70 Fremont Place


Ilate 1909, the Los Angeles father-and-son firm of Theodore and Percy Eisen quickly came up with a solid brick block of a house, seemingly off the shelf but immovable and relatively fireproof, for banker James Calhoun Drake and his wife, Fanny Wilcox Drake, to replace the couple's previous dwelling on the same lot at 2715 South Hoover Street. The first 2715, built by the Drakes in 1897, had been destroyed by fire only just on November 1; on January 14, 1910, the Department of Buildings issued a construction permit for the new house to contractor William C. Calhoun, who built many large Los Angeles houses in the era and who might possibly have been a distant relative. Interestingly, on no more apparent basis than that the house appeared to someone to be a scaled-down version of something the famous New York architect might have designed for Locust Valley or Newport or the Main Line, there persists a notion that the Drakes had commissioned the house from Stanford White rather than the Eisens, whose firm's name appears on the permit and architectural renderings.

Mr. Drake died in 1920; Fanny, apparently somewhat of a force of nature capable even of moving the immovable, had the Kress Company truck her house in four pieces to 70 Fremont Place after being issued a permit on October 10, 1930. Mrs. Drake wasn't able to enjoy her new neighborhood for long, dying of a stroke the following September 27th. The Frank H. Powells were in residence from about 1938 into the mid '50s; during the '60s, the wonderfully named Zebulon P. Owingses lived there. Following her husband's death in 1967, Mrs. Owings auctioned off everything in the house and left for the East. The old Drake place was demolished after what was now the Department of Building and Safety issued a permit to her on February 26, 1971; in 1978 a much less interesting dwelling rose on the site and remains there.

The photograph above, accompanied by the article below,
appeared in the Los Angeles Times on May 11, 1931. The house
is seen in Fremont Place from the same perspective as envisioned by
the Eisens for its original prominent location at the northwest
corner of Hoover and West 28th, as seen near bottom.

George R. Kress was a Los Angeles legend by the time he moved the Drake residence, having transferred quite a number of enormous houses from commercializing and decaying districts close to downtown Los Angeles to points west. No doubt he appreciated the Widow Drake's proud extravagance during the depths of the Depression; the practice of large-house trucking had largely ceased with the Crash. Moving mansions was, not surprisingly, a high-stress job, as evidenced in this article from the Times of December 9, 1928:

The myth of Stanford White having designed 70 Fremont Place—née 2715 South Hoover Street—was
in force nearly 30 years—not 55—after its original construction; a 1939 Times feature article
helped perpetuate the misinformation regarding architect and dates (the house was not

only newer than the paper described, but was moved in 1930 rather than 1936).
No matter the designer, what ultimately replaced it underscores the
depths to which much domestic architecture had sunk by the 1970s.

An original architects' sketch of 70 Fremont Place—
née 2715 South Hoover Street—contrasts markedly with
the current #70, built for G. L. Schroeder in 1978.

Illustrations: LAPL; LATzillow.com