

"Westwood was the only place with a concentration of movies and
restaurants. It got all age groups and there was no competition,"
Terman said.

In 1989, the Westwood Village Specific Plan, after three years
in the making, was finalized. Similar to the plan of 1972 which
placed restrictions on owners, property, developers, consumers and
UCLA, the plan wanted to make the village more people oriented,
preserve the historic buildings and put height limits on what can
be built.

Present-day Westwood is now a village of the ’90s, yet still
lacks a definitive image. Fischer described it as a "ghost town,"
while Abell believes that our present decade is hopeful, with new
construction such as a street improvement project, changes in the
businesses, as well as the building of a new parking garage. Only
time will tell what image Westwood will adopt.

The Westwood series, running on Wednesdays, will look at
nightlife, merchants and residents and the future of the village in
coming weeks.

Thelner Hoover

"The dome," pictured in 1934, is a familiar site to UCLA
students. The building, which is located in the heart of the
village, currently houses The Wherehouse music store.Daily Bruin
File Photo

An aerial view of Westwood Village in 1932 shows the village
three years after it opened. Thelner Hoover

Students march through Westwood Village in 1954.

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