3734 West Adams Boulevard

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  • Built in 1912 on the westerly 60 feet of Lot 1 of Tract 177 by Mary A. Briggs. The Department of Buildings issued Mrs. Briggs construction permits for a 10-room residence and a garage on the property on April 3, 1912. The house was part of a family compound; being built simultaneously and in design concert next door was the larger 3726 West Adams for her daughter and son-in-law, Dr. and Mrs. Granville MacGowan. Mrs. Briggs and the MacGowans 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)
  • Indiana native Mary Briggs had arrived by covered wagon in pre-statehood Los Angeles 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; he became a winemaker in Los Angeles. Mary gave birth to her daughter, Lillie, in Los Angeles on January 11, 1870. According to the federal census enumerated that year on August 5, Mary was living with her brother, Vincent—a land developer and a member of the Los Angeles Common Council—with her husband of four years, Samuel E. Briggs, appearing to no longer be in the picture. (The census of 1880 indicates that there had been a divorce.) It seems that Dr. Hoover's legacy—he had died in 1862—was the seed of a classic Los Angeles fortune, one of downtown land acquired early. (Accordingly, the city's Hoover Street would be named for his family.) On March 5, 1905, the Los Angeles Times included Mrs. Briggs among its list of "shrewd operators among the fair sex"—those women of the city who at the time owned a third of all downtown property 
  • In 1912, the westerly reaches of the West Adams District, with its estate-size properties constituting Los Angeles's answer to Orange Grove Avenue in Pasadena, were still attracting affluent homebuilders despite the opening of one new Wilshire Boulevard–corridor tract after the other. Mary Briggs was no doubt attracted to the area by the presence of Mrs. Ozro Childs of 3100 West Adams, another old Angeleno whose fortune derived from downtown property, and whose maiden name, interestingly enough, was Huber, though apparently not related. Mrs. Childs would remain in her house until she died in 1935, her house coming down 10 years later; Mrs. Briggs would remain at 3734 West Adams until she died on January 7, 1925, her house remaining standing and now 106 years old. At first, her family, so far undeterred by the clear tide of fashion toward new suburban districts along Wilshire—the estate-minded to Beverly Hills and Bel-Air and beyond—took over 3734. Mary Briggs's granddaughter, Eleanor MacGowan, moved in after she married Guy C. Earl Jr. next door at 3726 on New Year's Eve of 1928. Earl was the president and publisher of his late uncle Edwin T. Earl's Los Angeles Evening Express, Edwin Earl being 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 (his house was at 2425 Wilshire). The MacGowans and the Earls couldn't have helped but notice that even westerly West Adams was fraying precipitously under the pressure of the outflow and the early years of the Depression, their own huge houses now clearly white elephants after just 22 years. No doubt not altogether unhappy to unload it during lean times, the MacGowans sold 3726 in 1934, after which it was used as a home for the aged. The Earls remained at 3734 only until, by early 1937, they moved into a house they'd bought at 134 South Hudson in Hancock Park. The wave of conversions of big houses lining Adams Boulevard—as the Street was now designated—that had begun to the east in the '20s was reaching the estate area west of Arlington Avenue; 3734 would now become a rooming house, by 1940 in the possession of Fletcher E. Jones, who opened the Harlow Guest House, which was, rather sadly, listed in the city directory under "Homes and Asylums"
  • Its lot now physically separated from 3726, Grace Fisher Atkins purchased 3734 West Adams in 1946. Atkins was a remarkable psychologist, educator, and designer who invented Couturstadt, a process of making clothes using photography and mathematics rather than by numerous fittings. Although she technically maintained single-family use of the house, she was known to rent rooms. On June 11, 1957, the Department of Building and Safety issued Atkins a permit to convert the house officially into a duplex, which it remained until she sold it in 1968. On October 22, 1985, Julian C. Dixon, then serving California in the U.S. House of Representatives, paid tribute in the House to Grace Atkins, describing her as having received psychology and teaching degrees from U.C.L.A. and U.S.C., fields she pursued in addition to clothes design. Dixon also pointed out that Mrs. Atkins obtained her real estate license in 1944, "and has been credited with many creative real estate transactions during her career, including the sale of West Adams Gardens..."
  • Succeeding Grace Atkins was Si Hwa Chang, who bought both 3726 and 3734 West Adams and opened his Los Angeles Bible College in them in September 1969. Renamed Los Angeles Christian University in 1973 and then Puritan State University in 1993 after the death of Chang the year before, new owners of the houses came soon after. The identity of the occupants of 3734, if any, after the departure of Puritan State is unclear until 2009, when it was bought by the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (MSIA), a group that had bought and renovated the Guasti house at 3500 West Adams as its headquarters in 1974 and added the MacGowan house to its campus in 2002. Painstaking restoration work has brought the Briggs and MacGowan houses back together, with the project's consultant describing the work in detail here. On May 9, 2011, the Department of Building and Safety issued a permit to the MSIA to change the classification of 3734 from its prior single-family designation to what the document describes as a boarding house with five bedrooms, which were intended for staff housing
  • The Briggs house was named Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #477 in 1990



Illustration: Private Collection