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Exploring Carthay: LA’s other smallest neighborhood

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A primer on one of the city’s most centrally located, but under-the-radar communities

Tan-colored Tudor-style apartments fronted by a green lawn Photos by Elizabeth Daniels

Earlier today we told you that Larchmont Village is LA’s tiniest neighborhood—and, according to the Los Angeles Times, it is. But Larchmont is only a hundredth of a square mile smaller than Carthay, and it seems a shame to leave a perfectly minuscule neighborhood like Carthay out over a hundredth of a square mile.

One of LA’s most central, yet under-the-radar neighborhoods, Carthay—which is actually made up of smaller including Carthay Circle, Carthay has a lot going on.

Here are answers to questions you may have about this nine-by-seven block area.

Where is it?

The neighborhood is bounded by Wilshire Boulevard to the north, Pico Boulevard to the South, and Fairfax Avenue to the east. The western boundary is a bit more complicated, running along La Cienega, then pushing in to Schumacher Drive north of Olympic.

White Spanish-style home with a rounded entryway

Who lives there?

Singles! According to demographic data published by the Times, the number of widowed and divorced females and never-married individuals of both genders is far above the LA County average.

The area is also more diverse than other parts of the county, while the incomes of residents are just about average. It’s also evidently one of the best places to find veterans of World War II and the Korean War, and as you might guess from that information, residents tend to be a little older on average than in other parts of LA.

How did it all get started?

Carthay is actually a micro-neighborhood made up of several much smaller districts. These include Carthay Circle, Carthay Square, and South Carthay.

Carthay Circle was established in the 1920s by developer, businessman, and well-established charlatan J. Harvey McCarthy. The exclusive subdivision was laid out with San Vicente at its center and the streets were laid out in a similarly off-grid pattern.

Searchlights surround the Carthay Circle Theater for a movie premiere.
Crowds gather for a premiere at the Fox Carthay Circle Theater
LA Public Library

The Carthay Circle tract is noticeably un-circular and in fact takes its name from the famous Fox Carthay Circle Theater that once hosted world premieres of classic films, including The Alamo and Snow White. Though the theater was torn down in 1969, you can now see it in sparkly replica form at Disneyland’s California Adventure, where it’s been reimagined as a swanky family restaurant.

South Carthay, meanwhile, lies on the former site of a vegetable field that once supplied the original Ralph’s Market. Almost half of the homes in the area were constructed by developer Spyros George Ponty in the 1930s. After World War II, Ponty designed many smaller homes meant to be accessible to returning veterans, but the Spanish-style homes he constructed in South Carthay are fancier homes meant to appeal to upper middle class tastes of the period.

White Tudor-style home with dramatic dormers and neatly trimmed hedges in the front yard

Carthay Square also features a number of homes built in Period-revival styles, including many Tudor and Spanish-style residences. Like Carthay Circle and parts of South Carthay, it was developed by McCarthy in the 1920s and ‘30s. The name Carthay, in fact, is an anglicized version of McCarthy’s surname.

Any other mini-neighborhoods in the area?

In 2002, LA designated the small stretch of Fairfax between Pico and Olympic as Little Ethiopia. While the boundaries between Carthay and the neighboring Mid-Wilshire district are a bit grey, this strip of mostly Ethiopian-owned restaurants and businesses is at the very least adjacent to Carthay, and provides residents with some truly outstanding dining options.

Who’s the young man holding a pie dish?

Carthay Circle
This statue of a miner has stood in Carthay for nearly a century. The surrounding park is across the street from the former site of the Fox Carthay Circle Theater.

Those who make frequent use of San Vicente Boulevard will surely recognize "The Pioneer," a statue sculpted by Henry Lion that stands in a small park where the street intersects with McCarthy Vista. As KCET explains, the man depicted is in fact holding a miner’s pan, and the statue is McCarthy’s tribute to his father—a miner-turned-newspaper publisher who emigrated to California during the gold rush.

The statue was actually cut in half and stolen back in 2008, but was eventually recovered at a scrap yard.

What does the real estate market look like?

Bordered by Beverly Hills to the west and the Miracle Mile district to the east, Carthay certainly has location on its side. Here are a couple houses currently for sale in the area:

6116 Warner Drive

White Spanish-style home with a second-level balcony Courtesy Coley Laffoon, Mercer Vine

Listing agent Coley Laffoon notes that this classic Spanish-style home is in need a pretty thorough overhaul on the interior (as such, no photos were made available to us), but the exterior certainly serves as a good example of the stately Period-revival architecture characteristic of the area. He also points out that Carthay is unique in that McCarthy’s plans for the community called for utility lines to be hidden below ground, fostering a pleasant small town feel just blocks from one of the busiest stretches of Wilshire Boulevard. Asking price for this four-bedroom home is $1.595 million.

6507 West Olympic Boulevard

Constructed in 1925, this two-bedroom Tudor-style home is one of the older homes in the Carthay area. Features include hardwood floors and built-ins, an original-looking living room fireplace, and a large back area with detached two-car garage. Asking price is $1.095 million.