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THE HISTORY OF SOUTH CARTHAY PDF Print E-mail
SOUTH CARTHAY’S ORIGINS

Before there was a South Carthay, there was the Rancho San Antonio O Rodeo de Las Aguas, of which South Carthay was merely a portion.  Land grants were normally made only to men, soldiers otherwise unremunerated for their services, by the King of Spain.  But Rancho de Las Aguas was different.  It was granted during the Mexican reign to a woman, Dona Maria Rita Valdez de Villa.  Widowed, with three children, she was listed on the deed along with her cousin, Luciano Valdez.  Luciano determined to have the grant revoked in his favor, bragging that since “he was a man she was a mere woman he would always win.”  Hearing of his boast the “Ilustrissimo Ayuntamierto: “ (Los Angeles City government) came down in her favor and ordered him off the rancho.  The U. S. Land commission and the courts confirmed the grant to Maria on June 27, 1871.

By 1881 Los Angeles had grown to its boundaries and the ranchos were being sold off and broken up.  We became part of a smaller Rancho, possibly the Whitworth Rancho.  There were many other Ranchos in this area, including the La Brea Rancho, Hauser Rancho, and Palms Rancho to name but a few

By an 1895 court order, the Department of Water and Power could only sell water and power within the city of Los Angeles.  Agricultural and oil designated land required less utilities than developing residential areas so it was developers who bought the land and had it annexed to the city.  In 1904 the need for water became apparent.  The ranchos were broken down further into tracts. Our area was part of the La Brea Annexation.  Over the next 40 years tracts were annexed to the city of Los Angeles in return for a guaranteed supply of water.  By 1923 there were over 400 of these tracts.  Builders descended, designing houses and using the Red, Yellow, and Green railway lines to lure people to these new neighborhoods

DEVELOPMENT BEGINS

The area known as Carthay was developed by J Harvey McCarthy from whom it takes its name.  He was quite a prolific developer and Carthay was his most successful tract.  In 1922, 136 acres were purchased by McCarthy who dubbed it “Carthay Center.”  His intention was to subdivide it into builders’ lots and to “install high-class improvements, including wide paved streets, parkways, and an ornamental street lighting system.” 

McCarthy also planned to build “a shopping center of 18 stores, with parking space nearby, and overlooking ornamental lagoons.  In the vicinity of the business center a motion picture theatre was to be erected, as well as a community chapel.  Five acres of land were set aside for a school which would be known as the James Frank Burns School, later called the Carthay Center School.  He also intended a 100-room hotel, to be called the Ciquatan, which never was built, and that all the buildings would employ the Spanish Mission style of architecture.  

“CHAPEL TO BE CENTER FOR TRACT” headlined an article in the Los Angeles Times.  It stated that Carthay Center’s main founder and developer, J. H. McCarthy, planned to erect an inter-denominational church to honor his mother Amanda.  The cost would be $20,000 and it would seat more than 200 people.  W. H.  Bishop, the architect, envisioned a building that would be an “adaptation of the mission style in reinforced concrete and brick.”  It would have hardwood floors, an old fashioned atmosphere, and a belfry rising to a considerable height in which will be hung a bell which formerly called worshippers to services in the early days of the state.”  Amanda McCarthy was one of the state’s original pioneers.  J. H. was proud of her and the rest of the 49’ers so he named streets such as Commodore Sloat and Shoemaker after them

The fabulous Carthay Circle Theater, with a sculpture in front by Henry Lion of a miner panning for gold was built.  Opening in 1926, the Carthay Circle Theater was known for splashy West Coast premieres like “Gone With The Wind”.  Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was premiered there in December of 1937 and “Fantasia”, which ran for 45 weeks, had its Los Angeles opening there

A full page ad in the Los Angeles Times announced: “Carthay Center a distinctive home community center in the choicest part of Wilshire’s newer residential area—being scientifically developed by nationally known landscape architects—for persons of moderate means seeking an ideal home environment safeguarded by carefully drawn restrictions—offering convenience, permanence, high investment value, and natural beauty.”  Middle class folks arrived on the San Vicente car line to find new Spanish Revival homes priced around $8000

SOUTH CARTHAY IS BUILT

South Carthay got its name purely by geography, it was south of Carthay Center, and it remained mostly undeveloped land until 1933.  Up to that time it probably was on a long term lease to Ralph’s Markets, this is suggested by one of the tract maps that subdivided the area. 

South Carthay is notable because the majority of its buildings are designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style.  Spyros George Ponty, who built homes in Westwood, Norwalk, Beverly Hills, South Los Angeles, and the San Fernando Valley from 1929 until 1963, built approximately one half of the homes in South Carthay.  This builder/developer selected the Spanish Colonial Revival style because it was familiar to him and because it was one of the popular styles of the period.  Ponty insisted upon quality construction, skilled craftsmanship, and individuality in each of the houses that he constructed.

In a January, 1982 interview with the Los Angeles Times Ponty said, “We never built the same house.  There is always room for development and improvement, I could see development and improvement, because I listened to the people.  For instance, you would come in with your husband or wife and look around.  I didn’t say, that was the living room.  You knew that was the living room or the kitchen.  But you criticized the wall space, or the window space.  Maybe the window was in the wrong place.  So I listened, and that’s how I learned.”

Ponty created the homes with architect Alan Ruoff, taking cues from the needs of his clients and from his own experience.  “I used to make my own sketches.  I used cutouts for the furniture, so I could figure the wall space.  If I built a home for somebody, I made it fit the furniture.  Then I would take the sketch to Ruoff, and he would do the exteriors.  And Rouff used to get so upset.  He’d say, “An architect is supposed to design a house from the inside out.”  But I’d say Alan, you’ve never been in a kitchen.  You don’t know what a kitchen should be like.  I know.”

Other local contractors contributed residences to the South Carthay area.  Monroe Horowitz is listed as the contractor for 20 of the residences.  H. H. Trott is listed as the contractor for 15 of them.  Other local contractors each contributing from approximately six to twelve residences include Max Weiss, Paul Harter, Oscar Kalish, W. H. Mandler, J. C. Renton, the Ley Brothers, M. Burgbacher & Sons, R. R. Pollock, and T. C. Bowles.  The single family residences were constructed primarily between 1932 and 1936.  The cost of a typical one story, one family, seven room residence was approximately $4,800

 
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