84 Fremont Place


The funds for widow Mary Carolina Demond's new house on the northerly 77 feet of Lot 86 appear to have come from her late husband's career in wine and liquors; Frank Demond had come from Germany and was naturalized in San Diego in 1888, arriving in Los Angeles in the early '90s. He started in cigars and tobacco and would be described variously as a merchant, a broker, and, usually, as a barkeeper. Apparently his longtime saloon at 230 East Fifth Street was quite profitable. When Demond died in 1917, he requested cremation and that his ashes be placed under a rosebush at the family home on South Occidental Boulevard. It is not known whether Mary was thinking of taking the bush with her to Fremont Place, when, after a trip to Hawaii in the summer of 1921, she engaged contractor William F. Burkhardt build her #84. Burkhardt may have also designed the typically Mediterranean, red-tile-roofed house; no separate architect is listed on the construction permit issued by the Department of Buildings on August 16, 1922.

Mary Demond seems to have had something in the way of social aspirations in choosing her new neighborhood, perhaps in an effort to wash away the odor of the barroom, as it were. It appears that she would retain #84 until her death in 1936, though she chose, at least at times, to live elsewhere while renting the house out. Montana mining man John R. MacGinnis was living there in the summer of 1928 when his wife Eloise was named co-respondent by Mrs. Hester Stiles in a sensational divorce case; apparently Eloise and Vernon Stiles, a one-time opera singer, had been discovered trysting in a Lake Arrowhead love shack. John went back to Montana and Eloise into seclusion in Salt Lake City. The house at #84 was empty for a time; eventually, steel executive Thomas W. Simmons arrived, renting for a brief stay in the early '30s before buying 
636 South Plymouth Boulevard in Windsor Square (the industrialist later owned 101 North Hudson Avenue in Hancock Park). Mary Demond was back in the house by the spring of 1934—quite a bit of ink in the Times described the engagement party there for her daughter, Ema, on June 17; the wedding took place at home on the 30th. (Mary was no doubt quite proud: Ema had married a dentist with a pedigree. John Daniel Webster was descended not only from the Daniel Webster but from Martha Washington to boot.)

In preparation to sell or rent again or merely to redecorate after Ema's sendoff, Mary Demond consigned the complete furnishings of #84 to auctioneer C. H. O'Connor in October 1934. She had the house painted the same month. Who may have occupied it if not Mary before her death two years later, or afterward, is unclear. Classified advertisements began appearing in the Times in the fall of 1938 describing for sale "a small house in a quiet, exclusive district." It was still being marketed similarly a year later; in 1940 it was occupied as rental by Detroit retiree James Herman.

Illustration: GSV