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West Adams grew up and had its heyday as a center of fine living between 1900 and around 1920.
This page is devoted to a few photographs of West Adams in its early years. A majority of the photographs are courtesy of Jodi Siegner and of the West Adams Heritage Association.
Looking west on Adams Street (later Adams Blvd.) from Figueroa, 1905
Shrine Auditorium. Original building dated from 1906 but burned in 1920. This is the 1926 replacement.
Washington Blvd. at Hoover, 1920
Adams and Figueroa, 1925. The Vincent De Paul Catholic Church is still under construction on the right.
Belvue Terrace. Demolished to make way for the Santa Monica Freeway in the 1960s.
Theda Bara, silent film star, resident of West Adams.
Edward Doheny, who rose from poverty to become the richest man in America. He lived in a mansion in a large compound at Chester Place, just west of Adams and Figueroa, today the campus of St. Mary's College.
From the late 1930s to the end of the 1940s West Adams became a center of the early battle for civil rights. African-American film stars Hattie McDaniel, who had won an Oscar for her role in Gone with the Wind, and Louise Beavers bought homes in the district. In 1948, racial convenants were outlawed and in a few years African-Americans became the largest ethnic group in the area.
In the 1960s West Adams was badly damaged by the construction of the Santa Monica Freeway, which cut through and destroyed some of the most significant historic housing in the city. The area then went into a long-term decline.
Early in the 1980s many slow changes began to work in West Adams. African- Americans began to break into better paying jobs. The whites and Asians who had remained in West Adams during the years of economic downturn began to be joined by others who were drawn to the racially diverse community and to the old-fashioned feel of the quiet blocks of big homes. The newest element has been the large influx of Latino neighbors, living their own immigrant experience. Many of these who began as renters have begun to prosper in their new country and to purchase and restore homes of their own. With the end of the recession of the mid-1990s development has picked up speed and there is much fixing, repainting, and repairing going on again throughout the district. Artists, designers, and young media types are moving in, as well as faculty and staff from USC. People who work downtown are discovering the convenience of West Adams and learning about the joys of revitalization in a centrally located neighborhood. In many ways today West Adams is a small town in the giant metropolis, where the neighborliness of an earlier age has been recreated.
African-American actresses Hattie McDaniel and Louise Beavers were among the first to break the color bar and buy homes in West Adams, beginning a new era of diversity.