Jane Gilman is a neighborhood icon and the publisher of the Larchmont Chronicle for 53 years until her retirement in 2016. This past August, she published her first book, Inside Hancock Park.
How long have you been working on this book?
When I retired as editor/publisher of the Larchmont Chronicle in 2016, I decided to collect the information I had on Hancock Park to put into a book. I had been writing about Hancock Park for five decades and wanted to share the information on this special community. I also was fortunate to have the cooperation of Jane Brennan, G. Allan Hancock’s great granddaughter. She provided me with quite a bit of information and photographs.
Previous books on the history of Hancock Park focus primarily on key names and dates. Your book has a greater emphasis on the neighborhood’s development, social events and personalities – one in particular is G. Allan Hancock, son of Henry Hancock and nephew of John Hancock (both are usually credited as the fathers of the neighborhood because they first acquired the land). What were G. Allan Hancock’s great contributions that helped to shape the neighborhood as we know it today?
G. (for George, though he never used his first name) Allan Hancock decided that the neighborhood he was developing should be the pride of the city. His stipulations included having 50 feet of frontage, houses must be at least two stories, utility lines should be in the back of the house. He insisted that buyers of the lots hire licensed architects, and parkways should be lined with elm and sycamore trees.
Can you share with us your most interesting discovery about the neighborhood's history?
I think Hancock’s vision is one of the most interesting discoveries. He grew up poor, on property that provided very little income. His father died when he was 8, his brother died at age 16. But the oil wells that eventually were on the land catapulted the Hancocks into incredible wealth. He not only developed the land, gave some of it to USC and Los Angeles County, but also helped with the founding of the Wilshire Country Club and Los Angeles Tennis Club.
Why do you think it is important to know the history of one's neighborhood?
I think it reinforces a homeowner’s wise decision to buy property here. Also, you will learn the value of a dedicated homeowners’ association whose members volunteer to preserve and retain the integrity of the community.
Now that the book is written, what's your next project?
Right now, it’s to improve my golf game.
What is your favorite part about the neighborhood?
My favorite street is Rimpau Boulevard (perhaps, because of good memories).
Inside Hancock Park also covers the development, architecture and landscaping of homes in the neighborhood, famous residents through the years, the freeway that was once proposed to cut through Hancock Park, and the creation of the local Historic Preservation Overlay Zone. It is available at Chevalier’s Bookstore at 126 N Larchmont Blvd, 323-465-1334
Jane Gilman will have a book presentation and signing at the Windsor Square-Hancock Park Historical Society on Wednesday, December 16 at 7 – 8 pm.