134 Fremont Place


Such was the pace of Los Angeles's suburban development toward the Pacific that many houses as well as people moved west to new neighborhoods, including to gated Fremont Place. Houses less than 20 years old were routinely demolished or left behind to become multi-family dwellings; but some houses traveled, if not in one piece then by slicing and dicing and reassembly on their new lots. While property-values-minded householders in new districts sometimes objected to the mobile houses proposed for removal to their neighborhoods as too old-fashioned or insufficiently grand, the site of houses moving west across the entire width of Wilshire Boulevard, among other avenues, in the middle of the night was generally accepted as just another aspect of the process of homesteading in what was called into the '20s the West End of the city, only just then losing its prairie appearance. Two of Fremont Place's grander houses, those once on the sites of 31 and 70, moved from Wilshire and Catalina and Hoover and 27th, respectively, have been demolished. One transplant that remains standing arrived on the northerly half of Lot 130 in 1926, coming from 332 South Ardmore Avenue, where it had been built on Lot 17 of the Norwood Terrace tract 12 years before. Mrs. Mary H. Jacobs had commissioned Pasadena architect Reginald D. Johnson to design the house in 1913 and was issued a permit for its construction by the Department of Buildings on November 3 of that year.

After Scottish-born businessman John Crombie Niven and his wife Nora acquired 332 South Ardmore, they hired master house mover George Kress to truck it to Fremont Place. Lot 30, at the southern end of Westerly Drive, appears to have remained empty since the opening of the Place in 1911; in transactions that are as of yet unclear—and with the original idea of the subdivision to be for large "in-town" estates rather than for conventional upper-middle-class suburban development long since abandoned—Lot 130 was split into two parcels after 1921. The Department of Building and Safety issued Niven a permit to moved his house to the northerly half on July 22, 1926. The details of what exactly was happening next door are sketchy; it appears that another house—its origin unclear—had arrived on the southerly half around the same time as did the Nivens'. On September 24, Miss Hazel A. Slocum was issued a permit by the city to build a new foundation and basement for a house perhaps sitting temporarily on trucks hard by southwest gate of the Place. This became #136.

John and Nora Niven and their Yalie sons remained at 134 for many years, Robert eventually assuming ownership and maintaining it at least into the 1970s. The full story of 134 Fremont Place will be told in due course.

Illustration: Private Collection