880 West Adams Boulevard


While it became known as the Newmark house—or a Newmark house, as there were numerous Newmarks in Los Angeles, one of the city's oldest and most prominent clans—wholesale grocer Morris A. Newmark did not build 880 West Adams Street but rather bought it from its original owners in 1901. A building permit for the modern and charmingly galleried house was issued to dry-good heiress Margaret Gertrude Gossage Blaisdell, wife of Richard Perrot Blaisdell, in late April 1895. Even in a pretty, 18-room, $15,000 house in the most salubrious part of Los Angeles, the Blaisdells, native Chicagoans, were not happily married; property, in fact, seemed to be their primary issue. The trouble started within months of the couple having moved into 880 West Adams Street, the Los Angeles Times would later report. It seems that Mr. Blaisdell, who was an insurance-office clerk—some sources describe him as having been a "plowman," originally sent to Southern California by his father to work the land on a ranch—when he and Margaret married after less than a month's acquaintance in Alameda on May 18, 1894, had begun a dubious career as a real estate investor. The problem was that the opportunistic Dickie Blaisdell's investment capital—he was now being referred to in some reports as a "capitalist," that Gilded Age designator of primacy—was actually part of his wife's patrimony, and he had neglected to include her name on various deeds. Margaret was also on bad terms with her sister Mary, who, it seems, had all the looks but also had a spendthrift husband and was one herself. A full-page story in The Chicago Sunday Tribune of January 9, 1898, laid out the family's dirty laundry in lavishly illustrated detail; at the time, Gertrude was back in Illinois buying valuable Wabash Avenue property on which Mary had defaulted, which some saw as the revenge of gloating plain sister on a vaunted beautiful one. (During the next year or so, the Blaisdells would be spending time in Chicago sorting out their financial interests, renting 880 for a time to William S. Hook, manager of the Los Angeles Traction Company. Hook had been living at 957 West Adams and would move on to 1386 by 1902.) In a recap of the Blaisdell's woes on May 30, 1902, the Times reported that when Margaret, living with Dickie back at 880 "in all the confidential relations pertaining to the status of husband and wife," had sought additional land to add a carriage barn to the property but had discovered that the deed was not executed in her name as had been that of the main house. Other "misdeeds" followed, resulting in Margaret fleeing back to Chicago in the spring of 1901 with five-year-old Sarah and then bringing suit against Dickie. The house at the southeast corner of Adams and Portland streets went on the market forthwith. An unhappy couple's troubles would turn out to be all to the gain of Prussian-born Morris Newmark and his wife—she was also his first cousin—with the grounds of 880 now lush and the neighborhood building out with the impressive residences of others of the city's top entrepreneurial and social ranks. On August 18, 1901, the Times reported that the Blaisdells had just sold 880 to the Newmarks for $25,000; details included that the house was of frame and stone construction and that the deep lot had 117 feet of Adams Street frontage.

As seen within a few years of completion, a three-quarter view of 880 West Adams Street reveals
its stonework and its impressive west-side bay and the house's depth compared to its width.

By all accounts, Morris Newmark was quietly diligent in building and maintaining his business, M. A. Newmark & Company; he also appears to have led a sedate family life on Adams Street. He and Mrs. Newmark, Harriet, had four children, ranging in age from 21 to 6 when the family moved into 880. All four were unmarried and still living at home when Mrs. Newmark died on November 13, 1918, a victim of the Spanish flu epidemic of that year. Twelve years later, son William and the Newmark's only daughter, Edna, were still living with their father at 880 when Morris came down with pneumonia; after being transferred to the Glendale Sanitarium, he died there on November 14, 1930. Robert, William, and Alfred Newmark received three-quarters of their father's $3,221,000 estate; Edna received an income as well as 880, which appears may have been held as part of her trust. She and William remained in the house into the war years, by which time, with servants scarce and upkeep of an old barn no doubt onerous, 880 West Adams was ripe for conversion to institutional use, as were many residences in the neighborhood. The U.S.C. chapter of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity (better known as FIJI), founded in 1948, acquired 880 as their house that year. It appears that Union Bank, acting as Edna Newmark's trustee, may have held on to the property, leasing it to FIJI for 15 years; at any rate, it was owned by the bank when the Department of Building and Safety issued a demolition permit for the house on March 29, 1965. The lot remained bare for the next 13 years, during which time it was acquired by U.S.C.; on March 17, 1978, the university was issued a permit to put up a three-story-over-garage apartment building, which, with the address of 2610 Portland Street and the name Founders Apartments, sits on the site of the Newmark house today.

Two views of 880 West Adams during its time as
U.S.C.'s Phi Gamma Delta chapter house: The fraternity,
better known by its nickname FIJI, is seen below decorating
for the November 19, 1955, U.S.C.-U.C.L.A. game, the banner
presumably a mocking reference to the notorious Harvey Knox.
FIJI also held an annual South Seas party at 880, the house
decorated for that of 1959, also below. Well-suited to
the island theme were 880's arched verandas.

The southeast corner of Adams and Portland served as a parking lot from 1965 to 1978, when
a complex known as the Founders Apartments appeared on the site of 880 West Adams. 

Illustration: Private Collection; LAPL; USCDL; GSV