13 St. James Park


Few houses have signaled the changing fortunes of St. James Park more than #13—and it wasn't one built after Wall Street crashed, when after a decade's slide, genteel West Adams could no longer pretend that its face wasn't falling. While there were holdouts by the tenacious Blue Book set such as the Dockweilers of #27, the Clarks of #3 and #9, and the Kellers across the green at #20, by 1921, when #13 was built, Hancock Park had opened alongside Windsor Square and Fremont Place to draw the bon ton to the new "West End" of Los Angeles.

When the St. Lawrence and Mayfair apartment houses opened on the park in 1906 during a national economic downturn, one exacerbated by the San Francisco earthquake and leading up to the Panic of 1907, there was some unhappiness with the idea of flats invading a neighborhood of big single-family houses. The St. Lawrence and the Mayfair were, however, nothing like the dingbat shitboxes that would come to West Adams in the '50s. They were solid, beautifully detailed buildings. Post–World War I, the big West Adams houses began to be subdivided or given over to institutional use, such as #24 was (it was, first, a sanitarium and then a fraternity house). By the time real estate investor Julia M. Powell, a widow late of Brooklyn, acquired the parcel made up of Lot 29 and half of Lot 30 of the St. James Park Tract, extending to Scarff Street—in the late 1910s, it already held a small apartment building, one apparently built by the son-in-law of Richard V. Day of 12 St. James Park around the time of the construction of the St. Lawrence and the Mayfair. Mrs. Powell added a garage to 2326 Scarff, a building permit for which was issued on August 29, 1919. Then, with a permit issued on September 19, 1921, she added to her lot what became addressed #13 St. James Park, a diminutive house adjacent to the garage, the last single-family residence built on the Park. Six days before Julia Powell received her permit, George Wuster was issued two for the twin duplexes at 17 St. James Park and 2336 Scarff Street. It is not known why Mrs. Powell did not or could not choose to fully exploit her building site as had Wuster.

Thirteen St. James Park is also one the handful of houses surrounding the square that still stand, running from the grand columned #27 to tiny #13. In documentation for the nomination of the larger St. James Park neighborhood to be included on the National Register of Historic Places, which occurred on September 27, 1991, #13 is described thusly: "This is a one story frame/board and batten Craftsman bungalow with a low-pitched widely overhanging gable roof. The design is asymmetrically organized and is based loosely upon an L-shaped plan. Fenestration consists of paired casement sash (wood) with extended lintels and sill. Security grilles of inappropriate design have been installed over all the windows." There are no clear photographs of the house, tucked as it is behind the streetfront garage. The images here suggest its size relative to its neighbors. Long may it stand beyond its approaching 100th birthday.


Illustrations: Sanborn Maps