120 Fremont Place


Investment banker Benjamin Marshall Wotkyns, whose father of the same name had arrived in Pasadena at the time of its incorporation in 1886, built 120 Fremont Place in 1921. After having been associated with his father and paternal uncles in real estate development and insurance early in his career, Benjamin was married in 1905 at the age of 22, seeming to have settled down to the life of a proper Valley Hunt Club Pasadenan. Edith Redding Wotkyns charged him with desertion 12 years later, and, having decamped to Los Angeles and a position with a stock brokerage, he was soon remarried. By the fall of 1918 he had accepted a position with the San Diego investment concern Stephens & Company as head of its Los Angeles office. Early in 1921, in addition to his duties at Stephens, Wotkyns assumed the presidency of Tropico Potteries, manufacturers of clay products including architectural terra cotta and sewer and flue pipe; it seems that Wotkyns was never a layabout professionally or personally. It was while he and Nellie Reed Wotkyns were living in a series of rented houses in West Adams that Marshall acquired the southerly third of Lot 116 in Fremont Place and a bit of adjacent Lot 120. After in-demand architect Frederick J. Soper came up with a design that met with the Wotkynses' approval, the Department of Buildings issued a permit to begin construction on October 25, 1921.

Marshall and Nellie Wotkyns's stay would be brief. It seems that Marshall may have been up to some old tricks, and maybe a new one or two. After just a couple of years in the new house, there came a separation; Marshall moved to the California Club. The Fremont Place house would be sold to William T. Wilson in the fall of 1925, after which Marshall Wotkyns would marry his third wife, a divorcée with two small sons, in 1927 and move to Beverly Hills. He would also go on to be sentenced to 18 months on McNeil Island for securities fraud and be divorced by Bessie Wotkyns in 1936. The extended Wotkyns family would have an interesting marital and business history, none of which kept them from upholding the traditions of the Valley Hunt, tradition being the equilibrium to any breaches of decorum.

Meanwhile, back at 120 Fremont Place, William T. Wilson would stay until 1929, when he (or an interim owner) began to rent the house to young attorney and future California governor Goodwin J. Knight and his family for several years. Investment counselor Dean E. Christy owned 120 by 1936, and would stay until 1952. Moving from Beverly Hills, attorney Benjamin S. Parks and his wife Doris bought the house that year; they would stay until 1963, she by herself for several years after their divorce.

More on 120 Fremont Place in due course.

Illustration: On Location, Inc.