1342 West Adams Boulevard


William Threlkeld Bishop arrived in Los Angeles from Cincinnati during the Boom of the '80s to begin manufacturing crackers, candy, and jams in 1887. He did well enough in his adopted city, both commercially and socially—he and his wife would be mentioned hundreds of times in local society columns over the years—that a statement house was called for once the national recession following the Panic of 1893 had eased. Having acquired a prime site in the sought-after Rowley tract in the fall of 1897, Bishop hired the esteemed partnership of Sumner Hunt and Theodore Eisen to design the house that still stands today, if barely, at the southeast corner of Adams Boulevard and Menlo Avenue. Mr. and Mrs. Bishop were in residence by the late summer of 1898; on August 5, Harriett Bishop had the misfortune of witnessing the electrocution of an Edison lineman making the final power connection to the new house. 

Bishop & Company, in which William was partnered with his cousin Roland P. Bishop, fueled the fortunes of the family for many years, financing not only big houses but lengthy summer sojourns and frequent European travel. Born on November 3, 1906, the William Bishops' daughter Virginia grew up at 1342, where the family remained until not long after she married Paul McGarry at the Los Angeles Country Club on February 15, 1926. The club, which had been founded not far to the north of the West Adams District the year before the Bishops built 1342, had long since moved to its current Westside location, where it became increasingly inconvenient to social the Old Guard hanging on in Los Angeles's fading bon-ton neighborhood. By 1926 the barley and bean fields between Hoover Street and the ocean had been covered with expensive new developments—Fremont PlaceWindsor SquareHancock Park, Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, and Brentwood, to name a few—that had rendered most of leafy West Adams old-fashioned and rather too full of the drafty barns of the last century. Roland Bishop, who had built 1280 West Adams one block east of William's future house in 1894, had decamped for Beverly Hills in 1916. In August 1926, succumbing to fashion and progress, the Bishops began building a new house at 603 Nimes Road in Bel-Air they would call "Villa Vescova," designed by Gordon B. Kaufmann and sited on four-and-a-half acres. (The Bishops' grandson, William Bishop McGarry, would be in residence at Villa Vescova by 1930; Virginia was by then divorced.) William T. Bishop Jr. was active in the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, having recently served as its president; in 1930 he was described by the Times as being selfless in bringing new industry to Los Angeles, even if it would compete with Bishop & Company, by having persuaded the National Biscuit Company to build a Southern California plant. He and Roland seem to have known by then, however, that Nabisco was bailing the ailing Bishop & Company out of financial difficulties by absorbing the family concern.

William Bishop's old house at 1342 West Adams might easily have been converted by its next owner into flats or replaced by an apartment house; it was either that or conversion to institutional use, as many of the big old West Adams barns would be. U.S.C.'s fraternity and sorority houses came to occupy quite a few of them, as did religious organizations. The Roger Williams Baptist Church, the recent consolidation of four area parishes, acquired most of the the south-side Adams blockfront between Ellendale Place and Menlo Avenue in 1931, including 1342. A temporary tent was erected for services late that year; as plans came together, a new stone church was built mid-block, completed in 1934. That year, the church had the shingles stripped off the Bishop house and its exterior plastered, which, to the church elders' eyes, would modernize 1342—to be used as the pastor's residence and for Sunday school classes—and bring it into aesthetic conformity with the new church; a gothic-arched open-air breezeway was built to connect the new sanctuary and the old house.

According to reports, the Bishop house has had its interior gutted in preparation for conversion to multi-unit housing; while it remains standing as of August 2016, a large hole in its roof where its west chimney once was has been visible for over two years. Sadly, the effects of continuing legal wrangling over the property is resulting in demolition by neglect. With the continuing rediscovery of the Adams District, however, the house may yet be saved.

Illustrations: Private Collection; LAPL; GSV