8 Berkeley Square


And then there are those Berkeley Square houses about which little is known of the appearance of the actual buildings. No architect to which #8 might be attributed has surfaced—the name of one does not even appear on the original building permit issued by the Department of Building and Safety on February 7, 1933—neither have any photographs or drawings or specific newspaper real estate notices from the period. We would venture to guess that the 80-by-250-foot Lot 25 had been retained by the Burkes next door at #6 from the opening of the subdivision until the time of construction of the 13-room #8. Even if more information about the house was available, no doubt it would serve to paint only the most genteel of pictures, one that would strive to be in accord with the presumed dignity of the proper haute bourgeois Los Angeles that kept its distance from movie folk and unseemly publicized will battles of, say, the Llewellyns and Milners of #7. The parties at #8 that society writers did manage to cover were few and far between, with the festivities sounding somewhat less than, shall we say, energetic. Tea was poured every so often to club ladies, but some Berkeley Square families seem to have adhered more closely than others to the rule of allowing one's name in the newspaper only three times. It was a Junior League world for some—fox furs with heads biting tails, and later circle pins, were about as chic as things got in certain Berkeley Square households, such as #8. But here is proof that it is the family living in a house that tells the story, regardless of the building itself. Tea parties, yes, but then there was the colorful wedding of the couple who lived here for 20 years.... More on that in due course.

The discreet and tasteful behavior of the inhabitants of 8 Berkeley Square even extends to what we do know about the house. It arrived on the Square fashionably late—very—and without fanfare in the depths of the Depression. In its quaint column "Here and There With the Society Tattler" by Peek N. Ease, the Times reported on July 3, 1932, that the John Page Crutchers had just bought and were soon to build on the empty lot between the Burkes and the Sterns. They were in their commodious five-bedroom, five-bathroom house by the end of the year. 

John Page Crutcher was a son of Old West Adams; his parents were Mr. and Mrs. Albert Hodges Crutcher, long of 1257 West Adams Street (later Boulevard), an unpretentious house to which they moved before 1909 and which still stands. Albert Crutcher was a Kentuckian who had come to Los Angeles in the 1880s, working in the city attorney's office before founding a law firm with William Dunn, which through early-20th-century mergers became the white shoe firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Still one of the top firms in the country, it presumably continues to churn out reams of the sort of legalese once engendered by the scandals and squabbles of certain Berkeley Square families we've seen. (Albert himself was a corporate lawyer, not usually trying divorces or contentious probates.) Crutcher, of course, belonged to all the usual ruling-class clubs—the California, the Jonathan, the L.A.C.C. His wife, Kate Page Crutcher, was no less of a major figure in Los Angeles social circles, if perhaps more beloved due to her tireless philanthropic efforts most particularly on behalf of Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. One early project for the hospital was a thrift shop—Crutcher importuned her fellow matrons for contributions with the slogan, "What's unbecoming to you, should be coming to us." She was president of the Children's Hospital Society for 40 years, organizing guilds of volunteers and, of course, raising money with a face and charm no one could refuse; she devoted herself similarly to the Community Chest. Kate Page Crutcher continued to work for the civic good of Los Angeles until her death at home—still 1257 West Adams Boulevard—on October 28, 1954. She was 85.

A rare instance of anyone even remotely connected to Hollywood crossing the
 same threshold as a Crutcher—a tea for Kate, 1951: Mrs. Sylvain Noack,
Mrs. Milburn Drysdale (a.k.a. Mrs.Sydney Sanner), and the honoree
 enduring a greeting by Mrs. James Langford Stack (ma of Robert).

The Albert Crutchers were married in 1895 and had, in addition to their son, a daughter. Roberta Crutcher was a remarkable, determined woman in her own right, graduating from Vassar and Columbia and becoming what must have been at the time Los Angeles's only female child psychiatrist—not the usual path taken by young West Adams ladies.

1924: Between Vassar and Columbia

John Page Crutcher followed his father into the family firm after graduating from Berkeley and Harvard Law; he married proper Angeleno Margaret Fulton on February 16, 1927, at St. John's Episcopal at Adams and Figueroa—proper, proper, proper. Although...we must say we were surprised by the description of Marge's bridesmaids' attire. It seems that the Crutchers had what is called a rainbow wedding, today not generally the choice of modern upper-middle-class brides. The Los Angeles Times of February 17 provides details of the unusual nuptials, complete with photograph. (See topmost illustration above: Technicolor added by ourselves per precise description of each bridesmaid by longstanding Times society writer Juana Neal Levy, below. Artistic license invoked in regard to the silver slippers.)

Following the wedding, the young Crutchers lived first at Hermosa Beach, which before freeways would have been quite a long commute for John to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's downtown offices—perhaps he was practicing on his own at first. By 1929 the couple was back in Los Angeles at 2404 6th Avenue, seven blocks west of the Square and in a neighborhood of what might be called starter houses popular among young marrieds of traditional bent, making the short move to the much grander #8 in 1933. They had two sons, James Page Crutcher and John Fulton Crutcher. Marge Crutcher gave her occasional teas, and once even a rather lively dinner party at #8 (the guests didn't leave until 11 o'clock); along with her mother-in-law she helped out at the annual Doll Fair—benefiting  Children's Hospital—at the Phillipses' down the street (later held at Marlborough School). And so life seems to have gone at #8 until sometime around 1956. James, by now a Princeton graduate, married a Seattle Junior Leaguer that year and moved north. His parents were still listed in Berkeley Square in the 1956 city directory with their housekeeper, Leola Baxter, but, of course, change was in the air. The Times classifieds for June 30, 1957, listed #8 for sale, "Price Reduced." The Crutchers and Leola moved to 400 North June in Hancock Park the next year. It was here that John Page Crutcher died on September 26, 1960, age 59. His West Adams roots were not forgotten--the funeral was held at St. John's. Son John married a Visalia girl in 1962, later living in The Netherlands with his second wife. Marge Crutcher and Leola were at 400 North June into the '70s. On December 9, 1985, leaving her two sons and five grandchildren, Marge was called to her reward by way of St. John's—and so the steady but definitely remarkable Crutchers remained, at least through their church affiliation, loyal West Adamsites for nearly 80 years.

Roberta, Vassar '25, died in 1983 after a distinguished career

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A June 13, 1957, classified ad in the Los Angeles Sentinel offered #8 for sale, and, interestingly, refers to it as a "newer house"—well, actually, having been built in the '30s, it was much newer than the first houses to be built on the Square. In any case, it appears to have been sold to the Reverend H.B. Charles of the Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church. (Then on East 82nd Street, Mount Sinai now occupies a former Christian Science building on West 54th. In 1990, Reverend Charles's son Reverend H. B. Charles Jr. succeeded his father; at the time of his appointment Reverend Charles Jr. was a 17-year-old student at Los Angeles High School. He served for nearly 18 years before being called to Florida.) The September 1960 Baseball Digest reported that the great shortstop Maury Wills, who had come west with the Dodgers, was living with Charles's family in their "12-room parsonage" on the Square. Number 8 disappeared from city directories after 1960.

The Reverend H.B. Charles, left, and Al Barnes, right, present
Maury Wills with a trophy for excellence in sports from the
Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in 1963.

Illustrations: LAT; LAPLUSCDLVassar, the Alumnae/i Quarterly; Ebony