129 Fremont Place


Martin G. Carter's interests lay not in the family business—some of his father and uncle's Carter Brothers cable cars still climb the hills of San Francisco—but in an emerging sub-specialty of medicine that may have been sorely needed in a Los Angeles famously attracting plenty of nuts from back east. In a slight synchronicity, the future alienist was born up north in a district of what is now Fremont in Alameda County on April 23, 1886; as things would evolve, if he ever even considered joining Carter Brothers, Car Builders, he was out of luck. Founded in Sausalito in 1872 and soon a leading supplier to railroads up and down the Pacific Coast, his father, also Martin, shut the firm down in 1902 to devote his retirement to his true enthusiasm, Nutwood Farm, where he bred champion trotters. Educated in public schools and going on to earn a degree from Santa Clara and then a Stanford M.D. in 1910, with a little Harvard on top, psychiatry became the son's particular passion. By 1912, Dr. Carter was settled in Los Angeles, where he'd earlier fitted in training as a surgical assistant at California Hospital.

A rendering of 129 Fremont Place appeared in the Los Angeles Times on April 16, 1916; at top
is the house as it appeared during the ownership of Mr. and Mrs. Chester Arthur Rude.

As he began a long career that included the directorship of the psychopathic department of the Los Angeles County Hospital from 1919 to 1935 (to name only one of his many posts), Martin Carter first lived in fairly modest houses that still stand at 1826 and 1638 Cimarron Street, near and sometimes with in-laws. While more a man of the distinguished professional classes than one with any special interest in the power of the local oligarchy (despite his not being the first generation of his family to make good in California, as were many influential Angelenos), Carter was not without connections. In San Francisco in May 1909 he'd married Ella May Redmond, a Nova Scotian with California relationships including a sister herself recently married to Los Angeles Superior Court judge Paul J. McCormick. After the birth of his namesake Ruth Martina on October 17, 1913, and a brief training stint in New York in 1915, Dr. Carter and his young family returned west to settle in style. Thinking ahead, he'd already purchased a $7,500 lot in sparsely settled and far-flung but up-and-coming Fremont Place, as reported in the Los Angeles Herald on April 11, 1914, just days before he turned 28; it seems likely that the young doctor's income was augmented by a legacy, its source in railroad supplies. He was ready to build in 1916. Real estate news in the Los Angeles Times of April 16 of that year included a notation that an 11-room "house of [the] modern English type" was to be built for Martin Carter by prolific local architects Mendel Meyer and Philip Holler (also known by the name of their firm's construction arm, the Milwaukee Building Company), who were to become favorite designers among buyers of lots in the Place (64, 107 and 108 being a few other of their commissions).

Given that waterboarding appears to have been part of Dr. Martin G. Carter's treatment at the
Los Angeles County Hospital psychiatric unit he headed, it is perhaps a happy thought
that his medical 
career largely predated the dark years of psychosurgery.

A second daughter was born to the Carters within a year of moving to Fremont Place. Grace Helen, born on April 16, 1917, was a sickly child; her heart trouble cannot have helped what may have proved after all to have been an overly ambitious financial undertaking for the family, if it wasn't that they got an offer for 129 that they couldn't refuse. The Carters moved out of 129 in the fall of 1919 and took an apartment at the Baker downtown on Francisco Street, renting the house briefly to oilman William M. Armstrong as he and his wife Dove awaited the completion of their new house at 504 South Plymouth in Windsor Square. At around the same time, the year's lease of 56 Fremont Place by silent superstar Mary Pickford was up; Mary's ambitious mother, Charlotte Hennessey Smith, it seems, did not want to leave the Place, perhaps having become enamored of the reflection of its establishment image. In January 1920, the Architect and Engineer of California reported that a $200,000 house was being planned for Mary Pickford in Fremont Place, the intended lot unspecified. It could be that Mary and Douglas Fairbanks, who she would marry on March, had planned to live in a lavish new Fremont house; perhaps it was the idea of too many in-laws that made them decide instead to move to the Beverly Hills country house Fairbanks had bought from attorney Lee Allen Phillips two years before. (The establishment of Pickfair would, of course, be the famous catalyst that would begin to draw film folk away from the stuffy confines of central Los Angeles.) Charlotte and Lottie's consolation prize after being dumped from the new household plan was 129 Fremont Place. Perhaps rather than the house having been a financial burden for Dr. Carter, he received an irresistible offer from Pickford interests; the deal was done by May 1920. A series of auctions was held on June 17 to clear out either the Carters' belongings, which may have been sold with the house, or Mary's castoffs, or both. Meanwhile, Grace Helen Carter died in July 1921; Martin Carter kept as busy as ever working toward the mental health of Angelenos, with Ella doing her part by serving on various related boards. For a time, 129 Fremont Place maintained a little bit of Hollywood in the midst of gated bourgeois splendor.

Before the Hollywood scandals of the early 1920s, film
stars often lived comfortably alongside the affluent
whose money came from more conventional
sources; for a time, Mary Pickford and
her mother were just another
Fremont Place


In the early '20s, empty Fremont Place lots began to be built upon at a steadier pace than during the subdivision's lackluster first nine or so years; there was also a fairly steady shift of ownership of its existing houses. One newcomer to the Place was Dallas financier J. Dabney Day, who had been wooed by the First National Bank of Los Angeles to come west in the summer of 1920 for his expertise in the cotton market. By November 1921, Day and his wife Nancy, along with her mother, Susie Relyea, were living at 89 Fremont Place in a house precisely corresponding to the location of 129 over on Westerly Drive (the curving parallel drives of the tract were referred to as Easterly and Westerly drives in the early years); within the next few months, it seems, the new chatelaine of 129 appears to have developed buyer's remorse after less than two years. On June 21, 1922, the Times reported that it had confirmed with Douglas Fairbanks himself that Charlotte Smith Pickford—she had by now co-opted her children's stage name—was again planning to build a new house in Fremont Place on the unidentified lot she was apparently holding. The Pickford contract was said to have already been let to Meyer & Holler, though her budget had been cut in half to $100,000. (The May 28, 1920, issue of Southwest Builder and Contractor indicated that the site was at the corner of Westerly and Wilshire; perhaps the plans were sold to Morris Harris, whose Italianate #21 appeared at that intersection around this time.)  In a separate story that ran on June 21, the Times reported that Charlotte was living in an apartment at the recently opened Ambassador Hotel; as it turned out, Mrs. Pickford never did build on Fremont Place, unless the Meyer & Holler design, its address unknown, was put up on spec as an investment. It seems in any case that she had already rented 129 Fremont Place to a couple related to greatness of another sort. Dr. William A. Edwards and his wife Frances Taft Edwards—sister of no less than former President and now Chief Justice William Howard Taft and of Horace, the founder of the Taft School in Connecticut, she herself a hostess who also served as chairwoman of volunteer services of the Los Angeles Red Cross—had recently sold their big house at 3406 West Adams Street. Before retiring to their "Waverly Ranch" in San Diego County, the eminently respectable Edwardses spent a year or so in Fremont Place helping to air it of any Hollywood associations, these now being less welcome as the scandals of Fatty Arbuckle and William Desmond Taylor brought notoriety to the film industry. For reasons that are unclear, the J. Dabney Days of 89 decided to shift their household a block west when fickle Charlotte Pickford gave up on living in Fremont Place once and for all and put 129 on the market.

Former Texans J. Dabney and Nancy Day as seen in the Los Angeles Times
during their stay at 129 Fremont Place in the mid-'20s, he appearing in
business-related reportage and she in news of entertaining and
charitable endeavors—all of which cemented the couple's
position in the fluid Society of their adopted city. 

Already a seasoned banker, Dabney Day took to Los Angeles with the zeal of a born-again convert from the moment he arrived in 1920. In addition to his business acumen, the man must have had a great deal of charisma, both personally and in matters spiritual. In May 1923, Day was named president of Citizens National Bank and board member of its subsidiary the Citizens Trust and Savings Bank, both of which he would greatly expand over the next several years during the frequent mergers and acquisitions of financial institutions in the '20s. Unlike the oligarchies of some older cities that had reached their commercial and social peaks earlier and had closed ranks (New Orleans would be a prime example), that of Los Angeles welcomed and supported newcomers in both spheres enthusiastically. Day was tirelessly philanthropic and a board member of the local Y.M.C.A. and Salvation Army. Despite what one might imagine to have been a pious mien, he did in due course become a member of the formidable California, Jonathan, Athletic, and Los Angeles Country clubs; he was also a militant Baptist whose memory, according to his eventual obituary, would even inspire three people to suddenly swoon and announce their conversion to Christianity as he was being eulogized at his funeral. With time on her hands, Nancy Day became clubby and supportive of causes herself; the Days would number among the sizable contingent of childless Fremont Place couples. As for their second house on Fremont Place—not one of the most impressive in the subdivision but certainly adequate for a bank vice-president—it seems that 129 would not in the long run do for the head of a leading Southern California bank. In 1928, after the grand Maytor McKinley–Charles Randall Stephens house on Lafayette Park Place became available, the Days left the Place, although Dabney wouldn't enjoy his new palace for long. Only recently an honorary pallbearer for plutocrats including Henry E. Huntington and J. Ross Clark, as well as for the son of another bigshot, Edward L. Doheny, Day's days were over suddenly on June 22, 1929. Neatly, 129 would be sold to one of his colleagues—a Citizens Bank vice-president with a name seemingly right off of Gatsby's party list, Chester A. Rude.

Born in Minnesota on May 20, 1895, Chester Arthur Rude eventually went west to the University of Washington; after starting his career with the Federal Reserve Bank in Portland, he arrived in Los Angeles to take a position with Citizens National Bank, conceivably at the behest of Dabney Day. The bankers' deal for 129 Fremont Place appears to have taken place after the Days moved out, with Chester and Lorraine Rude moving in by early 1930. Now, finally, the house would have a long-term tenant, and one with growing children. Mr. and Mrs. Rude were apparently anything but ill-mannered, and had on her side a few generations of local history; Blue Book Los Angeles had taken them up quickly.

The Rudes' living room, with a view through the entrance hall
into the dining room, the latter seen again below. These images
may have been taken by a real estate agent for use in promotional
materials as the family prepared to leave their well-maintained
house after more than 30 years for a move out to Whittier.

Soon after their move to 129, Chester left Citizens for a vice-presidency at the Security–First National Bank (now part of Bank of America). As was expected of all rising stars in American civic establishments, Rude boosted his city; among his extracurricular endeavors was the vice-presidency of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. His boards would include a directorship of Claremont Men's College (today, Claremont McKenna) and his business and social credentials would top out with the presidencies—finally he was a president and not just a vice, although no bigger house was required—when he became head of the California Bankers' Association and then when the august and powerful California Club tapped him for its top post. Illustrating the inclusive boundaries of capital-S Society in Los Angeles, compared to self-serious eastern cities and San Francisco, is that a September 1954 luncheon held by Mary E. Foy, founder of the ancestor-worshipping First Century Families, included Wisconsin-born Lorraine Rude, whose notable grandfather Jacob Frankenfield had been well-known in local banking and political circles and had served as president of the Los Angeles city council during 1889-1890. The Rudes were in like Flynn.

Los Angeles, including the Old Guard precincts of Windsor Square, Hancock Park, and Fremont Place, was on the verge of social upheaval toward the mid-1960s. Pollution, white flight, Watts, and eventually the Manson murders all had a predictable effect on long-time Place residents. The changes coincided with the end of the Rudes' 32-year residency and their adjustments for Chester's retirement. In 1962 he left a directorship at Tidewater Oil, assumed the presidency of the board of Good Samaritan Hospital, and, although continuing as a member of the board, called it a day at Security. He'd joined the bank the same year that he and Lorraine had moved into 129, and they would sell the house the year he left the firm 32 years later to advertising man Vincent R. Fowler, who would stay for nearly as long as had the Rudes.

Seen here lecturing a business administration class at U.S.C. in 1957, Chester Rude
had by then been a resident of 129 Fremont Place since 1930, the same year
he moved from a vice-presidency at Citizens National Bank to a
similar post at Security–First National.

In his gossip column in the Times on September 23, 1962, Christy Fox reported that "Lorraine and Chester Rude, since moving from their longtime home in Fremont Place, have become new residents of Colima Road in Whittier. They love it!" They even loved it enough to buy burial plots at Whittier's Rose Hills. But the next year, the lovefest with Whittier was over and the Rudes had moved to Pasadena, less remote from their former social sphere. Following a heart attack, Chester died at Good Samaritan on December 7, 1971. Lorraine died in Los Angeles on New Year's Day 1986.

The Chester A. Rudes' plot in Whittier is subtler than the Day monument
at Hollywood Cemetery, that rare tombstone marked "Mr. and Mrs.";
Nancy Hayden Day outlived Dabney by eight years, dying
in Los Angeles at age 56 on February 19, 1937.

While living in a vintage house is understandably not for everyone, a two-and-a-half-year renovation completed by early 2019 resulted in the near total obliteration of the original 129 Fremont Place; could even the odd original joist or rafter still be in place? One top Los Angeles real estate broker has valiantly tried to put the best spin on the new design by comparing it to that of Gilded Age cottages back east in Newport, without there being even a hint of the sophistication of McKim, Mead & White, for example, in the new 129. While the living and dining rooms are in the same places as the originals, beige is the interior byword; while brightening up a dark interior with new window openings and pale marble might make theoretical sense, the 18 passé recessed ceiling fixtures in the living room alone seem excessive. But, of course, each to his own. (A well-lit video tour of the current extravaganza is here.)

More glazing than a Pella factory, recessed lighting, and pale tones have replaced the gentility of 1916

Illustrations: Rude Family Collection; USCDLMary Pickford FoundationLAT; Find-a-Grave; Christophe Choo