21 Chester Place
The mystery behind “The Real Addams Family House”
Was the TV sitcom “Hazel” somewhat prophetic in the houses eventual demise:
Although “21 Chester Place” was only shown briefly in the 60’s TV sitcom “Hazel” Season 5/Episode 5 “The Holdout”(1965), the episode plot revolved around an elderly friend of Hazel’s named Minnie Anderson who is reluctant to sell her deceased grandfathers home and move. A client of Hazel’s employer wants to buy the land so he can bulldoze the house and build a 12-story commercial building on the lot (there is a short video clip of the episode on the “Quick Facts” page). Of course Hazel ends up saving the day for her employer by calming her friend’s fear of change and convincing her that the neighborhood was not the same as it once was (as well as getting her friend more money than she was originally offered), so Hazel’s friend Minnie sells the land and house after all, so that she can make a brand new start that’s all her own; giving a final impression that the house would be bulldozed and something new would be built in its place (which is kind of eerie considering that the same thing happened to the house just two years later).
One more small “Fun Fact” regarding this “Hazel” episode (which aired in Oct. 1965), is that the actress Ellen Corby who played the role of Minnie Anderson (who owned the house in question), also played Lurch’s mother on “The Addams Family” in the episode “Mother Lurch Visits The Addams Family” (Season 1/Episode 17 – which aired Jan. 1965). I wonder if when she went to visit her son Lurch at the house that he worked and lived in, if she happened to notice that it looked strikingly similar to her own house?!
More Than Just For Looks:
At first glance, one might assume that the second floor “flower box” that is sitting on top of the base of the porte-cochère was just merely decoration, but a closer inspection of the second floor windows (that overlook the “flower box”), show that the first window was actually a door that led outside to a balcony over the porte-cochère. Look a little closer and you will also notice a little outside light for the balcony between that door and the window to the right (for nighttime); so that flower box was “more than just for looks”, it was actually a balcony.
One of the photographs taken of the house during the filming of “The Addams Family” pilot episode in 1964, with John Astin standing on the stairs under the porte-cochère (that leads to the front door, which can be seen on the right hand side of the photo), shows what could be mistaken as a small screened-in porch (on the left hand side of the photo), but was actually just part of the house design which seemed to give the impression, look and feel of a screened-in porch (from the inside and outside); especially due in part to a door, that led outside to the wrap-around porch (that wrapped around the front of the house). So although that part of the house looked like a screened-in porch from the outside (because of its shape and the exterior screen door), it was actually just part of the intriguing house design.
It was either a proper room right off the foyer within the house (usually used as a ‘work from home’ office, where you could take business clients at the alternate door; instead of the household door), or just part of a larger room (like a living room). More than likely (as well as the surrounding windows), the main door behind the screen door could be propped opened (with the screen door still shut), which would let the breeze flow through the room/house (giving it an indoor/outdoor feel).
Notable natives and residents that have lived in the West Adams District; and or houses that have been used in the entertainment business:
Edward L. Doheny, oil tycoon (Lived at “8 Chester Place”; which is now the Historic Doheny Mansion within “Mount St. Mary’s University”, ‘Doheny Campus‘)
Walter Scott Newhall, investor (Lived at “21 Chester Place”; which is now demolished)
Thomas Douglas Stimson, lumber/banking (Lived at “2421 S. Figueroa Street”; which is now the Historic Stimson House)
Russell J. Waters, U.S. Representative (Lived at “900 West Adams Street”; which is now demolished)
John Daggett Hooker, ironmaster (Lived at “325 West Adams Street”; which was demolished and is now where the “Orthopaedic Medical Center” sits)
Roscoe Conkling “Fatty” Arbuckle, actor (Lived at “649 West Adams Street”)
Secondo Guasti, wine maker (Lived at “3500 West Adams Street”)
Hattie McDaniel, actress (Lived at “2203 S. Harvard Blvd.”)
Louise Beavers, actress (Lived at “2219 S. Hobart blvd.”)
Ray Charles, singer (RPM studio, located at “2107 W. Washington Boulevard”)
Marvin Gaye, singer (Lived at “2101 S. Gramercy Place” at his parent’s home that he had purchased for them; which is the house his father shot and killed him)
“The People Under The Stairs (91)” Wes Craven Movie (2215 S. Harvard Blvd.)
“Six Feet Under” HBO TV Show – Fisher & Sons Funeral home (fictional)” (2302 West 25th Street)
The house was located in (arguably), the 1st Gated Residential Community in Los Angeles. In 1903 (according to the Los Angeles Times), “Chester Place” became the “Cities First in a Residential Community” to receive street lights. The one installed close to the original driveway for “21 Chester Place” still stands to this day.
In 2008, “Mount Saint Mary’s University”, ‘Doheny Campus’, celebrated the opening of the Ken Skinner (Three-Level) Parking Pavilion and the Adams Art Walk (which connects the parking pavilion to the center of the campus). The Adams Art Walk was named for brothers Morgan Adams Jr., and James “Peter” H. Adams II, who lived at “21 Chester Place” in the 1920’s with their parents, Morgan Adams and Aileen McCarthy. The Adams Art Walk was funded by MSMU Trustee David V. Adams (the son of Morgan Adams Jr.), and features two sculptures: ‘Mother & Child’ by artist Julie MacDonald and ‘Balance Bean’ by artist Michael Zapponi.
A window insert added to the first floor tower window, the shutters on the second floor windows, the wrought iron fence gate that runs along the sidewalk, the mailbox, as well as the overgrown bushes in the front lawn that is in-front of “21 Chester Place” for “The Addams Family” sitcom (as seen in the 1st episode and in the publicity photos of the house for the sitcom), were not really there; they were just studio props added for filming to make the house look dilapidated. As soon as they were done filming all the footage they needed for the show, the props were all removed and the lawn and house was then returned back to its original pristine look.
As well as “The Addams Family” 1964-66 TV sitcom and one episode of the 60’s TV sitcom “Hazel” (1965), “21 Chester Place” was also used exterior wise in the 1964 Motion Picture “Seven Days in May.”
When Mr. Gorham Tufts Jr., and Mrs. Jenny H. S. Roe-Tufts were interviewed for a newspaper article about their purchase of the Newhall property in April 1911, Mr. Tufts proclaimed at the end of the interview that he planned on erecting a new house on the site of the present dwelling. Thankfully though (just one year later), he was convicted for embezzlement and thrown in prison. If he had been able to carry out his original plan and demolished the house, what became “The Addams Family” house in the 60’s sitcom would not have been the iconic look we are so familiar with today. As well as, we probably would have never even known that “21 Chester Place” had even existed once; now that is a scary thought!
Two Weddings and a Death:
I would assume that most people would agree that the Newhall house was an intriguing looking home (definitely unique). I would also go one step further in speculating that most people would also find the home quite beautiful as well.
With that being said, I was not surprised to discover during research on the house that at least two weddings were performed in the house (or on the property), during its existence; as well as one wedding reception.
Bessie Trowbridge Ames (Nellie Newhall’s sister), was married in the house in 1903 and Mary Scranton Roe (Jenny H. S. Roe-Tufts youngest daughter), was married there in 1912. Maybe one day some of those wedding photos taken at the house will surface (one can only hope)!
On a more somber note, Mr. James H. Adams (the first set of renters after the Doheny’s acquired the property), died in the house in 1922. His wife continued to live at “21 Chester Place” for at least another decade after he passed away.
Other than the 1st Episode/Season 1 of the 60’s sitcom “The Addams Family” where they used “21 Chester Place” in the opening scene, the show used the matte painting to depict the house for the rest of the shows course using a “Forced Perspective.” But in Episode 21/Season 1 “The Addams Family in Court”, in the opening credits after the show’s intro if you look closely you can see the mailman delivering mail at the mail box and you can also see Gomez filing the gates just a few feet away from him (which seems to be one of the stock footage’s that was filmed of the Newhall house), but when the scene starts Gomez and Morticia are just arriving home from “bat hunting.”
In regards to the dialogue and story in the beginning there was no reason to use the in motion footage with Gomez filing the gates because it didn’t go with the story line (although you do have to look closely to see Gomez or you would easily miss him standing there). That opening scene is only a few seconds long and most people would probably not notice Gomez, but perhaps would see the mailman walking down the sidewalk (which is what the producers were probably hoping).
Is it possible that in that opening scene they used one of the in motion stock footage’s of the real house and overlaid the matte painting over the footage? Yes! They used that technique every so often throughout the shows course, just to create an illusion of activity in front of “The Addams Family” house. So every once in a while throughout the shows course, one of the stock footage’s that was filmed at “21 Chester Place” was used to simulate some activity (usually either at the very beginning of an episode or during a scene transition).
They used that technique in the series to also create night scenes with rain, lightning and even a Rocket Missile shooting out from an upstairs window in one episode. It was just a few seconds of one of the original in motion stock footage’s filmed at “21 Chester Place”, but they used it anyway because it made “The Addams Family” house seem more real ~ The art of illusion ~
One of the most common mix-up’s about the house is that it was originally located on “Adams Boulevard” or “West Adams Boulevard”, when truthfully, it was no longer on “Adams” when the street was designated as a boulevard.
In the very beginning after the Los Angeles land survey by Henry Hancock in 1855 , the dirt roads were designated as “boulevards” briefly for a few years before being designated as “streets” instead, as early as 1857.
When the Newhall house was listed in the “Los Angeles City Directory” in 1888, the street was called “Adams Street.”
Eventually “Adams Street” was divided into east and west (definitely by 1894), and the house was then located on “West Adams Street.” By the time the city changed “West Adams” and “East Adams” back to a boulevard again (sometime in the 1920’s), the Newhall house was no longer on “West Adams” anymore (now located at “21 Chester Place“).
House graced 2 completely different streets without moving (“Adams St.” and “W. 25th St.”), with a total of 4 different address locations by 1902; when a portion of “W. 25th St.” that the house sat on was renamed “Chester Place.” Some time after its demise, the street was once again renamed and it is now called “St. James Park W.”
Taking a closer inspection of some of the pictures that show the driveway that runs through and around the porte-cochère, one might notice that the driveway got a facelift by the 1950’s. The earliest photo we have of the house (so far), is of the house in 1911. In that photo you can see that the driveway around the porte-cochère was more of a circle in the early days, but compare that to any of the later photos and you will see that the circular part of the driveway was slightly changed, giving it more of a teardrop shape. Which variant do you prefer?
The Children of Chester Place:
Although the house could give off an imposing feel when looking at photographs or reading articles about the house (possibly one of proper etiquette and grand immaculate furnishings throughout; where everything has its proper place and is not moved), some might be surprised to learn though that there were a lot of children that lived there throughout the houses existence.
Mr. and Mrs. Henry G. Newhall (who had the house built), lived in the house for about six years between 1888 and 1894. They had three children, with the last two being born while they lived in the house. Alice, the first born (who would have turned two in 1888), lived there until she was around 8 years old. The second born named Donald (who was born in 1890), lived in the house until he was around 4 years old, and the third child Leila (born in 1891), lived there until she was about 3 years old.
When the Tufts moved in the house in 1911, they moved in with Mr. Tufts two sons Warren (12 years old), and Fletcher (10 years old), from a previous marriage; although the boys only lived in the house for about a year, before returning back to live with their mother under court order.
Within the first year that the Adams’ moved in to the house in 1915 (first set of renters under the Doheny’s), Mr. and Mrs. James H. Adams’ son, Morgan Adams and his wife Aileen, welcomed their first child, Morgan Adams Jr. (in August 1915), and their second son, James “Peter” H. Adams II, in 1917. Morgan and Aileen did separate and divorce in 1921 (and more than likely the boys lived with their mother at a different residence from then on; although that is just purely speculation), but their grandma on their dads side (Lillian Adams), continued to live at “21 Chester Place” until at least 1932; so it is possible to conclude that the two boys would go to their grandma’s house to visit once in awhile (at least until 1932).
When the Grafe’s moved in to the house in the mid-1930’s, they had three young girls (Helen, Louise and Paula); with the eldest daughter Helen, around 8 years of age. The family lived there exclusively for at least eight or nine years until the family purchased the “Ferndale Ranch” (in Santa Paula, California), as their main homestead in 1944; and from then on, the girls no longer lived at the house on a day to day basis (only when the parents would drive them in to the city on special occasions). The Grafe’s rented “21 Chester Place” for so long though, that some of their grandchildren got to enjoy the house for a short time as well; in what became the last years of the houses existence.
So even though the house was a large and grand looking home (and at one time considered to be located in a well-to-do neighborhood), I am almost positive that there were lots of joy and laughter throughout those hallways and rooms over the years; possibly even countless games of “Hide and Seek”, within and outside around the house grounds (as well as kid birthday parties and Christmas’). It truly is a shame that the house is no longer standing and no longer houses those memories of the past families that once lived there, or will ever bring joy to new generations of families to come; as well as to those that never got the opportunity to live there or even see the house in person, but still love(d) the house just as well.
In conclusion, I guess it could be fitting that even though the house is gone, the spot where it once stood is still filled with love, joy and laughter today, as families and friends cheer on and support one another at the track and field at the Frank D. Lanterman High School. And although the house did not get to live on and bring joy to new families in the future, its one time existence surprisingly seems to continue to live on (within all of us still), even after all of this time.