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Introduction and Inventory


What was in its beginnings part of the southernmost platting within the boundaries of Los Angeles as it was incorporated on April 4, 1850, "Adams Street" appeared on maps as early as 1857, if not before. It was one of several roads honoring U.S. presidents running southeast to northwest south of downtown, toward which the city's expanding population moved in force after the establishment of the University of Southern California near Agricultural Park in 1880. Eventually divided into East Adams Street and West Adams Street with the demarcation at Main as per city practice, the 7.8-mile-long roadway was by the mid 1920s officially designated a boulevard, having become the signature thoroughfare of the original "West Los Angeles" as the city expanded beyond Hoover Street; pre-freeway traffic engineers had by then included it among the drags marked for widening as the city expanded toward the Pacific. (Among other streets upgraded to boulevard status were 10th, which became Olympic Boulevard; Pico; 16th Street, which became Venice; Washington; and Jefferson.)


What was first merely a line on a map was then a dirt roadway for several decades; medians and
elaborate lighting appeared around the turn of the 20th century, legitimizing Adams Street's
eventual upgrade to boulevard status. The medians disappeared to accommodate
increased traffic; the lamps succumbed by the 1950s, as did the verdure.


Before there was a "West Adams," there was simply the Adams District straddling Main Street. A long stretch of Victorian cottages, with a number of much larger houses among them, went up along Adams Street toward its eastern terminus two miles from Figueroa. East Adams Boulevard remains the primary thoroughfare of a vast neighborhood of Victorian housing, still, fascinatingly, intact and unheralded. Once that district was fully settled toward its east end abutting an industrial zone at the Los Angeles River, population pressures and the lure of the Pacific drove development west along the street. Over the course of 40 years from the early 1880s larger dwellings, many very grand indeed, were built all the way out along Adams to Culver City. The accepted stretches of Adams District fashion moved rather rapidly along the Adams corridor toward Figueroa and beyond, the largest houses coming to be built in two sections of what became the fashionable West Adams district, one between Figueroa and Hoover, the other centered around Arlington Avenue. When the major latitudinal arteries of Los Angeles were widened and promoted in stature in the 1920s, Adams Street becoming Adams Boulevard, it might have been hoped by some property owners that the upgrade would bolster the old grandeur and help slow the decline of the varied neighborhoods along its route. But as the housing stock aged and the population of the city exploded during the decade and householders cashed out and moved to newer precincts to the north and west, any such hopes attendant to the promotion of street to boulevard proved to be in vain, especially after the Depression set in. A small residential section along the Adams corridor anchored by the William Andrews Clark Memorial Clark Library, including gated Berkeley Square, would try to hang on to its dignity, with some expensive houses being built by the city's social Old Guard as late as the early '30s, even as most of its cohort had departed for such districts as Windsor Square. By this time the Dohenys had long since co-opted Chester Place for their own use and "aristocratic" St. James Park was deteriorating along with the Adams District in general. If the old and by-now neglected houses of the the boulevard weren't demolished and replaced with cheap but profitable apartment houses, they were converted to flats or fraternity houses or to institutional use. Some houses have hung on and are now becoming prized artifacts as the larger West Adams District is rediscovered—ironically in part because of population pressures driving up housing prices in the districts that succeeded it in popularity beginning over a century ago.

We will be cataloging the residential street westward beginning on East Adams Boulevard, adding regularly to the linked inventory of houses below.