815 West Adams Boulevard


The huge population growth of Los Angeles over the course of the 1910s and '20s, nearly a four-fold increase, had the effect of emptying West Adams—as well as the Westlake/Bonnie Brae district—of all but the most stalwart of prosperous Angelenos. Developers understood the city's population pressures and trends and went after the affluent by building new homes for them on larger suburban lots in less dense, more fashionable parts of town to the north and west, giving rise to Windsor Square, Fremont Place, Hancock Park, as well as to Beverly Hills, Holmby Hills, Bel-Air, Brentwood—tracts all the way to Pacific Palisades. During the particular boom of the '20s, longtime owners saw their chances to cash out and move on, their old houses often cut up into flats or replaced altogether with apartment buildings; the onset of the Depression then made bargains of the old barns that survived, which became cash cows for their new owners.

The Garland house is seen above soon after completion, before its hirsute years seen in other
views here; at top left, the peaked roof of 32 St. James Park is seen just to the north.

Predating by 11 years its more famous adjacent tract, Chester Place, St. James Park opened in 1888. After its original developers George Wilson King, Frederick Harkness, and John Downey Harvey (nephew of former California governor John G. Downey) became less involved in the scheme during the national financial ups and downs of the '90s, real estate man William May Garland assumed some of the tract's marketing as interest revived and was confirmed by the turn of the new century with the opening of Chester Place. Next door to the future site of 815 West Adams Street, as the thoroughfare was known into the 1920s, Frederick Harkness had built 755 on Lot 1 of the St. James Park Tract in 1890. Within a year of 755's completion, Garland began construction of his own house at 815 on the corner, straddling Lots 3 and 4. The Garland family's real estate interests would later acquire the Walton house next door, selling it in 1932 before it was demolished in 1937. Garland himself remained committed to fading West Adams. He was still living at 815 when he died in Monterey on September 26, 1948; Mrs. Garland, nèe Blanche Hinman, stayed in her longtime home. Shortly before her death on March 17, 1958, she gave 815 to nearby St. John's Episcopal Church. The house itself would survive until not long after a demolition permit for it was issued on February 2, 1972.

Two views of 815 West Adams from the southwest in later, bearded
 years: Note that the roadway was then divided and that the original streetlamp
seen in the third photograph down has been been replaced with one of the set fashioned
for Adams Street after the turn of the century. West Adams Street had become a
linear neighborhood with its own cachet and had, along with Chester
Place, come to largely usurp the identity of St. James Park.

William May Garland at the wheel of his new 1906 Pierce-Arrow in front of his house at 815 West Adams

Advertising the St. James Park tract circa 1890 on what would very soon
become the site of his own house, William May Garland was one of Los Angeles's major
developers at the time. Not apparent in this black-and-white view is the red half of
the billboard; the diagonally delineated red-and-white motif would long be a company
trademark, appearing frequently in many venues, including as frontispiece of the 1917 city
directory. (A big booster of the city, Garland delighted in offering population predictions.)
In the background of the image above is the just-completed Frederick Walton house
house, 755 West Adams, on Lot 1 of the development. The European-inspired lamp
seen is matched to the unique lighting standards of interior St. James Park.