50 Fremont Place


There is now little left on the ground to suggest the original visage of 50 Fremont Place, seen above, despite its having come late to the subdivision. Lot 99, sitting prominently at the southwest corner of Fremont Place West and Eight Street, had remained empty from the opening of the development until 1936, when automobile dealer Irvin Kaiser built #99 facing east. Kaiser appears to have bought the entire original parcel and, once he made plans for a swimming pool and other improvements and determined the final proportions of his own backyard, then sold off the westerly 90 feet to esteemed Superior Court Judge Myron Westover. Westover had been on the bench since 1926, when he became a municipal court judge; his Superior judgeship came two years later. His wife, Selah Wyckoff Westover, was active in club life in the way of all Old Guard matrons; while she had to drive downtown to the Friday Morning, she could walk just a few blocks east on Eighth Street and sneak through the hedges to the Ebell.

On April 10, 1939, the Department of Building and Safety issue permits to Judge Westover to begin construction of a house and detached garage at the rear of Lot 99, addressed 4520 West Eighth Street on the document but redesignated 50 Fremont Place by the time of completion. With no individual architect cited on the permits, it is presumed that it was the design of one allied with the contractors, Brainard & Hadden of Glendale. What might have prompted the Westovers to undertake the building of a house when most couples consider apartment living—they were both nearing 70 and already living at the Trianon—is unclear; perhaps Selah just wanted a garden and to be near the Ebell after having moved quite a few times over the years. With their grown son, attorney Wyckoff Westover, off on his own, the house was rather modest by Fremont Place standards, originally of just eight rooms built on a budget of $7,500. Not long after moving in, the judge, driving not far from home near the intersection of Beverly and Rossmore, ran over an apparently dizzy actor causing serious injury; he would be absolved of blame. Westover was elected presiding judge of the Superior Court in 1944 and then, at the age of 75, lost re-election to the bench two years later. Not long after Selah died at #50 at the age of 77 on January 11, 1949, Judge Westover sold the house. As had his wife, he died of heart trouble, he in his South St. Andrews Place apartment on January 15, 1952, three days shy of his 81st birthday.

Acquired by the current owner in 1994, it has been in recent years that 50 Fremont Place has taken on its absurd bloat. Now crammed on its narrow lot after many additions made in 2009, both sideways and up, there is little left of the lovely original Westover house, a classic Los Angeles design of the immediate pre–World War II period. While the family who has supersized #50—and has effected an unfortunate remodeling of #127 as well—might not have demolished the two houses, the damage to the Fremont Place streetscape is not insignificant. Overall, the subdivision has been remarkably free of gross McMansionization either through remodeling or replacement; lets hope that the perps behind insensitive changes or outright replacement—such as in the case of the grossly heavy-handed successor to #123—do some study of the local historical vernacular before Fremont Place loses any more of its early character, and—to exaggerate grossly—before the wholesale demolition for an office park, threatened in the dark days of Mid-Wilshire in the late 1960s, might seem to have been preferable.

Perhaps it is fortunate that a current view from the street is unavailable to us, given
that all sense of proportion evident in its original configuration has been lost. A
faux Mansard roofline with phony dormer windows is amusing, at least.

Illustrations: Steve Crise; Google Maps