3726 West Adams Boulevard


  • Built in 1912 on a parcel comprised of the easterly 42 feet of Lot 1 of Tract 177 and the westerly 47.5 feet of Lot 2 of the Home Villa Tract. The Department of Buildings issued Lillie Briggs MacGowan construction permits for a 26-room residence and a garage on the property on April 17, 1912. The house was part of a family compound; being built simultaneously and in design concert next door was a 10-room house at 3734 West Adams for Mrs. MacGowan's mother, Mary A. Briggs. Mrs. Briggs and Mrs. MacGowan and the latter's family were moving from adjacent houses at 733 and 739 Garland Avenue, which they later demolished to build a residential hotel that still stands
  • Architect: Hudson & Munsell (Frank Dale Hudson and William A. O. Munsell)
  • Lillie Briggs MacGowan was born in Los Angeles on January 11, 1870; her mother had arrived by covered wagon in the pre-statehood pueblo at the age of two with her Swiss-born father, Dr. Leonce Hoover, who, as Leonce Huber, had been a physician in Napoleon's army. Mrs. MacGowan's brother Vincent became a West Adams land developer and a member of the Los Angeles Common Council; the city's Hoover Street would be named for the family. Lillie married Dr. Davis Granville MacGowan, a genitourinary surgeon who was elected in 1889 as Los Angeles's first Health Officer, in San Francisco on June 16, 1890
  • The MacGowans had two children; Hilliard Vincent was born on March 6, 1894, and Mary Eleanor on February 1, 1898. Hilliard was something of a mess; an early incident at 3726 West Adams involved him accidentally shooting himself in the hip as a revolver fell from his pocket on August 31, 1916. His March 15, 1922, marriage to a Georgia woman he'd met while an army captain stationed at Fort Benning "brought parental wrath upon [his] head," according to the Times. When Dr. MacGowan discovered that his new daughter-in-law was a bigamist—possibly twice over—and that she had been in prison "for unbecoming conduct in hotels" (according to The Atlanta Constitution) he sequestered the hapless Hilliard, who lost his military commission, and arranged for an annulment. It got messier when the erstwhile Mrs. MacGowan turned up in Los Angeles and began suing the family; by mid October 1922, no doubt paid off handsomely, she had disappeared from the city. Hilliard stepped in it again when he married titian-haired dancer and actress Mayrene Lee; she was found dead in her Los Angeles apartment on April 10, 1935—according to the New York Daily News, clad in a pink négligée—apparently having been murdered the day before. No reports of Hilliard's connection to Mayrene's demise seem to have appeared in the press other than mentions in Variety and Billboard; in July 1939, he married Mrs. Lillian Robbins. It is unknown if there were any marriages after that one ended sometime not long after the war and his wedding at the age of 70 to 45-year-old Mrs. June Leet Stormson on May 31, 1964. Hilliard does not seem to have still been married to her when he died in El Cajon on September 21, 1972 
  • Keeping more within the bounds of Southwest Blue Book society, Eleanor, as Mary Eleanor MacGowan was known, married Guy C. Earl Jr. on New Years Eve of 1928 at 3726 West Adams. He was president and publisher of his late uncle Edwin T. Earl's Los Angeles Evening Express, the elder Earl having been one of the first to build on Wilshire Boulevard as it emerged after 1895 as a challenger to the residential primacy of West Adams Street (he lived at at 2425 Wilshire). The Guy C. Earls moved into her grandmother's house at 3743, still in family hands after Mrs. Briggs's death in 1925
  • West Adams connections were strong: During July 1931, Dr. MacGowan had looked after his friend Albert Crutcher, senior partner at the still-extant white-shoe law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, at 3726 after he suffered a stroke; Crutcher would die in his own house at 1257 West Adams on August 2
  • Black Tuesday 1929 took away all hope that westerly West Adams, characterized by its glamorous estates lining the boulevard, might survive as a worthy competitor with other large-lot sections in the Los Angeles area such as Bel-Air, Holmby Hills, Beverly Hills above Sunset, or parts of Pasadena; only the district's gated Berkeley Square was able to maintain its cachet, at least through the coming World War. The timing was simply off—if the MacGowans and Mrs. Briggs had decided to invest in big houses even five years later, it is likely that they might have instead chosen one of the nascent newer top-end subdivisions as a site for their compound. Once the Depression struck, the family understood that their houses, just 20 years old, were irredeemable white elephants. Any offer to buy would do, even if it was from an institution; in terms of neighborhood relations, it was now every homeowner for himself. The MacGowans were able to sell 3726 in 1934, downsizing to an apartment at the St. Helene at Ninth and Fedora in the Wilshire District—where the doctor would die in his sleep on January 31, 1935—after which the house was used as a home for the aged. The Earls remained at 3734 until, by early 1937, they were able to unload it and move into a house they'd bought at 134 South Hudson in Hancock Park, one of the more modern successor subdivisions to those lining West Adams Boulevard, as the Street was now officially designated
  • On November 4, 1934, the Los Angeles Times ran a significant item regarding the transition of westerly West Adams Boulevard away from its single-family residential beginnings, one of a reception that had taken place on October 30: "Formal opening of the new McElhinny Club home for middle-aged and aged women was announced at a tea at the clubhouse, 3726 West Adams...when Mrs. Charles S. Crail entertained more than 150 prominent social and club leaders.... It is the bequest of Mary Elizabeth McIlhinny, a cousin of Mrs. Crail, and it is for the protection of women who have no children or relatives with whom to make their home." In 1939, to meet the needs of the ladies, the shaft of the dumbwaiter was enlarged to accommodate a passenger elevator. There were hiccups; in November 1944, trustees of the home—attorney Joe M. Crail (his father was Joe S. Crail, who served California in the House of Representatives from 1927 to 1933) and his aunt, Bernice (widow of Joe S. Crail's twin brother, Superior Court Judge Charles S. Crail) and her son Charles J. Crail—were arraigned on charges of operating a home for the elderly without a permit. The issue seems to have been over a fire escape that the city's Social Welfare Commission insisted upon but which the ladies of the home resisted installing, fearing porchclimbers. The Commission prevailed; permits for the installation of two sets of stairs were issued on April 3 and November 23, 1945. Referred to variously as the McElhinny Home and the McElhinny Memorial Home, the organization made its last appearance in city directories in its April 1968 issue. Rather gloomily, some earlier editions of the directory had listed the house under "Homes and Asylums"
  • According to A Study of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awarness published in 2013, the house was acquired after the McElhinny Home closed by Joseph Pelzig, described as a Russian collector and inventor, who would lose it in foreclosure. He was succeeded by Si Hwa Chnag, described by his organization as "a nationalist and true believer of the Puritan martyr spirit," who bought both 3726 and 3743 West Adams and established the Puritan Missionary Foundation in September 1969. The foundation opened the Los Angeles Bible College and Seminary, which morphed into the Los Angeles Christian University in 1987 and ended up as Puritan State University in 1993 the year after Chang died
  • Reverting for a time to single-family use, 3726 was acquired by area real estate investor William Little in 1994. Little began making upgrades to the house including a new kitchen, windows, and roof. Filmmaker Scott Dale and his wife, interior designer Janice Stevenor Dale, were the high bidders on the house at a foreclosure auction in 1999 and moved their family into it that fall with ideas for an extensive restoration; having second thoughts once into preliminary work, the couple had the house back on the market by the following spring
  • The Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (MSIA), a group that had bought and renovated the Guasti house 0.13 of a mile east at 3500 West Adams as its headquarters in 1974, added the MacGowan house to its campus in 2002. The MSIA's painstaking six-year restoration brought the Briggs and MacGowan houses back together; on September 26, 2008, the organization was issued a certificate of occupancy by the Department of Building and Safety for 3726 to be used as offices and classrooms, with a provision for 11 rooms for boarders
  • The MacGowan house was named Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #479 in 1990

    Illustration: Private Collection