3920 West Adams Boulevard


  • Built in 1921 on a irregular parcel comprised of the west 25 feet of Lot 8 and the east 25 feet of Lot 9 in Tract 177 by Jay Gould Gilfillan, at the time a manufacturer of electrical components. The Department of Building and Safety issued a permit to Gilfillan for the construction of a seven-room house on September 3, 1921, and one for a single-car garage on December 16
  • Contractor Louis R. Dilley designed and built both buildings; he was recalled to widen the garage for Gilfillan in 1927 
  • J. Gould Gilfillan, who was 29 at the time he built 3920 West Adams, was in partnership with his elder brother Sennet in Gilfillan Bros, Inc., founded in 1912 as the Gilfillan Brothers Smelting and Refining Company, originally supplying precious metals to various professionals including dentists and jewelers; the brothers' mother Cora was treasurer of the company. Later Gilfillian Brothers used platinum in the manufacture of automobile ignition components and became the first West Coast maker of Bakelite. By the late '20s, in addition to auto parts and electric drills, the company was making radios, producing units under its own name and for other nameplates such as Packard-Bell; Gilfillan was also the licensee to build sets for RCA that were sold in 11 western states until 1940. The company worked with M.I.T. to develop radar and in 1942 was selected to produce the first Ground Control Approach radar systems, which were used during World War II and were said to be instrumental in the success of the Berlin Airlift. The firm would produce television sets as well, but by the mid-'50s, Gilfillan was a radar-systems maker exclusively. The Gilfillan firm became a division of ITT in 1964
  • When Gilfillan built 3920 West Adams he was living in a fourplex on Fifth Avenue just south of Pico; in 1921, Arlington Heights and other southerly districts such as westerly Adams Street were still competing successfully for upper-middle-class homebuilders. Neighborhoods straddling Adams between Arlington and Crenshaw managed to hold on to their appeal up to World War II despite a clear preference by the affluent by that time for high-end developments along the Wilshire Corridor as far as the Pacific. Gilfillan and his wife Ina and their children, Mary Ann (then 18) and Jay Gould Jr. (then 8) were still living at 3920 in April 1940 and were still there two years later, when Mary Ann's engagement was announced. The Gilfillans left 3920 in 1946 and moved into a newly built apartment complex on Plymouth Boulevard north of Pico before settling into a West Los Angeles house that their daughter still owned as late as 1997
  • To whom the Gilfillans may have sold or rented 3920 West Adams after leaving the house is unclear; it appears to have been, as were other houses in the neighborhood such as 3825 West Adams, rented on short-term bases for events such as the wedding reception of twins Eva and Ella Wood that took place at 3920 after the sisters were married at the Paul Williams–designed Second Baptist Church on June 29, 1947. In 1950, the house was bought by travel agent Spelma W. Love
  • On November 8, 1950, the Department of Building and Safety issued Spelma Love a permit to enlarge the kitchen of 3920; on March 23, 1951, he was issued a permit to make an addition to the garage. On the certificate of occupancy issued on June 11, 1953, after this work, it was noted that the house was now on the record as a two-family dwelling carrying the addresses 3920 and 3922 West Adams, indicating that additional alterations had been done to convert the building from the single-family house noted on the 1950 permit—although no listing for 3922 West Adams appears in later directories
  • The Loves appear to have lost it and gone their separate ways in 1955, with Mamie Love remaining at 3920 until 1958. Ownership of the house then becomes unclear, with it apparently being rented to various individuals from the late 1950s. During 1959-60, it was occupied by W. Robert Lomax and Stacey E. Sutton, who were partners in various restaurant ventures in Los Angeles and, it appears, partners in life. On September 25, 1958, the Times reported that the men would be opening Bob's Coffee Shop and Restaurant at Adams and LaSalle the next day (it was to feature "Chicken Waffles" and "Half-a-Chicken in a Basket") and that prior endeavors included Stacey's Continental Cuisine in North Hollywood and the Bull 'n Beef at Sunset and Vine. The couple entertained frequently, including giving musicales during their time at 3920. Featured with illustrations in the Los Angeles Sentinel on July 30, 1959, was a "gala formal dinner party given...as a climax to [that year's] Sunday afternoon Musical Series; included as a guest was Mrs. Helen Thigpen, star of the original Porgy and Bess. It was, however, Lomax's mother Alice who was singled out in the story, her dress being described in detail; the outfit was topped by a diamond tiara given to her by her son. Bob Lomax was active in NAACP and Urban League work as well as in music presentation. In mid 1960, he and Sutton moved to Victoria Park. Clubwoman Orpah Burns then moved into 3920 West Adams, staying for several years

The streamlined Gilfillan factory was a fixture of Venice Boulevard
for many years; in the background at left is Loyola High School, which still
stands. Gilfillan had begun building its first facility on the site in 1922, replacing
it with Llewellyn A. Parker's modern design 15 years later. (The sprawling structure
would be acquired by Loyola, which demolished it for playing fields in 1981.) Below:
Brief tenants of 3920 West Adams during 1959 are seen at a party they gave at
the house that summer: Partners W. Robert Lomax and Stacey E. Sutton
flank Lomax's mother Alice, who is wearing her son's gift of a tiara.

Illustrations: Private Collection; ITTLos Angeles Sentinel