100 Fremont Place


One of the earliest houses built behind the gates of Fremont Place was the winter home of Illinois real estate developer Charles Henry Thompson. With draftsmen at his disposal but credited himself as the architect of a number of Chicago-area dwellings, Thompson is referred to in some sources as the designer of #100. The original building permits for the house and garage were issued to Thompson on June 15, 1915, the address noted on them as "800 Westerly Drive"—Westerly being the early designation for the subdivision's west drive between Wilshire and Tenth Street (the latter eventually renamed Olympic Boulevard) and "800" in compliance with general city numberings for the easterly north-south blocks between Eighth and Ninth streets; Thompson is named on the documents as owner and builder of his house, though not specifically as architect. Called by the Los Angeles Times an "American version of the Italian Renaissance," construction on the 12-room, 4-bath house had just begun when the newspaper ran its description on July 25, 1915, along with a drawing still resembling what we see standing today at the southeast corner of Fremont Place West and Eighth Street.

The illustration above is based on a drawing that appeared
in the Los Angeles Times on July 25, 1915. The original building
permits for 100 Fremont Place, below, were issued to Charles Henry
Thompson 10 days before; a permit was issued on September 25 allowing
for a two-story rather than a one-story garage to accommodate quarters
for a chauffeur. Additional early permits were issued under the city's
official address of 800 Westerly Drive for garden pergolas designed
by in-demand Los Angeles landscape architect Paul Howard.

Seven years later, after an extended round-the-world trip with his wife Clara during which it was rented to novelist, biographer, composer, and film director Rupert Hughes—Howard's uncle—Charles Thompson left #100 and moved into the Ambassador while awaiting the completion of a sprawling new house at 1151 Sunset Hills Road just east of Beverly Hills. It was at least as big as their old oneand, curiously, of not at all dissimilar design. The Thompsons sold 100 Fremont Place to a man who has often been described as one of Fremont Place’s most famous householders. Except that he wasn’t. The confusion lies with the almost but not quite identical names of a father and son. King C. (for Camp) Gillette was famous as the inventor of the disposable safety razor (as well as of perhaps the most clever of capitalist toolsselling a base product requiring the purchaser to return to the store in perpetuity for the key part without which the base is useless). In the early 1920s the "Razor King" actually lived not in Fremont Place but about a mile and a half east on Catalina Street when in Los Angeles; it was in fact his son, King G. (for Gaines) Gillette, a man in the oil business, who came to occupy #100 in the spring of 1922. 

As seen in The Architect & Engineer of California, January 1916; 12 years later, the "Roman Catholic
 Bishop of Los Angeles & San Diego"—as the building permit reads—added a chapel to the
house and three bedrooms over the one-story service wing seen here on the south
side of the residence. Never stinting on providing the best for itself, the
Archdiocese hired top Los Angeles architect Albert C. Martin to
integrate the alterations into the original 1915 design.  

Even as Fremont Place was filling out in the '20s, along with Windsor Square (founded at the same time) and the more recently developed Hancock Park, both just north across Wilshire Boulevard, there were many developments competing for the residential dollars of prosperous Angelenos, including established districts to the south and ever newer ones to the west as the city pushed from the old pueblo to the Pacific in its own diminutive Manifest Destiny. In the '20s there still remained some uncertainty as to where fashion might settle; there was always reliable Pasadena, of course, but some of Los Angeles's old money, such as it was, still clung like barnacles to West Adams, a few of them even building new houses there in such neighborhoods as one-generation-old Berkeley Square. But defections west (if not to Pasadena) were accelerating; now competing with Fremont Place and its neighboring subdivisions were Beverly Hills, the even more glamorous Bel-Air, and Brentwood Park. In 1927 King G. Gillette decamped what had until recently been referred to as the West End of Los Angeles for Beverly Hills, leaving the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to install its bishop and his retinue of servants in the humble cloister of #100 for the next 40-plus years, in 1928 even adding a private chapel to it for good earthly measure. After Archbishop James McIntyre retired in 1970, the house returned to private hands.

Another sale of the Thompson/Gillette house was advertised in the Times on June 23, 1985; it seems
that Patte Barham considered unloading #100 a few years after her marriage to Louisianan
Harris Boyne. Perhaps Mr. Boyne was uncomfortable rattling around in the house's
9,340 square feet; Patte, a native Californian, may have talked him out of it.

The well-chronicled Los Angeles social figure Patricia "Patte" Barham moved into 100 Fremont Place after the departure of the Archdiocese. She was the daughter of Frank Barham, a physician who began managing the Los Angeles Herald with his brother after the paper's purchase by William Randolph Hearst in 1911, serving as publisher from 1922 to 1950 through the paper's various mergers. Having divorced her husband when Patte was a child, Patte's mother acquired the title of Princess Jessica Meshki-Gleboff in 1940. Her husband the prince—a title of dubious origins acquired since earlier days as a socially ambitious Hollywood actor known as George Du Count—claimed to have once been in the service of the imperial family at the time of the Russian revolution. His tales influenced his stepdaughter to co-author, with the subject's daughter Maria, Rasputin: The Man Behind the Myth, A Personal Memoir. The book was a curious attempt to exonerate the famous mystic. Somewhat more convincingly, Barham had years before covered the Korean War for the Hearst Syndicate. Barham married Shell Oil executive and native Louisianan Harris Boyne in 1982; he died in 2008. Patte Barham died on November 22, 2016, and the house was placed on the market 15 months later for $11,000,000, semi-vintage kitchen and all.

Patte Barham poses at the newl of the main staircase of 100 Fremont Place
in a photograph that appeared in Brendan Gill's illustrated 1980 book
The Dream Come True: Great Houses of Los Angeles. The house
clearly made her happy. Barham entertained there often
and covered its walls with copious memorabilia
relating to William Randolph Hearst, who,
like Rasputin, she was given to
 defending vigorously.

Illustrations: Private Collection; LATLADBS
The Architect & Engineer of California
The Dream Come True: Great Houses of Los Angeles