(Editor’s note: On a recent October Tuesday, as guest speaker at the weekly Optimist Club breakfast meeting, former Palisadian-Post editor Bill Bruns recounted a slice of Pacific Palisades history by focusing on the year 1929. He also described 12 pivotal campaigns by activists that have protected and enhanced the quality of life in our town since 1972, the year he moved here with his wife, Pam. Below is the first of two articles based on his talk.)
Founded in 1922 by a group of visionary Methodists, Pacific Palisades enjoyed steady growth throughout the Roaring 20s, but was still a small, isolated community out on the edge of Los Angeles in 1929. The town consisted of only about 365 homes and about 1,000 residents, though residential construction was now expanding into the Huntington, Castellammare and Paseo Miramar neighborhoods.
“The business district centered around the Business Block building (between Antioch and Sunset),” Bruns said, “and though it has been eclipsed by Caruso’s Palisades Village, it still serves as the town’s historic landmark building—joined, since 1972, by the Village Green across the street. To me, this side of Sunset is still the spiritual heart of our community.”
In 1929, there were a number of important events and ongoing developments in Pacific Palisades:
1.In August, the German airship Graf Zeppelin was making its first round-the-world journey. It flew from Tokyo to San Francisco—the first nonstop flight of any kind across the Pacific—and then down the coast. At 4:30 a.m. on August 26, it passed over the Palisades twice at an altitude of just 500 feet. You can imagine how terrifying this might have been to residents—hearing the motors whirring and seeing the lights shining eerily from the windows of the gondola. “Martha, it’s a UFO!” (The Graf Zeppelin went on to land at Mines Field, today’s LAX.)
2.The new Roosevelt Highway (now PCH) was dedicated on June 29, 1929, with Governor James Rolph performing the ribbon-cutting ceremonies. This opened a route from Pacific Palisades through Malibu to Oxnard, providing what the governor deemed “50 miles of virgin seaside beauty…before the eyes of thousands of appreciative motorists.”
3. On August 18, the cornerstone was laid for the Methodist Episcopal Church on Via de la Paz, the community’s only church at that time. (Meanwhile, right across the street, plans and financing was underway for the town’s first permanent school building—Palisades Elementary—which was dedicated on June 12, 1931.)
4. The town finally acquired its own fire station in 1929 (on Sunset, next to where the Chase Bank building stands today), and police coverage expanded. A year earlier, the L.A. police department began renting temporary office space in the Business Block building for $10 a month, and in 1929, a motorcycle officer was assigned to make nightly visits.
According to The Palisadian (founded in 1928), it was a predictable event: “Riding a saddle-seat made out of horse hide [the officer] sputters through here over Beverly Boulevard about 11:30 each evening. Remember then the hour of Paul Revere’s ride! He comes and goes at 11:30. Schedule your misfortune, tragedy, hard luck, or whatever it may be,
5. In 1929, all areas of Pacific Palisades were being developed, reflecting Southern California’s booming growth and the town’s coastal allure. Golfers were enjoying the already acclaimed Riveria Country Club (opened in 1927); the Bel-Air Bay Club was under construction (with an informal opening in March 1930); and Sunset Boulevard–paved in 1925–was bringing an increased flow of traffic through the community and offering more comfortable accessibility to Westwood and Beverly Hills.
Alas, the stock market crashed in October 1929 and precipitated the Great Depression, which brought residential construction to a grinding halt in Pacific Palisades. Housing finally started to revive a decade later, and a record 268 homes were built here in 1941. But then came Pearl Harbor and wartime restrictions, which halted all building until early 1946, when the post-war boom years began.
(Later this week, Part 2 of the talk by Bill Bruns.)