2105 West Adams Boulevard

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  • Built in 1902 on Lot 1 of the Ben E. Ward Tract by Dr. William E. Waddell
  • Architect: Train & Williams (Robert F. Train and R. Edmund Williams)
  • Waddell sold 2105 to real estate broker Winston H. Obear in October 1905; Obear hired Train & Williams to do general alterations and repairs, for which a building permit was issued on October 20, 1905
  • Pioneer automobile promoter and dealer Norman W. Church was the owner of 2105 by early 1912; Church hired architect Arthur B. Benton to remove the front chimney, build a second-floor bay over the existing front bay, and add windows on the west side. Church would remain in the house for the next 41 years, making alterations and repairs in 1926, 1929, and 1933—this last, as in the case of hundreds of Los Angeles houses, after damage caused by the Long Beach earthquake on March 10 of that year
  • Mrs. Church, née Georgia Withington, sued her husband for divorce in 1923 after 24 years of marriage and one child (Ralph Withington Church, born in Toledo in 1900), charging infidelity. She moved out of 2105 on September 1. The attendant trials were media sensations, with silent superstar Mabel Normand named as one of three co-respondents; Mrs. Church claimed that her husband told her that he had attended "petting parties" with the actress and that Miss Normand had visited his room clad only in her nightgown while the two were laid up in Good Samaritan Hospital at the same time. Mr. Church counter-charged that his wife had been over-familiar with a Dr. Thorpe 20 years earlier; the suits were dropped just before a final decree was granted in January 1925
  • In 1927, Mr. Church married Nona Dolan, 25 years his junior; the couple separated in December 1931 and were divorced in June 1933
  • Norman Church was by now more often than not being described as a "sportsman"; as a breeder and enthusiast, he is credited with having revived horse racing in California, and was well-known nationally for his participation in the track world
  • Norman Church died at 2105 West Adams on January 7, 1953. At his bedside that day appears to have been one Miss Victoria Church, née Miss Viktoria Kraeutle, who had arrived in New York from southwestern Germany at the age of 19 in July 1928, eventually finding her way to Los Angeles and a position as a maid at 2105 West Adams. When Church's August 1952 will was made public, Miss Kraeutle—now Miss Victoria Church—was described by the press as Mr. Church's "friend and housekeeper." The will mentioned that Miss Church had legally adopted his name; of his multimillion-dollar estate, she received $250,000 outright (about $2.3 million today) and the right to remain at 2105 for five years
  • Norman Church's younger brother Frank A. Church appears also to have lived at 2105 after 1948 until the house was sold
  • Interestingly, Norman Church left the bulk of his fortune not to horse racing but to charity. Large bequests were made to the Stanford University School of Medicine, then in San Francisco, for research into the development of a mechanical kidney; to the Barlow Sanitarium in Los Angeles; and, most significantly, to Caltech, which was establishing the Norman W. Church Laboratory for Chemical Biology with a gift made by Church in 1952. (When Church's trainer was accused of having doped his horse Proclivity in a race at Santa Anita on New Year's Day 1937, the sportsman asked a Caltech scientist to test the animal, which was found to be drug-free; the institution's help in his exoneration is thought to be behind his decision to fund the laboratory after he read a Times article in 1948 describing Caltech's launch of an "attack on the mysteries of science" 
  • By 1958, with Victoria Church having moved to a small Westlake district apartment, the People's Independent Church of Christ had acquired 2105 as it purchased property along the Adams blockfront; in July 1958, in a further blow to the original residential character of Adams Boulevard and against the strong objections of neighbors wishing to maintain the area's single-family R-1 zoning, the church won a vote by city planning commissioners to build a new facility at the northwest corner of Adams and St. Andrews. It would be five years before the church began to clear its property of houses
  • 2105 was first of the church's three St. Andrews–corner boulevard houses—the others being 2081 and 2091—to be demolished. A demolition permit for 2105 was issued on April 8, 1963; those for 2081 and 2091 were issued on December 2, 1964. A complex including a seven-story apartment building for senior citizens was dedicated in the summer of 1966; "Independent Square," as it was christened, remains on the site, addressed 2455 South St. Andrews Place


An already well-heeled 26-year-old Norman W. Church arrived in Los Angeles from
Toledo in 1901; he set up shop downtown selling various makes, including
Cadillacs and four-times-as-expensive Peerlesses. The advertisement
above appeared in the Los Angeles Times on May 24, 1903.




Illustration: LAH/CDNC; LAT