More than 100 guests enjoyed some of the best weather we’ve had this year at the annual tea hosted by the Windsor Square Hancock Park Historical Society for its members and guests this past Sunday in Fremont Place. City Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Mitch O’Farrell, whose new districts each include part of the area’s neighborhoods, also attended and saluted the volunteer organization for its efforts to preserve and collect the rich and illustrious history of the Greater Rancho La Brea, including recognition of its architectural landmarks, historical sites, and finely appointed homes, while generating a supportive community spirit.
Guests enjoyed lunch from Twist Cafe on La Brea, and iced tea provided by Brookside’s Pondicherry Dry Goods. The tea is an annual fundraiser of the WSHPHS and supports its education and beautification projects in our Greater Wilshire neighborhoods.
Fremont Place History
According to the WSHPHS, Fremont Place was developed in what by 1920 was being termed the “West End” of Los Angeles, where there were three basic subdivisions hugging Wilshire Boulevard west of Norton Avenue. The first phase of Windsor Square began to be advertised in 1911. So too, that year, did Fremont Place open for sales. As if the citywide competition for the title of “most exclusive” neighborhood was not stiff enough, there was a similar race among the Wilshire-adjacent developments between Norton and Highland avenues.
The phases of Windsor Square were largely platted in a rectilinear fashion, more along the familiar lines of older parts of Los Angeles, including West Adams. The plan of Hancock Park included Beverly Hills–like curving streets. Neither of these subdivisions north of Wilshire, however, included gates. When developers Charles Ingram and David Barry acquired 51 acres south of the boulevard for their ambitious tract, they saw the need to draw the attention of those motoring west out over the recently paved Wilshire to the left rather than to the right once they crossed Norton Avenue.
The Ingram-Barry tract would be christened Fremont Place. Gates would lend distinction to Fremont Place and suggest protection, exclusivity, and loftiness to those who weren’t content with perpendicularity and wide-open spaces. Stately colonnaded portals—no arches or actual operating gates—rose at the Place’s two boulevard entrances before a single lot had been sold, with two less elaborate designs marking the southerly ends of the main roadways.
The east boundary of the subdivision was a half-block west of Burck Place, subsequently renamed as an extension of Lucerne Boulevard; the west line was a half-block east of Muirfield Road. The two main drags were Easterly Drive and Westerly Drive, designations that faded in the ’20s in favor of “Fremont Place” and “Fremont Place West.” With Wilshire its northern boundary, at the south was Country Club Drive, leading directly from the Country Club District. Country Club Drive was later brought into alignment with Olympic Boulevard, where the third and fourth gates of Fremont Place remain today, closed to traffic.
Historic Home Profile: 78 Fremont Place
The tea took place in this writer’s home. Our thanks to the WSHPHS for sharing this history, which was unknown to us.
Cora Lutz Haven acquired the original undivided Lot 82 after the death of her husband, Hugh Spear Haven, in 1914. Mr. Spear, a retired manager of Marshall Field & Company in Chicago, had drowned during a cloudburst in Monrovia that January. His widow moved into Los Angeles and continued his property investments.
In 1923, Mrs. Haven sold the southerly half of Lot 82 to the Russell Brown Company of Texas, a construction firm that saw an opportunity in Los Angeles’s boom of the 1920s and decided to build on spec the sort of high-end houses it had been building in Houston’s River Oaks and Dallas’s Highland Park. That year the firm built 82 Fremont Place on its acquisition from Mrs. Haven. Still, in possession of the northerly part of Lot 82, Mrs. Haven was issued a permit by the Department of Buildings on May 21, 1925, for the erection of a retaining wall the apparent purpose of which was to formally divide Lot 82 into two parcels that would provide a lot for the future #78.
Cora Haven sold the northerly half of Lot 82 to furniture manufacturer Forest Haines Gillespie, whose extended family was then at 98 Fremont Place, during the 1930s. Having also acquired part of Lot 76, Gillespie assembled a new building site comprising parts of lots 76 and 82, on May 20, 1936. What was now called the Department of Building and Safety issued Gillespie permits for an 11-room house and a 26-by-20-foot garage on the parcel. No architect is cited on the documents. The Gillespie family remained into the 1950s, selling the house to industrialist Bryant Essick, where he resided with his family for a long time.
The third and current owners of 78 Fremont Place are Patty Lombard and Bill Simon, who purchased the home in 1995 and raised their two daughters, Allie, and Emily, there.