An Introduction to Historic West Adams Neighborhoods
Historic West Adams is actually a fairly large district that extends generally from Pico on the north to Exposition on the south, west from the 110 Freeway to West Boulevard, west of Crenshaw. It is made up of many distinctive pocket neighborhoods, each with unique characteristics.
University Park and North University Park (University Park HPOZ, North University Park National Register District, Menlo Avenue National Register Historic District, St. James Park, 20th Street National Register Historic District, and the North University Park Specific Plan area)
These neighborhoods were both the earliest built (starting in the 1870s) and were at the forefront of the first West Adams area urban pioneer and historic preservation movement (in the 1970s). Named for its association with the University of Southern California, established in 1880, these neighborhoods have many magnificent restored Victorians, along with century-old Tudors and Craftsman residences. The landmark Chester Place/Mount St. Mary’s College, the Coliseum and Exposition Park, the Shrine Auditorium, and the USC campus all contribute to the ambiance of this neighborhood, which includes five National Register Districts, an HPOZ and a Specific Plan for Historic Preservation.
Adams-Normandie (Adams-Normandie HPOZ, Van Buren Place National Register Historic District, Halldale)
Adams-Normandie was one of Los Angeles’s original streetcar suburbs. Immediately adjacent to North University Park, extending from Vermont to Western, and from the Santa Monica Freeway to Jefferson, these neighborhoods feature a tremendous variety of large, spacious turn-of-the-century homes, with the occasional Victorian dotting a landscape filled with American Foursquares and Craftsman residences. Dramatic entry halls and sweeping staircases lead to spacious airy rooms, rich wood moldings, turrets, and gables, all combining to recall Los Angeles in its heyday. This area is home to several historic districts, including the Van Buren Place National Register District. It is also famed for its very active block clubs and neighborhood associations.
Alvarado Terrace/Byzantine-Latino Quarter
A century ago, the fashionable Westlake District and the West Adams District met at Alvarado Terrace, a small and unique enclave that forms a triangle around Alvarado Terrace Park, itself a landmark. Here wealthy Angelenos erected some of the most imposing mansions of their era. Today Alvarado Terrace and surrounding neighborhoods are considered a part of the larger Pico Union neighborhood, which is also an HPOZ. Perhaps the most famous landmark is St. Sophia’s Greek Cathedral, right at the edge of the Byzantine-Latino Quarter.
Harvard Heights and West Adams Heights (Harvard Heights HPOZ)
The area from Normandie Avenue to Western Ave. and from the 10 Freeway to Pico Blvd. has many wonderful homes built by wealthy business families of the turn-of-the-20th-century. These are often larger homes with unique floor plans with gorgeous living rooms and unusual Craftsman features. This area boasts two very strong neighborhood associations both of which have raised monies for tree-plantings and other public projects as well as an HPOZ. On Washington Boulevard is on of West Adams’ more contemporary historic landmarks, the famed Ray Charles recording studios.
Western Heights and Angelus Vista
Western Heights is a small, two-street (six blocks) pocket that is home to a very strong historic preservation movement, as well as one of West Adams’ first HPOZs. It runs from Western to Arlington, and from the 10 freeway north to Washington. The area is dominated by two-story Craftsman residences, with a few larger three-story mansions. You may recognize the famous “Marvin Gaye” estate on the corner of Gramercy and 21st Street. Angelus Vista is the neighborhood just north of Washington. It was developed in the same era as Western Heights, and many of its homes sit on larger lots than elsewhere in West Adams.
West Adams Avenues, Kinney Heights and Gramercy Park (West Adams Terrace HPOZ)
Established in the early 1900s, Kinney Heights is a lovely area that still boasts many large Craftsman, Mission Revival, and Shingle Style homes. Extending from just west of Western to Arlington, and north of Adams to the 10 Freeway, it is named for Abbot Kinney, the same pioneer developer and dreamer who established Venice Beach. Kinney Heights is a stable owner-occupied area. The William Andrews Clark library at Adams and Gramercy is a marvel of hand-painted murals and formal gardens. Gramercy Park is a small section with its own private pocket park, immediately adjacent to the Britt Mansion, home to the former Amatuer Athletic Foundation, now called the L.A. 84 Foundation. The West Adams Avenues neighborhood runs from Arlington to Crenshaw, between Adams and the freeway. It has one of our community’s strongest neighborhood associations. You’ll recognize a number of the houses from television and the movies, including the Six Feet Under house (on the corner of Arlington and 25th Street) and the “Eppes Family House” from the CBS TV series Numb3rs, on 4th Avenue.
Extending basically south of Adams, south to Exposition, and from Western to Crenshaw, Jefferson Park features a huge number of the wonderful one-story Bungalows which lured so many to California in the early years of this century. As if to compensate for their cozy size, the builders loaded these quaint homes with every imaginable built-in convenience, including china cabinets, drop leaf desks, window seats, and even disappearing Murphy beds. For the person looking for quality in a manageable size, these are not to be overlooked.
Arlington Heights was first developed as its own township in 1887, but most of the houses here date from the early part of the 20th century. It extends from the 10 freeway north to Pico, and from Arlington west to Crenshaw. Here you will find many Craftsman homes still awaiting your first inspiration and restoration.
Lafayette Square/Wellington Square/ Victoria Park
Mediterranean and Spanish Revivals, Tudors, Craftsman and even a few more modern Art Deco, Regency and Mid-Century residences sit on tree-lined streets of Lafayette Square, Wellington Square and Victoria Park. These three lovely and secluded neighborhoods were first developed just before and after World War I, and filled in during the 1920s. They each feature some of the most beautiful mansions in Los Angeles, rivaling those of Hancock Park but at a fraction of the cost. Lafayette Square is a fully-gated quarter with an active neighborhood association and an HPOZ. Victoria Park is also gated, and is actually built around a circle. Wellington Square is partially gated, and features an abundance of sweet Revival style homes.
Country Club Park
Another partially-gated pocket, Country Club Park is on its way to becoming one of Historic West Adams’ newest HPOZs. Developed after 1907 on the former site of the Los Angeles Country Club’s “Pico and Western Links” and extending from Western to Crenshaw from Pico to Olympic, Country Club Park features an eclectic group of modest cottages and bungalows, two-story middle class Craftsman and Mediterranean homes, true mansions, and elegant post-WWI apartment buildings with hardwood floors, high ceilings and beautiful period details. Like other West Adams area neighborhoods, Country Club Park is inviting for film production, and you will probably recognize the Milbank Mansion perched on a rise at Arlington and Country Club Drive from a variety of movies as well as the TV series, Beauty and the Geek.