The Hundred-Year History of Whiting Woods – Part 2
Last week I covered the first portion of the hundred-year history of Whiting Woods. This was the period when Perry Whiting, a successful L.A. building supply seller, cobbled together piece-by-piece the land that we know today as Whiting Woods. I also talked about his third marriage in 1926, and the construction of a huge mansion on the west side of the canyon.
However, Perry Whiting seems to disappear about 1930, and starting in 1933 we pick up newspaper articles about the “Whiting Ranch” being rented out for commercial purposes. From 1933 to 1942 it was the site of many college events. USC, UCLA and Occidental College sororities and fraternities were regularly holding “barn dances” at Whiting Ranch with upward of 600 attendees. Ethnic and immigrant groups rented out the park as well, as they did Hindenburg Park and the Slovakian Hall (on Orange Avenue between La Crescenta and Rosemont avenues). One notable event in 1936 at Whiting Ranch (notable due to the current Syrian refugee controversy) was a huge gathering of Syrian-Americans. The two-day event, featuring opening ceremonies by the United States Flag Association, attracted Syrian-Americans from all over the western U.S. The mahrajan (festival) had Arabic food, songs and dances, with accompaniment by fez-wearing musicians.
Whiting’s 5,000-square-foot mansion had been turned into a sanitarium, El Rancho Verdugo. A 1930s advertisement read: “The ideal place for convalescents, elderly and chronic cases – Registered graduate nurses and dietitian, 24-hour service – Sunny rooms with bath, also sun baths, unit furnace heat – $20 a week and up – Alpine scenery, private park, 1800 foot elevation, 15 miles from Los Angeles – 3150 Honolulu Ave., Phone Crescenta 557.”
But starting in 1948, advertisements appeared for home sites in Whiting Woods and deluxe custom homes began to go up. During that period there was an unprecedented series of piecemeal annexations of Unincorporated Crescenta Valley areas by the City of Glendale, driven largely by the promise of water, sewers and other services unavailable in County areas. Whiting Woods was one of the first to go to Glendale, around 1950.
Whiting Woods continued to build out through the 1950s with careful placement among the oaks of some truly spectacular architecture in the styles of Post-and-Beam Modern and Ranch. Three famous architects are represented in Whiting Woods. A classic Richard Neutra modern design, the Taylor House, sits at 3816 Lockerbie Court, while the equally beautiful Daily House, designed by Clair Earl and listed on the Glendale Historic Register, graces 3637 El Lado Drive. A personal favorite is the Schaffer House at 527 Whiting Woods Road. This is one of architect John Lautner’s early works, built in 1949. It has a richness and warmth missing in many Modern styles due to its generous use of redwood and red brick, and the fact that it sits intimately close to several oak trees. The Schaffer House has Hollywood connections as well. It was owned for several years by actor Michael Keaton, and it was the shooting location for feature films “A Single Man” and “Happy Endings.”
One of the last Perry Whiting remnants to go was his mansion. In 1963 it was for sale along with four acres. It’s assumed that it was torn down and subdivided not too long after. The big house sat on the upper side of what is today Whiting Manor Lane, just above the first curve as you head up from Whiting Woods Road. Mounted on a retaining wall facing the street is a large plaster coat coat-of-arms with “Whiting” etched in it. Is this a remnant of the old Whiting mansion?
And what happened to Perry Whiting? It seems he had some serious mental problems, and spent the last 15 years of his life in Camarillo State Mental Hospital. The last two mentions of Perry Whiting are news articles about his last wife and an invalid daughter contesting his will just after his death in ’53, and in ’61 a large chunk of his estate going to Camarillo Hospital to build recreational facilities.
So happy birthday, Whiting Woods! You’re a great neighborhood with an interesting history.