71 Fremont Place


As Fremont Place began to come into its own in the early 1920s after the unhurried development of its first decade, its roster of residents came to reflect the demographics of Southern California just as much as did Anaheim, Azusa, or Cucamonga. The Midwest contributed the most householders and the Eastern Seaboard a smaller but respectable share; Texas, however, also came to have something of a presence in the Place both in terms of houses as well as the people who lived in them. Round about 1923, the Russell Brown Company of Houston—prolific builders of large houses in Texas since 1903—arrived in Los Angeles with ten-gallon self-confidence. Muscling in on an unfamiliar market already well served by at least half a dozen seasoned local architects, the company does not appear to have been interested in spreading more bungalows across the Southland but rather targeted as customers the same type of buyers to whom it had sold big houses in River Oaks and Highland Park. While it was rare for larger houses in L.A. to be built on spec, this appears to have been a successful tactic of the firm for two decades; with more than a few lots in Fremont Place still empty, their owners having yet to build or receive offers they couldn't refuse, Russell Brown saw a way to signal its intent to conquer right near the heart of the new "uptown" of the city. Its first project in the Place was the Meserve-Dillon house at #82.

The Russell Brown Company arrived in Los Angeles from Texas in the early '20s to build a number of
houses on spec and, as was 71 Fremont Place, on commission. Perhaps having spread itself
too thin, the firm appears to have given up on the California market by 1928.

It could very well be that Roy Alvin Dalton, one of three brothers operating a chain of Texas theaters based in Dallas, concessionaires of the Texas State Fair, and apparently unrelated to the famous criminal Dalton Gang of a generation earlier, had some influence in bringing Russell Brown to Los Angeles. The older two of the somewhat more respectable Dalton brothers, Frank and Roy, had followed their father into saloonkeeping; it was their youngest brother, Tom, who appears to have steered his siblings into capitalizing on the newer form of entertainment. Greater opportunity in both entertainment and a third line, real estate, drew the brothers west. With Frank and Roy in the background, Tom appears to have maintained his focus on acquiring Los Angeles theaters, including the original Belasco on Main Street that he renamed the Follies. Frank and Roy invested in other real estate, in 1924 buying the St. Arthur Apartments, still standing at 2014 West Eighth Street, and, on property at Western and Beverly owned by Mayor George Cryer, building what is now called the San Marcos Hotel. Childless but apparently anticipating long stays by various relatives, for real estate of their own Roy and his wife Alice decided on a big house in Fremont Place. Their purchase of the northerly half of Lot 73 may have been on their own, or may have been through the Russell Brown Company with a contract for the house coming with it. Signed by a representative of the Brown Company, the Department of Buildings issued Dalton permits for both a residence and a garage on the parcel—referred to in an early Times report as being of Italianate design—on March 5, 1925.

The Dalton Brothers' business model in Los Angeles was to buy aging legitimate theaters, rename them,
and bring in more popular all-day entertainment. Their venues included the Burbank (opened by
the namesake of that city in 1893) and the old Belasco on Main Street (renamed the Follies
and raided often 
over the years for indecent burlesque), and the original Pantages
on Broadway's theater row, seen above (renamed Dalton's Broadway and later
the Arcade for the famous Arcade Building to its right). While their brother
Tom oversaw the family's more raffish streams of income, Roy and
Frank developed apartment houses, which included the building
still standing at the southeast corner of Western and Beverly.
Its architect was the firm that would later design an
addition to Roy's 71 Fremont Place in 1930.

Despite the onset of the Depression and its effect on real estate returns, it may have been increased box-office receipts that kept the Daltons in clover and in their big house in Fremont Place. In April 1930, Roy took out a building permit for an addition by architects Postle & Postle that included a second-floor sunroom, the first of what appear to be quite a few expansion projects carried out on #71. That fall, Roy and Alice took a cruise to Ensenada. In one unfortunate incident, Roy knocked down a woman with his car while driving on the north side of Westlake Park; Maude Caldwell suffered cuts and bruises and a possible skull fracture. Having left the theater business in the hands of Tom to make hay during the real estate boom of the '20s, Roy turned back to the entertainment game, taking advantage of the demand for cheap entertainment during the slump of the '30s. He and his brothers were sometimes referred to as "The Minskys of Los Angeles"; under Tom's direction, some of the family's holdings, which included the Follies, the Arcade, and the Burbank downtown as well as the Capitol in Long Beach, evolved into burlesque houses. The report of Tom having been convicted of presenting an indecent show in 1927 must have set a few Midwestern matrons whispering about the Daltons over back fences in Fremont Place, as would have complaints of merchants near the Follies about risqué revues still going on two years later. Things reached a head in the summer of 1942 when—perhaps so as not to lure servicemen into unspeakable debaucheries—the Follies was closed temporarily. By then Roy had long since once again given over his theater interests to Tom. He had been ill for some time. That August 1, he died at home at #71 at the age of 61. Alice Dalton would remain with various family members in Fremont Place for another 11 years; she died at home a few months shy of her 71st birthday; the end came on April 4, 1953. She joined Roy at Forest Lawn.

The new owner of 71 Fremont Place was an inventor. While in his 2009 obituary Arthur Dale Scott is credited with the development of a gyroscope used in submarines during World War II, no less important was his Magic Mirror Projector, which contributed to the postwar effort to boost the morale of demobbed troops. His wife Karol had been a movie-studio hairdresser during the conflict; afterward, the couple opened the Magic Mirror salon, the first of 38 including one in New Zealand, where Projectors were to used give patrons previews of themselves in new hairdos. The Scotts worked hard to acquire 71 Fremont Place after the departure of Alice Dalton; they added a pool in 1955 but would only stay until the very social Will Wards moved in in 1962.

Although often derided by Social Register types back east and considered arrivistes even by the
the sons of Gold Rush roughnecks who made up San Francisco's swells, Los Angeles society
had its own very distinct ideas of what constituted attractiveness as well as ritual
clubs and parties and rules to live by. Jane and Will Ward were part of that
crowd, their house at #71 drawing the Old Guard to Fremont Place
throughout a turbulent era that nearly saw the end of the
genteel old neighborhoods flanking Wilshire
Boulevard in the "Park Mile" district.

If you were a member of The Spinsters or The Bachelors in Los Angeles, you were among a rarefied establishment circle within the circle of the Southwest Blue Book. Once you married, you were kicked out, with congratulations. Then you graduated to attending the annual Assembly Ball. Originally a series and later a single formal dance with many pre and post functions, the Assembly was organized to bring together the city's Old Guard as it dispersed from West Adams and other older districts to the new western suburbs, to Pasadena and coastal towns, to Windsor Square, Hancock Park, and, of course, Fremont Place. While Will Ward is mentioned dozens and dozens of times in the Times from the '30s through the '60s, his occupation other than man-about-town is never made clear. He was one of the most senior Bachelors when on May 29, 1960, he married, at the age of 60, the equally social Jane Mann Brant, whose husband had died two years before. The not ignoble idea of the marriage seemed to be not so much to settle down as to keep the parties going—which is where 71 Fremont Place came in. A proper venue for pre-Assembly cocktails, centrally located for easy access from all points below the Tehachapis, it was just the ticket. The Wards made several additions to the house, which over the years would grow like topsy. Seventy-one was also well-placed for visits from Jane's children, who included Missy Brant Otis, married to Otis Chandler during his legendary rise at the Los Angeles Times. Will Ward's occupation was finally described nebulously as "financier" in his obituary after he died on November 25, 1972; since 1946, it seems, he'd been managing a private land development in the Imperial Valley. Jane Ward remained at 71 Fremont Place for a time; she died at 98 in Montecito on September 3, 2002.

Buff Chandler and Jane Brant at the christening of a mutual grandchild

A later owner added yet more space to #71 in 1992—no less than 2,400 square feet. The supersizing of original, nearly century-old Los Angeles houses is still preferable to their replacement, which, mercifully, has been rare in Fremont Place.

Illustrations: LATChandler Family and other private collections