2218 South Harvard Boulevard – map
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.
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.)
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’.)
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.
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.
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.
"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.
“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