1190 West Adams Boulevard

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Completed in 1900 by Robert Edwin and Maude Rice Ibbetson, 1190 West Adams Boulevard has the curious if not awkward appearance of a grandiose Richardsonian Romanesque mansion à la diminutive Victorian cottage; it is actually more of the latter, its interior totaling a commodious 4,925 square feet. The architect is unclear, but 1190 remains one of the rare survivors of the boulevard, famous as much for a huge Moreton Bay fig tree on its front lawn as for its countenance and longevity.




The Ibbetsons, a real estate power couple of the time, had been married in their native Illinois in 1896, 24-year-old Edwin having arrived in Los Angeles a few years earlier, going into business with banker William F. Bosbyshell in the Mechanics' Savings Mutual Building and Loan Association. Before long, he struck out on his own and began to work with his wife, at least on paper, at first. Mrs. Ibbetson appears to have been something of a firecracker, if not a loose cannon; at any rate, the couple rented a residence at 1223 West Adams, across the street and a few doors west of a building site they would acquire at the southeast corner of Magnolia Avenue—a parcel comprised of Lots 1, 2, and 3 of the Niles Tract at a prominent three-way intersection. Edwin and Maude stayed at 1223 until their new house at 1190 West Adams was ready in late 1900. Their second son would be born a year later, but personal relations between the Ibettsons had soured even before the birth of their daughter in July 1906. While he got the decree, his wife got 1190 in the couple's acrimonious divorce in 1911. (Though he said certainly not, she said he was overly attentive to other ladies—that every woman, particularly if she was a servant, widened his eyes. The proceedings were described in the press as "one of the most hotly contested [divorce suits] ever heard in local superior court.") Her dander, it seems, easily raised, Maude found the energy to file another suit during the trials, this one for $6,000 against the Los Angeles Railway after one of its streetcars struck her electric coupe on Hoover Street around the corner from home (this one was settled out of court).




After splitting from Edwin, Maude continued wheeling and dealing in real estate on her own, acquiring 1151 West Adams, built across the street in 1901. She trundled it over to her side yard, positioning its former east side to face north toward the street. Re-addressed there as 1180, Maude moved into it and rented 1190 to another real estate operator, Richard M. Bishop, for a few years; there appears to have then been something of a brief reconciliation with "R. E.", as he was often styled in press reports, with he—if not she—occupying 1190 once more. The reunion was in any case unsuccessful—unsurprisingly, given the charges and counter-charges in court documents—with legal battles over child-custody and support issues continuing as late as 1921. (There would be other, property-related litigation between the battling Maude and Edwin as late as 1928.) Apparently having sold 1180, Maude was back living at 1190 by 1921, remaining there until the 1940s. R. E. appears to have had an easier time moving on; he married Anna Thornton on July 17, 1922, their twins arriving nine months to the day later. A second son came along in February 1925.




The fortunes of Adams Boulevard began to sag even before the Depression, with the appeal of other, newer suburbs drawing the affluent away. Dwellings once considered the height of fashion in as exclusive a district as there was in Los Angeles began to be cut up into flats, converted to U.S.C. fraternity or sorority houses, or to house commercial enterprises. The house at 1190 West Adams hung on longer than many, if not most, with Maude Ibbetson hanging on to the old neighborhood longer than most original owners. In the 1956 city directory, 1190 is the address of a "Wedding Manor," although it appears to have reverted to single-family occupancy within a few years when Harold H. Hartleben arrived. In February 1970, a new corporate owner was issued a permit to add five guest rooms to its "single-family dwelling" to create a place vaguely described as a "rest home." This operation was up for sale by April 1977. By March 1988, the owner was Kathleen Salisbury, who was issued a building permit that month to convert the first floor to a restaurant, reportedly carried out without altering the original floor plan. On March 31, 2010, yet another owner received a permit to "change 1st floor from restaurant to be part of SFD." It was at about this time that the West Adams District was being discovered by a generation that had grown up in Los Angeles but was unfamiliar with the area. This was the leading edge of a cohort that has been priced out of the very neighborhoods that had sucked the life out of the old district 80 years before, one that is discovering, renovating, and preserving.


Including the ramp: For sale in the Los Angeles Times
on April 7, 1977. The value of 1190 West Adams
is now estimated to be more than 25 times
the asking price here. West Adams,
it seems, is back on track.




The Magnolia Avenue side of
the Ibbetson house is where its
true architectural charm lies.






Illustrations: Private Collection; LAT; GSV