Fun Facts

21 Chester Place

The mystery behind “The Real Addams Family House”

Fun Facts

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 friends 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 later (which is very eerie considering how close the story line mirrors what really did happen to the house a few years later). So is it safe to say that we could actually blame Hazel for “21 Chester Place” being demolished?! Ha!

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 at and lived in, if she happened to notice that it looked strikingly similar to her own house! Ha!

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House was located in the 1st Gated Residential Community in Los AngelesIn 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.

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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.” Acquired the Newhall house in 1915, and eventually owned all of “Chester Place”)
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 McDanielactress (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 (Before he died, 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)
“Six Feet Under” HBO TV Show “Fisher & Sons Funeral home (fictional)” (2302 West 25th Street)
“The People Under The Stairs (91)
” Wes Craven Movie (2215 S. Harvard Blvd.)

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Other than the 1st Episode/Season 1 of the 60’s sitcom “The Addams Family” where they used the Newhall house 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 shows 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 overlayed 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 awhile throughout the shows course, one of the stock footage’s that was filmed of the Newhall house was used to simulate activity (usually either at the very beginning of an episode or during a scene transition).

Thunderstorm at the Addams Mansion

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 ~

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For most (if not all) of its existence, the house was owned by some of the wealthiest family’s in America in a wealthy exclusive area. Built and owned by the Newhall Family for the first portion of it’s life the house did seem to be loved and cherished in its heyday by Mr. and Mrs. Newhall. A good reflection of this is seen throughout the year in 1906 (in many “Los Angeles Herald” Announcements), that Mrs. Newhall proudly used her house as a social stomping ground for luncheons and dinner parties, at her request.

Los Angeles Herald, July 13, 1906

Los Angeles Herald, July 13, 1906

But by 1915, after being purchased by oil tycoon Edward and Estelle Doheny, the home was delegated as a rent house for the rest of its existence (even after the College inherited it); seems to give this house a Cinderella type of feel/treatment. Being owned by some of the wealthiest families in America (and being used in the entertainment business), but being delegated to rent house status? And in this fairy-tale the house does not have a happy ending with the home eventually being demolished.

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The wrought iron fence gates that run along the sidewalk, as well as the mailbox and overgrown brush in yard that is in-front of the Newhall house for “The Addams Family” sitcom (seen in the 1st episode and the sitcoms publicity photos of the house), were not really there; they were just studio props put in for filming. 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 returned back to it’s original pristine look.

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21 Chester Place ("Seven Days in May" - 1964)

21 Chester Place (“Seven Days in May” – 1964)

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.”

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Although the partial street that the Newhall house sat on was renamed “Chester Place” in 1902 (and the house address changed to “21 Chester Place“), the house was not actually apart of the gated community then because it did not belong to the owners of “Chester Place” (although the partial street that the house sat on was now considered apart of “Chester Place”). But in 1915, the land that the house sat on and the house itself were purchased by the Doheny’s and soon after they had a set of gates installed on that street to enclose the house (as well as two homes across the street from the Newhall house), in to the gated community of “Chester Place.”

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Was the last house to be included in to “Chester Place” and the last to be demolished. It survived the chopping block for years while other houses were razed in the early 1900’s by “Chester Place” residences wanting more spacious lawns (at that time it was lucky not to be apart of “Chester Place”). In regards to that matter, Chester Place 4, 15, and 19, are now gone; as well as 4 houses on the south side of “West 23rd St.” (just west of “Chester Place” and right behind the Newhall house), that the Doheny’s acquired and subsequently tore down to build a garden area with a large green house when they acquired the land in 1915. Luckily, Estelle kept “21 Chester Place” and rented it out for the next four decades of her life. Soon as the coast seemed clear years later after Estelle died and the land had exchanged hands in 1962 for “Mount St. Mary’s College”, the L.A.U.S.D. (Los Angeles Unified School District) propositioned “Mount St. Mary’s College” for the land on the west portion to build a High School. Obviously they must have said yes and the house went on the chopping block in 1968 (renters were ordered to evacuate), and the house was demolished sometime between 1968-1972. Sadly, it was the last house to be demolished in “Chester Place” and the only one after “Mount St. Mary’s College” took over the land. It stood for at least 80 years (older than any of the other “Chester Place” houses), and just missed out on the new wave of historic preservation that was to come in the following years.

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1980 Aerial View Showing School Still Has Not Been Built

1980 Aerial View Showing School Still Had Not Been Built

We know renters were ordered to evacuate the house in 1968, and speculation is that the house was also demolished that year (although aerial photos only prove that it was gone by 1972), but what is interesting is that aerial photos also show/expose that the L.A.U.S.D. hadn’t even began construction on the school by 1980. And the school online website says that the school was established in 1983, so it looks like the house was prematurely demolished by over a decade (at the very least), before the school was actually built (possibly even upwards to 15 years at the most between 68-83). If only they had left the house there until they were ready to break ground, the house could have stayed standing for another 10-15 years possibly (giving the house more of a chance that someone could have stepped in and saved it during that time). How is that for a slap in the face?! Further more, the house would have still been standing and could have been used again when the “Halloween With The New Addams Family” was filmed in 1977.

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The house had once graced 2 completely different streets without moving (“W. Adams St.” and “W. 25th St.”), with a total of 4 different address locations by 1902; when the street was then renamed “Chester Place.” Sometime after it’s demise though the street was once again renamed and it is now called “St. James Park West.”