Developed in 1911 as the “highest class residential community in the nation” and advertised as “For the Man of Means”, Fremont Place has held an allure for many as it sits, unreachable to the public, behind the gates and guardhouse at the southern end of Rossmore Ave off Wilshire Boulevard.
The 31 acre Fremont Place community was developed in 1911 into 48 “roomy” lots with seven foot sidewalks and “graceful contour drives.” Many of the early homes still stand today, although a few treasures such as 70 Fremont Place were lost during the 20th century. Fortunately, a New York urban history buff, Duncan Maginnis, finds LA development fascinating and is now sharing the Fremont Place history he’s collected online in a blog simply titled Fremont Place: A Historical Inventory.
James Drake and his wife Fanny Wilcox Drake built the original Georgian style home with “the finest woods, marble, brick and stone”, a roof of solid copper, and filled it with fine furnishings. Mrs. Drake was a great-great-grandaughter of the first Provisional Governor of California, so one can imagine the furnishings were indeed special. When living on Hoover and 28th Street became unbearable due to the growth of Los Angeles’ city center, Mrs. Drake had the noble old home cut into four sections and moved five miles northwest to the new Fremont Place development in 1928.
The original home was built at a cost of $100,000 and was moved for $150,000 by Kress Moving Co. to its new address at 70 Fremont Place. It was an exorbitant cost at the time for the once-modest Mr Drake, who had been an employee of the Los Angeles Water Company. Drake worked his way up through the burgeoning public utility business in LA, however, and soon held board positions with the electric, telephone and finance companies in an era when development (and greased palms?) was booming.
Maginnis became interested in Fremont Place after unearthing, and blogging about, the architecture of Wilshire Blvd and Berkeley Square, which we will share further in future stories. During his historical research, Maginnis found photos and newspaper stories that are pretty funny for their gossip and sensationalism, and can be read on his blog. The LA Times story “House Mover too Playful” about 70 Fremont Place describes the house mover’s infantile antics with his wife that were revealed during their divorce court proceedings in 1928. It’s certainly a juicy tidbit of yellow journalism.
So what happened to the grand dame at 70 Fremont Place? Maginnis is not sure himself, and could only unearth that the old Drake house was demolished sometime between 1969 and 1972 when all its contents were also sold off. Do you know anything about the original home? Share in our comments section below and we’ll try to build out the history of the home.
Fremont Place: A Historical Inventory
Fremont Place Association: History of Fremont Place