77 Fremont Place


The origins of the house at 77 Fremont Place are somewhat obscure; although there are clues to its beginnings, no specific building permit for it has been ferreted out so far. A permit existing in Los Angeles city archives issued on October 20, 1922, to a mysterious "G. L. Palmer" of Whittier—who'd acquired an unspecified lot in the subdivision from the equally mysterious "F. A. Kauffman" sometime in the latter part of 1922—describes a 10-room, $12,000 house to be built on the northerly 75 feet of Lot 75, to be addressed #75, despite the fact that a house had been standing on that parcel since 1916. The handwritten documents in the archives are, of course, not without their errors; however, given the absence of a specific permit for #77, the dates of the apparently erroneous document for #75 seem all the more applicable to #77 in that in its records, the county assessor's office assigns it a completion date of 1923.

Fannie B. Look in 1924

No architect or contractor is specified on the permit issued to G. L. Palmer. If it applies as we suspect to #77, it could be that Palmer built a spec house, quite common in Fremont Place as the tract finally began to fill up in the early '20s after leisurely development since the gates were opened in 1911. It could also be that G. L. Palmer was an agent of the first owner of #77, who appears to have been a widowed Massachusetts philanthropist by the name of Fannie B. Look. A house inhabited by a New Englander was quite unusual in thoroughly Midwestern Fremont Place. Unusual too is that Mrs. Look—apparently averse to rattling around in a big house by herself, or perhaps looking for interesting house-sitters when she traveled—was joined by another Bay State widow, Mrs. Anne L. Bangs, and by a couple also from the East Coast, one with no easily traceable connection to either widow but one with an interesting backstory. Clarence Burtch Hoadley was the son of a Swarthmore professor of physics and captain of the school's football team in 1897, the year of his graduation. There was quite a scandal several years later when he up and announced his engagement to an undergraduate—or, rather, a rich Philadelphia gal who had once matriculated at Swarthmore but who had never graduated. She was also 19 years older than her groom, had been married to well-known Quaker physician, surgeon, and gynecologist Isaac Garrett Smedley (who'd been killed in a train accident), and had daughters 9 and 14. Elizabeth Hallowell Smedley had been amply provided for by her own family as well as by that of her first husband. While there turned out to no stopping the marriage, which took place on November 18, 1901, the newlyweds did think it better to high-tail away from the heat—and the cold—and settle in California. While Elizabeth would maintain a lifelong interest in the Society of Friends, she also knew what she wanted and wasn't going to give up Clarence, or he her. They would live at several Southland addresses until Florence Smedley, her husband Clifford Vernon, and their children moved west and the extended family settled at 197 South Commonwealth Avenue in Los Angeles. Clarence dealt in magnesite, used to line furnaces, and sold cars, as did his stepson-in-law. The Vernons moved into their own house after 1920 and, whatever their arrangement, Mrs. Look, Mrs. Bangs, and the Hoadleys eventually into their house at 77 Fremont Place.

Fannie B. Look joined the usual clubs of certain Fremont Place ladies, such as the Friday Morning and the Ebell; she would also donate what would today be many millions for the establishment of a park in Florence, Massachusetts, in memory of her husband (baseball banned on Sundays), and, as a devout Congregationalist, to Yankton College in South Dakota and to Los Angeles's First Congregational Church (which would later be headed by James W. Fifield, who would also later move into 118 Fremont Place). Elizabeth and Clarence Hoadley would leave #77 toward the end of the '20s for 615 South Gramercy Place, where they would remain for many years. Clarence got into the bond and mortgage business. Despite his relative youth, he would die on December 3, 1946, Elizabeth nine years and two days later, a month shy of her 93rd birthday.

A classified advertisement in the Los Angeles Times of March 10, 1940, announced the disposal
of the property of the second owner of 77 Fremont Place after just two years.

Mrs. Look and Mrs. Bangs remained in Fremont Place after the Hoadleys moved on. Fannie died at #77 on May 3, 1936. October of 1937, the Times was reporting that the Security–First National Bank, presumably handling Fannie's affairs in Los Angeles, had sold the house. Jesse D. Scheinman, apparently related to the legal Scheinman brothers of L.A. (attorneys including Superior Court Judge Benjamin L. Scheinman), was a C.P.A. recently in the hotel and theater business in Miami; although he and his wife Elsie would only stay at #77 for a short time before heading back east, they did it in style, at least according to a catalog of their possessions auctioned off in March 1940. Moving in next for a longer stay was chemical company executive Walter D. Schwartz and his wife, Neenah. Schwartz was one of three brothers from Milwaukee who'd moved west in the '20s and owned the L. H. Butcher Company, San Francisco and Los Angeles manufacturers of raw ingredients for paints and other chemicals and materials including asbestos. Walter and Neenah would stay at #77 for 15 years before putting the house on the market in the spring of 1955. They were still there on August 20 when Walter, by now retired but still into chemicals, was seriously burned by using the obviously dangerous method of lighting a barbecue pit. He would end up living into his 92nd year. The house had found a new buyer by early the next year.

Peter H. Vance was an insurance man-about-town, recently widowed but anticipating a change in circumstances and the need of something other than a bachelor pad. On March 1, 1956, he married Jo Sproul, a widow of three years with three young sons; Howard Ahmanson was his best man. The house at 77 Fremont Place suited the new family and provided the very social Vances with a suitable venue for entertaining. Mrs. Vance was big in the Junior League, elected its recording secretary that year in the same slate with her friend Patricia Duque Dillon—another new Fremont Placer that year, at #82—who was elected president. The Vances, who would have one of the longest tenancies at #77, appear to have remained in the house until her death in May 1978 and his 14 months later.

Illustrations: Private Collection; AncestryLAT