61 Fremont Place

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By and large, with many subdivisions in the West End of Los Angeles competing for top dollar in the seven or so years on either side of Armistice Day, Old Angelenos relocating from increasingly fusty West Adams preferred to build north of Wilshire Boulevard, leaving Fremont Place to rich Midwestern transplants needing the assurance of grand faux-granite gates in a strange if beguiling new city. The Windsor Square of today began in 1911, a stone's throw across Wilshire and within months of the start of Fremont Place; with this rival development quickly gaining favor in the form of commitments to build along its rectilinear streets, David N. Barry and his fellow insecure investors in Fremont Place felt they needed to offer even more pizazz than just curving drives. Commissioning J. Martyn Haenke to design its still-extant if now largely diminished and obscured concrete gates, Fremont Place did gain distinction; still, it would be three years before a house would rise on one of its lots. With affluent Los Angeles unsure of where to go as older districts declined—even tracts in the western reaches of West Adams such as gated Berkeley Square were still very much in competition with the new more northerly West End—the market in premium-grade real estate was a free-for-all. Once the Fremont Place ball did finally get rolling, heartland mineral wealth began to arrive as did, in the case of #61, houses financed by the agricultural riches of the prairie.


A 1918 view north over part of what was then referred to as the West End of Los Angeles, with Wilshire Boulevard crossing east to west: 61 Fremont Place would not appear at the extreme lower
left corner of this scene for another six years; lot sales in the subdivision would lag
those of its competitors north of the boulevard. The original concrete streets of
Windsor Square, opened nearly concurrently with Fremont Place in 1911,
lie to the right of the line of trees between Lucerne and Plymouth
boulevards; the developers of a Windsor Square addition just
west opened a few years later, paved in asphalt. (The
change in surface material remains evident today
on Fourth and Fifth streets.) Hancock Park, out
of view at left, has not yet opened.




Having lived in tall Victorian houses for many years, relatively old-line Angeleno Hans Jevne was casting about for a new, more salubrious neighborhood in which to build something more horizontal. His Westlake neighborhood—itself once the city's west end, an ever-shifting locus—was becoming dense as Los Angeles grew and grew. The prosperous retail, wholesale, and manufacturing grocer might just have been the "launch customer" for Fremont Place had he not changed his mind: On October 15, 1911, the Times announced that Norwegian-born Jevne, later described by the Examiner as one of the city's "best-known businessmen and civic leaders," had bought Lot 61 with plans to build a "showplace." It seems that Jevne may have had an even better year in business than he had been expecting; suddenly, a mere acre in sparsely developed, unlandscaped suburbia wasn't enough for him. Within a few years he and his family had settled in a sprawling English manor on four acres on the almost rustic Arroyo Seco in Pasadena. The question of whether this house was originally intended to have been built in Fremont Place comes to mind, but there is no indication that the design by the esteemed Eager brothers (now on their own after some years with Sumner Hunt) was meant for Jevne's first lot. As it turned out, there would be no #61 for another dozen or so years.


Ulysses Grant Orendorff


His birth in Canton, Illinois, six days after Appomattox accounts for his name, rather than any relation to the commanding general; of pre-Revolutionary immigrant German stock, patriotism appears to have been in Ulysses Grant Orenforff's genes. Not exactly a cultivator of the earth with his bare hands, Orendorff was the third of four sons of prosperous plow manufacturer William Orendoff, who had founded the Canton Agricultural Works with his brother-in-law William Parlin; the "Canton Clipper" came to be the firm's star product. After having been sent east to Williston Seminary and matriculating at Northwestern, Ulysses joined the family firm, now known as Parlin & Orendorff. Though later an avid golfer, an early associate remembered him as once having no hobbies or interest in sports—he was apparently only interested in making money—as well as fanatical that no tree in his purview be cut down. He wasn't miserly, however, or at least Daise Rhea Baughman of Canton, whom he married in 1896 and who was from less advantaged stock, wouldn't let him be. Parlin & Orendorff had become huge, destined to merge with International Harvester in 1919. And there was also in time the revenue from Ulysses's partnership in a Canton factory that produced 600,000 cigar boxes a year; his bank, the First State of Canton, and his interest in other Illinois houses of finance; and his newspaper, the Canton Daily Ledger. There was money to spend and give away. In 1902, the Orendorffs built what was probably Canton's biggest house, named Redcrest and still standing, in the English Tudor style. By the end of the decade, the family, which by now included only child Helen Bernice, born in 1906, began to look westward to escape the harsh plains winters. California was warm and blooming, but it wasn't in Ulysses's nature to sit around under palm trees or just play golf. To maintain his work ethic and take advantage of the huge western market for plows, by 1910 he had established an office on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. The Orendorffs would maintain Redcrest until their deaths more than 30 years later. But soon, with their California stays lengethening—eventually their western sojourns were extended to the length of the school year, Helen enrolling at Westlake—they would buy a house on Palmetto Drive in Pasadena, where they stayed until 1918. (On a return trip to Canton in June 1914, Daise was badly injured when the California Limited of the Santa Fe ran into a freight in the yard at Bagdad in the Mojave, killing two. Mercifully, Mrs. Orendorff recovered, and was not put off future rail travel.)




By 1920, the West Adams district was nearing its apogee of establishment respectability and physical attractiveness. While newer western suburbs such as Fremont Place were indeed slowly robbing it of its old guard, it remained an attractive enough alternative to vaunted Pasadena, especially if the man of the house maintained an office in downtown Los Angeles. It was the Holton Arms on West Adams Street—a thoroughfare not yet designated a boulevard—to which the Orendorffs moved by late 1917 to spend the next seven winters. With so many possibilities, including Berkeley Square and new tracts that were opening all the time—there was no clear choice for affluent homeseeking Angelenos in this period. While in 1912 Hans Jevne had ultimately decided that Pasadena was the ticket for a suburban statement house, for example, the Orendorffs, having made inroads with the Blue Book crowd and its clubs—theirs would include the Los Angeles Country Club, the California, the Friday Morning, and the Annandale for golf—decided on Fremont Place for theirs a decade later.

Definitive details of the Orendorffs' purchase of Lot 61—vacant since the inception of Fremont Place 11 years before—are elusive, as are particulars of their commission for one of the subdivision's most distinctive houses. Variously described as being of Georgian or "Williamsburg" Colonial design, the house is attributed in a single basic source as having been the work of the other ever-in-demand architect named Hunt, Myron, who is often confused with the unrelated Sumner. (It must be noted that this same single source also describes 61 as having been built by "J. L. Olindorf, a retired farm implement manufacturer from Ohio.) Myron Hunt, now partnered with his longtime draftsman Harold Chambers, had been practicing in Southern California for 20 years by the time the Orendorffs approached him. Red-brick Colonials were certainly part of Hunt's varied repertoire, his 11 Berkeley Square of 1911 being one example; the rear side detail of that house is particularly reminiscent of 61 Fremont Place. The style was among the fresh stylistic departures from the gloomy English Tudor Redcrest and the hundreds of similar large Los Angeles houses built in the first dozen or so years of the century—it took a long time for immigrants to Southern California to bring inside the sunlight they had come west to enjoy. At any rate, Ulysses and Daise Orendorff were in their new home by the late spring of 1924, just in time to announce from there the engagement of Helen to Judson Edwin Roberts, a native of Peoria, that fabled Illinois town just east of Canton.


Newspaper portraits of Daise Rhea Baughman Orendorff and her
18-year-old daughter Helen, circa 1924, the year the family
moved into their newly completed 61 Fremont Place. 


After their September 15 marriage at St. James' Episcopal, a reception in the new house, and an Eastern honeymoon, the very young couple—he was 20 and she had just turned 18 in July—moved into the commodious parental 61 Fremont Place before settling into an apartment at the new Gaylord on Wilshire Boulevard. Ulysses and Daise then joined the swelling ranks of Midwestern-bred couples in large, child-free Fremont Place houses. (Today's question of why people build so much more house than they need has always been with us.) They would continue their midcontinent-to-coast habit for the next two decades; the Robertses had two sons before long and, in what may have been another case of a child never fully asserting independence from a moneybags papa, moved into 835 South Lucerne, outside of the the gates of Fremont Place but less than 500 feet from #61—a house very likely financed by Ulysses. Judson Roberts was a teller at Citizens National into the '30s before becoming, with John Deaton, a Lincoln dealer in Beverly Hills in 1936, a short-lived venture also very possibly financed by his father-in-law. By April 1939, he was no longer peddling Lincolns or Zephyrs or the new Mercury to Westside swells; the Deaton-Roberts partnership was kaput, as was that of Helen and Judson. He was living back at home with his widowed mother in an apartment at 1208 Fifth Avenue. Helen and the children, of course, stayed in the house close to Fremont Place, where her parents were to hang on, if barely, in their big house into the coming war years. One wonders what Judson may have been up against with in-laws never very far away and perhaps unable to cease indulging their only child; he remarried—apparently happily—though Helen never did. A codicil to Daise's 1928 will, which had set up trusts for her grandchildren, deleted Judson after the divorce; she was herself not well and would die at home at 73 (according to the earliest records) or 72 (according to records she might have had a say in) on December 11, 1943. Twenty days later and also at 61 Fremont Place, Ulysses, who had suffered a stroke in 1941—the man who had sold many thousands of Canton Clippers and at one time controlled 5,000 acres of Illinois farmland, a man born six days after the end of the Civil War and who never let a tree be felled—died at the age of 78. His obituary appeared in Los Angeles papers the next day and of course in the Daily Ledger, with additional tributes appearing in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlanta Constitution, among others. His recent will, filed at Canton the day before Daise died, included generous provisions for family, household and business staff, and charity; one curious and perhaps telling detail is his bequeathing of the furniture in Helen's own house to her. By the spring of 1944, classified advertisements appeared in the Times offering the 20-year-old 61 Fremont Place and its complete furnishings in an estate sale. Electrical engineer Samuel Elverton Gates and his family were soon in residence.


The Orendorffs, dead within three weeks of each other, lie under markers considerably more
modest than either of their houses; interestingly, they—or perhaps their daughter—
chose Forest Lawn rather than a gravesite on their native Illinois prairie.


Sam and Louise Gates made full use of 61 as a party venue, particularly in their charitable endeavors. Gates, born in San Francisco in 1880, was a Midwesterner at least in terms of his matriculation at Purdue; Louise was a thoroughbred Midwesterner, born in Kansas, raised in Toledo (While Fremont Place was no different than the rest of Los Angeles in drawing heartlanders, it does seem to have been a magnet for the richer ones.) An establishment man through and through, Gates was the district manager for General Electric as well as a major booster of the Los Angeles Community Chest and the Chamber of Commerce; he was also a clubman, counting the California among his haunts. The Gateses appear to have left Fremont Place in a bit of a hurry: 61 was on the market again by early 1949. A new classified ad in February read: "Red brick Williamsburg Colonial. Owner will sacrifice this beautiful home in perfect cond. 4 master bdrms. Game room. $69,500." This bargain appealed to Charles W. and Madeline Crawford, top-drawer native Californians who'd been married in her parents' Bel-Air garden in July 1940 with Prentis Cobb Hale as best man. Charles W. Crawford—not to be confused with Charles M. Crawford of #125—was working for his father-in-law's electrical equipment concern, she toward the eventual presidency of the Junior League; they would have two daughters and stay at 61 Fremont Place for the next 30 years.