666 West Adams Street


  • Completed in 1898 on part of Lot 1 in Block 22 of the Hancock Survey for Dr. Leslie E. Keeley, an Illinois physician who had made a fortune since introducing his controversial "Gold Cure" for alcoholism and other addictions in 1879 and going on to establish over 200 facilities across the country offering his method. After the Los Angeles Herald reported on May 23, 1897, that attorney William P. Gardiner had just sold him the property the previous week, the paper ran an item on June 2 adding that Dr. Keeley "of gold cure fame will make his home in Los Angeles and this city the center of all the institutions in the United States bearing his name. Dr. Keeley has purchased a handsome residence site on Adams street." There had been a previous 666 West Adams on the property; built by William Gardiner a decade or so earlier, it burned to the ground on February 24, 1897
  • Architect: Frederick L. Roehrig
  • The Superintendent of Buildings issued a construction permit for 666 West Adams on October 1, 1897
  • Dr. Keeley died in his new house at the age of 65 on February 21, 1900. By April 2, 1901, Mrs. Keeley completed the sale of 666 and its 1.36 acres to former Ohio pottery manufacturer Homer Laughlin. Laughlin had sold his factory back east and was retiring to California, where he would keep busy by developing Los Angeles real estate with his son, Homer Jr. In 1897, the Laughlins began building the Homer Laughlin Building on Broadway, which they'd hired John Parkinson to design. Opened the next year, its steel frame and reinforced concrete construction—and liberal application of asbestos—were touted as making the building the city's first fireproof structure; the Ville de Paris department store was an early tenant of the ground-floor space now occupied by the Grand Central Market. The Laughlins would later lend their name to property they'd acquired from another real estate investor, philanthropist James Lick, and sold to the developers of Laughlin Park in Los Feliz, which would be advertised as "The Subdivision for People of Culture." Los Feliz would become a destination for West Adams homeowners as the district declined

Adams Street was a major tourist destination in Los Angeles at the
turn of the 20th century. Civic boosters considered the impressive houses
along Figueroa and Adams streets, in St. James Park and in Chester Place to
be excellent inducements to have visitors consider settling in the city permanently,
sending postcards back east in the meantime; 666 West Adams under Dr. Keeley's brief
ownership was the subject of one that depicts its west side. The façade of 666 West Adams,
now belonging to Homer Laughlin, appeared in a 1904 promotional booklet issued by the
board of the Los Angeles 
Chamber of Commerce for distribution in St. Louis at the
Louisiana Purchase Exposition that year; a 
caption therein misidentified the
house as that of fruit packer and newspaper publisher 
Edwin Tobias Earl,
whose English 
2425 Wilshire Boulevard was perhaps not dissimilar.

  • Within weeks of taking possession of 666 West Adams Street, as the boulevard was then known, Homer Laughlin and his wife hosted a reception there on May 9, 1901, in honor of their fellow Ohioan and old friend President McKinley, who, four months before his assassination in Buffalo, was on the first visit of an American president to California. Guendolen presided over the punchbowl. Laughlin was heavily involved in the elaborate months-long preparations for the President's visit, which occurred during the annual Fiesta de las Flores; newspaper coverage was extensive and gave the impression that, beside himself with his connection to the chief executive, Laughlin rushed the purchase of 666 in order to have an impressive personal venue for the event. With its upper chambers perhaps not quite ready, the president spent the night after the Laughlins' reception at Harrison Gray Otis's "Bivouac" at 2401 Wilshire Boulevard
  • Mrs. Homer Laughlin Sr., Cornelia, died on October 13, 1907. Her husband and their daughter, Guendolen, would remain at 666 West Adams; on January 10, 1913, Mr. Laughlin died of pneumonia at the California Hospital on Hope Street following an appendectomy six days before
  • In 1908, Homer Laughlin Jr. had San Diego architect Irving Gill design his own house at 666 West 28th Street, one of reinforced concrete and the renowned architect's first residential project in the city, two blocks due south of his parents on Adams Street (it has been demolished and replaced). In 1910, the Laughlin family acquired the 1.008 acres to the east of 666 that had been attached to 636 West Adams; on June 6 of that year the Department of Buildings issued Homer Sr. one permit to demolish a barn at the West 27th Street end of this lot and another permit for its replacement with a garage of reinforced concrete construction designed by Irving Gill. The builder on the documents is noted as Homer Laughlin Jr., who was clearly impressed with Gill and perhaps envisioned the new building as an annex to his own house. Homer Jr. was an automobile enthusiast; in 1913 he established the Homer Laughlin Engineers Corporation, which would produce an experimental chain-driven front-wheel-drive car powered by a V8 engine—perhaps with some work on the project being done in the new garage at 666 West Adams. This structure still stands as a service building of the Automobile Club of Southern California, complete with a hay-hoist—or engine-hoist—over the door
  • On May 12, 1914, the Department of Buildings issued a permit to Guendolen Laughlin to add a two-story addition to 666 designed by architect Frederick L. Roehrig; it contained an enclosed porch with a sleeping porch above it

With a new life being contemplated and the Automobile Club
bringing commerce and disquiet to the neighborhood, its owner
and her new companion were eager for a buyer. The abandonment

of 666 West Adams would be an early sign that the old Adams District
would be losing its appeal among the affluent during the 1920s. The
advertisement above appeared in the Los Angeles Sunday Times
on December 11, 1921, the one below on May 21, 1922.

  • Guendolen Laughlin, who turned 35 on March 12, 1920, appears to have found herself that year. Having remained at 666 since her father's death, she is listed there with two maids in the 1920 Federal census enumerated that January; by the time the 1920 Los Angeles city directory appeared later in the year, a 52-year-old widow, Laura Schrack Barnard, was listed as living at 666. With the Automobile Club of Southern California preparing to build an enormous new headquarters on the site of 2619 South Figueroa Street nearby, Mrs. Barnard (who would most often continue to style herself "Mrs. William D. Barnard") may have persuaded Miss Laughlin to ditch the family house for a life of companionate travel and hotel living. An illustrated advertisement appeared in the Los Angeles Times on December 11, 1921, offering 666 "For Immediate Sale" by the owner ("Price, for quick sale, $80,000"). On May 24, 1922, an auction of Guendolen's furniture was held in the house. For the time being, she and Mrs. Barnard based themselves at the Hotel Darby a few blocks east on Adams. The Times of July 22, 1925, would report that Miss Laughlin and Mrs. Barnard had recently returned to the city after an absence of several years; "They are domiciled indefinitely at the Biltmore, Miss Laughlin having sold her home in West Adams street some time ago"
  • Guendolen Laughlin is noted on the 1921 map as owning the original 1.36 acres on which 666 stood; the 1.008-acre lot next door to the east, though not indicating her brother's Irving Gill–designed garage building, is marked "Heirs of H. Laughlin"
  • Industrialist Percy Mortimer Pike bought 666 West Adams Street from Guendolen Laughlin and was in residence with his family by 1923. (With the gradual introduction of the city's 1924 Major Traffic Street Plan, Adams Street would within a few years be redesignated Adams Boulevard.) Pike was president of the Republic Supply Company, purveyors of oil-field equipment, and president of the Federal Drilling Company. Unless there was an interim owner, it appears to be Pike who sold 666 West Adams to the adjacent Automobile Club of Southern California for its expansion after he left the house for one he built at 600 Muirfield Road in Hancock Park in 1925. A demolition permit for 666 West Adams was issued to the L.A. Wrecking Company, to which the club assigned the job, by the Department of Building and Safety on March 27, 1931. The 1.008-acre parcel once owned by the Laughlins was largely covered by an addition to the Automobile Club's main building begun the year before, soon after which a parking facility would occupy the site of 666 and remain for decades. The club built a four-story addition currently on the site of the Laughlins' 666 West Adams in 1969
  • While there was no overt reference to their apparent Boston marriage, details of the travel and local entertainments of Guendolen Laughlin and Laura Barnard appeared often in local society columns for two decades. Mrs. Barnard would be be added to the listing of Miss Laughlin in the Southwest Blue Book; the couple would be enumerated together at the Biltmore in the 1930 and 1940 Federal censuses, listed, remarkably, as "partners" in the latter. Guendolen died in their rooms at the Biltmore on May 19, 1942; while her obituary in the Los Angeles Times two days later makes no mention of Laura Barnard, that of Mrs. Barnard in the paper after her death on June 1, 1943, describes her as, appropriately enough after over 20 years together, the "devoted friend of Miss Guendolen V. Laughlin.... (Philadelphia papers please copy)." Mrs. Barnard's obituary in The Philadelphia Inquirer made no mention of Guendolen, referring to California only in that she died at Good Samaritan Hospital and was cremated at Forest Lawn, after which her ashes were sent east for burial alongside the remains of her husband of just five years (1899-1905)

Homer Laughlin Jr. had San Diego architect Irving Gill build a
house for his family at 666 West 28th Street, two blocks due south
of Homer Sr.'s 666 West Adams, in 1908. While this has disappeared,
the outbuilding that Homer Jr. had Gill design for the rear of 666 West
Adams's expanded lot survives, as seen below. The enormous four-
story Automobile Club building appearing at left would come to
cover the footprint of the 1898 666 West Adams in 1969.

Illustrations: Private Collection; LATSouthern California Architectural History