3985 South Vermont Avenue


While the 130 acres south of downtown bought by Arvin Harrington Brown not long after his arrival in Los Angeles in 1878 was often described in terms of a vast country estate, most of the property was in fact soon divided by Brown himself into lots that were sold off at the handsome profits available in the boom years of the '80s. His West Park subdivisions, which lay to the west and southwest of Agricultural (now Exposition) Park between Vermont and Normandie avenues, helped to extend definitively the reaches of Los Angeles's own Manifest Destiny toward the Pacific, away from the old pueblo close to the river.

An depiction of 3985 South Vermont Avenue illustrated the weekly review of real estate in the
Los Angeles Sunday Times on March 5, 1905. The house, centered on 3.68 acres at the
northwest corner of Vermont and what is today Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard,
was retaining its country-villa air even as its surroundings were being
rapidly suburbanized thanks to extensive streetcar connections
and the popularity of the automobile. Even still,
the house survived 53 more years.

Brown reserved four acres of the West Park tract as his private domain; it was in 1886 that he replaced his first residence on the site with a Victorian extravaganza by architect John Hall, who designed the Crocker house atop Bunker Hill the same year. One wishes Harrington's pile, intriguing in the few views of it to be found, had been photographed more extensively and in better detail. At any rate, Brown, a native of Washington, D.C., was yet another of the hundreds of prominent early capitalists who had the drive to exploit successfully the seemingly limitless charm of Southern California. In addition to his real estate saavy, Brown, trained as a lawyer, also dealt in viticulture, oil, and the asphalt that would eventually cover the city—and the site of his own house. Domestically, he and his wife, née Mary Toland ("Minnie") Glassell, a cousin of the generals Patton, reared a large family in their architectural pastiche of a palace. There were two sons and three daughters; while the boys grew up to marry, the sisters had different fates. In 1906, Eleanor died after she was thrown from her carriage when the horse pulling it was startled by a streetcar; Adelaide, who was riding with her sister, recovered from her injuries. None of the girls married; Lucie remained in her father's house until her death in 1946; Adelaide stayed on alone until the demise of 3985 South Vermont Avenue in 1958. A demolition permit for it was issued by the Department of Building and Safety on March 31 of that year.

Princetonian Arvin Harrington Brown 
(class of '76) had the drive that was a
prerequisite for inclusion in the various "Who's Who" books of his era; the history
of his domestic monument once at 3985 South Vermont Avenue is recounted in
the article below taken from the Los Angeles Times of March 30, 1958.

Illustrations: Open LibraryGoogle BooksLAT