Our History is Our Story
By Outpost Resident John Purdy
The first ten and a half acres of the Charles E. Toberman luxury subdivision in Hollywood known as Outpost Estates, received its name from its previous owner, General Harrison Gray Otis, the founder of the Los Angeles Times and the Chandler dynasty. General Otis, a veteran of the Spanish American War purchased the acreage from Don Tomas Urquidez who in 1853 had built the first adobe home “in the valley” on an Indian burial ground at the northwest corner of what is now Franklin and Sycamore. General Otis renamed the adobe “The Outpost” and it became a clubhouse of sorts for his buddies from his military days. This piece of real estate would change hands a number of times before becoming part of the Outpost Estates.
By 1914 Charles E. Toberman acquired ten acres west of La Brea and north of Hollywood Blvd. from T.E. Gibbon, the former vice president of the Salt Lake Railway for a $70,000 option. He put in streets and the necessary grading and lighting, subdivided the acreage into lots and sold them for the unheard price of $65 and $75 per front foot. He named this tract Las Colinas Heights. It not became one of his most successful developments with many fine homes being built and sold by him to families who desired the ultimate in gracious living, but in 1926 was the location of his ultimate dream house at 1847 Camino Palmero. The Spanish mansion was set in acres of landscaped gardens at the end of a long curving avenue of stately palm trees. It had an enclosed swimming pool, tennis courts, indoor and outdoor barbecues, a pitch and put golf course and a horse shoe pitching range.
Mr. Toberman who had acquired “The Outpost” acreage from General Otis, sold this choice piece of property to Jesse L. Laskey in 1922 for his personal homesite for $157,000. By 1924, having purchased 325 acres to the north of this property in “Hay Canyon” from Myra Hershey for the development of Outpost Estates, he was confronted with a problem. The property now belonging to Jesse Laskey prevented any egress to Franklin Avenue, which was essential to permit the subdivision of Outpost Estates. So, Mr. Toberman repurchased those desperately needed ten and a half acres of “Tract 4820” (what is today a part of Franklin Avenue, Outpost Drive and El Cerrito Place) in April of 1924 from Jesse L. Las key for the staggering sum of $275,000 and embarked on his dream of developing Outpost Estates, one of the most exclusive and beautiful “residential parks in the world”.
Over the next twenty years Mr. Toberman oversaw the ultimate development of the Outpost Estates, a planned community which he regarded as his supreme achievement in the more than fifty three subdivision he developed in Hollywood. Times were good and by 1926 he was in the midst of an extensive improvement program on tract #9408, the Outpost Drive and Outpost Circle area, the heart of his Outpost Estates. He had a vision of a planned residential community, a “jewel in the hills” and was determined to develop his dream.
Architecture was limited to pure Spanish with hip, not flat, roofs of genuine kiln tile and rigid building restrictions required plaster wall construction that assured enduring strength and earthquake resistance. This was an up-to-date development with ornamental street lights, concrete roads and sidewalks, and underground utilities…all the last word in modern planning. A wide variety of lots were featured and ranged in price from $30,000 to $50,000. As a result of his meticulous attention to the utmost refinements in living, luxurious homes and building sites in the area were in great demand. Outpost Estates was acclaimed far and wide and Mr. Toberman continued to open new and carefully planned segments of his exclusive area. He was quoted in the newspapers as predicting a period of prosperous growth for all of Hollywood. And there truly seemed to be every indication of this.
Then on October 29, 1929 without warning and with a shattering impact to all of America, came the Wall Street stock market crash precipitating the beginning of the Great Depression. Charles Toberman had to face the grim fact that not only was he in debt for $2.7 million dollars but almost all of his sources of revenue to meet his obligations had been cut off.
The first casualty of Mr. Toberman’s Depression years was the forced discontinuance of his development of Outpost Estates in 1930. His beautiful home on Camino Palmero, which he had refused to sell for $500,000 prior to the crash, had to be put up as security for a $90,000 loan and would later be sacrificed for that amount to pay off the debt. In 1933 Prohibition was repealed, but did not stimulate the general business climate. Then to make matters worse the Long Beach earthquake hit in March of that same year causing a great loss of life and property damage that soared into the millions. By 1934 the banks had established an hiatus on residential financing and private enterprise was at a virtual standstill. However, the clientele interested in buying in the Outpost Estates were top stars of the day and multimillionaires from Texas and the East so palatial homes continued to be built throughout the Depression years. Having survived the first half of the decade, Charles Toberman was able to recover enough to open two additional tracts, #10881 and #10853, along Outpost Drive by the summer of 1935.
The Outpost Estates was attracting nation—wide attention for its high construction standards and the preservation of park—like natural beauty in its plot apportionment, grading and landscaping. So in 1935 Mr. Toberman decided to build a model home to demonstrate a radically new type of construction —all steel. The structure located at 2227 Outpost Drive, was acclaimed as “termite proof and fireproof, earthquake resistant and impervious to wear and shrinkage. It was immediately purchased by Bela Lugosi the European star famed for his portrayal of Dracula. By the late thirties the growing demand for residential property of high caliber was so great that in 1938 Mr. Toberman opened tract #9932 along Outpost Drive.
Although America was still in the throes of the Great Depression and would not see sufficient recovery until the start of World War II when defense spending escalated, the demand for the highly restricted Outpost Estates was so great that two additional tracts, #11893, Sunny Cove in May of 1940 and 12042, Mulholland Drive in February of 1941 were put on the market. But even with this activity it was necessary for Mr. Toberman to sacrifice his beautiful home on Camino Palmero to satisfy the last of his indebtedness. In 1941 he and his wife, Josephine, moved into the steel house on Outpost Drive which they occupied until December of 1951 when they moved into their second “dream house” at 7150 La Presa Drive. This home which they occupied for the rest of their days, was on a gentle hill of its own with all of Hollywood spread like a tapestry beneath the picture window and tiled terraces.
During the war years only one tract, #12775 Outpost Drive and SenaIda, was developed. Finally after a lapse of seven years, Mr. Toberman resumed development of Outpost Estates in August, 1951 with tract #16146 Carmen Crest Drive, and in May, 1952 tract #17398, Macapa Drive, the area above Mulholland known as “17 Acres”.This property was sold to Warner Bros. in 1945 and was slated to become the site of a television transmitting station that never materialized because of opposition from the Outpost residents who felt that television would interfere with their radio reception. Mr. Toberman eventually repurchased it from Warner Bros. September 27, 1955 saw the final completion of his supreme residential development with the opening of tract #20606 Chelan Drive and Chelan Way.
By the 1960s there had been much change in the architecture of Outpost Estates. With the rapid growth of the area, Mr. Toberman’s original restrictions on building were ignored and various types of structures sprung up on a myriad of building sites. With this growth it became obvious that was an increasing need for some sort of governing group to protect the privacy and property of the neighborhood, so on May 26, 1967 the Outpost Homeowners’ Association was incorporated by the state of California as a non—profit organization and the first Board of Directors was appointed.
After a long illness, Mrs. Toberman died in 1970, but Mr. Toberman remained in their home on La Presa until his death at the age of 102 in 1982. Although he no longer actively participated in the development of Outpost Estates his son, Homer, who was a real estate developer and builder constructed a number of the homes in the area following his return from the war.
Meanwhile the Outpost Homeowners’ Association was anything but inactive. They took great interest in their little Hollywood oasis and lobbied the City of LA for better traffic control and services and then in the late 1970s into the early 1980s fought the battle of the development of Runyon Canyon. Finally, thanks to their efforts, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the City of Los Angeles purchased Runyon Canyon in 1984 from its last private owners, Adad Development, for $5.35 million dollars. It was officially designated a City park in June, 1984. A master plan approved by the city in 1986 with the input of neighbors and local activists recommended that the park be cleaned up and remain an “urban wilderness.”
Today, the Outpost Homeowners’ Association is just as active and as vocal as that first group. They are a group of rare individuals who care for and respect their community; who rally and unite in times of crisis, need and celebration. Outpost Estates is still a prestigious and beautiful urban area…a true “jewel in the Hollywood Hills”, an enduring memorial to the foresight and good taste of Charles E. Toberman.
The Outpost Estates… our history is our story