Wednesday, February 27, 2008

No. 117 - Beckett Residence

Beckett Residence

Beckett Residence
2218 South Harvard Boulevard – map
Declared: 4/4/73

Well, next weekend will be the one-year anniversary of this blog (please, no presents). I’ve visited more than 100 sites around the city, and I gotta admit, this is the saddest of them all. This once-magnificent mansion is a wreck.

Beckett Residence

While the city’s ZIMAS page gives 1910 as the year this Colonial Revival mansion was constructed, every other source I’ve seen lists 1905. It was built for Dr Wesley W. Beckett and his wife, whom we’ll call Mrs Wesley W. Beckett.

Beckett was a chairman of the trustees of the Los Angeles County Medical Association, medical director for the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company, and a member of the board of trustees at USC where he led the charge in raising money for the university’s medical school. (He must’ve been loaded, too. In 1929, he coughed up $100,000 of his own money to the cause. I’m sure that goes a long way in explaining why the university today has a Beckett Hall. I also wonder if he would’ve done the same just a few months later, after Black Thursday.)

Beckett Residence
From the city's Department of City Planning, the home in slightly better days.

Wes was a pretty big wheel at the time, and I’m sure he would want me to mention his being an officer in the Sons of the Revolution. Lenora H. King’s Southwest Blue Book 1923-1924 not only lists the Becketts as Sons members, but also gives their phone number: 71866. (They had to have been upscale to live in the ‘7’.)

Beckett Residence

By the 1940’s, West Adams Heights was morphing into Sugar Hill, home to wealthy African Americans like Ethel Waters, Hattie McDaniel (who lived across the street), and the unfortunately-named Louise Beavers. I’ve emailed both the West Adams Heritage Association (headquartered on the same block as the landmark) and the West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill Neighborhood Association to see if they could tell me who lived in 2218 during the Sugar Hill days. I’ll let you know if I hear something.

Beckett Residence

You can imagine how the value of the Beckett House (and of Sugar Hill) changed when the Santa Monica Freeway plowed through the neighborhood in the 1950s. The freeway’s actually in throwing distance from the Beckett House, if you have a really good arm and something to throw.

Beckett Residence

In Landmarks of Los Angeles, McGrew and Julian say the Veteran’s Light House and Cultural Center occupied the mansion in recent years (that was in 1994). They also mention a roof fire hitting the monument in 1981.

Beckett Residence
"Carl, you've been looking in that window for hours. Carl?"

Sadly, the building’s in real sorry shape today (that’s the La Salle Avenue/back side in the picture at the top of the post). Believe me, it looks worse in person than it does in these pictures. To boot, a neighbor lady told me that while no one’s lived there for a long, long time, the old Beckett House is today used for filming. If this is true – I mean, if someone’s actually profiting off the building while neglecting to provide upkeep to the landmark – then not only is it sad, but it’s shameful, too.

Beckett Residence


“University Campaign Approved” Los Angeles Times; Aug 13, 1922, p. II1

“Gifts to U.S.C. Break Record” Los Angeles Times; Jun 8, 1929, p. A1

Up next: Pellissier Building


VictorAtomic said...

Now that is a beautiful home...even through the pictures it has an energy.

I need to see this place in person and I hope someone is going to give this place a lift it needs.

Diallo said...

DO we have any idea if homes like these are for sale to private owners who promise to upkeep and improve the place?

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

Well, this one's privately owned now. You could always track them down and make an offer. Once you buy it, I'll come over and help paint.

Brady Westwater said...

It was a lot more than just a roof fire; it started on the roof but damaged much of the second floor, too. I was stunned the owners restored it rather than tore it down. So be thankful for that.

Devin.M said...

FB, with these structures having landmark status does this give any extra push on the political side to get something done? Can the current owners just choose to let the building rot away until there is nothing left?

Walt said...

Came across this place when I was walking the extent of Western Avenue last year and I detoured to see the historic Hattie McDaniel house. I was worried about this place. I'm glad to see its at least a little protected with the HCM.

A local yokel told we the house two doors down from the McDaniel house was the one used in the horror film, "The People Under The Stairs."

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

Hi, Walt. It looks like the protection only goes as far as to prevent the home from razing. With the various tax credits that come with the designation, you'd think the owner would do a better job at the landmark's preservation. Now I have to go place The People Under the Stairs in my queue. Thanks.

Angel said...

Wow this monument lies so close to where i live they use it constantly for filming i remember them filming Running With Sissors and they also filmed a old spongebob squarepants commercial In this House Its Actually Real Close To the First A.M.E Church Like Walking Distance As A little kid i would often sneak in here and goof around

KWB said...

Dr. Beckett died 6/3/36. The 1936 City Drctry is last listing him at that address. BTW, he drove a Pierce Arrow in 1914. (L. A. County Automobile Drctry)

jhny12 said...

The house was used in the video by Robert Plant/Alison Krause "Please Read The Letter". There is footage of the interior. It looks like it was a beautiful house, hopefully it will be restored.

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

What! Good find, jhny12. Thanks very much. The inside looks awesome, and the video sure does show it off (I like the song, too). And that sure is the outside. I reckon the house will stand as long as it can make money for the owners (or until it collapses).

jhny12 said...

Actually a poster on the "skyscraperpage" forum, named GaylordWilshire, identified the house for me. I loved the house in the video, but was having a hard time locating it. P.S. They have a great thread on that forum called "noirishla", lots of interesting finds there:)

Anonymous said...

I was at this location today. It is still amazing. The people who own it are working class folks trying to make sense of the economy just like the rest of us.

Brady Westwater said...

Did you speak with them? Is there at least a caretaker living on the property? A fire alarm system?

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

Amen to that, jhny12. Tell you what, if you run into the owners again, let them know in exchange for the opportunity to take a few interior photos, I'd be glad to spend the day helping to do some yard work or other chores.

Brady Westwater said...

I wonder, though, since the inside is so well maintained - and the fire damage had been so severe - they had to have spent a small fortune doing the repair work - if maybe the outside look is being carefully 'maintained' for the purposes of filming. And I remain curious as to who they are and if they do have a full time caretaker on the property along with a motion detector security system and a state of the art fire detection system with a direct link to the local fire station.

And I wonder if they might lease part of it to artists as studios or
some other type of non-invasive creative use that could be vacated for filming on a moment's notice to both provide more income to maintain and protect the property and to also finance additional security.

jhny12 said...

It wasn't me that was there, I live on the East Coast. I do hope to relocate to the LA area. I'd also like to have a chance to go inside the house. If the "lottery fairy" ever decides to bring me a winning ticket, I'd buy it & restore it. One can only dream;)

j winter said...

I just recently have been in contact with a Beckett decendant, and W.W. Beckett's He was married to IOWA ARCHER daughter of WILLIAM C. ARCHER & MARY M._ on 1 Jan 1882.

I have loved this home since I was a kid, only through a book I own which was pub. in 1906, showing the original condition and surrounding area...I have to say my heart dropped when I saw what became of this beauty.

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

Thanks, j winter. We'd love to that picture, or if you could name the book for us.

j winter said...

The Book is Los Angeles and Southern California pub. in 1906.
My Great-Grandmother gave it to me and as the story goes it was a gift to certain founders & Captains of Industry of the time...or as Great-Grandmother put it 'The Little Robbers'. I am in the process of scanning the entire book as it is in just about the same condition as the Burkett House and turning it into a PDF.
I don't know if I can send an attachment on this blog, but if anyone wants a photo of W.W.B. and the home, send me your e-mail address via
and I will send you a jpeg.

j winter said...

If you want to see the Beckett home & Dr. Beckett I have the photos on Flicker @

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

Wow. Thanks so much for that Flickr link.

jhny12 said...

It would be awesome if someone could get pictures of the interior.

Floyd B. Bariscale said...


Diana said...

You can see the entire interior in excruciating detail here:
How I wish I had enough money to buy and restore it. It has so much beauty.

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

Oh, man. Thank you so much for that link, Diana. I'm with you. What a stunner.

Doria Gray said...

The house is listed for sale. Time to start buying those lottery tickets because it can be yours for $1,100,000 or you can buy it with the neighboring property for $2,450,000. This link has photographs showing it's most recent state plus floor plans. So sad to see such a once beautiful home in such sad condition.

sammybarb said...

Is it in any danger of being torn down? I am from California originally (I grew up in L.A.)
Now that I'm in Missouri, they tear down so many wonderful grand old houses and farmhouses from that era. It's incredibly sad.
If historic houses have a soul they still know they are admired and revered,I think. Not everything is replaceable..

Lisa said...

There is a house in Camas, WA that is called the Farrell House and looks very much like the Beckett Residence. A family bought it and wanted to make it into a bed and breakfast and place to hold weddings etc... The city father's turned it down. Recently I saw that it was for sale again. There is a facebook page for the Farrell House.
The neglect of the Becket Home is just sad. I checked out the link that showed the interior. What a grand lady she was. Pocket doors, eyebrow windows. Sigh... So much of history has been lost to the wrecking ball. What a throw away society we have become.

Blaire Baron - Yoga MidCity said...

I wrote earlier. My family lived in this home form the 1930s to 1940s. Please help save it. The people who own it profited by film shoots and never fixed it up. Now they want to sell it off and make a million dollars from it.
Blaire Larsen

Lisa v said...

My mom lives right around the corner from this house and as soon as I seen it I fell in l0ve!!! It's sooo beautiful I wish I had the money to buy and repair this house (and the one next door) it has so much potential. Now every time I go to see my mom I have to go pass 'my house' I call it that haha