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Although Westlake is generally thought of as a residential area, Henry Doelger’s vision of the neighborhood as a complete community resulted in a wide range of public and commercial buildings that differentiated Westlake from the ill-conceived sprawling suburbs that dominated the postwar era.

Because of Westlake’s rapid residential development and population growth during the 1950’s, a series of bond issues were passed that ensured the creation of adequate schools for the neighborhood’s children. Most of the schools in Westlake were designed by architect Mario J. Ciampi, who became a world-renowned expert in public building design.

Westlake’s original Fernando Rivera School

The first of these was the Westlake School (1950), followed by the Olympia School (1955) which is now the Doelger Art Center. Then came Westlake’s only High School, Westmoor (1957), and the Vista Mar School (1958) which is now called the Marjorie Tobias School. This was followed by the original Fernando Rivera School (1960) which became the Doelger Center in 1980.

Westmoor High School

In addition to serving generations of students within the community, the distinctive and modern architecture of these schools attracted national media attention to Westlake, including articles in magazines such as Life, Architectural Forum, and a cover story in Fortune. Over a dozen awards were bestowed upon Ciampi and his Daly City schools, including four awards from the American Institute of Architects. In the following years, Westlake saw the opening of the Thomas Edison School and the New Fernando Rivera School located on Southgate Avenue, as well as the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Elementary School on Skyline Drive.

The Westlake Shopping Center (1961)

In addition to the neighborhood’s schools, Westlake saw the creation of two major commercial centers that served the economic needs of area residents as well as acting as community meeting places. The first of these was originally called the Westlake Town and County Shopping Center, which had its groundbreaking in 1948, making it one of the earliest malls in America. Its open-air pedestrian promenades allowed the center to be used for outdoor concerts, art shows, fairs, dances, and other community events. Doelger’s company also built a community center across the street adjacent to its offices that hosted public and private events, a building that now houses the rental office of the Westlake Village Apartments. The Skyline Plaza Shopping Center was also built as Westlake’s development continued Southward in the late fifties and early sixties.

Joe’s of Westlake, a neighborhood icon

Early Westlake businesses included J.C. Penney, Swanson’s Westlake Bowl (1958), and Bank of America. The ever-popular Joe’s of Westlake (1956) is a prime example of Westlake’s architectural style and has functioned as both a restaurant and a community gathering place.

Westlake’s community spaces also encompass several churches which were built in the 1950’s, including Our Lady Of Mercy, which held early services in other neighborhood buildings until construction was completed. Westlake’s master plan also included parks, offices, and a medical building, all of which were designed and built by Doelger’s company and continue to serve the community half a century later.


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