3425 West Adams Boulevard

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  • Built in 1912 by real estate developer Percy H. Clark, as his own residence, on Lot 1 of the Long Tract. The Long Tract was a resubdivision of the Arlington Heights Tract comprised of the 17 lots of the latter's Block 4 
  • Architect: J. Martyn Haenke. While other government records indicate a nonspecific build date of 1912, an original building permit for the house itself has not been located as of this writing. A permit for its garage was issued to Clark by the Department of Buildings on July 17, 1912, with Haenke indicated as the architect of record. Charles A. Poulson of Beverly Hills is cited as the contractor; he and Haenke were associates of Clark in a number of projects in Beverly Hills, in the development of which Clark had been heavily involved since 1906. So closely was he associated with that development, it may have been assumed that he would live there himself; while it may have been an altogether different speculative collaboration, it could be that the 11-room house being planned for Clark by Haenke, in Beverly Hills per the Los Angeles Times of August 2, 1911, was actually built as 3425 West Adams Street
  • Percy Clark had developed and marketed the West Adams Street Tract, bounded by Adams and West 27th streets and Raymond and Budlong avenues. It opened in November 1902; at center is Van Buren Place, where, at #2639, Clark built his own house early the next year. Percy and his wife, Hattie, and their only child, Florence, remained on Van Buren until they moved to 3425 West Adams. The leafy, linear West Adams district was still holding strong as a home for city's establishment, despite the allurements of aborning westward developments, such as Beverly Hills, that Clark himself was pushing. "Beverly," as it was often referred to early on, was still considered remote. The opening of the new clubhouse of the Los Angeles Country Club in May 1911 and then of the Beverly Hills Hotel a year later—and better roads spurred by the introduction of the Ford Model T in 1908—ramped up the appeal of Beverly and other new subdivisions eager to seduce old West Adamsites. The Clarks nevertheless stood firm. Perhaps it was Hattie's putting her foot down, but she and her husband, a prime mover in one of the most famous suburbs in the world, would remain on West Adams until their deaths. In the meantime, Florence married Stanley Woodruff Smith at 3425 on June 9, 1915. The Clarks were still there at the time of Percy's death at Good Samaritan Hospital on December 28, 1925. By this time, with Fremont Place and Windsor Square having been open for 14 years, Hancock Park and Bel-Air for five—not to mention Brentwood—the society diaspora of oldest sections of West Adams had begun. Hattie was unmoved, so to speak. She died in a rapidly fraying neighborhood at 3425 West Adams on July 28, 1932
  • Florence Smith wasted no time in unloading the contents of the house, if not the house itself, which, just two decades old, was a sign of the rapid decline in the appeal of even the westerly estate section of what was now called Adams Boulevard; an auction of the house's contents was held at 3425 on September 13, 1932. It is unclear as to weather the family retained ownership, but it appears to have quickly gone the Depression way of all of the district's bigger houses and been broken up into small income-producing dwelling units. The tight times and changing fortunes of West Adams are illustrated by one notorious tenant named Gertrude Dill, a housewife living at 3425 when she arrested in February 1934 charged with six counts of forgery and (particularly unwisely) posing as the daughter-in-law of Police Chief James E. Davis. She was found guilty and sent to Tehachapi for two years. Living at 3425 by April 1940 were 16 individuals, among them maids, a butler, a chauffeur, a tailor, and a theater usher, all working elsewhere
  • The Wilfandel Club was founded on November 21, 1945, its name combining syllables of the names its prime movers, Della Williams and Fannie Williams. Della Williams was the wife of renowned architect Paul Revere Williams, who presumably had a hand in adapting 3425 West Adams to its new—and current—life after the Wilfandel acquired it in 1948. According to its official history, the club’s goal has been to "promote civic betterment, philanthropic endeavors, and general culture.... [It] is the oldest African-American women's club in Los Angeles." Somewhat less credible, and, unfortunately, widely repeated, is the official history's claim that the house "was built in 1922 by silent-film star Ramon Novarro for his brother." Novarro's brother Eduardo Samaniego, an architect practicing in Los Angeles in the '40s, lived at one point in a West Adams house, said to have been owned by Ramon, at 2265 West 22nd Street (now under the 10 freeway); perhaps Eduardo did some work on 3425 West Adams—or at some juncture had a room there—prior to its purchase by the Wilfandel Club, giving rise to the story. At any rate, the Wilfandel continues to be a force in West Adams, not least in maintaining a significant contribution, in terms of the architecture of J. Martyn Haenke (and possibly Paul Williams, if not Eduardo Samaniego), to the streetscape of West Adams Boulevard




Mrs. Percy H. Clark had died six weeks before
her possessions were being offered for auction, as
advertised in the Times on September 11, 1932. Her
social counterpoint, Depression-depressed Gertrude Dill,
was living at 3425 West Adams when she was arrested
on forgery charges in 1934. Her next adddress would
be Tehachapi Prison. It had not been wise to try to
impersonate the police chief's daughter-in-law.



Filmmakers made good use of the expansive grounds of Adams Boulevard's estate section, where
houses on the southerly side of the thoroughfare between Arlington and 7th avenues occupied
enormous sloping lots. Louisa Guasti, the widow of "Wine King" Secundo Guasti, still lived
at 3500 West Adams when Charley Chase was featured in Hal Roach's 1930 Fast Work.
The producer was then living nearby at 22 Berkeley Square. The scene here is from
the Guasti lawn past a prop of a naked lady, arms carefully placed, toward the
home of another widow, Mrs. Percy Clark. Both the 1910 Guasti residence
and the Clarks' 3425 West Adams Boulevard still stand, well-tended.
A new collection containing Fast Work is available on Amazon.



Illustrations: Private Collection; LATCalifornia State Archives;
John Bengtson/Silent Locations