Homespun and not far from Hollywood
Homes in Larchmont Heights were intended for those behind the scenes cameramen, grips, lighting and tech people. (Karen Tapia-Andersen / LAT)
Individual entrepreneurs began buying lots and building houses here in the 1920s. Originally called Larchmont Heights after a suburb of New York City, and conveniently close to the studios, the houses were intended for people behind the scenes — cameramen, grips, and lighting and tech people, according to Jane Gilman, editor of the area's must-read weekly, the Larchmont Chronicle.
Attorney Vince Cox had been longing for a place like his hometown of Manhasset, on New York's Long Island. Then he found pedestrian-friendly Larchmont Village, which surrounds a shopping district by the same name. He paid $186,000 in 1985 for a Tudor built in 1926.
Cox, his wife and twin daughters often walk to the fig tree-lined boulevard for dinner at one of the many restaurants. He gets his hair cut by Jerry Cottone at the Larchmont Barber Shop, one of the longest-running businesses on the busy street, dating back to the late 1920s. He also patronizes the local hardware store.
"It's like Mayberry in the middle of Hollywood," Josh Brooks said. The marketing director for a Westside dot-com, his wife, Elaine, and son Asher live in a California bungalow that was built in 1927. They paid $520,000 for the house five years ago. "I know my neighbors next door. I know my neighbors across the street."
Good news, bad news
You can't beat the convenient location. As resident Cox put it, the neighborhood "is perfect for a mixed marriage: One works downtown, the other works on the Westside."
According to Natalie Neith, a local real estate agent, "You can get to almost anything you need without having to tackle a large commute or get on the freeway." And you may not need to go anywhere anyway. The neighborhood is just a spit away from the Paramount Studios lot.
Adjacent to the upscale Hancock Park neighborhood, Larchmont Boulevard businesses depend heavily on foot traffic. Dawson's Bookshop celebrated its centennial last year. Chevalier's Books provides individual recommendations. There are also restaurants, specialty clothing boutiques, coffee shops, a juice store, a video store, bagel shops, spas, an ice cream store, a pet store, a major newsstand, a confectionary that specializes in Belgian chocolates and Landis, a general store that dates back to the 1920s. Every Sunday, the farmers market is packed.
"The only thing we're missing is a charming, [small] movie theater that plays independent movies," Brooks said.
But not everything is rosy.
"Traffic is like a toothpaste tube," Cox said. "They fix one area and it squirts out another."
Brooks was instrumental in getting speed bumps on his street, hoping to slow cars that were cutting through to Melrose Avenue or Beverly Boulevard.