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 getting her friend more money than she was originally offered), and the woman 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 it’s place; which is kind of eerie considering how close the story line mirrors what really did happen to the house a few 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?!
The house was located in the 1st Gated Residential Community in Los Angeles. In 1903 (according to the Los Angeles Times), “Chester Place” received another 1st in becoming 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.
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” and eventually acquired all of “Chester Place” from Charles Silent)
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)
Taking a closer inspection of some of the pictures that show the circular 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 when it was for sale. In that photo you can see that the circular 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?
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.
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 and son continued to live at “21 Chester Place” for at least another decade after he passed away.
When Mr. Gorham 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)!
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 of the Newhall house, 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.”
The shutters on the second floor windows, wrought iron fence gates that run along the sidewalk, the mailbox, as well as the overgrown bushes in the yard 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 put in 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 were returned back to its original pristine look.
As well as “The Addams Family” 64-66 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.”
All that is known at this time is that the “Department of Building and Safety” issued a demolition permit for the house on June 9, 1967, and it was demolished sometime after that date for a high school. At this time, the actual date of demolition is unknown and aerial photos only show that the house was definitely gone by 1972, but I also discovered that aerial photos expose that the L.A.U.S.D. hadn’t even began construction on the school by at least 1980 (and the school online website says that the school was established in 1983), so it looks like the house was prematurely demolished way before the school was even built. The house stood for at least 79 years (older than any of the other “Chester Place” houses at that time), and just missed out on the new wave of historic preservation that was to come in the following years.
If only they had left the house there until they were ready to break ground, the house could have stayed standing for possibly another 16 years between 1967-1983 (giving the house more of a chance that someone could have purchased and moved it during that time). How is that for a slap in the face?! Furthermore, the house would still have been standing and could have been used again when the “Halloween With The New Addams Family” was filmed in 1977.