When Victoria Park was established a century ago, Pico Boulevard was 80 feet wide and paved, but it was at urban Los Angeles’ western reaches. The countryside still stretched west of there, and there was only a railroad track to the south, where Venice Boulevard now is.
Victoria Park was laid out atop West Adams Heights Hill with views of the city and the mountains, “from Old Baldy to the sea.” An ad from October 1907 boasted that the closeness of the train tracks and quick travel time to Downtown “will enable business men residing in Victoria Park to take luncheon at home.”
Its rounded shape (hence its nickname, “Victoria Circle”) can trace its inspiration to the work of Frederick Law Olmsted, the chief landscape architect for Central Park in New York City. Olmsted, called the founder of American landscape architecture, felt that circular shapes broke up the flat linear look of most urban areas. The Olmsted firm designed a number of West Adams and Los Angeles area enclaves.
The lots were large enough to accommodate “homes of the highest class,” according to the developers’ marketing materials. Each lot's address would be its lot number (i.e., Victoria Park No. 119), as was done in other exclusive enclaves like Chester Place, St. James Park, and Berkeley Square. The neighborhood’s park “drives,” rather than “streets,” were promoted as being “all 100 feet in width, with petrolith-paved roadways and seven-foot cement sidewalks.” Marketing materials continued: "The continuous stretches of lawn and shrubbery is most attractive. Victoria Park is beautifully lighted by stone and wrought iron electroliers, fifteen feet high, with five large electric globes on each.”The developers lined the winding streets with “hundreds of palms, acacias and Monterey pines,” along with tropical plantings.
Many of the original homes were built between 1910 and 1915 and were handsome and substantial indeed, with extensive use of high quality woods like mahogany and oak, paneled walls, beamed ceilings, conservatories and sun rooms, ornate leaded and stained glass, and imposing exterior facades, often three stories in height.
The West Adams area was the prime area for residential real estate at the turn of the century. The location of Victoria Park should have assured it of success, but that was not to be so, even though some very substantial mansions were erected at the beginning. Lot sales in Victoria Park, which had been subdivided before World War I, were far fewer than had been hoped. Shortly after the war, Victoria Park was rezoned and multi-family buildings appeared. A number of handsome duplexes were built in the 1920s and 1930s.
The neighborhood’s best known residence is the Holmes-Shannon House at 4311 Victoria Park Drive. Designed by architects Robert Farquhar Train and Edmund Williams in 1911, the Tudor-Craftsman style house was designated as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 2007 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. .
The property’s first residents were Nellie Holmes-Shannon, her husband Michael Francis Shannon, and their son Michael Francis Shannon.
Nellie Holmes-Shannon was a notable financier and real estate owner, and she was involved in numerous causes, according to the Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument nomination form and City Planning Staff Recommendation Report. Holmes-Shannon was also related to Oliver Wendell Holmes, the famed poet and scholar whose last name was the inspiration for that of the famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes.
Nellie’s husband came to the United States from Ireland in 1860 and took part in the Civil War. After fighting in the war here, he returned to Ireland to fight in a war there. In 1868 he moved to San Francisco, worked for the Central Pacific Railroad as the superintendent of construction and “was put in charge of the construction gang that brought the first railroad to Los Angeles,” according to the nomination..
Shannon later became Los Angeles’ first traffic officer. According to his obituary in the Los Angeles Times in 1931, he worked at the intersection of Spring and Temple Streets, and as a result, “the intersection was known among many as Shannon’s Point.”
The Shannons’ son, Michael Francis, was also a noted resident of Victoria Park. He lived in his parents’ house with his wife, Agnes G. Brown and their three children until he died in 1953. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Michael Francis Shannon was a successful lawyer in California. He also made history by becoming the first Grand Exalted Ruler of the Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks to come from Southern California, which at the time was a high honor. .
Along with the Holmes-Shannon House, many examples of fine early 20th century architecture stand in Victoria Park. Today it is a gated community bordered by Pico Boulevard to the north, Crenshaw Boulevard to the east, Venice Boulevard to the south and West Boulevard to the west, with a single entrance (not gated) off Pico Boulevard at Windsor Drive. The next time you find yourself traveling on Pico Boulevard, take time to visit this Historic West Adams neighborhood, another important part of Historic West Adams and Mid-City Los Angeles history.