June 10, 2015

Photo Essay: Behind the Closed Doors of West Adams Heights

The West Adams neighborhood of LA is still such a mystery to me, even after having explored a few of its landmarks.

From the sidewalk or the street, you see all the indications of an impressive manse:




...and even fancy cars, making you wonder where and when you are, exactly.

But right down the street, or right around the corner, are signs of dereliction:

...foreboding dwellings of doom...

...fenced to ward off intruders, but contradictorily attracting them.

The most intriguing part of West Adams, however, are the formerly glorious mansions that are neither privately occupied, nor abandoned, nor open to the public.

The Wesley W. Beckett Residence on South Harvard Boulevard had operated as a film set and an interactive stage for the Delusion Halloween haunt in recent years...

...rendering it nearly uninhabitable by the time the current owner purchased it in late 2014.

But this once-great Victorian mansion started losing its grandeur back in the 1950s, when the 10 freeway sliced through the fanciest part of West Adams with the biggest, nicest homes.

The 10 is now spitting distance from the Beckett Residence.

The new owners have promised to restore the historic landmark, and have already begun work.

They have torn through drop ceilings to reveal hidden ornaments...

...and have rescued other disembodied elements from the basement.

They still have to patch holes in the walls, and remove some graffiti.

The outdoor sun porch was closed in at some point...

...but it's not clear whether this additional room outside the office will remain...

...or will be opened up again.

The house is full of incredible bay windows, including one on the upstairs landing with leaded glass, by an expansive window seat.

The upstairs is currently off-limits, but you can sense the ghosts of the little children that once ran the halls here when it operated as a boarding house.

Once grand, the mansion was built in 1905 as the home of one of LA's most prominent doctors, and now at 110 years old, will (hopefully) be returned to its former glory.

Extensive photos of more areas can be seen here and here and here.

And then there are the homes that are already restored, modernized, and inhabited... the Charles I.D. Moore Residence.

Original features like built-in furniture, wood carvings, and two large fireplaces are still visible...

...but it's hard to admire all the Arts & Crafts architectural features when it's full of somebody's stuff, reminding you that you are very much in 2015, and not 1907.

At the Kenworthy Residence, you can marvel at the achievement of this traditional home, which was built with Streamline / Art Deco touches in 1935, in the middle of The Great Depression.

Looking up at the barrel vaulted ceiling in the living room, and taking a peek into the current residents' private living quarters...'s hard to imagine that the Caribbean American Credit Union operated out of this house for several decades of the second half of the 20th century.

As common as these home tours are, it's very weird for me to invade a strangers' personal space. I'm not really interested in how people live now. Visiting their houses feels like an intrusion to me. I'd rather see the places after they're gone, or before they move in. Their contemporary amenities and accommodations distract me from absorbing the spirit of the space.

Maybe in 30 years, I'll care about these people who live there now. But at the moment, I don't.

Here's a particularly moody view of the Beckett Residence from a few years ago [added 6/27/15 at the suggestion of a reader]:

Related Posts:
Somebody Else's House
Photo Essay: Doheny's Other Mansion
Photo Essay: A Landmark Clubhouse for Southern California Motorists
Photo Essay: St. Vincent de Paul, West Adams

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