1470 West Adams Boulevard


  • Built in 1908 on a parcel consisting of Lot 38 and the westerly half (50') of Lot 37 of the Plymouth Tract by builder Jacob Edison Breitwiser as his own home
  • On February 26, 1908, the Department of Buildings issued a permit for a 10-room house to Marguerite M. Breitwiser, wife of J. Edison Brietwiser (as he signed himself), who at this point in his varied career was a building contractor. As an entity called California Home Builders, Mr. Breitwiser was developing three Plymouth Tract lots, on which would be built his own home as well as 1460 West Adams next door for dentist William J. Fleckenstein; a building permit for that house had been issued on February 1
  • Little in the press before his arrival in Southern California suggested Edison Breitwiser's later volatility. He had come south from Oakland in 1901 as superintendent of the Rand Oil Company, incorporated earlier that year. Various reports in the Los Angeles Herald in February 1902 describe Breitwiser as "an old Pennsylvania oil man"..."with wide experience in the Kern county fields." That year, he married—this was, at least, his second wife—and the couple settled in Pasadena. The duration of his connection to Rand Oil appears to have been brief. In the 1904 Pasadena city directory, he is listed as a contractor and builder; that year would prove to be his annus horribilis. Brietwiser declared bankruptcy in April, with the Los Angeles Times reporting that he had "hung up about every merchant in Pasadena, about eighty in the total" and describing him as "a man with much name and more shrewdness." In early August, his Pasadena lodge, the Tribe of Ben Hur, voted to eject him for disruptive behavior—just as, at that very time, Louise Breitwiser was suing him for divorce after two years of marriage on grounds of extreme cruelty (she said he had spat in her face and struck her; the decree came down on October 1).     •   A bachelor for the time being, Breitwiser's Pasadena directory listing in 1905 noted that he was still a building contractor but now also a "manufacturer of novelties." Then, in January 1906, fifteen months after being divorced by Louise, Breitwiser married decorative artist Marguerite Backdull, whose married name was to appear on the original building permit for 1470 West Adams. Where the capital had come from for this new project is a mystery; in December 1907, less than six weeks before Breitwiser began building his Adams Street houses, he filed for another bankruptcy. Edison and Marguerite would live in the new house for just a few years. On May 9, 1910, the Herald allowed Breitwiser to vent his frustration over a recent claim in the oil industry of a new development in drilling; according to Breitwiser, it was he who had invented the hydraulic rotary drill being touted and first put it to use in 1900. In the article, Breitwiser also refers to having sustained a head injury—a crushed skull, as he put it—apparently during his tenure with Rand Oil, after which he turned to real estate development. The injury might also, of course, explain reports of his erratic behavior from that point forward. Later in 1910, the Breitwisers would be preparing to sell 1470 West Adams and move north, to Alameda, where Edison started a company to drill deep irrigation wells using his rotary method.       •   Over the next few years, Brietwiser would remain litigious, often appearing paranoid. A dispatch from Oakland in the Mariposa Gazette of January 27, 1917, gives an indication of how well his life progressed after his departure from Los Angeles, and of his reasons for leaving: "Having tried all his life to live up to the 'Golden Rule' without making a financial success of it, J. E. Breitwiser, a well driller of Alameda, formerly of Los Angeles, filed a petition in bankruptcy January 17 in the United States District Court. Breitwiser says in the petition, 'I am that hated thing, a bankrupt at 50, because I was cheated by lawyers, business men and bankers in the city misnamed the City of Angeles.' Breitwiser owes $7,924, and has $2,375 in assets. Most of his creditors are residents of Los Angeles, who secured judgments against him." Edison Breitwiser's life ended six months to the day after the Mariposa Gazette article appeared, in typically dramatic circumstances. He was shot to death in San Francisco on June 27, 1917, during an argument; the man charged with his murder claimed that the shooting was in self defense—Breitwiser had been choking him at the time. In news reports of the incident, Breitwiser was described variously as an expert in the California oil fields, a water-well driller, a poultry raiser, and an occasional playwright and journalist; a final accounting of his assets listed old well-boring tools, four old wagons, and about 60 chickens "of the old variety"  
  • On September 26, 1910, the Breitwisers were issued a building permit for 1470 West Adams to add a room downstairs with a sleeping porch above, perhaps in preparation for the house's sale by early the next year to Eugene Chilberg and his wife Carolyn, who had recently moved down from Seattle. In Los Angeles, Eugene Chilberg went into the real estate and gas-appliance businesses. A building permit issued to Mrs. Chilberg on March 22, 1911, authorized the addition of an unspecified porch and revisions to various doors and windows; the family would remain at 1470 only for about two years
  • While its owner of record then apears unclear, 1470 West Adams became the home of at least several unrelated people at any given time over the next few years. The upper-middle-class, single-family nature of the housing along this central stretch of West Adams Street was giving way to a different demographic, as evidenced by the occupations of the multiple new tenants of 1470: clerk, stenographer, meatcutter, bookkeeper, painter, laundryman, teacher, cashier, and an employee of the mechanical department of the Los Angeles Examiner. On August 28, 1918, the contents of the house—described as having 12 rooms—was offered at auction. Afterward—certainly by September 21, 1920, when she was issued a permit to carry out architect Frank P. Perkins's additions and alterations to convert 1470 into what appears to have been seven separate units, the house had been acquired by real estate investor Cecile L. Simmons. In 1924, the building was under the management of Clayton M. Legge, who appears to have been involved with running several Los Angeles apartment houses. In 1925, 1470 West Adams acquired a name—The Lawndale
  • By 1934, Mrs. Simmons had sold 1470 West Adams to real estate operator Harry B. Goodman, who appears to have moved in for the time being; on January 4 of the next year, he was issued a permit to alter the house significantly, including its appearance from the street. The document describes, if imprecisely, plans to enclose the front porch. The use of the house would be evolving once again: On March 29, 1935, a certificate of occupancy was issued for a "sanitarium–rest home" to house 12 ambulatory patients. An altered certificate of occupancy would be issued on August 22, 1935 (the building now oddly being referred to as a boarding school for 20 ambulatory boarding students); in the 1937 city directory, a woman named Goldia (a.k.a. Goldie) Copeland, who appears to have been in the business of sanitarium management, was in residence, apparently operating the facility for Goodman along with other similar hospitals. On March 31, 1941, Goodman was issued a certificate of occupancy authorizing a sanitarium for 15 ambulatory patients; on March 10, 1943, he was issued a permit to add a wheelchair ramp.       •   Some time within the next few years, Harry Goodman appears to have sold 1470 West Adams to Mrs. Copeland, who had either married or would marry or was the companion of optometrist Leonard Matschke (in any case, the two lived together on Hoover Street and are buried together at Forest Lawn, despite his lack of a mention in her 1968 obituary). On December 16, 1946, Mrs. Copeland was issued a building permit for a new structure on the property for use as an "optical, optometrist or real estate office." This 12-by-24-foot stucco building was given the addresses of 1472 and 1474 West Adams; it remains standing today at the northwest corner of the property, serving as as the office of Ruben Auto Sales, which occupies the large lot extending to Catalina Street. Alterations to porches were made in 1947. Yet another certificate of occupancy, this one dated February 25, 1949, was issued to Mrs. Copeland; it describes the house as an "apartment hotel" of 20 rooms plus one apartment—no mention of it being used for medical purposes or geriatric housing, though it did indeed remain in use as a rest home. Goldie appears to have maintained ownership of the property, though by 1956 she was operating as a broker, presumably in real estate, at 1474 West Adams. Four years later, the main house was known as Scott's Rest Home; Goldie Copeland the broker and Leonard Matschke the optometrist were still doing business in the front yard
  • Even if the house at 1470 West Adams evolved from its original single-family use early on, it remains in place after 110 years in a verdant garden between the vast asphalt yard of St. Agnes School and that of Ruben Auto Sales, a rare constant in the neighborhood. The old Breitwiser residence is still a residential care facility after more than 80 years, now known as the Comeaux Family Home 

A view of the east side of 1470 West Adams Boulevard, with the
recreation yard of St. Agnes School in the foreground. Below: As advertised
in the Los Angeles Times on August 25, 1918, an auction of the contents of 1470
indicates its changing fortunes—and that of the street that had yet to be designated
as a boulevard—just a decade after it was completed. It may have been at this
time that the house was purchased by real estate investor Cecile Simmons.

Illustrations: Private Collection; LAT