1386 West Adams Boulevard


The William S. Hook house is seen at the lower right corner of the large intersection in late 1928;
Adams Boulevard, as the Street was now designated, runs east-west with Vermont Avenue
and its streetcar tracks running north-south. A motor entrance off Vermont is seen
just below the house; at the upper left corner of its front yard can be seen
the one-room flower shop added by final owner W. H. Holifield.

  • Completed in 1901 on a parcel comprised of Lots 33, 34, 35, 36, 19, and and the southerly half of 18 of the Rowley Tract by street-railway developer William S. Hook
  • Architect: Hudson & Munsell (Frank D. Hudson and William A.O. Munsell)
  • On June 21, 1900, the Los Angeles Herald reported that Edwin S. Rowley had sold Mrs. Hook a large parcel at the southeast corner of Adams Street and Vermont Avenue extending 200 feet south on Adams and, in part, 300 feet east to Menlo Avenue
  • The Los Angeles Herald reported on the various building permits being issued regarding 1386 West Adams, all in the name of Mary B. Hook, ranging from June 1900 to May 1901
  • The Hooks had been renting houses since their arrival in Los Angeles. They occupied William T. Johnson's 957 West Adams for two years from September 1896, followed by a stint across the street at Richard Blaisdell's 880. At the time of their planning of 1386, they were living at 1455 Wright Street, very near Mr. Hook's car barns on Georgia Bell Street, an area all now lost to the Staples Center and the Los Angeles Convention Center

  • On June 1, 1900, the Los Angeles Times quoted the description of the proposed 1386 West Adams in the trade journal Builder & Contractor: "It will be two stories in height, with large attic apartments and a commodious basement. The foundation and first story walls, also the exposed portions of the chimneys, will be brick, faced with Chatsworth Park sandstone. The second story and roof will be covered with cedar shingles and galvanized iron cresting, etc. Granite front steps and stone coping to porch walls and buttresses. The building will have a frontage on Adams street of 90.4 feet by 85 feet on Vermont avenue. The specifications for the interior call for oak, mahogany, white cedar and pine finish; pressed brick and marble-faced fireplaces, furnace and fuel gas heating, wrought iron grating and grille work; plate-glass windows, Alpine cement plaster throughout." With the house nearing completion, the Times opined on March 22, 1901, that the style of the Hook house—dark shingled walls over gray stone with polished wood eaves—was apparently gaining favor in Los Angeles and was pleasing, producing "A most artistic and harmonious effect." (The design seems to be a hint of the full-blown Craftsman style coming within a few years.) On April 4, 1902, the paper described parts of the interior: The reception room was "a beautiful room of Louis XV style of decoration and furnishings" with pink as the prevailing color. Its modern indirect lighting was noted: "In this room the electric bulbs are hidden behind the cornice, and the flood of soft light appears to fall from some invisible source." In the living room, "every detail shows the characteristics of the time of Louis XVI." The June 28, 1902, issue of the local society magazine The Capital considered 1386 West Adams to be "one of the most beautiful and conveniently arranged of the West Adams street homes," one that was ideal for entertaining "since nearly all the rooms of the lower floor can be thrown together with good effect"
  • William S. Hook had been born in Jacksonville, Illinois, in 1840, becoming a banker and railroad man there. Seeking a warmer climate for his health, he visited in Los Angeles in 1894; he moved west the next year and began to set up the Los Angeles Traction Company. By the end of that year, his first line, starting from the Santa Fe station, extended circuitously to Vermont Avenue down to 39th Street at Exposition Park. Perhaps rather than considering the grinding of the rails alongside his house to be an annoyance, it was music to his ears and may have been a reason he chose the Adams corner of Vermont to build 1386 West Adams. Another line of Los Angeles Traction running from downtown turned west onto Adams Street from Normandie Avenue. According to his obituary in the Times on June 26, 1904, the company's four lines represented his "ambition and life work."... [He] was one of the railroad pioneers in Los Angeles, and for years toiled incessantly to make the Traction roads models of their kind for street-railway traffic." As president and general manager of his company, Hook held his own in the business against the powerful interests behind the Los Angeles Railway, which from October 1, 1898, was controlled by Henry Huntington. His obituary continued: "[In 1903] Mr. Hook...sold out his interests to the great Huntington syndicate, thus effectively merging all the street-railway systems of Los Angeles." His only recently completed house was mentioned in the Times's tribute. "Mr. Hook constructed a palatial residence for himself and family at the corner of Adams street and Vermont avenue, and one of the pathetic sights of last year was this genius of street railways, wan and white-haired, heavily wrapped in blankets, while a trained nurse wheeled him about his beautiful estate in an invalid's chair." Hook's hard work had taken its toll

The route sign on the side of this streetcar reads "Santa Fe Station & Vermont Ave," indicating its
line reaching south to University Station, which in 1899 stood at the northwest corner of
Santa Monica Avenue—today Exposition Boulevard—and Vermont. One of Hook's
original Los Angeles Traction Company lines, it was absorbed into Henry
Huntington's Los Angeles Inter-Urban Railway in 1903, which
in 1910 became part of the Los Angeles Railway.

  • After selling out to Huntington, William Hook left Los Angeles to seek treatment for a nervous breakdown, ending up in Philadelphia, where he died in a clinic on June 24, 1904, age 64. He was buried back in Jacksonville
  • Mrs. Hook's mother, Melissa L. Barbee, died at 1386 West Adams on October 7, 1905, age 85
  • Mary Hook remained at 1386 West Adams after her husband's death. Barbee Simpson Hook, her troubled son by her first husband who had been adopted by W. S., didn't help her life during her widowhood. He killed a young woman with his car on Downey Avenue in 1905—his mother threw cash at the victim's family—and then, in December 1907, he was involved in one accident in which a 13-year-old boy was run down and another when he arrested for speeding. Barbee was sued over business matters; the woman he married in Albuquerque on May 18, 1910, left him after a few months. While it seems that Barbee may have been difficult, Rebecca Pearce Hook had ideas other than mere domesticity, no matter how much money there may have been to sweeten such a life. She had funds of her own and wanted to go on the stage, to which end she left for Paris, where she studied to become a vaudeville dancer
  • Mary B. Hook continued to invest in residential property in the neighborhood of 1386. She built 1354 West 25th Street in 1901; she acquired 1363 West Adams, across the street from 1386, from real estate man Anthony E. Halsey in 1904. In March of that year, not long before he died, a permit was issued in the name of William S. Hook to build a house on the part of his property connected to 1386 that fronted Menlo Avenue; this became 2617 Menlo. All three of these houses, and others invested in by the Hook family, served as rental property. The Russell McDonnell Taylors rented 1363 before building 11 Berkeley Square in 1911
  • Barbee Hook lived with his mother at 1386 West Adams after his first marriage failed. Then, in mid 1911, Mrs. Hook decided to downsize; separating 2617 Menlo Avenue from the plot of the big house, she and Barbee moved there. On a building permit dated that September 5, the owner of 1386 is cited as the "Hook Estate"; the Richards-Neustadt Construction Company was to make alterations, apparently in preparation for the sale of the house

  • William H. Holliday, the Exeter- and Harvard-educated president of the Merchants' National Bank who at one time lived up the street at 1109 West Adams, was reported by the Times of July 9, 1911, to be building an extravagant Mediterranean house at the southeast corner of Wilshire and the west entrance of Fremont Place, a subdivision that was opening for sales that year. While the esteemed firm of Hunt & Burns appear to have been commissioned—their rendering accompanied the Times article—the project may have also been something of a ploy to raise the profile of the nascent "West End" of Los Angeles, the Wilshire corridor beyond Western Avenue, then still mostly bean fields. Or perhaps the estimates for the house were too much even for a rich banker. At any rate, Holliday decided that leafy and settled West Adams was not quite yet going to be eclipsed by the suburbs rising to its north and west, perhaps making Mrs. Hook an offer for 1386 she couldn't refuse. With Mrs. Hook and Barbee settled in on Menlo Avenue, the Herald of March 6, 1912, reported that the William Hollidays were about to take possession of her former residence
  • William Holliday remained at 1386 West Adams until his death at home on April 30, 1920. Flora Holliday wasted no time in disposing of the house. The "Greatest and Finest Auction Sale of High Grade Household Goods and Furnishings Ever Held in Southern California" at the "Former Home of W. S. Hook, Present Home of Mrs. W. H. Holliday" began on July 14

As seen in the Los Angeles Times on July 13, 1920

  • While living next to a streetcar line may have been desirable for William S. Hook, public transit had transformed Vermont Avenue from a residential street to one turning increasingly commercial, especially at prominent intersections. Widening in parts to boulevard width had already occurred by 1920; Adams Street houses near tracks—or with tracks right in front, as they were west from Normandie Avenue—were becoming less desirable especially as newer developments opened up along Wilshire Boulevard.  The commodious Hook-Holliday house at 1386 West Adams, steps from what had become the Los Angeles Railway's V line, could only now appeal to investors observing the business-oriented changes afoot along West Adams Street. Norwood M. Vedder and Sarah Alleen Vedder had just moved south from Seattle, where she was a hotel manager; in Los Angeles, Norman Vedder joined his sons Dwight and Milton in the Vedder Process Company, an oil-industry concern. Living at first at 1801 West Adams, the Vedders bought 1386 from Flora Holliday and, after some remodeling, opened it as the Garden of Allah Hotel—which predated the more famous West Hollywood establishment opened in January 1927 by silent-screen star Alla Nazimova that was initially called the Garden of Alla in tribute to herself

As seen in the Los Angeles Times on August 8, 1926

  • The Garden of Allah survived until 1926; that August, another auction of the furnishings of 1386 West Adams was held. The Vedders sold the building to its third owner with the same surname and last initial: William F. Holifield. Holifield was a real estate investor who had owned the raffish Club Royale Café on Washington Boulevard, which burned to the ground in October 1923. The next year, he invested in a large lot on Rossmore Avenue on which the Country Club Manor apartments would be built in 1926 and into which he would move. Holifield renamed the former Garden of Allah as the Hotel Adams. On August 30, 1927, the Department of Building and Safety issued him a permit to add a new fire escape to the building. Taking advantage of the busy corner, with steady foot traffic enroute to catch the Vermont Avenue streetcar, Holifield was issued a permit by the city on June 18, 1928, and hired architects Gable & Wyant to build a one-room building at the sidewalk to house Ralph's Flower Shop
  • As an investor William Holifield might have been keeping 1386 West Adams open as a hotel to have it pay its way until he found another investor to sell it to. This might have seemed unlikely after the Wall Street Crash in October 1929, but Holifield was a gambler with good luck

Photographed on January 1932 after a downpour, the recent commercial replacement of the Hook house
at 1386 West Adams brought the glamour of similarly commercializing Wilshire Boulevard to what
had once been a staid residential district. Its pneumatically oriented owner would probably
not have been interested in simple architecture; building's dramatic and eye-
catching tower is particularly fetching. The aquaplaning cars
are moving along Vermont Avenue between runs
of Los Angeles Railway streetcars.

  • On March 15, 1931, the Los Angeles Times reported that the southeast corner of Adams and Vermont has been acquired as an investment by filmmaker Cecil B. De Mille. The Hook-Holliday house itself was sold to the Whiting-Mead salvage company, which was issued a demolition permit for it on March 10. Ralph's Flower Shop was still offering lilies for sale that Easter, which fell on April 5. But soon an elaborate and urbane 140-by-180-foot store building was erected covering the former front and side yards of 1386 West Adams. Various food purveyors such as the Great American Market and other shops moved in; for many years there would be a Thriftimart supermarket in the structure. By 1994, the Food 4 Less supermarket chain, based in La Habra, had acquired the Vermont-corner property as well as the 1898 house at 1360 West Adams at the Menlo Avenue end of the block. The De Mille building stood until the fall of 1985, 1360 West Adams until 1995. Ralphs Grocery Company, which absorbed Food 4 Less that year, then built the supermarket still on the southeast corner of Adams and Vermont today
  • After their departure from their properties at 1386 West Adams in 1912 and from 2617 Menlo by 1920, the Hooks, perhaps never very clever when it came to long-term investment in residential Los Angeles real estate, remained loyal to the old boulevard despite clear indications that members of the Southwest Blue Book were now looking to live elsewhere. Windsor Square and Fremont Place had opened in 1911; Beverly Hills, though open for sales since 1906, was becoming very popular. Brentwood was aborning; Hancock Park got underway in 1920 and, most glamorous of all, Bel-Air would be opening soon. Elaborately gated Berkeley Square, inaugurated in 1905, had become the anchor for a particularly swell district that would become the last major holdout of the old guard along westerly Adams Street. After leaving Menlo Avenue, Mary Hook moved to the former Janvier house at 2155 West Adams, which William Jr. had just bought; after less than a year, she moved back to the old neighborhood to what had become Barbee's city residence at 1363 West Adams, the house she'd bought as rental property in 1904
  • After a seven-day romance, Barbee Hook remarried divorcée Imogene Polk Marre in Chicago in 1913. They spent their honeymoon at the Hook country house in Glendora, imaginatively named "The Oaks." In the manner of the incestuous connections of provincial societies everywhere, her sister's father-in-law William Bayly Sr. had just moved from 10 Chester Place to 2025 West Adams, next door to William Hook Jr.'s future 2055—and the next year, perhaps to lead a more sober life, the Barbee Hooks became desert rustics, raising fruit on an 80-acre spread near Victorville. Barbee and Imogene would later divorce; perhaps not having had the happiest of lives, he died at the California Club on February 19, 1931, age 48
  • William S. Hook Jr., who had been living eight doors south of his mother at 2673 Menlo—built in 1901 as a model for the Rowley Tract and still standing today in excellent repair—when he made a property deal with William Andrews Clark Jr., who in the early '20s was seeking to take over his entire block of Kinney Heights to develop what is today the grounds of the esteemed walled Clark Library. Hook had by then bought 2155 and installed his mother; with all Andrews wanted being the lot, Hook in 1923 decided to jack the house up and move it a block east in 1923 to 2055 West Adams. He hired the firm of Morgan, Walls, & Morgan to build a foundation on the new lot and to drastically remodel Louisa Janvier's 1904 steep-roofed shingle-style house into an equally steep-roofed French design, one very much in vogue in the '20s. William Hook and his wife Myrtle settled into the new house, apparently assuming that their stretch of West Adams Street would hold its value for decades to come. The marriage, however, failed, with William divorcing Myrtle to marry Leatrice Joy, who had previously been married to fellow silent-screen star John Gilbert. The exchange cost Hook his listing in the Blue Book and the house at 2055 West Adams. Myrtle got it and, as was common for divorcées at the time—perhaps wishing their exes dead—listed herself as the "widow" of W. S. Hook in the next city directory. Cozy neighborhood that it was, she was married at 2055 on July 25, 1932, to Carleton Burke, who lived just around the corner with his spinster sister Louise at 6 Berkeley Square. (Burke's father had been the developer of the Square.) The newlyweds left the Burke house to Louise to live at the Chateau Chaumont apartments on South Serrano Street and sold 2055 West Adams to Harold Bayly, nephew of William Bayly, who had once lived next door at 2025
  • The year 1931 was one of major events for the Hooks. Barbee died on February 19. William divorced Myrtle in May. On July 15, Mary Barbee Hook followed her elder son to the grave. William then married Leatrice on October 22—only to return to the divorce court 13 years later