3820 West Adams Boulevard


  • Built in 1912 by Louise A. Denker on Lot 4 of Tract 177, a 53-parcel development at the southeast corner of Adams Street and Tenth Avenue that had only been part of the City of Los Angeles since October 27, 1909, when it was annexed in the Colegrove addition. Mrs. Denker was the widow since 1892 of Prussian-born Andrew H. Denker, a hotelier, capitalist, and landowner who had arrived in Los Angeles in the early 1870s from Kern County, where he had been interested in mining. Denker teamed up with hotelier Henry Hammell, who was married to Louise's sister, to run the Bella Union and United States hotels, among others. Denker and Hammel later acquired the 3,000-acre Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas, later the site of Beverly Hills
  • The Department of Buildings issued Mrs. Denker a permit for a $20,000 house at 3820 West Adams on August 23, 1912. The architect was in-demand B. Cooper Corbett, known for his use of concrete in residential construction, such as in a recent project at 21 Berkeley Square. A permit for Cooper's design for a garage at the rear of the Denker property was issued on March 4, 1913
  • Despite her connection to the land that became Beverly Hills and that she would have been able to observe its early development into that city after the Hammel and Denker Ranch, formerly the Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas, had been sold in 1900, Louise Denker resisted the trend of homebuilding along the Wilshire corridor, of which the inaugurals of Windsor Square and Fremont Place in 1911 and that of the Beverly Hills Hotel the next year were clear indicators. Mrs. Denker instead stuck with the more entrenched, if not shortsighted, of Los Angeles's "Old Guard" and built a house in the relatively undeveloped stretch of Adams Street beyond Seventh Avenue. The area might still have appeared competitive in 1913, but soon after the First World War it would rapidly begin losing its appeal among the affluent, with newly platted tracts remaining barren even into the '30s. Louise Denker was no doubt influenced by the formidable Dr. Granville MacGowan and his mother-in-law, Mary A. Briggs, having built their two houses on Lots 1 and 2 of Tract 177 earlier in 1912. But by 1921, Tract 177 had only 12 other houses besides 3820 on its 53 lots; one wonders how pleasant it could have been for Mrs. Denker to spend years looking out over the unimproved, indifferently kept lots around her. It would not be until the latter half of the 1930s that she would have immediate neighbors, and those would be ordinary small six- and eight-family apartment houses. Perhaps she consoled herself in the meantime by imagining the unbuilt subdivision as her own estate
  • While 3820 West Adams Boulevard has come to be referred to as the "Denker Estate," both in social reportage in newspapers after the death of Louise Denker and now historically, the four-bedroom house was actually confined to a single suburban lot; the exaggeration seems to come from the house being owned officially by the "Estate of Louise Denker" after 1931, with added confusion in that it lay just west of the boulevard's famous row of actual in-town estates beginning at Arlington with the Childs house at 3100. While large, there is no doubt that 3820 would now be worth many multiples of its present value had it been built in—or moved to—one of the upper-middle-class neighborhoods such as Windsor Square or Fremont Place, both up-and-coming subdivisions in 1912. That said, its location in a declining district did not stop the original family from maintaining it for decades to come
  • Andrew and Louise Denker had five children; Marie, born in 1873, married Louis Lichtenberger in 1896; slavishly loyal to the neighborhood, the Lichtenbergers would build the nearby 3701 West Adams in 1923. (At the northwest corner of Seventh Avenue, 3701 is another house that might have had better luck value-wise if it had been built in a Wilshire-corridor district; nevertheless, it is another survivor of the boulevard.) Antoinette Denker, born in 1876, married Louis Lichtenberger's younger brother George in 1898—but the George Lichtenbergers were having nothing to do with declining West Adams, in 1929 building in its modern opposite number, Pacific Palisades. Leontine Denker, born in 1878, married Attilio Henry Giannini in 1905; he was the brother of A. P. Giannini, the legendary founder of the Bank of Italy, which morphed into the Bank of America. They would live in San Francisco for many years, but in 1932 they bought a recently completed house at 161 South Mapleton Drive in Holmby Hills, another neighborhood far removed from old West Adams. (A physician who later joined A. P. as a banking partner and who at one time headed United Artists, A. H. Giannini dropped dead of a heart attack in 1943 while visiting the home of Frank H. Powell at 70 Fremont Place.) Isabel Denker, born in 1880, married William A. Maier, son of a local wholesale meatpacker, in 1902; they had a daughter, Genevieve, before they were separated and then divorced in 1911. (Isabel claimed that Mr. Maier had been drunk for three years.) Isabel and Genevieve would live with Louise, first at 228 West 24th Street and then in the new house at 3820 West Adams
  • Louise A. Denker died in Los Angeles on August 20, 1931; her funeral was held from 3820 West Adams two days later, with a requiem mass at St. Agnes Church at Adams and Vermont. She was interred at the family mausoleum at Calvary Cemetery
  • Louis Denker had married Rose Kubach in December 1907; she was the daughter of Christian J. Kubach, a prominent Los Angeles contractor whose works would include the new city hall in 1928. The Denkers would divorce in 1929; Louis died at 3820 West Adams on May 25, 1933, with the requisite funeral in the house, with a mass at St. Agnes, two days later
  • Louis Denker's daughters, Cecilia and Louise, would be well-chronicled in women's pages as they came of age following their parents' divorce.  Louise married John Blount de Mille, an adopted son of Cecil B. DeMille (the filmmaker used the variant of his surname for professional purposes) on September 26, 1934. Two children later, she sued him for divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty in 1945, but there was a reconciliation and another child. Her suit in June 1959 on the grounds of extreme mental cruelty—she told the court that he used vile language and belittled her in front of others—was more final. Louise's sister Cecilia Morgan happened to have died the month before
  • On April 24, 1935, an article in the Los Angeles Times contained the subheading "Old Family Estate Scene of Gala Party"; Rose Denker, now living in Beverly Hills, was giving a tea at 3820 West Adams to announce the engagement of Cecilia to divorcé Harold G. Morgan. Among those receiving was "Mrs. Isabel Denker Maier, aunt of the bride-elect and chatelaine of the old Denker homestead...." (The breathless society reporters were clearly buying into the presentation of a 22-year-old suburban house as a something ancient.) After Cecilia's death on May 19, 1959, and her sister Louise's divorce from John de Mille that summer, Louise married her sister's widower on October 8, 1960, at Rose Denker's house in Westwood. Harold Denker Morgan was his father's best man
  • Genevieve Maier was married quietly to attorney Allan Macdonald in December 1930; Macdonald was the son of J. Wiseman Macdonald of 2025 West Adams Boulevard. On March 21, 1932, the Times reported that four days before 27-year-old Allan Macdonald had died in Santa Barbara "after an illness of two months." Genevieve returned to live at 3820 West Adams 
  • Remarkably, Isabel Maier's name was still listed at 3820 West Adams in the 1994 Los Angeles city directory; she had, in fact, died on August 15, 1966. Four months later, after being a widow for 34 years, Genevieve Macdonald married again—to another Allan, right down to the spelling. She and Allan Bruttig were married in San Francisco on December 15. A listing for "A. P. Bruttig" appeared in the city directory at 3820 West Adams the next year, as did one as late as 1994, even after Genevieve died on April 15, 1987. Later in 1987, continuing the trend of never looking too far for a spouse, Allan married his younger brother Bernardo's widow of two years
    • The directory listings do not necessarily indicate that Allan Bruttig and his new wife were living at 3820, but rather that the longtime service at 734-6754 (née REpublic 4-6754, née PArkway 6754, née EMpire 6754) was being maintained. The "4+ bedroom, 4+ bath" house was on the market in September 1989, advertised, inevitably, as the "Denker Estate." After 81 years—perhaps the record for ownership by an original family in a boulevard house—3820 West Adams would be changing hands and becoming officially historic. On March 8, 1994, the house was designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #591; on August 25—now described as having nine bedrooms but just three baths—3820 was sold for the first time since it was built. The sales price was $330,000, a much more realistic valuation than the $1.1 million asked in 1989, which it might actually have gone for had it been built in, say, Windsor Square. Poignantly, the "Denker Estate" was reported to still contain its original furnishings until it was sold

    A rendering of 3820 West Adams Boulevard in June 2017; elaborate fencing began to mar the
    West Adams streetscape in the 1970s, although it is unclear when that of 3820 was added.
    Xeriscaping, such as seen of the 1939 sixplex next door, is a more recent design trend.

    Illustrations: Private Collection