Constructed in 1912, the Briggs Residence and the residence next door, the MacGowan Residence at 3726 West Adams, are important examples of residential architecture in the West Adams historic district. Combined, they are also a rare example of two residences built in the same style, at the same time, and joined by shared gardens. The Briggs Residence was built for Mary Anna Hoover Briggs, a real estate investor and daughter of Dr. Leonice Hoover. Dr. Hoover came to Los Angeles by covered wagon in 1849 with his family when Mary Anna was 2 years old. At the time, they lived at the Wolfskill vineyard, now the site of the Southern Pacific depot. Mary’s mother, Eve, died when Mary was 6, and her father died when she was 15. In 1865, at the age of 18, Mary Anna married Samuel E. Briggs, an agent for the Wells Fargo Express Company. The Briggs’ had one daughter, Lillie, who later married Dr. Granville MacGowan, builder of the adjacent MacGowan Residence. The MacGowans and Mrs. Briggs lived next door to each other at 733 and 739 Garland Avenue until the family commissioned the architectural firm of Hudson & Munsell to design the houses at 3726 and 3734 West Adams.
The MacGowan and Briggs Residences are significant historic examples of the West Adams Boulevard neighborhood, exhibiting the grandeur of the area at the turn of the 20th century in Los Angeles. At that time, the location attracted socially prominent residents due to its proximity to downtown government and commerce and the elevated geography with views north and south. The Briggs Residence is City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #477 as of 1990. The MacGowan Residence is Historic-Cultural Monument #479 as of 1989. These two houses are fitting context for remembrances of pioneering days, and of families who exhibited leadership in early Los Angeles business and culture. Today, these structures are adjacent to the Adams-Normandie HPOZ and their rehabilitation contributes to preservation of the historic resources as well as to the revitalization of the local community.
Gardens: The landscaped gardens and yards have been reunited with the adjacent MacGowan Residence as they were originally one family property, including the rehabilitation of the original oval fountain between the two houses. Each house has a loggia room facing each other which have been reconnected with a small court and path within the side gardens to complete the shared use of the houses. Onsite parking has been accommodated in a paved court. The project includes the introduction of an on-site storm-water retention and infiltration system and a grey-water irrigation system to promote sustainability.
Chimney reconstructions: The two original brick masonry chimneys and fireplaces had been irreparably damaged by previous earthquakes. The top six feet of the front chimney had been removed and both chimneys were displaced and separated from the building structure. The project documented the chimneys, dismantled and salvaged original full bricks, and reconstructed the full height of the original chimneys with half bricks including recreation of the ornamental brick patterns on the Adams Boulevard façade.
Exterior rehabilitation: The project included brick repair and repointing, plaster repair and repainting, woodwork repair and repainting, replacement of deteriorated wood window sash matching the originals, replacement of damaged and missing gutters and downspouts matching the originals, and reroofing. Nonoriginal additions were removed including metal security doors and enclosing windows at the loggia. Sunshade awnings were introduced on the south and west facing windows. The exterior paint color scheme is based on sampling of earlier painting as was the adjacent MacGowan residence.
Interior rehabilitation: The project included replacement of outdated plumbing, electrical, and heating systems and introduction of air-conditioning, fire sprinkler, and security systems. Existing interior finishes were rehabilitated: plaster, painted woodwork, doors, wood flooring, and stair balustrades. The original bathrooms had all been previously gutted and remodeled, leaving no original materials or fixtures; the project included remodeling all the bathrooms with new sympathetic finishes, cabinetry, and fixtures. A non-original second kitchen was removed to return the space to the original pantry connecting the kitchen and dining rooms. To update the rooms for congregate living, the back bedrooms, baths and closets were strategically reconfigured into usable bedroom/bathroom suites. An interior paint color scheme was selected to respond to the various characters of rooms and the variety of natural light qualities from room to room. The project has been completed with interior furnishings in the main hall, living room and dining room in a quality which is appropriate to both the original residence and its new use as congregate living; striking a balance between formal and informal character.
Conditions and Challenges
The Briggs Residence was originally designed for a formal household with one main bedroom suite, one guest suite and servant’s quarters. The first floor living spaces were configured as formal living and dining with back kitchen and servant spaces. Over the years, as the formality of living accommodations changed, and single family residence changed to a multi-unit occupancy, fortunately, no significant interior alterations were made to the primary spaces. With this project, the Briggs Residence was adapted for use as a congregate residence for a church organization, ensuring the benefits of care and maintenance through continuous occupation and appreciation of the historic building.
West Adams has changed in many ways over the years. The rehabilitation of the Briggs Residence, and reunification with the MacGowan Residence, enhances the historic context and ties the community’s past, present and future together. These and other preservation projects along West Adams indicate a healthy and lively interest in the community and reflect the united pride and investment the residents have in their neighborhood.