Henry Gaylord Wilshire (1861-1927)
|Courtesy Security Pacific Collection / Los Angeles Public Library|
Wilshire Boulevard got its name from a flamboyant character named Henry Gaylord Wilshire. An Ohio transplant who went by his middle name, Wilshire was considered a "millionaire socialist."
Gaylord Wilshire had many pursuits in his lifetime. At one time or another, he was a land speculator, an advertising billboard owner, a socialist who ran for office and published his own magazine, and the promoter of an electric device he claimed could cure everything from baldness to cancer.
In 1887, Wilshire purchased a thirty-five-acre barley field to the west of Westlake (now MacArthur) Park for $52,000. Seven years later, he began to develop the land as an exclusive residential subdivision.
He built a wide street down the center of the subdivision and named it for himself. “Wilshire Boulevard” was born, at a whopping four blocks long between Westlake and Sunset (now Lafayette) Parks.
Wilshire donated the street to the city. He stipulated that no rail lines or heavy trucking would ever be allowed along his boulevard, lest the pleasant, residential character of the neighborhood be disturbed.
For more information about Gaylord Wilshire, see the fantastic book Wilshire Boulevard: Grand Concourse of Los Angeles and/or this blog post by James Colin Campbell.