737 East Adams Boulevard


  • Built in 1899 on Lot 17 in Block A of the Menlo Park Subdivision No. 1 by real estate investors William L. and Eloise A. Williams
  • William Loch Williams had for two years been associated with the American Engraving Company, with offices in the headquarters building of the Los Angeles Times; in the fall of 1901, he would organize a new concern, the Commercial Engraving Company, with his wife sitting on the board of directors. The couple built spec and rental properties as a side occupation, a number of them in a design similar to that of 737, along East Adams Street, as the Boulevard was then designated. The Williamses moved from project to project, residing briefly in each. From 737 East Adams they moved on to 808, 1007, and, by September 1903, to 1018, staying there until April 1904. Having begun a peripatetic move west with the city, William and Eloise Williams had by 1906 built 1880 West Adams Boulevard on spec while already living in Hollywood—which would be annexed to Los Angeles on February 7, 1910—continuing to build and purchase Hollywood and Westside properties into the 1940s
  • After their move to 808 East Adams by June 1900, the Williams rented 737 East Adams to oil operator Lyman Jesse Barber before selling it to him in January 1901. Barber was the secretary of the Hawkeye State Oil Company, which was perhaps a small, struggling operation—while most oil-company executives were building much bigger houses in the more fashionable West Adams district, Barber took out a three-year mortgage on his cottage at 737 East Adams. 
  • Having only recently arrived in Los Angeles from Iowa, Jesse Barber and his wife Mamie moved into 737 East Adams with their six children, who, ranging from one year to 13, could be no help with finances; Henry Barber, just short of his 12th birthday, died at 737 East Adams on October 30, 1900. Considering that his testimonial was for something other than an automobile or an ice box, Jesse Barber was presumably being paid for his citations in newspaper advertisements, complete with his address, as among those in the care of a rupture specialist: "This is to certify that Prof. Joseph Fandrey has cured me of a bad case of strangulated hernia.... Prof. Fandrey also cured my 7-year-old son of rupture as quickly and effectively as he did mine." Before changing their minds, the Barbers put 737 on the market—price, $2,750—in March 1902 via advertisements in the Express. A family history has it that Barber "went into oil and lost his money [and] became a streetcar conductor." Lyman and Mamie Barber remained at 737 until 1906 when, their fortunes apparently having improved if not to the extent of allowing for anything grand, they built a new cottage at 2216 West 29th Street, still extant in the Jefferson Park neighborhood
  • Maine-born Jonathan Norton Harmon bought 737 East Adams in 1906; enumerated in the Federal census at 737 East Adams in April 1910, Harmon, now 74 years old, still identified himself as a residential carpenter. Jonathan Harmon and his wife Jane remained in the house until his death on November 14, 1919. Mrs. Harmon left the house immediately, moving in with her daughter Edith Adams and her family at 1199 Crenshaw Boulevard. The house on East Adams was on the market by April 1920 priced at $4,250
  • The identity of the owner of 737 East Adams during the two decades after the Harmons is somewhat unclear. As were many of the neighborhood's single-family residences, the house appears to have been adapted as rental property in response not only to the departure of original owners for new developments in ever-expanding Los Angeles but to the dramatic population growth of the city between World War I and the Depression, the number of Angelenos more than doubling in the '20s. The names and occupations of the residents of 737 reflect the increasingly cosmopolitan demographic of mid-period South Los Angeles: Chronologically from 1921 there were Earl Basford, a plumber; Harvey Davis, a lineman; Max Stanman, a shoemaker; Jacob Cohn, a house painter; Chris Papalian, a cook; Robert Solorzano, a gardner; Luis Zazueta, a upholsterer in a furniture factory, his wife Beatrice, and her father Manuel Perez, among others
  • On November 18, 1937, the Department of Building and Safety issued a permit authorizing a new single-car garage for 737 East Adams, the document indicating Charles F. Oliver of San Luis Obispo as the owner of the house. In 1900 Oliver had been living as a farmhand in the household of fruit grower Nellie H. Taylor in San José Township, a defunct district near Pomona. Mrs. Taylor and her her spinster daughters Mary and Lizzie Belle later acquired as a town residence 747 East Adams, where Charles was sometimes listed in directories with the family in the 1910s (the daughters would later occupy 751 East Adams). By 1930, Charles F. Oliver was living as a servant in the household of a Taylor family in San Luis Obispo, apparently related to the one cited here as living in Los Angeles
  • The family of Sun Kai Wong, who is listed as living at 737 East Adams in the 1939 city directory, appears to have become the owner of the property by that time. Mon Yee Dea, a cook at the Chinese Jade in Chinatown, was living at 737 during the mid 1940s; he appears to have been relative of Hong C. Wong, who is listed at 737 in the 1948 and '56 directories and may have been the owner of 18 Berkeley Square at the same time. The Misses Jessie and Pearl Wong are enumerated in voting records at 737 from 1952 to 1956. It seems that the Wongs organized the Wong Realty Company, with offices on West Slauson Avenue, which ran an advertisement in the Los Angeles Sentinel on October 19, 1967, offering 737 East Adams for sale: "Fix Up and Save!" In the 1973 and 1987 directories a Lee Wai Hong is listed; in recent years the property has been owned by Marcos A. Ayala

Illustration: Private Collection