26 St. James Park


Images of houses surrounding St. James Park are rare; as for photographic evidence of the house built at the southeasternmost corner of the tract, only a very blurry shadow of it appears in a high-altitude aerial view taken in 1964, 63 years after it was built. A better illustration is the insurance-map representation seen above, taken from a larger map of the neighborhood, seen below.


Harry Dana Lombard was a Boston financier who had arrived in Los Angeles in the late 1890s after working as a banker for some years in Tacoma; his speculations in Southern California oil and property made him even richer in short order. While he would be a key player in the development of, among other tracts, Pacific Palisades, he had settled in the city at a time when the Adams District was considered, and often referred to on maps, as West Los Angeles. St. James Park, developed in 1887, promised a bit of Brookline, if not Boston itself, in terms of an aristocratic air. It was soon after the turn of the century, with the neighborhood's central greensward having blossomed into a lovely square centered on a fountain, that Lombard bought Lots 17 and 18. On October 13, 1901, the Los Angeles Times reported that he had hired Arthur B. Benton to design a two-story, nine-room house at 804 West 25th Street; by the time the house was completed, conforming to address standardization finally coming to the Park, the house had become 26 St. James Park.

Harry Lombard had married Oakland-born Henrietta Cole in 1891; once the couple arrived in Los Angeles, they became tireless socialites, with their entertainments at #26 much chronicled in the dailies. Their residence on St. James Park coincided with the neighborhood's heyday, which could be said to have begun drawing to a close by the mid 1910s. What was being termed Los Angeles's "West End"—where tracts such as Windsor Square and Fremont place were opening—beckoned, as did the resort of Beverly Hills, the actual hills of which had been enticing some West Adamsites to build country houses. In 1911, Lee Allen Phillips of 4 Berkeley Square built a retreat there that evolved in to the famous Pickfair. Nearby, after a celebrated round-the-world automobile tour, the Lombards acquired a large property in 1913. Having had the well-known design team of Sumner P. Hunt and Silas R. Burns do some alterations to #26 and apparently been quite pleased with the results, Harry and Etta commissioned from them an entire veritable palace on their Beverly Hills parcel. Completed in 1916, they stayed at the still-extant 1100 Carolyn Way until 1919—the same year Phillips sold his house to Douglas Fairbanks—when they swapped houses with Silsby Spalding, who had built 1006 North Crescent Drive (also still extant) in 1911.

Meanwhile, planning on a long circumnavigation of the globe, the Lombards had sold 26 St. James Park to banker Robert Irwin Rogers, who was in residence by 1913. Rogers and his wife, Josephine, remained in the house until 1929. Then, #26 was caught up in old West Adams's downsloping trajectory, in which residents had been decamping for newer suburbs in droves during the '20s, the bigger houses divided up into flats or demolished for particularly remunerative apartment houses, the exponential growth of Los Angeles during the decade having made housing very tight. The saving grace of West Adams had always been U.S.C., and its presence would save #26 for another 42 years, beginning with its Delta Sigma Phi fraternity inaugurating it as its chapter house on March 15, 1930. Apparently never again, if not surprisingly, a single family house, it was demolished between 1964 and 1972. The parking lot that replaced it remains today.

Illustrations: Sanborn Maps