Parcel of a 4,438 acres land grant to retired Spanish soldier, Don Maximo Alanis. He names this hilly place speckled by sycamore groves and fanned by ocean breezes “Rancho San José de Buenos Ayres” the rancho extended from what are today the foothills of the Santa Monica mountains to Pico blvd to the south.
Alanis ranched the land from the 1820s to the 1840s, He died around the 1850s and his heirs sold the rancho. The rancho passed changed hands a few times before ending up with John Wolfskill. Wolfskill was a former state senator and rancher who came to California during the gold rush.
In 1884, Wolfskill purchased the rancho for $10 an acre, or roughly $40,000.
Wolfskill lived on the Rancho and built a few houses that he lived in. He leased out some of his land to farmers who also grew crops and raised cattle.
In 1887 Wolfskill gave the US goverment about 400 acres or 10% of his land to create what is known today is known as the Los Angeles Veterans Administration and the Los Angeles National Cemetery. The land straddles both sides of the 405 freeway and has its own zip code 90073, you can see the Cemetery and VA when you cross the 405 on Wilshire. The land is currently used for: UCLA Jackie Robinson Stadium, Barrington Park, Brentwood School, state veterans home and the VA hospital.
The same year, Wolfskill sold the remainder of his ranch to a developer for $100 an acre. The development was called “town of sunset”. Some lots were sold, a railroad built, and a grand hotel was constructed near the intersection of Wilshire and Beverly glen boulevards. The venture failed, however , and in 1891 the land reverted back to Wolfskill who continued to operate it as a ranch until his death in 1913.
This is what the property looked like before Arthur Letts purchased it.
In 1919 Arthur Letts bought 3,300 acres of Wolfskills Ranch for $2,000,000 or $600 an acre (Wolfskill got a 11.5% return over 36 years). Artur Letts was the most interested in developing estate parcels in the northeastern hills of the ranch, which are known today as Holmby Hills.
Arthur Let his son in law Harold Janss (married to Lett’s daughter) develop the Southern Portion of the ranch.
Where as Holmby Hills was a neighborhood for the rich and wealthy, Westwood South of Santa Monica was designed to be a working class subdivision. The Janss brothers Edwin and Harold Janss sudivided Westwood in 1922.
edwin jannss 1927
They advertised the new homes.
And built models homes.
Upon Arthur Lett’s death, his son-in-law, Harold Janss, vice president of Janss Investment Company, inherited the land and developed the area and started advertising for new homes in 1922. The first home that was built was at 1901 Kelton Avenue on the corner of La Grange Avenue.
Sadly Arthur didn’t get a chance to watch Westwood grow to what it has become today because he died in 1923 at the age of 61.
In a market Gimmick similar to the Hollywoodland sign, Janss company built a tower that light up at night advertising their new development.
As you can see from this Aerial shot Westwood in 1929 was growing fast, but was no where close to being built out. Build out occurred sometime in early 1950s so it took nearly 30 years. In the photo below there are many empty lots. UCLA was founded in 1927 and Westwood Village hasn’t even been started yet in this picture.
In 1924 the University of California Board of regents was looking for a new campus for expansion. They met with an exhaustive list of 17 potential sites, including the Janss. In 1925 they decided to build UCLA in Westwood. The university had originally requested 200 acres, but ended up buying 383 acres. The Janns brothers sold UCLA 300 acres at $2,000 an acre and 75 acres at $7,500 an acre for a total of $ Alphonso bell also donted 8 acres of bel air to complete the parcel.
UCLA in 1930. There were four or five building that made up the campus at this time including: Royce Hall, College Library, and the chemistry and biology buildings.
The Janss brothers recongized a need to service the needs of UCLA and the growing Westwood community with a shopping and retail center. In 1929 construction began on Westwood Village. The Janss hired the same architect who designed UCLA, Allison & Allison, to build Westwood Village so that the designs would match. Westwood Village’s architecture is primarily Mediterranean and Art Deco themes.
Some of the first builidings in Westwood Village were Janss Dome, the El Encanto building, the clock tower, fox theater.
The El Paseo building opened in 1932. It was named for and patterned after, the el paseo builing in santa Barbara and was located on the corner of Broxton and weyburn ave opposite the fox westwood theater
An aerial shot of Westwood Village in 1936 shows how much it had grown.