Wilkins Avenue

The origins of Westwood‘s street names are maddeningly opaque. Some say they honor employees of the Janss Investment Co., who owned and subdivided Westwood and Holmby Hills in the 1920s, but I can only ascertain three: Hilts, Bainbridge, and Wilkins avenues. The latter is for Alfred Harold Wilkins (1885-1974), VP and general sales manager of the company – as big as you could get without being one of the Janss brothers. Wilkins, a Canadian expat, first came to L.A. in 1905 and worked for Arthur Letts at The Broadway department store. After a stint in Toronto, he returned to L.A. in 1911 and was soon hired by Edwin and Harold Janss as their advertising manager; perhaps not coincidentally, Harold had just married Letts’s daughter Gladys. A decade later, the Jansses would buy Letts’s vast property and transform it into Westwood, with Wilkins overseeing sales in Westwood Village. Wilkins grew quite fond of the area: he lived in Holmby Hills from 1928 onward and is even buried in Westwood with his wife Estelle (1888-1975).