Holmby Avenue

Holmby Avenue and Holmby Hills are named in memory of department store king Arthur Letts (1862-1923), who once owned this land. “Holmby” is a derivation of Letts’s birthplace in Northamptonshire, UK: Holdenby. The ambitious Letts left England for Toronto at 21, where he learned the mercantile trade. He came to Los Angeles in 1896 and made his fortune by reviving The Broadway department store and bankrolling Bullock’s. A pillar of society known for his flamboyant fashion sense, Letts lived in a stately Los Feliz mansion dubbed “Holmby House” and used the Holmby name for his business interests and even his show dogs. In 1919, Letts bought the 3,296 acre Wolfskill Ranch; less than a year before his death, he sold the land to Harold Janss (his son-in-law) and Edwin Janss, who soon began developing it as Westwood. (The Holmby Corporation retained a stake.) When Letts died after a “nervous breakdown from overwork”, he was eulogized across the city. The Jansses then named this neighborhood and street after Letts’s house and business.