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. Frank H. Powell, president of the Southwestern Portland Cement Company, was in residence from about 1938 to his death in 1949; his wife Amy remained 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—was in force for nearly 30 years—not 55—after
its original build date of 1911; 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 relocated in 1930 rather than 1936). No matter
the designer, its ultimate replacement underscores the depths to which much domes-
tic architecture had sunk by the 1970s. The current #70 Fremont Place was com-
pleted by Gerlad L. Schroeder in 1978. Its design was described as being one
in homage to his New Orleans home, although it seems this would only be
accurate if modeled after a house in one of that city's lesser suburbs.

An original architects' sketch of the first 70 Fremont Place as it was slated for James Calhoun Drake's
large lot at 2715 South Hoover Street in the University District of West Adams. While an
imperfect design—it might be called overwrought—its loss is regrettable.

Illustrations: Private Collection; LAPL; LAT