1140 West Adams Boulevard


Against the odds, the big Queen Anne house completed in 1893 by the well-provided-for and well-connected widow Kate A. Kelly still stands at the southwest corner of Adams Boulevard and Monmouth Avenue. Mrs. Kelly's father was Andrew F. Mackay, active in Virginia City during the Comstock era though apparently unrelated to John W. Mackay, one of the famous Silver Kings. Father and daughter together assembled three Monmouth Tract lots fronting Adams Street, as it was then called, Kate gaining full ownership in September 1892; while Mackay did indeed become a fairly prominent contractor in Los Angeles after moving south from Nevada—it might be presumed that he served as such for his daughter's house—it could be confusion over his initials and occupation that have some sources citing "A. E. Kelly" as the builder. At any rate, Kate Kelly was listed in the 1893 Los Angeles city directory at the "SW cor Monmouth Av and West Adams," with her father listed elsewhere. The firm of Bradbeer & Ferris is cited in some sources as the architect, although it should be noted that James Bradbeer and Walter Ferris did not form their partnership until August 1893, which appears to have been after the Kelly house was completed. Perhaps one or the other was responsible for the design during their prior separate careers.

Illustrating the geographic opportunities of affluent Los Angeles as well as the tenuous hold that the cachet of West Adams had over that cohort, it is interesting to note that another of Andrew Mackay's daughters, Ida, had married developer Willis D. Longyear in February 1893; early in their marriage, the couple lived with Kate on Adams Boulevard. By 1907, confident of the continuing residential building along extending Wilshire Boulevard, the Longyears built a sizable house in what were then bean fields at the northwest corner of Wilshire and Ardmore Avenue in 1907. It was the first house built on the then-unpaved avenue west of Western Avenue. (The full story of 3555 Wilshire Boulevard is here.) By 1908, Kate Kelly was living at Hobart and 22nd Street in recently developed West Adams Heights; that December, her daughter Irene married automobile man Earle C. Anthony. In 1910, the couple commissioned the Greene brothers to design another Wilshire Boulevard house—addressed 666 South Berendo Street—one that was moved to Beverly Hills in 1922 and still stands there.

Even before the Depression, the fortunes of the West Adams district were waning under population
pressures and the lure of more modern development sprawling across L.A. The advertisement
above appeared in the Times on January 18, 1925. Notice the original domed turret—
now cut down to the eaves—and the line "The House has no great value."

It was the competition of successive residential developments along the lengthy Wilshire corridor that would ultimately prove fatal for the genteel aspirations of old Adams Boulevard, even for its newer adjacent subdivisions such as West Adams Heights and Berkeley SquareEven before the Depression set in, housing demands as Los Angeles more than doubled in population in the 1920s made it attractive for many West Adams property owners to move to newer suburbs such as Windsor Square, Hancock Park and other westerly developments and sell their old barns for reconfiguration into income-producing flats or to replace them altogether with lucrative apartment buildings. The Kelly house was offered for such conversion or replacement when its second owner, banker and fisheries executive Aurelio Sandoval, departed in 1925 and advertised the site as ideal for redevelopment. A merciful, if temporary, conversion triumphed over demolition; a small advertisement in the bulletin of the Los Angeles County Medical Association early the next year offered 1142 for rent: "Designed for physician's office and residence, with separate entrances—lower duplex of five rooms and sleeping porch—handsomely decorated—every convenience—gas furnace and open grates—fine neighborhood—prominent location—first corner west of Hoover. Near U, A and V cars. Phone owner BEacon 2173." It seems, however, that the new owner who moved in in 1926, insurance man Chester Carlisle Ashley, kept the house as a single-family residence. He would stay two decades until relocating to Santa Monica, dying there in 1948.

By 1953, 1140—now stuccoed, stripped of its gingerbread, but with "1142"
still carved into its sidewalk wall—was serving as the U.S.C. chapter
house of Beta Sigma Tau. The shadow of the etched address
is still visible today, as seen in the image at bottom.

The Kelly/Sandoval/Ashley house was initially numbered 1100; in 1898, with Maria Wilcox's new house being planned for the southwest corner of Adams and Hoover, an address realignment rendered it 1100 the Kelly house 1200. When Frank K. Wilson completed his new house at the southwest corner of Adams and Magnolia in early 1901, it took 1200 as its address and Kate Kelly assumed "1142." After the Sandoval and Ashley tenures, the address was altered yet again, this time to its current 1140. Typical usage of a big Adams Boulevard house followed: As many were, 1140 was carved into rooms to be occupied largely by U.S.C. students, as it still is.

The house was designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #295 in 1985.

A 2016 rendering illustrates attempts to re-create what might have been the house's original
paint scheme, which highlights the imbrication of the siding. Other notions such as
fencing and porch detailing might be seen as less successful additions.

Illustration: Private Collection; Frances Burrows Flood; LAT; GSV