Citrus Square: paradise planned next to Hancock Park

| March 2, 2023 | 0 Comments

George Allan Hancock was truly one of the great aristocrats of his day. Scion of the Gilded Age, he was the son of Major Henry Hancock (the owner of the Rancho La Brea) and Ida Haraszthy Hancock, the daughter of Hungarian count Agoston Haraszthy, aka “the Father of California Viticulture.”

George Allan Hancock abandoned the life of a rancher in 1900 with the discovery of the Salt Lake Oil Field on his property, much of it leased to be worked by the Gilmore family and later by Hancock himself with the founding of his own oil concern, making the Hancocks very rich. George Allan “Captain” Hancock then pursued a life of cultural philanthropy and oceanographic study, even building three yachts for research and exploration, as well as donating 23 acres for a county park and the protection of the fossil-rich tar pits.

SYCAMORE-CITRUS NORTH MULTI-FAMILY RESIDENTIAL DISTRICT has been identified by the City Planning Department as eligible for designation and is the area highlighted in orange, just west of Hancock Park and its existing HPOZ. Map data © 2022 Imagery © 2022, CNES / Airbus,
Maxar Technologies, U.S. Geological Survey, USDA/FPAC/GEO

With the rapid decline of oil revenues and the skyrocketing of land prices due to a rapidly expanding Los Angeles, Hancock shifted his attentions to the development of his rancho’s real estate. His ambition was to see a Greater Hancock Park residential neighborhood along Wilshire Boulevard bounded by Fairfax Avenue to the west, Rossmore Avenue to the east and Santa Monica Boulevard to the north. He began with the establishment of the original Hancock Park subdivision along Rossmore Avenue in 1920. He slowly developed west of the Wilshire Country Club. It was not until 1924 that Tract 8320, the main body of Hancock Park, bounded by the Wilshire Country Club on the east and Highland Avenue on the west, would be laid out.

At the same time, however, Hancock began laying out additional streets to the west between Highland and La Brea avenues, bounded by Wilshire Boulevard on the south and Rosewood Avenue on the north. This area, Tract 8498, which we know today as Citrus Square and a portion of Melrose Neighborhood, has been identified by SurveyLA as the Sycamore – Citrus North Multi-Family Residential Historic District. As with Ridgewood Place [see the January 2023 Larchmont Chronicle], a clear hierarchy of streets, lot sizes and density can be observed.

In Hancock Park, there are large lots and estates to the east decreasing in size as the neighborhood moves west across Highland Avenue. On Highland, homes and lots are generous, getting smaller on Citrus Avenue to the west with a mix of one- and two-story single-family houses. Density increases further on Mansfield (originally Milton) Avenue, and Orange Drive — with the appearance of large luxurious duplexes — and culminates along Sycamore Avenue with blocks of apartment buildings of various sizes. Hancock clearly designed this street’s density to take advantage of its close proximity to the business district on adjoining La Brea Avenue. The neighborhoods across La Brea to the west were also laid out in 1924, mirroring, to a lesser extent, the patterns established to the east.

Who’s who
While ostensibly designed for different lifestyles, the Citrus Square district was no poor relation to its cousin Hancock Park. Its houses and buildings were designed by a who’s who of residential architects, and the construction of its residences shows significant detail and quality comprising a mix of Spanish Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival styles, with a few in the Mediterranean Revival style. Citrus Square also shared the same cast stone streetlamps, concrete streets and tree canopy as Hancock Park to the east.

361 N. CITRUS AVE. was a beautiful Tudor Revival home ( that had been lovingly maintained since 1927. It was sold to developer Reuven Gradon and his wife, Shevy, on Sept. 18, 2019, after they praised its “incredibly rich character” and promised to preserve it.

Over time, the Citrus Square neighborhood would develop its own personality while still retaining its real estate cachet of being “part” of Hancock Park. As fate, or shall we say kismet, would have it, the distinctive characteristics of the district have made it attractive to the large and dynamic ultra-Orthodox Jewish community established around La Brea Avenue. The substantial duplexes and houses of Citrus Square are perfect for the large and growing families of the community but, more importantly, they are within walking distances of the area’s synagogues and Jewish schools.

Today, Citrus Square continues to retain its historic character without official historic protections like those of its neighbors in Hancock Park, Windsor Square, Windsor Village,

REUVEN GRADON applied for a demolition permit the day he closed the purchase of the historic house, and he did not post required notice of the proposed demolition. Then, 30 days after closing, he demolished the house on Oct. 18, 2019. This photo was taken Oct. 23, 2019.

Wilshire Park, Miracle Mile and Miracle Mile North — each of which is designated as an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ). There have been relatively few Citrus Square demolitions in recent years, with the most notable being the well-publicized demolition of the beautiful home at 361 North Citrus Ave. by Reuven Gradon in 2019. SurveyLA was able to identify 408 contributors to the potential Citrus Square historic district. But this is still an uneasy peace. La Brea-Hancock to the south of Citrus Square has seen significant demolitions and loss of cohesion as a potential historic district.

THE BIG NEW HOUSE of Reuven and Shevy Gradon at 361 N. Citrus Ave. The massive structure definitely is not a contributor to the neighborhood that SurveyLA calls the Sycamore – Citrus North Multi-Family Residential Historic District. This photo was taken on Feb. 21, 2023.

To prevent this in Citrus Square and avoid the contentious issues that intersect around land use and preservation in the neighborhood, the creation of a National Register district would be ideal, allowing for review prior to demolition — but, unfortunately, lacking the layered protection of an HPOZ. While admittedly a heavy lift, a potential Sycamore – Citrus North Multi-Family Residential Historic District would finally help protect, preserve and honor Captain Hancock’s entire planned paradise of Hancock Park.

In November 2022, “On Preservation” columnist Brian Curran began a series of periodic reports on the possible creation of additional historic districts in the Greater Wilshire area — (“Room to Grow?: Preserving not-yet-designated historic districts”).

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Category: Real Estate

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