Jane Gilman Discusses New Book About Hancock Park

Jane Gilman, publisher of the Larchmont Chronicle newspaper for 53 years, is a neighborhood institution.  So it’s no surprise that after she retired from the Chronicle in 2016, she would continue her connection to and focus on our local neighborhoods. The result, published in late August, is Jane’s first book, “Inside Hancock Park,” a new history of one of our most famous neighborhoods, now available at Chevalier’s Books and via Amazon.com.

Gilman said she has wanted to write the neighborhood’s story for a long time, and looked forward to finally doing it after she left the Chronicle.  “It was a great retirement hobby,” she told the Buzz in a recent interview.  In fact, “I thought every neighborhood the Chronicle covered deserved its own book”…but Hancock Park was a good place to start.

Of course many other histories of Hancock Park have been written over the years, but Gilman says her take is a bit different.  While previous works have noted key names and dates in the neighborhood’s past, they didn’t go into huge detail about the neighborhood’s development.  But Gilman focused on many different factors that influenced the neighborhood as it has grown and changed over the years, and – as you might expect from a former publisher steeped in decades of neighborhood events and personalities – her book is “more social” than many previous accounts.

Gilman said she used a number of sources for her research, including the archives of the Larchmont Chronicle (which provided many of the photos in the book), the Windsor Square Hancock Park Historical Society, the LA Times archives, and previously-written neighborhood histories.  And the longtime print publisher also says she was quite “astounded” at how much historical information is now available online.

Among the interesting information Gilman includes is a greater focus on G. Allan Hancock, son and nephew of Henry and John Hancock, respectively, who are usually credited as the fathers of the neighborhood because they first acquired the land before its development.  Gilman takes the position, however, that while Henry and John secured the land, it was Henry’s son, Allan, and his mother, Ida, who – after Henry and John’s deaths – really established the neighborhood as we know it today. (Allan Hancock was also a contemporary of other figures such as Julius La Bonte, who first developed the commercial district on Larchmont Blvd.)

Among other tidbits Gilman includes in the book is that for much of the 20th centurey, Hancock Park “was a very Republican neighborhood, very conservative.”  And she also tells the story of Jackson Barnet, an eccentric Native American who struck it rich in oil in Oklahoma, later moved to Hancock Park, and could often be found waving his arms to (unofficially) direct traffic at Wilshire and Rossmore in the 1930s.

In addition, the book covers the development of the homes in Hancock Park, architects, landscaping, how the local streets got their names, celebrity residents through the years, and newer events such as the creation of the local Historic Preservation Overlay Zone to help safeguard the neighborhood’s physical character.

And, yes, Gilman mentions the freeway that was once proposed to cut through the neighborhood.  In fact, as she notes, it was the main headline on the very first issue of the Larchmont Chronicle in September, 1963.  (The paper eventually played a big role in galvanizing community opposition to the project.)

Gilman says she has wanted to write this book for a long time.  “I felt like people took the name Hancock for granted – they didn’t even know there was a person behind it and who he was,” she says.  Also, about 25 years ago in Ojai, CA, she ran into Allan Hancock’s great granddaughter, Jane Brennan. Gilman said she suggested at that time that Brennan write a book about her family, but instead, many years later, Brennan  wound up sending Gilman a trove of information and family photos for her own book.

While Gilman says she greatly enjoyed the project, which nicely occupied her first few years of retirement, one of the most satisfying parts of the effort was “finishing it.”

And now she gets to share it with the neighborhood, too.  Gilman has already given a talk about the book to the Wilshire Rotary, and tomorrow, on Friday, November 13, Chevalier’s Books will post a pre-recorded book talk, featuring Gilman  in conversation with former city council member Tom La Bonge. She will also be speaking to the  Windsor Square Hancock Park Historical Society on Wednesday, Dec. 16,  at 7 p.m.

“Inside Hancock Park” author Jane Gilman (bottom) entertained Buzz co-publishers Patty Lombard and Liz Fuller with stories from her book in a recent interview.
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About Elizabeth Fuller

Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

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