Monday, October 31, 2011

W. D. Longyear -- 3555 Wilshire Boulevard

The career of Willis Douglas Longyear (1863-1941) shows what is possible if you start at the right place and work your way up in a good company. W.D. was born in Jackson County, Michigan, and after working at the Kalamazoo National Bank for five years, arrived in Los Angeles in 1889 to seek his fortune. He signed up with Security Savings Bank and was their bookkeeper and teller, moving up to Cashier and Secretary in January, 1895, a position he held for more than 20 years. Married to Ida Mackay of Nevada in 1893, they had a son Douglas (1893-1947) and a daughter Gwendolyn (1892-1982), both of whom lived in the L.A. area their entire lives.

The bank was growing rapidly, and with it W.D.'s fortunes. In 1906 the bank bought the Southern California Savings Bank (which included J.H. Braly, J.M. Elliott, and W.C. Patterson as owners and directors). In 1908 a large advertisement for one of W.D.'s side investments was published in the Los Angeles Herald--The Tourist Auto Vehicle Company--Made in Los Angeles:
November 15, 1908 ad in Los Angeles Herald
This was the same brand that was part of a deadly accident involving Mrs. Sherman Pease a few years earlier.

W.D. was also investing in real estate in the Wilshire corridor, and in 1907 he chose to build his new home on a lot there. As it looked in 1907:
3555 Wilshire Blvd. (at the corner with Ardmore)
In 1918 he became President of the California Bankers Association and gave an address at their 25th convention, held on Santa Catalina Island. And in 1922 the family (now including Douglas's wife Mary) took a tour of Hawaii. The next year he was promoted to Vice President at Security Trust & Savings.

By 1925 the family moved to a new home in Beverly Hills. Located at 721 North Beverly Drive, it became a part of Beverly Hills' social scene. One major celebration occurred on Armistice Day in 1925. A statue "Hunter and Hounds" purchased by Mr. Longyear while vacationing in France in 1924 was unveiled on the front lawn. The statue honored WWI veterans at the Second Battle of the Marne. For years afterward, city visitors came to see the statue--tour buses made it one of their stops. The statue was later donated to the city and relocated to Beverly Garden Park along Santa Monica Blvd.

W.D. in 1910
In 1929 the bank merged with Los Angeles First National Trust and Savings bank to form Security First National Bank, with W.D. continuing as Vice President. Security First became a very prominent Southern California bank through the 1950's and 60's.


Longyear was also an early backer of Douglas Aircraft, taking a significant stake in the company in 1927. At the time the main aircraft plant was just a few miles away in Santa Monica.

When Longyear sold the Wilshire Blvd. house, it was then occupied by Milnor Inc., a company known primarily for its Chinese rugs. Interestingly in 1936, a Los Angeles directory lists W.D. Longyear as a vice-president of Milnor, Inc.

Son Douglas went on to be an automobile dealer--he held the Packard franchise in Beverly Hills. W.D. and Ida passed away with a week of each other in March, 1941.

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