Always curious about the origin of our beloved Larchmont Blvd.’s name, I recently found something that seemed to support the general consensus that it was named after Larchmont, New York, an affluent village located within the town of Mamaroneck, in Westchester County not far from Midtown Manhattan…and why some refer to the block between Beverly and First Street as “the village.” On a pre-pandemic visit, I could see the resemblance.
In my research for “Larchmont” (published in 2015 by Arcadia Press and always available at Chevalier’s Books, our beloved independent bookstore) I found the original name of the street was Glenwood, according to the city archives. In 1912, the name was changed to Larchmont…but I never found anything definitive to explain why this particular town was our namesake until a loyal reader shared a real estate listing on Variety.com that referenced the connection to D.W. Griffith. And while the timing doesn’t work out exactly right, Griffith’s influence still seems plausible.
After achieving fame and financial success for his groundbreaking though controversial film “Birth of A Nation” in 1915, Griffith, purchased the 28-acre Henry Flagler estate on Orienta Point near Larchmont, NY for a reported $375,000. His plan was to build his own film studio away from Los Angeles studios, giving him greater control and the grander lifestyle worthy of his stature, according to one local Larchmont, NY writer. In his biography of Griffith, “D.W. Griffith: An American Life,” Richard Schickel wrote that “when Lillian Gish was asked why Griffith chose so expensive a site for his studio, she replied, “He loved beauty.” Schickel described the property as “…beautiful, perhaps the most imposing combination of grounds and structure anyone has ever employed for the manufacture of motion pictures.”
Griffith was a highly influential figure. In 1919, he partnered with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin to form their own production company, United Artists Corporation (UA), to solidify their power and assert control over their work in the face of increasingly powerful Hollywood studios. Around the same time, Griffith also worked for the Famous Players Corporation, the forerunner of Paramount Studios, which was located just down the street from the newly developed neighborhoods of Hancock Park and Windsor Square. City records show improvements were made to the street including sewers and street curbs around the same time. In 1921, Julius La Bonte and Charles Ramson would acquire seven lots on Larchmont Blvd. to create a business district of 30 stores between First Street and Beverly Boulevard.
So it’s possible Griffith’s picturesque Larchmont was the inspiration for our street. The world of movies and real estate development have always been intertwined in Los Angeles. Studio designers and craftsmen often worked on local homes and gardens and local architects and designers often worked on movie sets. Los Angeles street names were routinely made up by developers to help sell real estate. And they enticed buyers with names evoking prestigious locales promising a better, sunnier version of life, not unlike Hollywood movies at the time.
About Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.
- Web |
- More Posts
One thought on “Does Larchmont Owe Its Name to D.W. Griffith?”
Patty, this is so exciting! I grew up in Mamaroneck and went to 4th of July fireworks at Orienta Point every year. It is indeed a beautiful spot.