1615 North Laurel Avenue in West Hollywood: An Eagle Eye View of an Evolving Strip

1615 North Laurel Avenue, street view.Hollywood seems to occupy the lion’s share of LA’s cultural caché, but there’s so much going on West of Hollywood too—like, specifically in West Hollywood, for example. The city is in somewhat of a flux right now, but gorgeous architecture like these Spanish Colonial condos at 1615 N. Laurel Avenue are a constant reminder of the city’s history of grandeur.

 It started out good/

Then it got lots better/

Makin’ up the rules as we went along/

But with a business like this/

There’s a gnarly downside/

I’m way deep into nothing special/

Riding the crest of a wave breaking just west of Hollywood

-Steely Dan, West of Hollywood

Well regarded as an entertainment hub with its plethora of nightclubs, restaurants, and bars that cater largely to the gay community in LA, West Hollywood has had a long history of coloring outside the lines.

Elevated view of the Rancho La Brea tar pits.

The tar pits at Rancho La Brea, photo courtesy of La Brea Tar Pits foundation

WeHo was once a part of the area known as Rancho La Brea, owned by Portuguese sailor baron Antonio Jose Rocha before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo essentially forced him to cough up a huge amount in legal fees just to hold onto the land. In the end, Rocha’s son ended up giving the deed to the Rancho to their lawyer, Henry Hancock.

Hancock later sold sections of the Rancho to a man named Moses Sherman (you got it—the man for whom Sherman Oaks after), a Phoenix real estate developer who wanted to build a railway through the town.

Pacific Electric Railway Administration building, street view.

The town of Sherman, now known as West Hollywood, circa 1900. This was the administration building of the Pacific Electric Railway. Photo courtesy of Metro Transit Library archive

"To Swell Huntington Fund" article in Los Angeles Herald.

Los Angeles Herald, April 28, 1906

Sherman was pals with the famed rail magnate and creator of the Pacific Electric Railroad Henry Huntington. Along with a host of other LA developers and businessmen, they both belonged to the Bolsa Chica Gun Club.

Crescent Heights real estate advertisement in the Los Angeles Herald.

One of the first ads for West Hollywood real estate in the Crescent Heights area, Los Angeles Herald, August 1905

Because West Hollywood was unincorporated, it also wasn’t beholden to many of those pesky laws and restrictions that plagued the surrounding cities. Oh, and there was no police force. So, what better way to truly appreciate a city without a police force than by building a myriad of nightclubs and hotels along a convenient dirt road that connects several major LA cities? And so the birth of The Strip began.

The 1920s saw the rise of some of the Strip’s most iconic hotels, nightclubs, and restaurants. The Sunset Tower hotel emerged in 1929, the Trocadero opened in 1934, then later the Melody Room, Sherry’s (now the Key Club) and more. The Strip was a veritable playground for Hollywood’s A-list—and its gangsters.

Villa Nova, street viewAt the time the building at 1615 Laurel Avenue was built, during the early 1950s, the Billy Wilder movie Sunset Boulevard had recently premiered, piquing not only LA’s, but the world’s interest in West Hollywood and its environs. And in the exact year that this property was built, 1953, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio had their very first date at the Villa Nova, located at 9015 Sunset Boulevard—now known as Rainbow Bar and Grill.

Ciro's Nightclub at 8453 Sunset Blvd, street view.

Ciro’s, circa 1956, photo courtesy of USC Digital Libraries

Ciro’s, a nightclub with clientele that included the Who’s Who of Hollywood like Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart, and Cary Grant, was a popular hangout not too far away from the condos at 1615 N. Laurel. It was located in the present-day Comedy Store space at 8453 Sunset Blvd.

1615 North Laurel Avenue swimming pool.If The Strip exuded the grandeur of Old Hollywood, so too did the architecture that began popping up adjacent to it, as is evident in the flora-bedecked apartments at 1615 N. Laurel, just due north of the Strip’s west end.

1615 North Laurel Avenue pool patioAnd what evokes Old Hollywood more than a spacious, sparkling pool that was built with the original construction in 1953? With poolside lounging like this, one can only imagine the parties throughout the years…1615 North Laurel Avenue Spanish-style entryway.

Gorgeous Spanish tile in the entry way, decorative wrought iron, and a butter yellow interior provide the perfect welcome into the apartment building. The property was built by Frieber Construction and designed by architect Louis Katzman in 1953. Residents have long enjoyed the Spanish design so well suited to Southern California’s perfect climate.

1615 North Laurel Avenue living roomThe luxury continues indoors, with natural light flooding the generously proportioned rooms.

1615 North Laurel Avenue living and dining rooms. 1615 North Laurel Avenue dining room.

The living area opens into a spacious dining room, while high ceilings and crown mouldings add elegance to the space.

1615 North Laurel Avenue kitchen and dining room. 1615 North Laurel Avenue kitchen.This is a true entertainer’s kitchen with retro hardware, but with updated appliances offering today’s necessary conveniences.

1615 North Laurel Avenue bedroom.

A spacious bedroom with plenty of closet space and gorgeous hardwood floors offer tons of possibility. 1615 North Laurel Avenue bathroom.Classic tile with a pop of color in this spacious bathroom. An art deco chrome register charms the eye and warms the towels for an early morning bath.

1615 North Laurel Avenue fountain by the pool.1615 N. Laurel is less than half a mile away from the controversial “Tara” home, nicknamed so because of its resemblance to the sprawling plantation-style home in Gone With the Wind. The last owner of the Colonial Revival home, Elsie Weisman, bequeathed the home to the city with the intention that it would be turned into apartments for low-income senior citizens.

1343 North Laurel Avenue, view from walkway.

“Tara” at 1343 N. Laurel, photo courtesy of offthefreeway.wordpress.com

But some of the city’s residents rallied against the proposed plan, which would remove the dozens of trees and shrubs from the property. The activist group Save Tara was instrumental in arguing for its preservation, and as of this writing, it has not been razed for apartments.

Though West Hollywood seems to always be in a time of flux—institutions such as the House of Blues and the first theater on the Strip, the Tiffany theater—came down this summer, we hope that the city’s denizens will continue to defend the historical spaces. A recent New York Times article discussed this evolution of the Strip, and something that WeHo’s city manager definitely characterizes the aura of the place well:

“We are a boutique city,” said Paul Arevalo, the city manager of West Hollywood, gesturing out the picture window of his City Hall office at the construction off in the distance. “You are not going to find the world’s largest Cheesecake Factory in West Hollywood.”

Here’s to hoping we never, ever find the world’s largest Cheesecake Factory on our beloved strip.

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