99 Fremont Place


After Fremont Place opened in 1911, its developers' original promotion of building sites for large "in-town" estates faded rapidly in the face of competition with other nearby tracts as the demand for upper-middle-class housing accelerated faster than expected through the '20s. West Adams began to lose its cachet as the city's population boomed and its housing stocked aged; if the "men of means" of such older neighborhoods sought by the Place wanted "in-town estates," they looked farther west—the entire west side all the way to the Pacific was in play, quickly being platted with ever-larger and more pastoral parcels. When it opened in 1923, for instance, Bel-Air was where the big burghers went for exurban lots. Fremont Place languished; its original large sites were subdivided and some remained empty longer than might have ever been expected. Lot 99 at the southwest corner of Fremont Place West and Eighth Street remained unoccupied for over 25 years before automobile dealer Irvin Kaiser chose to build the charming archetypal 1930s Los Angeles house that remains today very much as it was when completed in 1937. While at first glance it could be taken for the work of Paul Williams—it is hard to imagine that he wasn't an influence—the architect of newspaper record is Lester G. Scherer. His name doesn't appear on the building permit for the house issued to Kaiser by the Department of Building and Safety on July 17, 1936—none does—but by whomever it was designed, 99 Fremont Place remains as one of the most attractive and successful period designs in the entire district, when affluent Los Angeles homeowners were content with a house of intelligent scale and resembling one in Peoria or the Cleavers' Mayfield rather in Versailles. For contrast, please see the absurdly overblown house next door—one lacking even the slightest bit of architectural merit, except perhaps for inclusion in McMansion Hell—at 101 Fremont Place.

Irvin Kaiser and his brother Harold owned Kaiser Brothers Oldsmobile in Los Angeles for decades; the men had grown up nearby in their father Joseph Kaiser's house at 400 South Windsor Boulevard. Harold Kaiser bought 540 South Rossmore Avenue in Hancock Park, another stone's throw from Fremont Place, in 1938.

A rendering of the Irvin Kaiser house appeared in
the Times on January 10, 1937; below is 99 Fremont
 Place standing in for a San Diego residence in the 1992
film A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story.

Illustrations: Private Collection; LAT; CBS