949 West Adams Boulevard


  • Completed in 1892 on a parcel comprised of Lots 120, 121, and the easterly 10 feet of 119 of the Ellis Tract for lumber and hardware dealer John Wigmore
  • On November 8, 1891, the Los Angeles Times reported that during the previous week the Superintendent of Buildings had issued John Wigmore a permit to begin construction of a $10,000 frame dwelling at the northwest corner of Adams and Thompson streets
  • Irish-born John Wigmore had arrived in the United States in 1847, barely 20 years old, and was working as a furniture maker in San Francisco by the late 1850s. His business grew with the city to include lumber dealing and, eventually, grew with the state, the Southern California Boom of the '80s prompting him to open a branch in Los Angeles in the spring of 1887. On January 23, 1887, the Los Angeles Herald announced that a building was being erected on Los Angeles Street for the new undertaking, which would be dealing in "hardwood of all sorts" as well as in carriage and blacksmith supplies. Wigmore moved south to manage the operation, leaving his son Alphonso in charge of business in San Francisco. While the Boom quickly fizzled, John Wigmore & Company survived. Wigmore and his English-born, San Francisco–raised wife, Harriett, stayed first at the new Marlborough Hotel in West Adams before moving to Washington Street as they made plans to build 949
  • Los Angeles newspapers ran numerous mentions of the Wigmores in social columns over the family's first decade at 949 West Adams Street (as the boulevard was originally known). By 1896, the family business had been renamed John Wigmore & Sons, with two of John's six sons among eight children, Marion and George, involved with him day-to-day in the local operation. Perhaps it was a case of too many cooks—indeed there would be charges of the company's books having been cooked—or of domestic extravagance or of overconfidence, the local firm having weathered a severe economic downturn soon after opening in Southern California as well as the lingering effects of the national Panic of 1893, but John Wigmore & Sons was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1903. The proceedings dragged on for many months and in many newspaper columns before a settlement was reached in August, with the firm being allowed to remain in business but the strain causing John Wigmore to suffer a nervous breakdown that led to his death at the Rosena Rest Retreat (in a residence once occupied by William Lacy Sr.) on January 31, 1908, at the age of age 79

Some promotions for the Girls' Collegiate School's lower division when it was occupying the Wigmore
house (just across the street from the main campus at the Casa de Rosas) sometimes featured
an image of the house as seen from the curb. While the family would manage to hold on to
the house for decades to come, the Wigmores may have had continuing money issues
after the death of its patriarch just months after the Knickerbocker Crisis of
October 1907 (a.k.a., the Panic of 1907). The rental of 949 was a very
early example of commercial incursion into what was still a very
young neighborhood; with land all the way to the Pacific
always being eyed for new residential development,
even a district referred to as "aristocratic"
had a tenuous hold on exclusivity.

  • The bankruptcy of John Wigmore & Sons seems at first to have had only a slight effect on the social life or domestic arrangements of Harriett Wigmore, who remained living at 949 West Adams after her husband's installation at Rosena. She spent the summer of 1907 on Terminal Island, then a fashionable resort. Only after John's death did she vacate 949, moving around the corner to furnished rooms at the St. James on West 23rd Street. She would be traveling, including making plans to spend a year in England. The house would be retained by the family but was now to be rented, first to at least two individuals and then to become the home of the lower grades of the Girls' Collegiate School, the main campus of which was across Adams at the southeast corner of Hoover in what was known as—and still is—the landmark Casa de Rosas
  • Before the Girls' Collegiate School occupied 949 West Adams, an auction of some of the Wigmores' "fine furniture," including "17 fine Oriental Rugs," was held in the house on August 6, 1909. On the 14th of that month, Mrs. Wigmore was issued a permit by the Department of Buildings to convert the property's barn into a playhouse for Girls' Collegiate. After the school moved out of 949 following the 1911-1912 academic year, it was consolidated by its directors, along with the Marlborough Preparatory School (the current Marlborough's lower grades), into the latter's quarters at 636 West Adams to become St. Catherine's School; 949 was then rented to an individual for a year before George H. Wigmore, now the president of John Wigmore & Sons, moved from his house, just up Thompson Street (still standing at 2332), into what had been his parents'. His brother Cyril moved into 2332 Thompson (now Portland Street) 

Alphonso Wigmore, the eldest of John's six sons, was first vice-president of John Wigmore & Sons; he
lived in San Francisco until the firm's bankruptcy, after which northern operations were closed
and he moved to Los Angeles to assist his father and brothers in reorganization and to
open a separate firm with his brother Marion, Wigmore Brothers, dealing in heavy
industrial equipment. After Marion moved east following his father's death,
Cyril Wigmore, the youngest brother who had spent many years away
as a mining and construction engineer, returned to Los Angeles
by early 1913 to join Alphonso in Wigmore Brothers; he

would live just around the corner from 949.

  • Harriett Wigmore died in her house on St. Andrews Place on August 10, 1929; George Wigmore was then still living at 949 West Adams. The assets of John Wigmore & Sons were sold in 1932 to become, for a few years, an automobile-supply operation, after which George and his son, George T. Wigmore, began investing in real real estate. (An older son, John, a naval aviator, had died at 20 during a training flight at Pensacola on January 18, 1919; his funeral was held at 949 West Adams.) George and Martha Wigmore left 949 in 1942, taking an apartment in a fourplex on South Alexandria Avenue; he died in Los Angeles on February 11, 1944, at the age of 75
  • After the departure of the family that built it a half-century before, 949 West Adams appears to have joined the many nearby single-family residences of similar size that had been converted to rooming or fraternity houses, the alteration of some having been made as early as 20 years before, when the Wigmores' cohort began leaving the West Adams district for newer neighborhoods to the north and west
  • With the owner of the property ready to redevelop the lot, the Department of Building and Safety issued a demolition permit for the Wigmore house to the Teal House Moving & Wrecking Company on January 27, 1956. On March 20 of that year, apartment-house builder Murdie Saltman was issued a permit for the 38-unit "Trojanaire," with its studio and one-bedroom apartments around a heated pool aimed at U.S.C. students. Today signed with the clunky name "Nupac Apartments"—Nupac being a manager of buildings for collegians—the current 949 West Adams has been in place on its corner almost as long as its predecessor

"An Architect's Dream/The Very Ultimate in Modern apartments" read ads in local newspapers when
the "Trojanaire" opened in time for U.S.C.'s fall 1956 semester. The architecturally similar
"Troyland" opened next door at 957 West Adams four years later, replacing the
Johnson/Dockweiler house that had been built not long before 949.

Illustrations: Private Collection; LAPL; LAH