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Rumblings & Bumblings Responses: A Little Taper in All of Us

Back again. Thanks for the answers to this week's bevy of questions. As always, if you have a question about development, planning, or real estate in Los Angeles, email us. We're not experts, but neither are you. If you have questions please email them in before next Tuesday, la@curbed.com.

1) Santa Monica: So what's the deal with the former Scientology building in Santa Monica? Apparently, it wasn't a Scientology building at all. A reader says: "...I don't know what it is, but the former building was a Christian Science church, not Scientology. Two wacky religions, true, but the former gave us the excellent Christian Science Monitor, while the latter has given us Tom Cruise. If I find out what the new building is, I'll pass it on.

PS. There are Scientologists in Santa Monica, but they're on Wilshire and Princeton. Bet their newspaper sucks, too." Thanks reader! We checked online to see if we could find anything being planned for the site - 1227 5th Street, but didn't turn up much.

2) Los Angeles: Who knew Mark Taper was such a man about town. We received lots of emails about Mr. Taper, some with bits of info and others with complete biographies. Thanks to all who submitted. Here's the answer, more or less, from various sources:
From Randall Crane of The Planning Research Blog: "Mark Taper was one of the 3 developers of Lakewood (along with Ben Weingart and Louis Boyar). That is to say, a veritable legend in soCal real estate lore."

Another reader gives the rundown on the Taper Foundation's activities: "The foundation's "focus" is all over the place, according to a nonprofit database: "aging, arts (theatre), children (abuse prevention, health, teenage pregnancy prevention, child care), community development (leadership), disabled (visually impaired), economically disadvantaged, economic development, education (public school reform), environment, gay rights, health/human services (immigrants, AIDS), housing (homeless), hunger, non-profits (management), woman (abuse prevention, reproductive rights)"

Another reader sent us this link which says: "The S. Mark Taper Foundation, founded in 1989, is named after S. Mark Taper, a resident of the Los Angeles area for more the 40 years who passed away in December 1994 at the age of 92. Mr. Taper was founder, chairman and chief executive of one of the largest savings and loan associations in the United States before retiring from business in 1983." Continue reading this biography after the jump. Thanks to all who provided links and insight into the man we at Curbed affectionately call "The Taper".

3) North Hollywood: There are houses being knocked down in North Hollywood to make way for newer, stucco-ier development. Andrew at Here In Van Nuys reminds us that he posted on this awhile ago, and we even wrote a piece on it. Damn we're good.

Mark Taper - continued from page one:

"Taper, a European who originally came to California to retire, instead built a housing development that became Lakewood. He segued to savings and loan associations, creating First Charter Financial Corp.
By the late 1960s, First Charter had become the nation's biggest publicly held savings and loan holding company.

As he made money, Taper gave much away, mostly through the Mark Taper Foundation, which he established in 1952.

When Dorothy Buffum Chandler solicited funds to build the Music Center, Taper gave her $1 million. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to reward Taper's philanthropy by putting his name
on the 750-seat theater in the Music Center complex designated for experimental productions.

Taper's largess extended to art and education, as well as to theater. He funded the original modern art gallery of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as a memorial to his wife, Amelia, who died in 1958. He
also became a major donor to UCLA.

A longtime naturalized American citizen, Taper was born Dec. 25, 1901, in Poland. He soon moved with his family to England, where he spent 36 years.

When World War I broke out in 1914, Taper was a schoolboy and was quickly assigned to teach first- and second-graders after their teachers left to fight. He quit school when he was 14 and began working for his father manufacturing officers' uniforms.

Two years later, the teen-ager took over management of the plant after his father was injured in a Zeppelin raid on London.

In 1920, the young Taper acquired a shoe store and within five years had a chain of five stores. In 1926, he was able to retire. He was 25.

Looking around for something to do, Taper remembered that what he had enjoyed most about his business was expanding it. So he went back to school to study surveying and appraising, and in 1929 bought a real estate business from two partners who were retiring.

By the late 1930s, Taper was a successful builder and active in savings and loans. He decided to retire again, this time by moving his family to Southern California.

"I thought I ought to spend more time with my family," he told The Times years later. "And I was looking for the secret paradise we all seek, free from pressure and care."

Halfway to Santa Monica after a cross-country train ride that ended at Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles, an enterprising cabdriver convinced the Tapers that Long Beach was the nearest place to find sand and sun. For six months, Taper and his family, which by then included daughters Carolyn Mary and Janice Ann, lived in the penthouse of Long Beach's Huntington Hotel (for $80 a month) and played in the sand.

By that time the Jewish couple was also bringing hundreds of Catholic and Jewish children out of Nazi Germany to Britain and the United States, saving them from persecution.

But work interrupted Taper's days in the sun when two landowners offered him 20-acre slices of Long Beach for $6,000 and $5,700. He engineered 400 lots and, unable to find a builder, decided to build the homes himself.

n addition to Lakewood, which he developed around a shopping center with Ben Weingart and Lou Boyar in 1949, Taper constructed large chunks of Long Beach, Norwalk and Compton.

He sold the houses for as little as $3,000 with no down payment, and included free refrigerators, stoves and carpeting, and then-innovative garbage disposals.

In 1950, Taper founded the Pacific National Bank of Long Beach, and typically added an individual touch-a drive-by cashier window.

"I was told it was an innovation," Taper said later, "but I don't know that it was the first of its kind. There just seemed to be a need for it."

By 1955, after building more than 35,000 homes, Taper decided to switch to full-time financing. He had acquired a Whittier savings and loan in 1948 and took over the American Savings & Loan Assn. in 1950."

via a reader who says: "If you have a LA Public Library card, you can read his obit in the LA Times for free. It was in the 12/16/94 paper, by Myrna Oliver. It's worth looking up, as he had quite an interesting life story.