508 West Adams Boulevard

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  • Built in 1889 on Lot 9 of Block A of the Treat Tract by attorney James W. McKinley. McKinley had arrived in Los Angeles from Pennsylvania in 1883 and was elected the next year to the position of city attorney, serving until 1888. Appointed as a Superior Court judge the same year he built his house, McKinley remained on the bench through 1896. He later became counsel for the Southern Pacific Railroad and chief counsel for the Pacific Electric Railway. He was appointed a regent of the University of California in 1903
  • Architect: Ernest A. Coxhead. The house was included in a list of the architect's projects in a year-end summary of new Los Angeles buildings appearing in the Herald on January 1, 1890. Coxhead had moved to the city from his native East Sussex in 1886, becoming for a time something of a specialist in ecclesiastical architecture, chiefly Episcopalian. In 1889 alone, the architect had completed at least four churches of English design in Southern California; though it appears to bear his style, there seems only to be conjecture that Coxhead designed the original St. John's Episcopal Church, the cornerstone of which was laid two doors west of 508 in 1890. Maintaining a Los Angeles office but moving to San Francisco in 1890, Coxhead turned more toward residential commissions in the Bay Area, though one famous Los Angeles house of his, now lost, was that of Edwin T. Earl at 2425 Wilshire Boulevard, completed in 1898
  • On June 13, 1891, the Times reported that McKinley had petitioned the Board of Public Works to have a cement sidewalk and curbing installed along Adams Street between Grand Avenue and Figueroa; while residential development was retarded during the national financial vicissitudes of the 1890s, the district was transitioning from exurban to suburban, further evidenced by the mile-long graded and curbed extension of Figueroa Street south of Adams, work on which started in the fall of 1894
  • The McKinleys' son, James W. Jr. but distinguished as Wilfred, was born on July 8, 1891. Junior would go on to be graduated from Berkeley—which was then commonly referred to as "Cal"—in 1913 and from Harvard Law in 1916, after which he joined his father's law practice. In May 1913, while his parents were motoring north to their son's graduation exercise, Mr. McKinley Sr. collapsed while in Los Olivos and brought back to Los Angeles to recuperate; stress of the recent forced dissolution of the merged Southern Pacific and Union Pacific was cited as the cause of his illness
  • James W. McKinley Sr. died at 508 West Adams on May 11, 1918, age 61
  • In 1919, Mrs. McKinley hired architect Theodore A. Eisen to make alterations to the house; a building permit was issued on August 28 for the addition of porches and a bathroom
  • Mr. McKinley Jr. would go on to serve as a state senator from 1926 to 1934; he and his mother would continue to live at 508 until 1928, after which, along with the torrent of the affluent away from the Adams district to westerly suburbs, the McKinleys moved to 1020 Ridgedale Drive in Beverly Hills. They appear to have retained ownership of 508 into the '30s; Mrs. McKinley died on Ridgedale Drive on August 13, 1938. Wilfred, age 48, married his childhood friend Selena Ingram, a U.C.L.A. faculty member, on January 27, 1940 
  • In 1932, 508 West Adams was being occupied by an annex of the U.S.C. School of Music, the main quarters of which were east down the block at 2601 South Grand
  • From 1934 into the early 1940s, 508 appears to have been operated as a lodging house, as were most residences on the block. Five unrelated heads of households appear at the address in the 1940 Federal census
  • William T. Hickerson, owner of a roofing company, had acquired the house as an investment by 1945; on February 13, 1945, he was issued a permit to relocate it to a plot four blocks east on Adams Boulevard. Described on the document as a single-family residence, the house was moved to a parcel comprised of the east half of Lot 11 and the west half of Lot 12 of the Damon & Millard Tract. The new address would be 127 East Adams Boulevard
  • On February 13, 1946, Hickerson was issued a building permit to convert 127 from a single-family dwelling into one of three flats; he was also issued a permit on that date to build a new garage on the property. A certificate of occupancy for the three-family building was issued on December 11, 1947
  • Another new owner, "Herman Slander" per the permit for the work issued on June 27, 1950, installed composition siding on the house, covering what may have been Coxhead's original shingling. The composition siding appears to still be on the house; could it be removed to reveal the original material?
  • Yet another new owner, Yee G. Lew, was in residence by the fall of 1950; though apparently misnamed on the document, Lew was issued a building permit on October 23, 1950, to convert the house from one of three units to one of four
  • On June 23, 2003, owner Alfonso Gonzales was issued a permit to install a new roof; on June 29, he was issued a permit to repair damage to the right corner of the front porch
  • The west curb of the current Flower Street south of Adams drives directly through the footprint of the house as it stood at 508 Adams Boulevard


The original St. John's Episcopal Church was begun the year after the McKinley house went up two lots
east. Whether or not venerated architect Ernest A. Coxhead was responsible for the church as well
the house is unclear; he moved to San Francisco the year it was built. Seen here before its

first enlargement in 1892 and its second in 1896, when it was drastically remodeled
by ecclesiastical designer Henry F. Starbuck, it was replaced with the current
St. John's. Though largely retired by that time, Coxhead was asked to
serve as an advisor on the new building, consecrated in 1925.
The earlier incarnations of the church reflected the bucolic

streetscape of the Adams district before its roads
were paved and concrete sidewalks installed.
West Adams's haute suburban appeal
would last barely three decades.




Illustrations: Private Collection; LAPL