2205 West Adams Boulevard

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David Chambers McCan was that rare native New Orleanian willing to admit that, for all the vaunted charm of his birthplace, greater opportunity—especially for an inventive mind—lay elsewhere. Settling in the still relatively small but boundless and booming Western city of Los Angeles soon after the turn of the 20th century, McCan was issued a permit by the Department of Buildings on November 22, 1905, to begin construction of a substantial suburban house at the northeast corner of West Adams Street (as it was then designated) and Cimarron. Within five years, another remarkable new Angeleno of unusual intellect, William Andrews Clark Jr., was in residence at 2205 West Adams; the house would then became the basis for a major in-town estate complete with an observatory and a famous enduring library Clark named for his legendary father and namesake.




While the family of William Andrews Clark Jr., ranging from his father, the Montana copper king, to his famously reclusive half-sister Huguette, is endlessly fascinating, we must first describe David Chambers McCan. Well-educated and well-traveled in his youth, he was not typical of the male progeny of Southern port-city gentry, but rather a cultivated man possessed of superior mental acuity as well as of imagination and adventurousness. His father having died when he was just two, McCan came of age and joined the foundry business established in New Orleans before the Civil War by his namesake grandfather just as the organization was being absorbed by another company. Just the sort of man who would have been unable to ignore Horace Greeley's suggestion to "Go west, young man, and grow up with the country," Los Angeles would have appeared to him to be a much more open town than New Orleans, one without the closed social hierarchy that had begun to throttle the latter city's opportunities for entrepreneurship. His inherited millions and extreme physical attractiveness were not exactly impediments to success anywhere away from home. He might also have been persuaded by a Milwaukee publisher's widow to forsake the South; 19-year-old David and 42-year-old Mrs. George H. Yenowine were married in March 1904, stopping at first for reasons unknown in Ventura County. Describing himself as an inventor when applying for a passport the following October, he stated that he might be abroad for as long as two years—presumably it was a honeymoon. After the trip, it would be time to get down to business. No doubt persuaded by his bride, the McCans would settle not in remote Ventura but in Los Angeles, where a new McCan industrial concern would emerge and a suitable house would be built, if one more likely to the taste of a matron of means rather than a 21-year-old fledgling businessman preoccupied more with metalcraft than woodwork.




On September 23, 1905, the Los Angeles Herald reported that McCan had just bought a parcel of three lots in Kinney Heights, at that moment in time at the center of Los Angeles's newest and most fashionable district, an extension of the settled Adams District to the east. The Department of Buildings issued a permit on November 22 to begin construction of a 15-room house designed by Pasadena architect Joseph J. Blick. As Martha McCan busied herself with domestic matters, her husband went to work opening the McCan Mechanical Works in a plant at the industrial foot of Adams Street four miles to the east. There, within a few short years, the works was building to order all manner of machinery and metal products in its shops and foundries: air compressors, pumps, rebar, fire hydrants, manhole frames and covers, ore cars, grape seeders, freight elevators, and even the engines and transmissions for the Los Angeles–built Durocar automobile, which billed itself as "the car with the motor for San Francisco's hills." The San Francisco earthquake and fire unexpectedly offered opportunities for business as did the aborning Los Angeles Aqueduct. So did astronomy: McCan Mechanical produced the observer's platform for the Mount Wilson telescope and supplied the primary parts for the grinding of the instrument's famous Hooker lens. David McCan himself was brimming with ideas for inventions that he might manufacture, including spokeless disc wheels for automobiles and a press to form fuel briquettes from wood shavings. The Los Angeles Times of May 27, 1906, in describing both McCan's business startup and details of the newly completed 2205 West Adams Street, opined that McCan's "...investment of more than $200,000 in home and business proves how much faith Mr. McCan has in the future of California."

As for his new house at 2205 West Adams Street, it does indeed seem to have been built by the McCans for a long stay, even if children were unlikely to arrive to fill its many rooms (while the building permit cites a building of 15 rooms, the Times decided that there were 30). While modern in the new horizontal way, the house with its red-tile roof was not of daring exterior design, though its 70-foot-long arched porch facing Adams was impressive, as was a rounded west-side solarium. Neither of these features would be visible from the street, however; apparently incorporating more pressed brick than went into the residence itself, a 10-foot-high "European" wall would surround the corner lot, which had frontage of 150 feet on Adams and 180 on Cimarron. Custom gates fabricated at McCan Mechanical allowed access to the house's entrance from the east end of the front porch. Inside were the typical dark woods of the era, this being before Eastern-bred settlers fully embraced the sunshine they had come west for and let it inside. To give the reader an idea of scale, the McCan entrance hall—while it might have been shadowy—was spacious, measuring 50 feet long by 20 feet wide. Along with the Louisiana business, the extensive family property holdings in New Orleans were being divided up at the time, David McCan largely filling 2205 with substantial furniture and artwork—no doubt dark and heavy as well—from a family house there. While David McCan spoke to the press about his new residency in Los Angeles as being permanent (while also feeling the need to justify his wall, to which some neighbors objected), there were apparently other restless aspects to his personality aside from those sparking curiosity and inventiveness, ones that would result in his stay at 2205 being quite short after all—less than five years, in fact, the house being sold in October 1910. As it turned out, if perhaps not surprisingly, the McCans would not remain married; after the listing for McCan Mechanical disappeared from city directories beyond 1914, so too did one for David C. McCan—but not one for newly divorced Mrs. Martha N. McCan, present and listed as president of the City Civil Service Commission in 1916. Also within the decade of the 1910s, David would be dead. The path to his sad end is unclear, but it seems he began to wander, if not necessarily romantically, then certainly geographically. While Martha McCan would remain in Los Angeles until her death there in 1933, her ex-husband died of tuberculosis on November 23, 1919, in a hospital in Buenos Aires, where he would also be buried. Having died intestate and reportedly destitute, he had recently held a "minor position" at the Alexandria Tea Rooms in the South American city. While McCan's is a curious death—not the first among those connected to 2205—it is the Los Angeles house he built with seeming certitude but summarily left behind that we are concerned with here.

One might wonder if David McCan might have been acquainted with the man to whom he sold his house in 1910, given the similar cultivation of the two affluent men and the possibilities of era-enforced compartmentalized lives. William Andrews Clark Jr., a twice-married father, nevertheless also did not have a conventional romantic life. The men may or may not have known one another prior the transfer of 2205; at any rate, the property would continue to evolve from its initial improvement in 1905 into the present under the influence of individuals who were definitely not average Los Angeles suburbanites. Clark's father was famously accomplished in mining, banking, utilities, railroads, and politics (if crookedly, having bought his first Senate seat); while he was also famously rough and vulgar and given to excess, a man of appetites whose life included transforming a teenage ward 39 years his junior into his second wife and about whom Mark Twain famously wrote:
"He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag; he is a shame to the American nation, and no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a ball and chain on his legs. To my mind he is the most disgusting creature that the republic has produced since Tweed's time."
his son, having had been well-educated and well-traveled, was of finer stuff. After some years practicing mining law in his native Montana and then marrying for the second time in Butte in 1907, he decided to settle in California just when the western reaches of the Adams District were shaping up as the most exclusive neighborhood in Los Angeles, a hegemony that would have little competition for the next few years, at least. Clark could have bought an empty estate-size building lot in the area on the sloping south side of Adams, favored for its spectacular views. Instead, perhaps making McCan an offer he couldn't refuse, and perhaps attracted to the property's "European" wall and with an eye on there being only a few other houses on the Adams blockfront, he bought 2205. Alterations and acquisitions began immediately. Architect Thornton Fitzhugh enlarged the house's library in the spring of 1911, Clark's collection of rare books and musical scores being his priority. (An amateur violinist himself, Clark would go on to found the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1919.) Then, after the death of Mrs. Oscar Eugene Farish next door in 1914, Clark began his conquest of Kinney Heights. The Farish residence at 2193 West Adams Street had been built a few blocks east at 2076 in 1896 and moved in 1904; after striking a deal with Mr. Farish, a demolition permit for the 19-year-old dwelling was issued on September 7, 1915. (A glimpse of 2193 is seen at right in the topmost image here.) A confusing flurry of construction permits soon followed; on October 29, a demolition permit was issued for the original garage belonging to 2205, with a permit issued on November 13 to build a new one on the Farish property. Then, on February 16, 1916, a curious permit was issued, one calling for the building of a steel observatory up through this new garage; this permit then appears to have been amended on March 1 for the tower not to be built as part of the garage. Harley G. Corwin is cited as architect on all four of these documents, as well as on a permit issued on March 2 for a greenhouse on the property; neither it or a Corwin-designed observatory wound up getting built. Whether it was Clark's whim or dissatisfaction with Corwin's work is not known, but there was a sudden change in plans in mid 1916.


In a 1921 Sanborn insurance schematic, the house completed for David C. McCan in 1906 remains;
its rounded solarium appears at its west side and its porte cochère at its east. The observatory,
designed by Wilbur D. Cook Jr., is at center top. Cook's winged garage appears in its
first location on the property, which has not yet expanded eastward to include the
lot still occupied by 2155 West Adams or northward to occupy the north half
of Block 2 of the Kinney Heights tract, the northwest corner of which
would eventually be the second location of the garage. The
small dotted rectangle near center is the open brick
pavilion that would be replaced by the new
library within the next several years.


It seems that, after a demolition permit was issued on August 2, 1916, the brand new Corwin-designed garage was razed. The garage and observatory projects were now in the hands of noted landscape architect Wilbur D. Cook Jr., who had designed nearby Exposition Park, the grounds of the second 2076 West Adams, and the curving street plan of Beverly Hills. The construction of a new, much larger garage designed by Cook, one incorporating a large laundry and servatns' quarters, was authorized with a building permit issued on July 26, 1916; it rose on Lot 17 of Block 2 of the Kinney Heights tract, one of the unimproved additional eastward lots acquired around the time of the purchase of the Farish house. A permit for the construction of Cook's design for a 37-foot observatory was issued on August 28, 1916. Also part of Clark's early garden plans were an open arched brick pavilion up on a berm to the east of the house—this would turn out to be short-lived—as well as trellised walkways. While their designer and dates of their construction are unclear, these features appear in silent films of the early 1920s, including Fresh Paint (with Charley Chase, 1920) and Dr. Jack (with Harold Lloyd, 1922), and were part of Clark's evolving vision for his private domain behind his extension of McCan's wall, which would eventually surround the entire Block 2 of Kinney Heights, comprised of 24 lots at the subdivision's inception in the late '90s.




In a shot from the 1922 film Dr. Jack,
starring Harold Lloyd, a view from the main house
east across a lawn offers a rare glimpse of the open arched
brick pavilion soon to be replaced by Clark's new library that would
be dedicated to his father in 1926. At far left is a dormer of the Cook-
designed garage, seen below after it was moved to another part of
the property in 1930. The steep roof in the background is that
of 2155 West Adams, which was moved a block east in
1923 when Clark bought the two lots it occupied.



While William Andrews Clark Jr. did have better taste than his father, who had recently built a famously overblown house on Fifth Avenue in New York, he was at least as self-indulgent when it came to spending money on himself. Improvements at 2205 were continuous. Not satisfied with the stair hall's original design, Clark hired John B. Holtzclaw to make it over in an English Gothic style, with a permit for this work being issued by the city on December 5, 1916. After a respectful lull during the war and the concurrent illness of Mrs. Clark and then her death on November 17, 1918, William, rather quickly recovering from being "prostrated with grief," as the the Herald reported him to be, resumed his musical activities and entertainments soon in the new year. Clark's recently begun book collecting accelerated. And his plans for his gardens were far from settled.

As Clark added rare books, manuscripts, and scores to his shelves, concerns grew concerning their safety. The collection was no longer one that belonged in the house, and a small fire there in 1923 was the impetus to move it elsewhere. Ever imaginative, Clark began thinking of a literary pleasure garden centered on a new fireproof library. Educated at Harvard, M.I.T., and at L'École des Beaux-Arts, and practicing in Los Angeles since 1905, Brooklyn-born Robert D. Farquhar was perhaps the most sophisticated architect in the city, a man whose design sense appealed to Clark and with whom he had recently collaborated in building the demurely styled Clark family mausoleum situated not very discreetly on its own island at Hollywood Cemetery. Farquhar had a gift for creating architectural jewel boxes. Clark would have undoubtedly been aware of the architect's Barlow Medical Library, a now-lost mini-Pantheon built at 742 North Broadway in 1907. Clark's own library, begun in 1924 and completed two years later—it replaced the open-air brick pavilion captured in silent movies—would be dedicated to his father and come to hold 13,000 items by the time of Junior's death in 1934, primarily works of 15th- to 17-century English literature and history, including, famously, what is reputed to be the largest collection in the world of works by and about Oscar Wilde.


The William Andrews Clark Jr. mausoleum at Hollywood Cemetery, completed in 1921, was
designed by Robert D. Farquhar; one of the architect's earliest designs after arriving
in Los Angeles was his 1907 Barlow Medical Library on North Broadway (right),
which had clearly caught Clark's eye. Farquhar would design the book
collector's own symmetrically exact library 15 years later.


Feeling ever safer behind the walls of what was turning into an estate of nearly five acres—even if it was clear by the mid-1920s that the surrounding residential district was facing stiff competition in terms of fashionable neighborhoods—Clark had become quite close to a young man named Harrison Post, who appears to have come into the picture on the heels of the late Mrs. Clark. Curiously not listed with William A. Clarks Jr. and III at 2205 West Adams in the 1920 Federal census, Post's enumeration appears tucked away as if by design on its own line on another page altogether, though the address given is indeed 2205 West Adams. He is listed there as a "ward"...his parents as having been born in Russia...and his age, unusually in censuses, as "unknown." Post hiding, or being hidden, in plain sight, it might be said. He is documented elsewhere as having been born in San Francisco on April 19, 1900—and, too, in Sacramento in 1896—which, either way, would make him an echo of Clark's father's own young ward who became more than that. Murals that might be considered homoerotic decorated the interiors of the new library, perhaps, it has been suggested, in tribute to the closeness of the two men and of Post's influence. (Their Oscar Wilde collection was already well underway.) Over time, Post was given title to his own property across the street at 2505 Cimarron Street, where he replaced an existing dwelling on one lot with a considerable house in a Mediterranean mode covering two lots, notable for its espaliered fruit trees, and staffed by a maid and cook. A Rolls-Royce (reportedly in attention-getting bumblebee colors) got him around town. While he liked his buildings exquisitely compact, Clark was inspired by Post to think bigger and more boldly, it seems. The two men were listed together on a number of transatlantic ship manifests at 2205 West Adams during the '20s, now barely even bothering to hide in plain sight, admirable chutzpah but then only supportable by a great deal of money.


In a letter to the Regents of the University of California dated June 4, 1926, William Andrews Clark Jr.
expressed his intention to bequeath to its Southern Branch (soon to be named U.C.L.A.) his just-
completed private library dedicated to his father, along with its walled, full-city-block property.


With the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library completed, the literary pleasure garden was to get even bigger. The plan of Farquhar and landscape designer Mark Daniels included a lacy reading gazebo added in 1929; the year before, Clark had decided to precisely double the size of his holdings on Adams Boulevard (the former mere "street" had had its status recently upgraded officially). In 1923, Clark had made another of his apparently hard-to-refuse offers, this one for the house built at the northwest corner of Adams and Gramercy (then Hermosa) in 1904. Clark's first cousin, Walter Miller Clark (son of one of the Senator's brothers, J. Ross Clark of 710 West Adams), had once been an occupant of the house, coincidentally having been renting 2155 West Adams when he went down with the Titanic (his wife Virginia survived but left the house soon after the tragedy). By 1918, 2155 belonged to William S. Hook Jr., who, after cutting a deal with Clark, was issued permits on April 6 and May 21, 1923, to move his house one block east to the northeast corner of Adams and St. Andrews Place (newly addressed 2055 West Adams, Hook had the firm of Morgan, Walls & Morgan drastically remodel the house). The Hook house was just the first of the dwellings and attendant outbuildings that Clark would arrange to have cleared from their lots. Ten more houses plus a five-unit bungalow court would all be either moved from the south side of West 25th Street between Gramercy and Cimarron to various parts of the city or demolished to allow for a doubling of Clark's property. McCan's "European" wall was now extended yet again that much farther. The winged garage building completed in 1916 on the east side of the property was moved to what became the new northwest corner of the compound on the former site of the bungalow court, which had been moved directly across West 25th Street, where it still stands today.




Another eastward view shows the library soon after its
1926 completion. It replaced the short-lived open-air pavilion.
In the distance is the 1916 garage, which has yet to be moved to a
corner of the expanded grounds; this occurred after house relocations and
demolitions that took place in 1930. Clark's observatory, which had
been at the north center of the property since 1916, then became
its centerpiece. The building appeared in a feature in
Popular Science magazine in December 1919.



The dramatic 1930-31 property expansion at 2205 West Adams, carried on despite the onset of the Depression, would be the last major project to be undertaken by Clark himself. Personal issues, if not the country's financial woes, overtook life behind the expanded walls of his literary pleasure garden. His son, William Andrews Clark III (known as "Tertius"), was killed in an Arizona plane crash on May 15, 1932. Two years later, on June 14, 1934, William Andrews Clark Jr. died of heart disease while at his summer home in Salmon Lake, Montana, 60 miles from his birthplace at Deer Lodge. He then retreated to Hollywood Cemetery to join Tertius and Tertius's mother, Mabel Foster Clark, who had died in 1903, as well as the second Mrs. Clark, née Alice McManus, who had died in 1918. At his death, the entire compound, including the 1926 library and its 13,000 items, became the property not of nearby U.S.C. but rather of U.C.L.A. The gift came with an endowment of $1.5 million and the stipulation that no structure could be built within 100 feet of the library. In the years since, the university has undertaken revisions to the estate's composition. While Clark's vision of a literary pleasure garden—and its continuing central pleasure, the library and its contents—remains, there have been significant building losses over the years. The observatory was dismantled in 1951, apparently having become a plaything and therefore a safety hazard to neighborhood children. And the original structure from which the property grew, built by David McCan in 1906, came down after the Department of Building and Safety issued a demolition permit for it on November 22, 1971.


In a recent direct aerial view of the grounds of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, the
library itself is at bottom center; it was completed in 1926 with its northeast corner
almost tucked into the wings of the garage built 10 years before and here
seen in its new location at the northwest corner of the compound. The
observatory stood where a clump of trees now stands near the
northwest corner of the library. The shadow of a lone
palm is seen in the parking lot that replaced
the original 1906 residence in 1972.


In a sad and bizarre postscript to his life in Clarkworld, Harrison Post would suffer a nervous breakdown in 1934, which one might speculate was due to the death of his companion. As the world has evolved, the relationship of William A. Clark Jr. and Harrison Post has become clearer—even if such an emotionally and logistically complicated arrangement might today seem unnecessary, versions of them do exist, of course. At any rate, one only hopes that Clark did indeed get his money's worth from Post. In addition to the house Post had already been given—valued at $50,000 in 1930 in a neighborhood of mostly $8,000 to $15,000 residences—and the gawdy Roller, Post was left in his lover's will another substantial house next to the Riviera Country Club, $25,000 in cash, and a $100,000 trust, none of which seemed to soothe a man so apparently high strung. In 1946, the story emerged that Post had been imprisoned in the Pacific Palisades house for three years by his half-sister, Gladys Crooks, and her husband Charles (a.k.a. Harold). The Crookses, who had had Post declared incompetent after his breakdown, apparently paid little attention to news of the world, or else were very crafty indeed, choosing 1939 to send him—accompanied by a male nurse—to recuperate at a health resort in Norway, leaving him there to be arrested by the Nazis after their invasion in April 1940. Post charged in court that the Crookses had relieved him of $500,000 during his years of infirmity and his internment in three different concentration camps (whether he was detained due to his heritage, his mental instability, his general ill health, or for his sexuality is unclear). It was reported during the legal wrangling that Post had at some point become the "adopted brother" of well-known, four-times-married stage and screen actor Guy Bates Post, 21 years his senior. Guy Bates Post—seemingly the successor inamorato to Clark—does not seem to have been assisting his sibling, however, during his travails. After the glory years of life on Adams Boulevard as the particular friend of William Andrews Clark Jr.—his "confidant," as the Los Angeles Times put it in 1946—Harrison Post died at the San Francisco home of another half-sister, Madeleine Post Starrett, on October 30, 1946.


In the 1921 silent film The Tourist, featuring Oliver Hardy, a character carries luggage from the
front door of 2205 West Adams Street to the driveway at the east side of the house. 




Illustrations: Private Collection; NHMLATLAPLUSCDLPopular ScienceSanborn Maps;
John Bengtson/Silent Locations; The William Andrews Clark Memorial Library; GSV