William H. Hannon, a real estate developer who helped built Westchester, Playa Del Ray and other
communities in Southern California, died Thursday night at a Torrance hospital. He was 86.
A third generation Los Angeles native, Hannon joined the real estate business in the late 30’s as an associate of
Fritz B. Barnes, a legendary developer who build a fortune on low-coast housing in Southern California.
With Burns, Hannon subdivided thousands of acres in Westchester, then built and sold homes to GIs returning
from World War II.
A lifelong bachelor, he was described by associates as a man who lived simply and plowed millions into
philanthropy. He was a major benefactor of Loyola Marymount University, his alma mater, serving as trustee
A devote Catholic, Hannon devoted his last years to preserving the legacy of Father Junipero Serra, the 18th
century missionary and pioneer who founded the California mission system. Beginning in 1991, Hannon erected
100 statues of Serra in California, including one at each of the state’s missions.
Just two weeks before his death, he was planning to send a statue to Serra’s birthplace in Petra de Mallorca,
“I often say that father Serra was the first subdivider of California,” Hannon once said, explaining the resonance
that Serra held for him. “He was the first real estate developer in Los Angeles, if you think about it. He helped to
settle what is now the [San Fernando] Valley.”
Hannon served as an intelligence officer in the Army during World War II and received a special meritorious
award for his work on the Manhattan Project, the group that designed and built the first atomic bomb.
Military service was the only interruption in his career, which bean when he joined Fritz B. Burns & Associates
in 1937 after graduating from what was then Loyola University in Westchester.
Starting in Westchester, Burns and Hannon helped pioneer prefabricated housing in partnership with Henry J.
Kaiser during the boom period after World War II, according to longtime Westchester developer Howard
With Hannon’s help, Burns later led developments in Panorama City, Playa Del Rey and Ontario.
He was co-owner with Burns of the old San Fernando Airport, which was closed in 1984 and developed as a
shopping center and industrial site. Hannon operated a swap meet for 1,000 vendors on his parcel.
After Burns death in 1979, Hannon continued in the real estate business, buying apartments and industrial
“He was a shrewd old guy” said business partner Richard Dunn. “His office was right out of the 1940’s – no
computers, no Xerox machine. But he could sure count.”
|WILLIAM HANNON DIES; MAKOR BUILDER
L. A. Times 11/6/99
By Elaine Woo