Whitnall Highway

George Gordon Whitnall (1888-1977) – he went by his middle name – was L.A.’s first city planning director. The Milwaukee native was the only child of Charles and Annie Whitnall, both prominent Socialists. They amicably separated in 1902 and divorced in 1911; later that year, Whitnall and his mother left Wisconsin for Los Angeles and Whitnall became the spokesman for the local branch of the Socialist Party. In 1913, concerned with L.A.’s uncontrolled growth, Whitnall established the City Planning Association, a civic organization that advocated for proper zoning, access, etc. This led to the City founding its official Department of City Planning in 1920, which Whitnall ran until 1930 when he became a private consultant. He also taught urban planning at USC. Like his parents, Whitnall was prone to divorce, but married his third wife Brysis (1902-1969) in 1938 and stayed with her until her death. (A onetime silent movie writer, Brysis Whitnall was also her husband’s business partner.) Whitnall Highway, named in 1927, was indeed envisioned as a highway. Reflecting Gordon Whitnall’s many losing battles with developers, however, it’s been sliced up by housing tracts.