Bit by bit the business grew, but it was definitely under the town's business radar as articles about the Brents were few and far between. The business ultimately moved to 712 S. Main in 1905, where it remained until E.J.'s death in the early 1920's. Perhaps that business move was the driving force for E.J. to seek residence quarters apart from his business location. They had their ultimate mansion constructed in a very fashionable gated community in West Adams known as Berkeley Square. That new house hit the newspaper real estate section, and after that it was Society pages galore for Mary.
The house appears like a Craftsman on steroids. Sitting in the middle of the block, the design of the house created odd lines when viewed as a photograph. Here it is a year or so after building...
|#20 Berkeley Square ca. 1909|
|E.J. in 1910|
|The entry hall|
And if you thought E.J. and Mary needed the large house for their large family you'd be half right--if you call servants family. Their one child E.J. Jr. (b.1903) lived there with four in-house servants.
Life seemed good for the Brents. "Brent's Great Credit House", as the business was known in local directories, continued to prosper while the family took multiple vacations, including recorded trips to Panama in 1913, and Hawaii in 1922. One newspaper article in 1910 mentioned they "motored down to Coronado Beach last Tuesday for a week's vacation. Mr. Brent is enjoying the many beautiful auto drives in this vicinity and into the San Diego "back country" and across the line into Old Mexico."
|1909 L.A. Directory Ad (courtesy of LAPL.org)|
One doesn't know if the house had been sold or not...by 1928 Winfield Scott, a local photographer, was living there with his daughter Margaret, who was listed as "artist" in 1928, and "photographer" in 1930 records. Interestingly, Mr. Scott was renting the grand house for $75/month in 1930, the same amount Mary Brent was paying over on St. Andrews Place.
By 1932 Scott had left, and a Leonard Bowie arrived, staying through 1934--then no resident can be found until 1946, when Vida Woelz turns up, joined by her husband John in 1948.
By the early 1960's a threat to all the houses in Berkeley Square appeared. A new freeway starting at the Santa Ana Freeway (I-5) went west all the way to Santa Monica, exiting at the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica. And the eminent domainers targeted the northern half of the Berkeley Square subdivision for its trip through the West Adams area. By 1965 a new eight-lane freeway began to shoot drivers (except during rush hour) across Berkeley Square at 65+ MPH. And 20 Berkeley Square had become history.
More on Berkeley Square
A postcard showing Brent's Spring Street store
A New Bit of Information:
One of the challenges of following the life of a house without photos is determining what really happened to the house. Here's a theory for this one.
The house appeared to have stood empty through the late '30s and early '40s. And while I didn't write about in the above, others have mentioned that a #20A appears for this Berkeley Square address by the 1940's. Take a close look at the images below. The 1921 Sanborn map has been placed above an aerial of the neighborhood taken in 1948. Our #20 lot line has been superimposed on the aerial photo in the lower half. #20 in the aerial photo appears to be half gone--the entire eastern portion missing, the portico removed--and a new house at the rear of the lot appears with a sidewalk coming in from the street. Perhaps that's the answer. Even before I-10 sent this house to oblivion, perhaps someone else did, turning it into two houses.
Your mission--go find a photo that proves/disproves the theory!
|1921 vs. 1948 Berkeley Sq.|