West Adams History

(Photo by Perhansa Skallerup/LAist)

by Michael Smith and Greg Stegall

“Nowadays we scarcely notice the high stone gates which mark the entrances on Hobart, Harvard, and Oxford streets, south of Washington Boulevard. For one thing, the traffic is too heavy, too swift; and then, again, the gates have been obscured by intrusions of shops and stores. At the base of the stone pillars appears the inscription “West Adams Heights.” There was a time when these entranceways were formidable and haughty, for they marked the ways to one of the first elite residential areas in Los Angeles. . . In the unplanned early-day chaos of Los Angeles, West Adams Heights was obviously something very special, an island in an ocean of bungalows—approachable, but withdrawn and reclusive—one of the few surviving examples of planned urban elegance of the turn of the century.”
–– Carey McWilliams, “The Evolution of Sugar Hill,” Script, March, 1949: 30.


Just south of the 10 Freeway, east of Western Avenue on Hobart Blvd., there stand a stretch of marvelous old houses. Usually what they looked like in their heyday a century ago is left to the imagination or at best one or two snapshots of the exterior. What a prize, then, when a descendant of one of the original owners approached us with an amazing album of 8 X 10 photos, more than fifty of them, not only of the exterior but of every room in one of the grandest of these homes, at 2241 S. Hobart. This 4,946 square foot Craftsman mansion was built in 1910 by Los Angeles merchant Benjamin Johnson, one of the founders of what is today the Grand Central Market on Broadway in downtown. Benjamin Johnson's great granddaughter, Katharine Free Liappas, received the album from her mother, Sarah Elizabeth Brown Free, and her grandmother, Estelle Marie Johnson Lovett. She estimates from the age of her grandmother in one of the photos that they were taken within a year of the house's construction, in 1910 or 1911. Today the house is owned by the First African Methodist Episcopal Church.


Thomas J. Furlong and his son Robert were part of a dynasty that ruled the industrial city of Vernon from their West Adams home for more than fifty years.

By Leslie Evans and Jennifer Charnofsky

Standing at the northwest corner of 27th Street and Van Buren Place in the West Adams section of Los Angeles is a cross-gabled two and a half story Tudor-Craftsman house, memorialized by the city as the Furlong House, Historic Cultural Monument number 678. The Furlongs referred to were father and son, Thomas J. and Robert Furlong, now largely forgotten but both intimately associated with the lately controversial industrial city of Vernon, California. The house is also on the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural merits, but its most interesting aspect is its service for almost forty years as the home of an important part of the Furlong family, who were instrumental in creating the City of Vernon, once Los Angeles's principal industrial suburb, and who guided its affairs from 1905 until 1974.


West Adams has had connections to the film industry since its earliest days.

By Danny Miller

First published in the December 2005 issue of "West Adams Matters," the WAHA newsletter

West Adams has had connections to the film industry since its earliest days - you could almost say the two grew up together. Just as one stately home after another was rising up on Adams Boulevard and the surrounding streets, the fledgling movie industry was making its first moves into Southern California. Leaving behind the inhospitable climates of Chicago and New York, the purveyors of this brand new medium were descending upon Los Angeles to set up their dream factories. As the Silent Film era reached its heyday, movie stars and film directors alike-including Buster Keaton, Rupert Hughes, W.C. Fields, Fatty Arbuckle, and the Talmadge sisters, Constance, Norma and Natalie-lived in mansions in and near the West Adams District.