The McKinley Home for Boys: 13840 Riverside Drive, Sherman Oaks, CA.
The Reverend and Mrs. Uriah Gregory established the Industrial Home Society in 1900. Their mission: to look after orphaned, abused and homeless children at their 33-acre estate in Artesia, CA.
Later renamed The McKinley Home For Boys (after President William McKinley who was assassinated in 1901), the institution acquired, around 1920, some 200 acres of land in “Van Nuys” which is now covered by the expanse of the Fashion Square Mall in Sherman Oaks. (see photos above/below credit: LAPL)
From 1920 to 1960, the home operated out of its eclectic architectural barracks and main building, a mixture of Mission and Spanish architecture which housed 150-250 boys at any one time.
Vintage photographs show that the home was a focus point of many well-meaning, civic-minded men and women who funded athletic, work, and farming activities, as well as other character building exercises for children who were given a lousy start in life.
Mr. M.H. Whittier, the Kiwanis, and other bankers, oilmen, developers and anyone who wanted public do-gooding on their resume, heartily pitched in labor and dollars to keep the boys happy playing football, raising chickens, instructing swimming, boxing, gymnastics, football; all the activities that might steer them clear of trouble. And into a productive life of work, family, marriage, proper procreation and moral behavior.
Alas, the boys and their home were no match for the powerful Ventura Freeway which sliced through their grounds in 1958 and forced the home and its crew-cut youngsters to flee to San Dimas.
The Bullocks Company soon came in with its plan for a 29-acre mall and the last photos of the McKinley Home in Van Nuys (Sherman Oaks) show it next to the concrete structure that would soon house a shopping center.
The twin monsters of modern vapidity, the freeway and the shopping mall, would triumph here as they would everywhere else.
Lost in the destruction was a unique community artfully housed in exotic and historic buildings, a verdant expanse of a place where those without loving parents or family might come together under the careful, strict, instructive guidance of teachers, coaches, and philanthropists who were determined to set the boys straight.
60 years later, 100,000 men and women sleep on the sidewalks and live next to the garbage, and defecate in public, in “prosperous” Los Angeles, but once upon a time this city and its elite had a tough-hearted way of taking care of people who nobody else would.