89 Fremont Place


The origins as well as the first decade of 89 Fremont Place are somewhat complicated. The Department of Buildings issued a permit for the house to Lydia F. Viall, wife of downtown custom tailor Stanley W. Viall, on October 6, 1919; no architect is specified on the document. The Vialls had been early residents of Camden Drive in Beverly Hills, and would return there after only a brief stay on Fremont Place. It appears that the Vialls may have built 89 on spec, achieving success when it was purchased in late 1921 by Dallas financier J. Dabney Day.

A native of Texas who as a banker there had become "a recognized expert in cotton financing," Dabney Day was wooed west for his particular expertise by the First National Bank of Los Angeles in the summer of 1920. After a stay at 629 South Serrano Street, Day and his wife Nancy, along with her maiden aunt, Susie Relyea, found the house in Fremont Place. The Days were not quite settled yet: At the time of their move to 89, they also bought a lot on Keniston Avenue in Wilshire Crest, a new, more modest subdivision just to the west being marketed by Fremont Place developer David N. Barry. As it turned out, the Days remained in the Place, moving only to the precisely corresponding lot on Westerly Drive when they acquired 129 Fremont Place from Mary Pickford's mother, Charlotte Hennessey Smith, after only a few years at 89. As for the latter, which still stands, little is known thus far as to its various occupants after the departure of the Days. It appears that Paul M. Woods rented the house for a stay of less than a year before moving up the street to #62, but it wasn't until 1937 that Dr. and Mrs. J. Norman O'Neill moved in for one of Fremont Place's longest tenancies. After his death on the last day of 1967, Helen Mueller O'Neill remained in the house until she died on June 29, 1991. Sounding very much like Hollywood representations of upper-middle-class domesticity of the period—down to the quaint leftover Victorian shades, and in Technicolor—is this amusing, eyepopping picture, with its curious lead, offered by the Times in Christy Fox's column "These Charming Homes" on April 17, 1940: 

"The 18th century house of today borrows its furniture from the past but its color scheme is as modern as a new spring hat. Lemon chartreuse, mustard yellow and coral are the accents of 1940 in the O'Neill home on Fremont Place.
"English hollyhock chintz draperies in the living room blend restfully [?] with pale lemon chartreuse walls and a slightly deeper green carpet. The same floral print covers a comfortable love seat pulled up beside the fireplace. Near by is a Duncan Phyfe coffee table on which is a copy of the Treasury of Art Masterpieces, a peek into the personal tastes of our hostess. A saucy Victorian lampshade tops an old oil lamp on a lovely walnut side table.
"The fireplace is of black marble—very formal with brass andirons and fire accessories. Hanging above it is an 18th century print, "Sunday Morning," one of the selections of Ruth Wright, who assisted Mrs. O'Neill with the decorating.

"A pair of Chippendale chairs in a mustard color form a casual grouping at one end of the room and a Louis VX coral velvet chair adds emphasis to the smart color blending. Most of the colors are taken from the floral print in the draperies and reproduced in varying intensity in large or small pieces in the room.
"The living room, the formal hall as well as the dining and morning rooms open into each other across the front of the house making a spacious arrangement most adaptable to entertaining a large group of people. Chartreuse is the main decorative shade used in all the rooms, complemented in different ways.

"Upstairs, the master bedroom is a picture in fruitwood [indeed], dusty pink and turquoise. Moire turquoise bedspreads, with a criss-cross design, cover twin beds pushed together [Attention: Hayes Office] with one large turquoise upholstered headboard. Victorian organdy shades with tiny embroidery ruffles are on either side of the beds on nightstands. The most unusual feature of the room is the cornice treatment. The cornices come down either side of the windows to the sills and are covered in hand-blocked French floral chintz.

"In an adjoining mirrored dressing room is a most luxurious turquoise satin chaise longue with a brilliant American Beauty satin pillow and knitted afghan. Draped dusty pink net curtains the windows which overlook the garden. The garden, incidentally, is one of Mrs. O'Neill's particular interests—and the house is always filled with beautifully and artistically arranged flowers."

If only there were color photographs of this decorating extravaganza.... 

At the time of J. Dabney Day's acquisition of 89 Fremont Place, the house was featured
in the Los Angeles Times on January 29, 1922, appearing much as it does today.

Illustrations: MLSLAT