It’s funny that the destruction of the oldest house in Van Nuys, once occupied by a man who developed the San Fernando Valley, today home to 2 million, scarcely elicits a tear.
If William Paul Whitsett were alive today, he might have married one of the daughters of the Merabi family, the developers who tore down the house and plan to erect condos there.
Who can forget (but actually who knows) that Isaac Newton Van Nuys married Susanna H. Lankershim in 1880? The original founders and creators of the land we now call “The Valley”?
Los Angeles produces so much fictional sentiment on celluloid, that we forget that it is mostly heartless in reality. The digital tricks that consume us on our laptops, or plasmas, or in the Arclight, the moment when Ingrid Bergman kisses Humphrey Bogart and the plane takes off from the fog in Casablanca//cut to black in “The Sopranos”.
We live in a black hole of memory in Los Angeles. Here is where people move to invent new lives for themselves, and tear down the work and memory of others who were here before.
When I went to photograph the Whitsett house yesterday morning, the wrecking crew was laughing when I pulled up. “You’re too late,” they said.
Just like a successful movie producer, they thought they had accomplished something worthwhile in reducing history to a junk pile.