West Adams is a large district in South Central LA along Adams Boulevard from Crenshaw Boulevard to Hoover Street. Developed between 1880 and 1925, it was one of the few racially mixed neighborhoods in LA in the early 20th century. Restrictive covenants back in the day were not as prominent in West Adams as it was in other parts of the city. And back when it was known as “Sugar Hill”, West Adams was also once the home of movie stars and celebrities including the likes of Fatty Arbuckle, Busby Berkeley, and Theda Bara among others. Today, the district is home to a large assemblage of historic homes, in fact the largest west of the Mississippi River. The main lure of visiting the district is to observe the various architectural styles – Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, Transitional Arts and Crafts, Shingle, Craftsman Bungalow, Renaissance Revival, Colonial Revival, Mediterranean Revival, Mission Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, Egyptian Revival, Neoclassical, and Beaux-Arts. The district is also home to the only Greene and Greene house in LA. Because of the beautiful architecture in West Adams, it is often the location of film and TV shoots; CSI and The Shield both filmed here as did movies like Confessions of a Dangerous and Of Mice and Men.
The Guasti Villa at 3500 West Adams Boulevard was built in 1910 as the estate of the famous movie-musical director, Busby Berkeley. It has now been converted into a religious institution. It is a graceful Renaissance Revival creation that would not look out of place if it were placed in Italy.
The Lindsay House at 3424 West Adams Boulevard has an interesting terracotta, heavy-stone façade and has been converted from a mansion into the Our Lady of Bright Mount Catholic Church.
The Walker House at 3300 West Adams Boulevard is another one of West Adams’ curious examples of historic architecture. It is a mishmash of Craftsman half-timbering and features a Mission tile roof. Today, it is used as a Korean Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
William Clark Memorial Library
The William Clark Memorial Library at 2520 Cimarron Street is probably the finest building in West Adams. It is a French Renaissance building symmetrically constructed with yellow brick walls and a formal French garden. The entrance hall is grand and strikingly elegant. It was built and donated by William Clark, who was a millionaire heir of a copper fortune and founder of the LA Philharmonic. The library has a massive collection of rare books including volumes of Milton, Dryden, Pope Fielding, and Swift. There are also letters and manuscripts by Oscar Wilde and folios of Shakespeare, highlighted by significant documents and artifacts of American History, including one relating to the Louisiana Purchase.
Golden State Mutual Life
The Golden State Mutual Life building at Western and Adams Boulevard has been around since the late 1940s. It remains a symbol of the area’s emergence as a center of African American wealth. In its Art Deco style, the structure was built to house the Golden State Mutual Life insurance company – the largest black-owned insurer in the U.S.
At one time, West Adams was the wealthiest district in LA, lined with Victorian mansions and Craftsman bungalows of LA businessmen and professors from USC. When Hollywood and Westside areas like Beverly Hills and Santa Monica began developing in the 1920s, the upper-class white residents of West Adams began moving away simultaneously as upper-class African Americans began moving in, especially after segregationist covenants were removed in the late 1940s. During this period, black celebrities like Ray Charles, Joe Louis, and Hattie McDaniel moved in. In the 1950s, the building of the Santa Monica and Harbor Freeways destroyed much of West Adams. On the other hand, the district was spared the destruction that occurred in other areas of LA during the 1992 riots. Today, West Adams remains an upper-middle class neighborhood that in recent years has seen a growing white and Latino population.
Dickey, Jeff. Los Angeles, 3rd Edition. Rough Guides, 2003. ISBN: 1843530589.
“West Adams.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Adams>
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