3406 West Adams Boulevard


  • Built in 1905 on part of Block 60 of the South Arlington Tract by Dr. and Mrs. William A. Edwards
  • Architect: Hunt & Eager (Sumner P. Hunt and Wesley Eager)
  • On September 25, 1904, the Los Angeles Herald reported that Dr. Edwards had recently left his post as house physician of the Hotel del Coronado and moved north, where he would be renting 823 South Bonnie Brae Street (a house demolished in 1914 to be replaced by the current apartment building). Mrs. Edwards—née Frances Louise Taft—was the only sister of William Howard Taft, then Theodore Roosevelt's Secretary of War
  • Details of the Edwardses' purchase of their 150-by-500-foot, 1.72-acre building lot on Adams Street, then just west of the Los Angeles city limits, are scarce, but on August 18, 1905, the Los Angeles Express reported that the house was under construction and was expected to be finished by the end of the year. Dr. and Mrs. Edwards would move into what would be addressed "2600 West Adams" until it was redesignated "3406 West Adams" following annexation-related street-renaming and address adjustments circa 1912
  • On March 1, 1912, the Department of Buildings issued an alteration permit for 2600 West Adams in the name of "Taft Edwards"—a reference to Mrs. Edwards—for the addition of a new bathroom and other changes. The architectural firm for this work noted on the document is Hunt & Burns—Sumner P. Hunt was now practicing with Silas R. Burns. Despite the house's relative longevity, no images of it have surfaced as of yet. A small clue as to its architecture appeared in the Los Angeles Times on September 20, 1915, when it was referred to in coverage of the visit of a famous personage as an "ivy-covered English manor house"; large-gabled English-style houses, usually with faux half-timbering, were popular during the first decade of the 20th century (and then again during the 1920s). All atwitter, the Times continued its description: "[The Edwardses'] pretty home nestles in a park of superb beauty with here and there a group of Cocos plumosas, and still further, tall eucalyptus trees towering majestically to form a picture equal to a Corot...." 
  • While otherwise historically obscure, 2600/3406 West Adams could claim the distinction of having sheltered a sitting American president overnight. William McKinley had spent a night in May 1901 at Harrison Gray Otis's "Bivouac" at 2401 Wilshire Boulevard, visiting his friend Homer Laughlin at 666 West Adams Street while in the city; in May 1909, two months after his inauguration, William Howard Taft spent a night with the Edwardses on Adams Street. On a second presidential visit in October 1911, Taft visited 2600 but spent the night at the Alexandria Hotel downtown, most likely due to security precautions after the bombing of the Los Angeles Times headquarters—which carried the war-obsessed Otis's misnomer of "The Fortress"—a year before. Taft again stayed at the Alexandria four years later while on a visit after leaving office, though he celebrated his 58th birthday with family on the evening of September 15, 1915, at what was now addressed 3406 West Adams
  • Planning a return San Diego County, where they would retire to their "Waverly Ranch" in El Cajon, the Edwardses sold 3406 West Adams in 1922 and rented 129 Fremont Place, apparently from Mary Pickford's mother, while they wrapped up their Los Angeles affairs. (The 1893 house at Waverly Ranch appears to have been an early work of Irving Gill, one not in his later preternaturally modern style but rather a modernized large-gabled, half-timbered English design that might have resembled 3406 West Adams)

Irving Gill's 1893 house at Waverly Ranch in San Diego County—a very modern take on an English
manor—was later the Edwardses' weekend retreat. The architecture of their 1906 Los Angeles
 residence may have been somewhat similar, the design—sometimes waggishly referred to
as "Stockbroker Tudor"—having become very popular nationally during the aughts.

  • The new owner of 3406 West Adams was industrialist Lewis Spear, who was moving down from San Francisco with his wife, née Clara Whitney; they had briefly rented 901 Fourth Avenue while house-hunting in Los Angeles. After a stint in the ship chandlery business in San Francisco, Mr. Spear had founded the Pacific Steel & Wire Company in Oakland in 1890. On the heels of selling this operation to U.S. Steel in 1908, he set up the Pacific Wire Rope Company in Los Angeles, of which he remained president until his death 44 years later, though he remained based up north until purchasing 3406 in 1922
  • The Spearses made minor alterations to 3406 soon after they moved in; on October 5, 1925, the Department of Building and Safety (until recently known as the Department of Buildings) issued a permit to Lewis Spear for a two-story, 15-by-27-foot addition to the house designed by architect Arthur W. Hawes. Permits for various maintenance operations on the property were issued to Spear as late as 1952, when he and Clara were still in residence, which was well beyond when the bulk of affluent West Adams householders had left the district as its housing stock began deteriorating in earnest with the onset of the Depression
  • According to the 1930 Federal census enumerated on April 3, Lewis, Clara, their widowed youngest son Whitney and Whitney's six-year-old son Eugene were then living with four servants at 3406 West Adams. Whitney appears to have married divorcée Winona Spencer Rigby, a school teacher, in July 1923, with their son Eugene arriving the following March. What was apparently a more auspicious marriage took place in October 1923, when Whitney's next-oldest of two brothers, Emerson, married Marion Kellogg, daughter of the Fred R. Kelloggs of 9 Berkeley Square (while eldest brother Albion appears as best man, neither Whitney or the enciente Winona are in evidence in a photograph of the wedding party that ran in the Times on October 26). Eight months after Eugene Spear was born, his mother was killed on Ventura Boulevard when the car in which she was a passenger, traveling at an estimated 60 to 65 miles per hour, crossed the center line and crashed head-on into a truck delivering sand. (Her companions in the car, the driver, 40-year-old married electrician Lloyd Duncan, and another pair not married to each other, survived, as did the driver of the truck.) At the time of their parents' deaths, Whitney Spear, who had remarried, and his older brothers Emerson and Albion were running Pacific Wire and its subsidiaries. Pacific Wire was bought by the MacWhyte Company in 1959, thought it continued to be run by a Spear family member. MacWhyte is today part of WireCo Structures, which, among other products, supplies cables for suspension bridges
  • Lewis Spear died in Santa Barbara, where in addition to 3406 West Adams and a pied-à-terre in San Francisco, he and Clara maintained a weekend house, on March 1, 1953, eight days after the couple's 60th anniversary. Clara Spear died in Santa Barbara on August 9, 1954
  • The Los Angeles County Physicians Aid Association, founded in 1937 by Dr. Elizabeth Mason Hohl to offer housing and financial assistance to doctors personally affected by the Depression, was in possession of Secundo Guasti's 1910 house at 3500 West Adams by 1950; after the death of Clara Spear, the association acquired 3406, its neighbor two lots to the east, using it as an annex to 3500 by the spring of 1956
  • An article in the Los Angeles Times on July 15, 1959, announced the fate of the Edwards/Spear house: "The old home at 3406 W Adams Blvd. where once flew the United States President's flag—a large blue satin flag with the President's crest embroidered on it—is soon to be razed. Some can remember that President Taft slept here. The flag so indicated.... the fine old residence was built by Dr. William E. [sic] Edwards—when Arlington Avenue was the city limits, when only a few ranches lay between that area and the ocean and when coyotes came up the hill and howled in the darkness...." The paper also quoted a spokesperson for the Physicians Aid Association: "Because the group of physicians has purchased what was originally Dr. Edwards' property on which to build a sanitarium for the care of those in their profession who are ill.... I think nothing would have pleased him more, could he have known of its final destiny"
  • On September 4, 1959, the Department of Building and Safety issued a demolition permit for 3406 West Adams Boulevard. Being named after the organization's founder, Dr. Hohl, the groundbreaking ceremony for "Elizabeth Manor"—the Physicians Aid Association's sanitarium and convalescent hospital—was held on July 31, 1960. The building is now the Szarotka Polish Retirement Foundation

As seen in the Los Angeles Times on June 4, 1961

Illustrations: Private Collection; San Diego History CenterLAT