History of Fremont Place
Fremont Place is a privately owned park originally developed by three gentlemen, Charles Ingram, David Barry and George Briggs who intended to build an exclusive district of homes on the fifty acres site. Like nearby Windsor Square, Fremont Place was promoted as a park-like refuge of sedate mansions.
In 1911 the partners announced in the Los Angeles Times the project would consist of 48 lots each measuring 200 by 200 feet and claimed that no home would cost less than $7,500. Fremont Place would also feature an elegant entrance with granite gateways designed by J. Martyn Haenke costing $12,000 each. The impressive columns are actually cast concrete.
In their book “Wilshire Boulevard, The Grand Concourse of Los Angeles,” historians Kevin Roderick and J. Eric Lynxwiler suggest the developers commissioned the columns so that weekend pleasure drivers exploring Wilshire Boulevard, the new route to the ocean, would not miss the point that Fremont Place was meant to be no ordinary subdivision.
According to Micheal Regan’s book, Mansions of Los Angeles, Martin Henry Mosier, an oil man, built Fremont Place’s first mansion (number 55) in 1916. The Italian Renaissance home was designed by architect John C. Austin and interior decoration was done by Tiffany’s. Heavyweight boxer Mohammad Ali and his wife restored the home in the 1970’s when they lived in Fremont Place.
King C. Gillette, the razor manufacturer, built number 100 in 1917 in the style of a Honolulu hotel with costly island coconut palms brought in to complete the look. A small stand of Hawaiian sugarcane remains in the back yard. The home later became the residence of James Francis Cardinal McIntyre, leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Los Angeles who added a chapel.
In 1918 Mary Pickford rented number 56, the two-story Beaux Arts mansion built for Helen Mathewson, former proprietor of the Hershey Arms Hotel. According to historians, Roderick and Lynwiler, Pickford had recently left her first husband and lived in the house with her mother. Pickford was secretly dating leading man Douglas Fairbanks. They married after several months and moved to their Pickfair estate in Beverly Hills. Pickford is often mistakenly labeled as an early property holder in Fremont Place. After the Pickfords moved out, actress Mary Miles Minter moved in and also lived with her mother until Mathewson sold the property in 1920.
A.P. Giannini, the founder of Bank of America lived for a time at 108. Department store heir Adolph Sieroty and his wife Bertha hosted Albert Einstein for dinner at number 85.
Other homes of note are number 104, a chateau style residence built in 1930 by Charles J. Wild, owner of a metal casting company. The home cost over $300,000 to construct. Elmer Gray was the architect. Paul J. Howard designed the grounds and gardens with interior decorations and furnishings by John B. Hortzclaw.
Number 61 was designed by Myron Hunt in 1923 for J.L. Olindorf, a retired farm implement manufacturer from Ohio. In 1929 number 72 was designed by M.L. Barker for J.R. Kinnie, a lumberman.
Following the depression and successive ups and downs in the real estate market many of the originally proposed 48 lots were subdivided. In addition, the lots fronting on Wilshire were sold for commercial buildings. Initially, preservation of Fremont Place was ensured by a set of reciprocal codes, covenants and restrictions (CC&Rs), which were legally enforceable for all the properties. Over time, some homeowners did not renew these covenants and eventually they lapsed altogether.
By the 1960’s, the park had declined to the point where some homes sold for as little as $70,000 and the entire tract was nearly sold for commercial development but for a handful of homeowners who refused to sell their lots. Cooperative efforts in an active homeowners association played a major role in reversing this deterioration and restoring the park’s desirability and present home values.
In 1991 new CC&Rs were recorded to most but not all of the properties stabilizing the neighborhood and insuring that it would be preserved in the future. Currently there are 73 homes whose owners represent the diversity of Los Angeles. And, just as it was over 90 years ago, Fremont Place is home to movie stars, government officials, civic leaders and entrepreneurs, and regular folks too.