819 West Adams Street


Holdridge Ozro Collins was a Harvard-trained lawyer who, after a few interim years in the Bay Area, came to Los Angeles from Chicago in February 1889 owing to the ill health of his wife, Mary; on June 27 of that year, the couple bought a prominent double lot at the Adams Street entrance to recently opened St. James Park from two of that tract's developers, George W. King and J. Downey Harvey. The house went up almost immediately, with Mr. Collins having established himself in downtown offices in the Bryson-Bonebrake building at Second and Spring. While her husband must have felt that Mrs. Collins had recovered her health enough in the Southern California sunshine to exercise his connubial rights, their fourth daughter, called Jessie Benton Collins—apparently named after the famous and revered California writer Jessie Benton Frémont—died at 15 weeks on May 10, 1890. While two of the Collins daughters, Rejoyce, born in 1876, and Constance, born in 1888, survived into adulthood (Constance to nearly 102), Mary Collins had also lost three-year-old Gladys in 1886. Mrs. Collins's constitution would turn out to be such that she died on Christmas Eve 1894 while on a family visit to see her mother back in Peoria.

Holdridge Collins remained at 819 West Adams for a few years after his wife's death, apparently retaining ownership of the house and renting it. He moved to downtown rooms while Rejoyce became a schoolteacher and Constance was sent to board at the Orton School in Pasadena. Occupants over the next several years included attorney Jefferson Chandler, real estate man William May Garland, who may have been doing work on his residence across from the Collins house at 815 West Adams, and pottery and china manufacturer Homer Laughlin while he was building his new house down the street at 666, completed in 1901. In 1900, along with the three vacant lots of the St. James Park tract to its west, 819 was bought by "old" West Adamsite Ezra T. Stimson, seeking to upgrade from the house he'd built at 226 West Adams Street in 1893. Stables for latest Stimson house in the district went up in the fall of 1900, with building permits for the house itself, numbered 825, being issued the following April. (Both 825 West Adams and Stimson's father's famous castle of a house, built in 1891 at 2421 South Figueroa Street nearby, still stand.) Ezra Stimson retained the former Collins house, renting it to, among others, Estrella B. Smith, the principal of the Custer Street School, until he decided to demolish the 23-year-old 819 West Adams in 1913 to expand the grounds of 825. The Department of Buildings issued a demolition permit for it on March 7 of that year (coincidentally, the document was signed by the unrelated superintendent of the wrecking company who happened to have the surname of Holdridge). On April 4, a permit was issued for the stable of 825—now a garage—to be moved on to the rear of the lots vacated by 819.

The old Collins house was one of a number of houses built on West Adams Street not to have survived into the 1920s, when a citywide traffic plan officially designated the thoroughfare as a boulevard to encourage westward motor traffic to use certain through streets. Holdridge Collins, who never remarried, died in Los Angeles in 1920 at the age of 75.

Completed in 1890 at the northwest corner of Adams Street and
the roadway leading to interior 
St. James Park, the greensward of which
is seen in the distance, the Collins house is pictured circa 1900 behind one of the
development's custom streetlamps. While occupying Lots 5 and 6 of the tract and facing
what is today signed "St. James Place," it, as did others of the tract that had Adams frontage,
adopted an address on that signature street after development forced the use of digits
in city directories rather than vague directionals. Below is the same view today—
while the house survived just 23 years, the quatrefoil boulevard divider of
the type particular to St. James Park remains after nearly 13 decades.

Illustrations: Chicago Tribune; Private Collection; LAT; GSV