957 West Adams Boulevard


  • Built in 1891 on Lot 118, the west 35 feet of Lot 119, and the west 52 feet of Lot 115 of the Ellis Tract by retired Chicago hardware merchant William T. Johnson
  • On November 6, 1892, The Chicago Sunday Tribune ran a large illustrated feature on families of that city who were building winter residences in Southern California, including Mr. Johnson: "[He] was for many years [a] member of Kellogg & Johnson, dealers in hardware in Chicago. He has been Railroad Commissioner, State Senator, and last—but by no means least—County Treasurer of Cook County, holding office during the same period that Maj. Klokke was County Clerk. About seven years ago the health of Mrs. Johnson failed, and she was obliged to give up her home at Wicker Park, and since that time she has not lived in Chicago. About three years ago she took her family to Denver, but the place proving too severe for her Mr. Johnson concluded to bring them here, and he knew the mildness of the climate from former experience. In the spring of 1891 he commenced his beautiful residence and in October it was completed, and Mrs. Johnson, with her daughters, took possession...." The "Maj. Klokke" mentioned was Ernest Frederick Christian Klokke, most often styled "E. F. C. Klokke," who had come to Los Angeles in 1888 and built 2105 South Figueroa designed by eminent architect Joseph Cather Newsom; the Johnson house, with similar design cues, was perhaps also designed by Newsom. Other Chicagoans who had recently built in West Adams and were featured in the Tribune article were Thomas D. Stimson, whose famous red sandstone house still stands at 2421 South Figueroa, Samuel B. Lewis of 710 West Adams, and Holdridge O. Collins of 819 West Adams
  • With several important family matters to attend to, the Johnsons began spending more time in Chicago than in Los Angeles beginning in 1896. On June 9, the youngest of three daughters, Mabel, was married to surgeon William B. Marcusson. (She would later divorce him and, after a time as Mrs. Baker, marry Karl C. Klokke, a son of E. F. C. Klokke, in 1925.) On December 23, 1896, the Johnson's other son-in-law, attorney Henry Lloyd Bleecker, who had married eldest daughter Kittie in 1894, was thrown in jail for a night after Mrs. Johnson had him arrested, accusing him of embezzling $24,000 of her separate funds. The Los Angeles Times wrote that Bleecker, "ambitious to make money...persuaded Mrs. Johnson to invest in various schemes which a more experienced financier might have shunned." The case appears to have been resolved speedily, with Mr. Johnson posting bail the next morning. Unwise, it would seem, in not understanding the social embarrassment that would obviously come with her accusation, not to mention in overestimating the financial acumen of a 24-year-old, Mrs. Johnson backpedaled quickly, claiming to have been persuaded by a judge to press charges. She decided that the matter had been a misunderstanding, that her son-in-law was merely "a foolish young man" rather than a criminal, but she still blamed him for her disgrace. Given her various whims, Mrs. Johnson sounds as though she was a headache for her entire family, which is not to say that the troubles of her middle daughter were any fault of hers. According to the Tribune in its report of her suicide on May 26, 1898, Etta Alice Johnson had "became mentally deranged...as the result of a stroke of paralysis received when a child" and "had made several former attempts to end her life." She finally succeeded by inhaling gas at home while her parents and the Marcussons, who lived together in Chicago, were out for the evening

An image of 957 West Adams in its latter days: The tall chimney at the southwest corner of the house
was very likely reduced for safety after the Long Beach earthquake of March 10, 1933, as were
the flues of many Los Angeles houses. Further alterations might also have been made
after a fire at 957 in January 1944; a repair permit cites Isidore Dockweiler
as the owner. The house's rooftop fin is a distinctive feature.

  • With the family preoccupied in Chicago, 957 West Adams was made a source of income. Among the renters was William S. Hook, another Illinoisan, who had come to California to organize and manage the Los Angeles Traction Company street railway in 1895; on September 8, 1896, the Los Angeles Herald reported that Hook had just taken the house. (After he left 957, Hook leased nearby 880 West Adams, by 1902 settling at 1386.) On September 3, 1898, the Herald announced that the next tenant would be Ventura County developer and oilman Thomas R. Bard—he was the founder of Port Hueneme and one of the organizers of Union Oil though not quite yet the United States Senator he would become. Bard, who was also an amateur horticulturalist, appears to have leased the house as an urban base after throwing his hat in the ring to become a Senator; after a year spent under consideration, he became the candidate elected on February 7, 1900. Despite his new status, Bard was referred to as a "capitalist" in the Federal census that June—curiously, he was enumerated that year both at 957 West Adams as well as at his primary residence in Hueneme. There was a daring burglary of the house on December 3, 1901, while the family was having dinner; perhaps that incident discouraged the Bards from going on to another Los Angeles residence, but their vacating of 957 was actually due to the Johnsons' decision to sell the house. A classified advertisement offering 957 appeared in the Herald on July 31, 1904. (Bard would lose re-election and ended his term in the Senate on March 3, 1905)

The Johnsons placed 957 West Adams Street on the market in
in the summer of 1904, as advertised in the Herald on
July 31 of that year. It would be two years before
Isidore Dockweiler bought it, moving with
his wife Gertrude and 11 children
from 1341 South Hope.

  • On August 24, 1906, the Los Angeles Times reported that 957 West Adams would be occupied by another notable figure. After two years on the market, a purchaser for the house had finally come along in the form of the distinguished attorney Isidore B. Dockweiler. During the early years of his ownership, Mr. Dockweiler closed the property's rear 20-foot-wide alley and redesignated his parcel as the one-lot Dockweiler Tract
  • Born three days after Christmas 1867 when Los Angeles was still a dusty town of less than 5,700 people, Isidore Dockweiler was the son of a Bavarian who had arrived there in a mere pueblo 15 years before. Baptized in the Plaza church, Isidore remained a staunch Catholic who with his English wife raised 11 children, the first of which arrived slightly shy of nine months after he married London-born Gertrude Reeve and two of whom were born while the family lived at 957 West Adams. Dockweiler's contributions to local civic and charitable efforts—notably the Los Angeles Public Library—as well as to state and national Democratic politics (he ran, if unsuccessfully, for lieutenant governor in 1902, was a delegate to Democratic national conventions in 1908, 1936, and 1940, and  served as California's Democratic national committeeman from 1916 to 1932)—were in addition to his full-time law practice, which would in time become Dockweiler & Dockweiler when three of his sons joined his firm. (A major fire in the Douglas Building at the northwest corner of Third and Spring streets on January 11, 1906, destroyed his fifth-floor offices including his law library and many legal papers, but he remained there until a move to the Van Nuys Building at Seventh and Spring in 1915)  
  • The Dockweilers would retain ownership of 957 West Adams even after moving out in 1927, when, recognizing the decline of the district as newer suburbs were soaking up the rich, they followed the neighborhood trend of turning large houses over to rooming-house operators (including U.S.C. fraternities and sororities). On May 2, 1927, the Department of Building and Safety issued John Dockweiler, Isidore's third-eldest son, a permit to add a three-story fire escape to 957 for its conversion into a boarding house, as the document described it

 The Johnson house at 957 West Adams was illustrated in
The Chicago Sunday Tribune on November 6, 1892. The drawing
appears to have been based on a photograph that included members
of the family gathered on the front steps. Below: A view from the lawn
during the ownership of the Dockweilers reveals the side entrance
of the house that faced northwest toward Toberman Street.

  • The Dockweilers' eldest son, Thomas Aloysius Joseph Dockweiler, married Katherine Stearns at the old St. Vincent's Church at Grand Avenue and Washington, where most solemn family occasions were celebrated, on December 10, 1917. The bride lived at just two blocks from 957 at 27 St. James Park, which her father, Colonel John Eldredge Stearns, built in 1900 and is an important survivor of the neighborhood. On September 7, 1921, Mary, the Dockweilers' eldest daughter, married attorney William K. Young not, curiously, at St. Vincent's, but at home at 957 West Adams Street. (Adams would be redesignated a "boulevard" later in the decade as part of Los Angeles's Major Traffic Street Plan of 1924, a program that widened some east-west streets to create arterials in the pre-freeway city; instead of enhancing the street's status as a linear residential district, the alterations, including a removal of center parkways and trees, only accelerated the fade of its grandeur)
  • By the time of the enumeration of the Federal census in April 1930, Sarah Braun was renting 957 West Adams and running it as a boarding house with 16 others in residence—not too different a number from the time of peak occupancy by the Dockweilers. Later in the decade, Bertha Blood was operating a day school at 957 called Mary's Little Lamb Nursery, presumably with boarders still living in the house; when the Federal census was enumerated in April 1940, Mrs. Blood's tenants numbered 24
  • The Dockweilers would not yet be leaving West Adams for any of the many newer and more modern suburbs to the north and west, as had so many of their social cohort. While leasing their own house at 957 West Adams, the Dockweilers rented another aging Victorian at 2321 South Figueroa Street. Their landlord would be Edward Doheny of Chester Place, the fabled oil man who with his wife Estelle had been buying up houses even outside of their Chester Place fiefdom as some sort of imagined protection after they gained notoriety from his involvement in the Teapot Dome scandals of the '20s. Isidore Dockweiler was no doubt high on Mrs. Doheny's list of the approved, with Isidore pious and humble to the point of being named a papal knight by the Pope in 1924. (Estelle Doheny crowned her rise to material splendor when she became a papal countess, no less, in 1939.) The Dockweilers would remain at 2321 South Figueroa until Mrs. Doheny donated the house to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which would open the curiously-named Home for Working Girls there; as it happened, the Archdiocese was a client of Dockweiler & Dockweiler and Thomas Dockweiler the president of the city's Social Service Commission. With Gertrude having died in 1937, Isidore finally made the move away from the now undeniably déclassé if not seedy Adams District to 366 South June Street in socially secure Hancock Park
  • The Dockweiler family may have retained 957 West Adams as late as the time of Isidore's death on February 6, 1947, if not beyond that time. It remained a multi-family dwelling; while its actual date of demolition is uncertain, the lot was cleared in time for construction to begin on a 60-by-222-foot, three-story, 40-unit apartment building in the spring of 1960. That prison-barracks-like complex, named the Troyland Apartments to lure young Trojans of U.S.C., still stands with its original script signs intact 

    The Troyland Apartments, which has 1960 written all over it, replaced 957 West Adams Boulevard
    that year and was designed to attract U.S.C. students; the complex's west wing seen here
    has a mirror, the two banks of flats divided by a driveway to an underground garage.
    The John Wigmore house next door at 949 was similarly replaced in 1956.

    Illustrations: Private Collection; The Chicago Daily Tribune; LAH; WAHA