2141 West Adams Boulevard


  • Completed in early 1911 on Lot 4 of the Ben E. Ward Tract for attorney Eugene W. Britt. On October 28, 1910, the Department of Buildings had issued Britt a permit for a 17-room house to be built on the site  
  • Architect: Alfred F. Rosenheim; the house recalled the architect's monumental Second Church of Christ, Scientist, which had opened to the east at 948 West Adams Street earlier in 1910 
  • Los Angeles was Britt's third stop in California after moving west in April 1878 from his native Missouri; after six years in Lake County, he went into practice with William J. Hunsaker in San Diego. Britt remained there after Hunsaker moved to Los Angeles in 1892, but in 1900 moved north to resume a practice with his former law partner. After eight years at 710 West 28th Street, Britt commissioned 2141 West Adams Street, as the roadway was then designated
  • In 1914, Britt recalled Rosenheim to redesign the living room. The original 10-inch dais at the north end, apparently meant for musical performances, was removed and the floor made uniform. The Department of Buildings issued a permit for the work on March 4, 1914. Rosenheim reportedly also at this time replaced some single-hinged doors in the room with French doors
  • In 1923, Eugene Britt sold 2141 West Adams to Abram K. Detwiler, a businessman with a past. Detwiler's indictment during the Home Telephone Company bribery scandal along with the corrupt political boss Abe Ruef at the time of San Francisco's graft trials in the mid-aughts was apparently little known in Los Angeles. When things began to heat up in the telephone scandal, Detwiler fled to Europe for three years; after his return—he claimed to have been abroad for reasons of ill health—and a lengthy legal battle, the 12 indictments against him were dismissed on a technicality by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on October 2, 1911. Detwiler soon reestablished himself in Los Angeles. He went into the real estate business and in late 1912 bought and remodeled the house at 681 South Berendo Street that real estate man Byron Erkenbrecker had built for his mother in 1907. His family would soon have mentions in local press coverage of the city's ask-no-questions society in which a big house on an important street could counterbalance a bad out-of-town reputation even if it couldn't get you into the Southwest Blue Book. It was also helpful to have your name on the tallest building in the city, which the 1913 Baker-Detwiler Building (now called the Park Central) at 412 West 6th Street was until 1927 
  • The Detwilers' time at 2141 would not be happy. On January 4, 1925, the family's gardener died of asphyxiation in his room above the garage; it is unclear as to whether the death was due to a gas leak, a car left running under his room, or to suicide. Having been unwell for some time, Mrs. Detwiler, DeEtte, died of pneumonia in the house on February 6, 1925. A large obituary in the Los Angeles Times on October 18, 1929, announced Abram Detwiler's death the day before at Hollywood Hospital, "where he had been for the last year." His railroad building and philanthropy in Ohio and his local real estate involvement were mentioned, as was his connection to the Home Telephone Company—though there was not a word about his legal troubles that arose from it

Architect Alfred Faist Rosenheim's rendering of the Britt house idealized its setting; while in 1910 the
immediate neighborhood was now well poised to be for a time one of Los Angeles's finest, it was
still not fully settled and could be said to be in transition as soon as it was being established.
Exclusive block-long Berkeley Square, with elaborate gates at each end designed by
Rosenheim, had opened just to the north of the Britts' site in 1905; that sub-
division would do much to prolong the appeal of Adams Street nearby,
with other tracts of more modest houses claiming to be in Berkeley
Square even though actually outside of its gates. Almost as
soon as the Britts moved into 2141, however, inexor-
able competition for the entire length of the
West Adams district opened in 1911 in
the form of Windsor Square and
Fremont Place in the rising
Wilshire corridor.

  • After leaving Adams Boulevard, the Britts had moved to 1404 South St. Andrews Place; after his stay at the fashionable Chase Sanitarium on West 18th Street for unknown reasons in the early 1930s, the couple rented 532 South Arden Boulevard in Windsor Square, where Mrs. Britt died on January 26, 1934. Eugene soon left on a trip to Asia, returning to Los Angeles from Shanghai on October 27. On February 15, 1935, now living at the Chapman Park Hotel, he died at St. Vincent's Hospital after a heart attack at the age of 79. Both of his most important California residences still stand, each in the height of residential architectural fashion of its time: In addition to 2141 West Adams, the turreted house Britt built at 406 Maple Street in San Diego in 1887 survives, a rare Victorian landmark in that city
  • It is unclear as to whether Eugene Britt had also bought Lot 3 of the Ben E. Ward Tract as part of the parcel on which 2141 West Adams stands, or when it may have become part of the property; a lot tie does not seem to have been made official until February 24, 1983
  • Ruth DeEtte Detwiler Petterson Anderson, who is referred to in some sources as Abram and DeEtte's foster daughter, inherited 2141 West Adams from her parents; she was living there at the time of her father's death. Her first husband, a dentist with whom she had three children, had died in 1922. She married Church Anderson in 1924 and would give birth to two boys, one of whom died in 1925 at less than a year. The combined family, including a son-in-law, would still be living at 2141 West Adams in April 1940. Some sources cite that a trust devised by Abram Detwiler to fund the maintenance of the house had become insufficient; within a few years, the house was put on the market
  • The next owner of 2141 West Adams—by 1944—was the family of African-American actress Gladys Snyder, who had been having some success in film and on the local stage. Gladys's mother, Lucile, appears to have been the owner of 2141 for nearly 30 years. Her son Lester was also listed in the city directory at 2141 in many editions; after Lucile's death, Gladys inherited the house. She almost succeeded in demolishing it
  • Gladys Snyder came up against the same problem that Ruth Detwiler Anderson was facing 40 years before: insufficient funds to maintain an aging, unremunerative single-family house in a deteriorating neighborhood. Gladys had ideas for the redevelopment of her 1.5-acre lot as a site for apartments, or to sell it to someone who would want to build them. She claimed to have been stymied in any such efforts by the designation of the house as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #197 on August 23, 1978, which, she maintained, was done without her knowledge. The house was then added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 17, 1979. Apparently uninterested in any such honors, Gladys went ahead and applied for a demolition permit for the house and garage from the Department of Building and Safety, which duly issued the document on July 8, 1980, only to then revoke it on July 21, with the original issuance reported later by the Times as having been due to clerical error. The city informed her that a local ordinance required notification of the city's Cultural Heritage Board, which had conferred the local designation on 2141, of any major plans for changes to one of its monuments. According to Big Orange Landmarks, Gladys "accused the Cultural Heritage Board of 'Gestapho [sic] like tactics'" and complained that "As long as the house is designated a historic cultural monument, I shall be a prisoner in a decaying, rotting, unsafe structure." Gladys may have felt that things were finally going her way when, for unclear reasons, the City Council voted 12-1 in September to revoke the house's monument status, but it appears that she didn't, after all, have a redevelopment plan of her own or a ready buyer. It would be nearly two more years before relief for both Gladys and the house would come
  • Through the efforts of Peter Uberroth, president of the Organizing Committee for the Summer Olympic Games as Los Angeles prepared for its 1984 event and a supporter of the Helms Athletic Foundation—founded in 1936 and financed by bakery owner Paul Helms to oversee a collection of sports memorabilia begun by bank teller Willrich "Bill" Schroeder—the Britt-Detwiler-Snyder house would be saved. Uberroth persuaded the First Interstate Bancorp (now part of Wells Fargo), which was planning sponsorship of the upcoming games, to purchase the house in 1982. After a $2 million renovation, the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles opened at 2141 in March 1984, its museum containing 50,000 items of sports-related items collected by Schroeder and the Helms Athletic Foundation over the previous half century. In addition, there would be a vast library of sports-related publications and films. In 1985, Uberroth and First Interstate donated the collection and the buildings to the A.A.F., known today as the LA84 Foundation
  • Having survived a near death, 2141 West Adams even appears to have at some point regained its designation as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #197. In 1984, the Los Angeles Conservancy awarded the house its Preservation Award
  • On July 23, 1990, the Department of Building and Safety issued a permit for a new foundation for LA84's Olympic flame on the grounds of 2141. On August 23, according to the Times the next day, "The torch was lit on a permanent platform in the garden...designed from 50 pieces of glass entitled 'The Olympic Flame Helix'... by area architect Heidi Hefferlin"

A current view of 2141 West Adams from
Gramercy Place further reveals that the house
is nearly indistinguishable from its original plan;
below, a rear westerly view now includes an
Olympic flame sculpture installed in 1990.

Illustrations: Private Collection; LA84 Foundation