What/Where constitutes Hancock Park Real Estate ?
As a real estate agent in Los Angeles, clearly defining neighborhoods can be a bit challenging. Sometimes perception and reality differ. “Hancock Park” is a rather general term for much of the large area bounded on the west by LaBrea Avenue, Western Avenue to the east, Olympic Boulevard to the south, and Melrose Avenue to the north. Some of this area is not actually the Hancock neighborhood at all (although the actual neighborhood does lie within those boundaries — but, I slightly digress). Hancock Park Real estate generally includes the adjacent neighborhoods of Larchmont Village and Windsor Square.
Lying just to the east of the city of West Hollywood, just to the south of Hollywood, and about 5 miles west of downtown, this area has always been prized for it’s convenience. Some say it is really LA’s most central neighborhood, which is a sprawling metropolis like ours, is really saying something.
Getting more geographically precise, Hancock Park “proper” might be considered as only including the Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ), bounded on the west by Highland Avenue, Rossmore Avenue to the east, and from Wilshire on the south to Melrose on the north. Right next door is the Windsor Square HPOZ, bounded by Rossmore ton the west, to Van Ness on the east, from Wilshire to Beverly. The one block of Larchmont Boulevard from 1st Street to Beverly is excluded from the Windsor Square HPOZ, yet entirely contained within it. Referred to as Larchmont Village — this charming retail and commercial strip lends it’s name to the unprotected area with the same east-west boundaries as Windsor Square and running from Beverly on the south to Melrose on the north. To the south of Wilshire Blvd. is the gated enclave of Freemont Place. The area west of Highland and east of La Brea is a bit more modest, with smaller homes, as well as small apartment houses, duplexes and fourplexes. Their architectural character, having mostly been built between 1910 and 1940, distinguishes all of these areas.
The entire Hancock Park real estate area is generally perceived as an affluent, which it mostly is. However there is a huge range of housing stock, and socio-economic levels. For a single family home, prices might range from $600,000 for a tiny Craftsman bungalow in need of major restoration on a 4,000 square foot lot to well over $10M for an important mansion on an acre. In addition, there are condominiums and rental apartments, some very luxurious, while others are more affordable. The area has numerous high quality public and private school options.
The Appeal of Hancock Park Real Estate
Larchmont Village between 1st and Beverly is lined with magnificent Ficus trees, (albeit causing havoc with the sidewalks), and is an old fashioned main street — surely one of the most charming “downtowns” in the entire city. In addition, some of the cities finest restaurants line Melrose Avenue between Highland and Rossmore. At the center of the Hancock Park HPOZ is the Wilshire Country Club, and right nearby is the Los Angeles Tennis Club. These large open areas give the neighborhood a very open feeling sometimes missing in LA. Rossmore Avenue, the dividing line between Hancock Park and Windsor Square-Larchmont Village is itself home to several famous apartment buildings and condominiums north of Beverly Boulevard., including the storied El Royale. The El Royale was an important gateway to Hollywood, as numerous entertainers lived there when they first arrived in Hollywood — my favorite being Lucille Ball. It is still a beautiful architectural landmark. There are numerous well-regarded public and private schools in the area as well.
The Hancock Park real estate area is special in a number of ways. One can’t help but notice the incredible trees that line the streets. Windsor Square has some of LA’s most magnificent palm trees, creating postcard views to the mountains in the north, with the Hollywood Sign omnipresent. The houses of Hancock Park sit atop small man-made hills (berms) and are lined with 90 year-old Sycamores. Both neighborhoods have sidewalks, parkways, and deep setbacks. Unlike many other affluent L.A. neighborhoods, most houses are visible from the street, not enclosed by tall hedges. This makes the area one of the best for admiring the great architecture of the early 20th Century.
Hancock Park Real Estate History
Most people do not differentiate between Hancock Park and Windsor Square, however their development was indeed separate. Windsor Square’s primary period of development was from around 1910 to 1929, whereas Hancock Park to the west is a bit later, mostly built from 1920 to 1939.
Hancock Park was developed by the Hancock family, financed with profits earned from oil drilling in the former Rancho La Brea. The area owes its name to developer-philanthropist George Allan Hancock, who subdivided the property in the 1920s. Hancock, born and raised in a home at what is now the La Brea tar pits, inherited 4,400 acres (18 km2), which his father, Major Henry Hancock had acquired from the Rancho La Brea property owned by the family of Jose Jorge Rocha. G.A. Hancock ensured the upscale character of the neighborhood with deed restrictions. These included: a minimum setback requirement of 50 feet from the street and 10 feet on each side; priced no less than $10,000 (most cost much more); (and sadly) the property not be lived in by anyone “whose blood is not entirely that of the Caucasian race.” In addition, it was difficult for Jews to buy houses in this area and the Wilshire Country Cub was notoriously restrictive. Jews made inroads pretty quickly though, but the first black resident is thought to be Nat King Cole himself, who bought a magnificent Tudor house for his family in 1948 at the corner of Muirfield and 4th Street. Of course, today, the area is quite diverse — religiously, racially, and ethnically — so long as you can afford the price of admission.
Sometime between 1900 and 1910 a prominent financier named George A.J. Howard envisioned a beautiful tranquil park as a setting for family homes such as one sees in the English countryside in what was then an undeveloped and rural area about halfway between the city center (now Downtown LA) and the coast. Howard pushed the early city fathers to make his vision come true, and in 1911, Mr. Robert A. Rowan was able to initiate a unique residential development and called it Windsor Square.
The development was constituted as a private square. Both the homes and the streets would be privately owned. At that time there were dense groves of bamboo in the area that needed to be destroyed before trees and gardens could be cultivated. Intervening walls or fences were discouraged so that one garden ran into another, creating a park-like setting. Windsor Square was the first area in the city to have the power lines below grade — an extraordinary innovation for 1911.
To make sure that the homes were significantly upscale as befitted the exceptionally beautiful setting, deed restrictions were set at a minimum cost of $12,550 per home — an enormous amount at the time. Many outstanding architects designed homes for the area, including Paul Williams and A. C. Martin.
As a result, many of the city’s elite moved west to Windsor Square, including Howard (his daughter still lives in his home on Windsor Blvd) and Norman Chandler, who took up lifelong residence with his wife Buffy on Lorraine Blvd. Oil magnate J. Paul Getty bought a property on Irving Blvd that is now Los Angeles’s official mayor’s residence.
The original “Square” ran from Wilshire Blvd. to Third Street, and from Plymouth Blvd. to Irving Blvd. The English flavor was enhanced by street names: Irving, Windsor and Plymouth. Lorraine Boulevard took its name from the developer’s daughter Lorraine Rowan. Nurseryman Paul J. Howard designed and planted most of the magnificent gardens of Windsor Square and supervised tree planting.
If you have any questions about Hancock Park real estate or would like a guided tour of the area, please don’t hesitate to contact me. My name is David Lubell, I live in the neighborhood and have built here, too. As you can probably tell, I’m enamored with it.