Morgan Adams Jr., 88; Developer Introduced Ski Lifts at Mt. Baldy

From a Times Staff Writer

Morgan Adams Jr., who developed the first ski lifts at Mt. Baldy and office buildings along Wilshire Boulevard, has died. He was 88.

Adams died Thursday of natural causes in Los Angeles.

Born in Pasadena, Adams was the son of financier and yachtsman Morgan Adams Sr., who owned Western Mortgage Co. They were descendants of the nation’s second and sixth presidents, John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

Morgan Adams Jr. earned a history degree from Yale and served in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II. When his father died in 1951, he inherited the resources to pair his love for skiing with development.


With partners, he financed the first two chairlifts at Mt. Baldy, opening Thunder Mountain to Southern California skiers. Adams moved his family to Mt. Baldy Village in 1953 and stayed for three years.

The project predated snow-making equipment by about two decades, so its success was dependent on the whims of nature.

“I had been skiing since 1933, and I thought we could put up the best ski area in Southern California,” Adams told The Times in 1987 for an article about Mt. Baldy. “But the snow for the previous 10 years turned out to be better than the snow for the next 10 years.... [We] lost money every year for each of the 17 years after we built the lifts.”

Adams also entered negotiations in the early 1960s to build ski lifts on Mt. San Gorgonio in the San Bernardino National Forest. Facing opposition from environmentalists and the Forest Service, however, he turned his attention to building office complexes.


In the late 1950s, Adams and his brother, James H. “Peter” Adams, had bought 10 acres along Wilshire Boulevard at Union Avenue, gambling that downtown development would soon spread west of the Harbor Freeway. In 1964 they completed one of their biggest projects, known for many years as the TWA Building. Adams maintained an office there for 40 years.

An active philanthropist, Adams was a director of the Los Angeles YMCA and contributed most of the sculptures, which emphasize athletic fitness, surrounding the Stuart M. Ketchum-Downtown YMCA complex.

As a skier, Adams was active in the Southern Skis and other ski clubs, and a founding member of the Southern California Ski Lift and Tow Operations Assn.

Preceded in death by his eldest son, Morgan III, who died in an automobile accident in 1966, Adams is survived by two children, Robin and John; six stepchildren, Norman, David, Bill, Rusty, Randy and Bob; 18 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.


Graveside services are planned for today at 10 a.m. at Inglewood Park Cemetery, 720 E. Florence Ave., Inglewood. A memorial service will be scheduled in the future.

The family has asked that memorial contributions be made to the Stuart M. Ketchum-Downtown YMCA, the Hollenbeck Home or Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries.