649 West Adams Boulevard

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  • Built in 1904 by Lieutenant (U.S.N.) and Mrs. Randolph Huntington Miner, who would be moving from 2301 Scarff Street nearby
  • Architects: Hunt & Eager (Sumner Hunt and Wesley Eager), who took bids from contractors in August 1904
  • In 1910, the Miners had contractor Elmer E. Harriman make alterations to the entrance and porte-cochère and to replace the concrete driveway with paving brick (building permit issued to Harriman by the Department of Buildings on September 20, 1910)
  • A permit for the replacement of the garage roof was issued to Randolph Miner on October 2, 1913
  • The Miners, stationed in San Francisco from the summer of 1917—he was by now a captain in the navy—leased 649 West Adams, furnished, to Theda Bara ("famous vampire of the motion picture world") in February 1918; she had previously taken a short rental at 2445 South Western Avenue, a mile and a quarter to the west. The Los Angeles Times reported that the actress was to move into 649 for an "indefinite period" on the 18th of the month. Miss Bara left the house in the early fall, after which the house was robbed sometime during the first days of October. Captain and Mrs. Miner were at this time moving from San Francisco to Washington; according to the Los Angeles Herald of November 11, 1918, they were hoping for a diplomatic posting, possibly to Italy, after the Armistice. While the Miners, who were nothing if not socially ambitious, told friends that they did not intend to return to Los Angeles to live, they hedged their bets by holding on to 649 West Adams for the time being. Despite subsequent backtracking by the couple, as quoted in the Herald on January 21, 1919 ("CAPTAIN MINER AND WIFE TO RE-OPEN L.A. MANSION")they remained in Washington, despite no glamorous international assignment seeming to be forthcoming from the Wilson administration. On May 5, 1919, the Herald reported that 649 and its furnishings had been leased again, for a period of nine months, to screen comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, who brought along 5,000 phonograph records and an extensive collection of wines and liquors. The Volstead Act became law on October 28, with Prohibition scheduled to begin on January 17, 1920; it was reported by the Herald on January 12 that when Federal authorities refused to let Arbuckle move his basement stash to another location, the star, apparently making an offer to the Miners they couldn't refuse—quoted as $30,000—bought the house outright 
  • An alteration permit to enlarge a bathroom by incorporating a closet was issued to Arbuckle by the Department of Buildings on February 28, 1920, apparently before the actual closing; on April 7, apparently after the act of sale, Arbuckle was issued a permit to build a new garage, which he had hired architect Daniel C. Messinger to design
  • Neighbors of Arbuckle, including Chester Place control freak Edward L. Doheny (no doubt at the behest of his his wife Estelle, who was in the midst of her impressive rise from telephone operator to ersatz countess), soon became unhappy with the raucous parties thrown by their new neighbor. Heretofore, Los Angeles burghers had tolerated Hollywood with equanimity, even amusement; Arbuckle's Adams Street parties were, however, just the beginning of a major social impasse. Fatty's infamous Labor Day 1921 weekend bacchanal in San Francisco firmly soured local society on film folk as neighbors and, despite Arbuckle's decisive acquittal on manslaughter charges after three trials, had the same effect on his career in terms of national public perception. Despite major attempts at a comeback, his career remained dead along with the hapless Virginia Rappe 
  • Reports have it that Minta was supportive of Fatty after his arrest, despite personal estrangement before the scandal and soon after. Arbuckle decided to leave 649 West Adams, or was compelled to do so as part of the complicated real estate dealings of his former business partner, film producer Joe Schenck, who also remained supportive of Arbuckle after the scandal broke. As reported in Variety and elsewhere, Schenck took the deed to the house just weeks after the San Francisco weekend as security for loans to Arbuckle to finance his defense. After renting the house back from Schenck for a short time, Arbuckle reportedly went on to lease for the time being the Lycurgus Lindsay house at 3424 West Adams Street (as the boulevard was then still designated). Schenck refused to sell 649 to the pesky Edward Doheny, who, after becoming involved in the even bigger Teapot Dome scandal, wished all the more to control the neighborhood, hoping to repel gawkers into his own windows on Chester Place. No doubt to the Dohenys' distress, the wily Schenck instead rented 649 after Arbuckle left to another Hollywood couple, director and actor Raoul Walsh and his wife, actress Miriam Cooper, who were in residence for a number of months before buying 626 South Plymouth Boulevard in Windsor Square. Then, even more Hollywood to bedevil the Dohenys: Schenck himself, along with his screen-star wife Norma Talmadge, moved into 649 during 1924, though only briefly, if not just for a single sitting for a photographer. Hollywood columnists contended that they would be moving into The Talmadge, their real estate venture on Wilshire Boulevard. As her agent had made the most of Talmadge's short stay at 649 with movie-magazine features illustrating the star's bourgeois domesticity there, her move to the new apartment building at 3278 Wilshire may only have been a publicity gambit to attract tenants: Expected to move out of 649 by June 1, the Schencks were instead living in the former Ralphs residence on Hollywood Boulevard in short order. The Dohenys continued to throw cash at Schenck, as he no doubt expected them to do: On May 7, 1924, Variety reported that 649 had been sold to Mrs. Doheny for $100,000. (Schenck was no doubt happy, along with an increasing wave of many West Adamsites, to unload a white elephant in a neighborhood beginning to show its age, one that could now be dominated to their hearts' content by the shady oil baron and his ambitious wife.) Curiously, Arbuckle would wind up in Beverly Hills—the actual ownership of 525 North Cañon Drive during the mid 1920s is unclear, but apparently this house also belonged to Schenck. Minta if not Fatty was in residence there by mid September 1924, with her planning a divorce, which she obtained in Paris on January 27, 1925. Fatty, who had plans to marry apparently somewhat clueless actress Doris Deane (née Doris Anita Dibble)—the ceremony would take place in San Marino on May 16, 1925—would be moving in. Fatty and Doris stayed at 525 North Cañon Drive until she sued him for divorce in August 1928. After the decree came down the next year, Fatty move into an apartment at the Alto Nido in Hollywood, his fortunes definitely waning by this time. Meanwhile, the title of the Beverly Hills house had become the subject of a lawsuit brought by Schenck against Arbuckle, which the former appears to have won. (Schenck's support had been part of hopes for a comeback by Arbuckle during the '20s, but in the end it was an uphill battle for the comedian. With another divorce and the loss of the Beverly Hills house on top of his failure to regain traction on the screen, insurmountable disappointment seems to have led to Fatty's death at 46 in 1933)
  • By late 1934, 649 West Adams belonged to the Doheny entity Petroleum Securities. The house would be occupied by various Doheny associates, including the Reverend George W. Davidson of St. John's Episcopal Church down the street—the construction of the current sanctuary of which was sponsored by the oil man—who was in temporary residence in 1932. Doheny attorney Olin Wellborn III lived in the house for over 20 years from the mid 1930s. After Estelle Doheny's demise in 1958, Chester Place and all attached properties, including 649 West Adams, was deeded to the Archbishop of Los Angeles. The bulk of the gated street became the Doheny campus of Mount St. Mary's College; 649, outside the gates, was given over for use as a residence for seminarians by the Congregation of the Mission, a Roman Catholic society of priests and brothers founded by St. Vincent de Paul




During Theda Bara's rental of 649 West Adams Street, her agent
exploited a very short stay, managing to get the Los Angeles Times to
run a feature on the actress as she relaxed at home; Bara is seen here in
the back garden. Headlined "NEW THEDA BARA IS BORN OF EXCLUSIVE SOCIETY
SETTING," the article asserted that the actress wanted to sluff off her notorious vamp
screen pose, said now to be boring audiences, for an image more along the lines of Mrs.
Miner, who "had long stood for social exclusiveness, cultured decorum, [and] general uplift."
This contradicted reports elsewhere of Theda having redecorated the house with animal-
skin rugs, dark velvet curtains, skulls, and "even a few crystal balls thrown in for
good measure." As had Theda's agent, Norma Talmadge's made the most
of a star's brief tenure on Adams Street. Some sources also cite a stop
at 649 West Adams during these years by actress Alla Nazimova.





As seen in the Los Angeles Times on July 28, 1918, and exactly a century later








Illustrations: Private Collection; LAT