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.

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—Thompson sold #100 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. 

Charles and Clara Thompson returned to Los Angeles after their peregrinations, settling into a sprawling 1924 house at 1151 Sunset Hills Road in Beverly Hills–adjacent Hollywood, one at least as bigand curiously of not at all dissimilar design―as 100 Fremont Place.

Another sale of the Thompson/Gillette house was advertised in the Times on June 23, 1985