One of the earliest homes built in Fremont Place is now on the market for the first time since the 1970s. Formerly the longtime home of socialite Patte Barham, who passed away last year, 100 Fremont Place is now for sale. Listing broker Chase Campen let the Buzz in to peek at the house last a few weeks ago, before it was held open for brokers and interested buyers last week.
Even though I’ve lived in the neighborhood more than 20 years, I had only been in the house a few times. Seeing it again, now empty, offered an intriguing look back in time and a good impetus to share some of our local history.
In 1911, the Los Angeles Times announced the Fremont Place tract, a fashionable subdivision of 48 lots on Wilshire Blvd., represented by brokers Charles B. Ingram Company, George Briggs, and David Barry and Company, and competing against R.A. Rowan, who was representing the Windsor Square development across the street. The four elegant gateways reported to be made of granite and designed by J. Martyn Haenke would mark the intersections of the easterly and westerly drives with Wilshire Blvd and Country Club Drive, now called Olympic Blvd. The gates were actually cast concrete and made to resemble granite, fooling the eye into thinking an architectural element was more substantial than it actually was, a trick often done by local builders and contractors at the time. The developers created winding streets and required deep set backs to make the houses seem even grander.
One of the grandest homes and earliest homes built was 100 Fremont Place, built in 1915 (some local sources say 1917, unfortunately, there’s no official building permit on file to confirm the date) for King Camp Gillette, the inventor of the Gillette safety razor. The house is reportedly a replica of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu, complete with imported palm trees. But looking at photos of the hotel, it’s hard to see the similarities. Maybe they were there at one time.
Most local histories, including several articles from the Windsor Square Hancock Park Historical Society, indicate that Gillette only lived in the house for a short time. The residence was then purchased by the Catholic Church for Bishop of Los Angeles John J. Cantwell, who lived in the house until he died in October, 1947. Then, in March 1948, Archbishop James Francis McIntyre moved into the house, where he lived until April of 1969, when he moved to the rectory at St. Basil’s Church on Wilshire Blvd. and Kingsley Drive. McIntyre was elevated to Cardinal in 1953, so the residence became an important place and occasionally the focus for local protests.
Pope Pius XII celebrated mass and Archbishop McIntyre married several local couples in the chapel located on the north side of the house. The stained glass windows and the cabinets for the vestments are still there, but the room was turned into a music room after McIntyre moved out.
In 1973, socialite Patte Barham bought the house. Barham was the daughter of Dr. Frank Barham, the founder of the Los Angeles Herald and later publisher of the Los Angeles Herald Express, which was purchased by William Randolph Hearst. Her mother was the socially prominent Princess Jessica Meshki-Gleboff. Barham was the first female correspondent covering the Korean War. Barham wrote a book with Maria Rasputin, “The Man Behind the Myth, A Personal Memoir,” about the famous monk Rasputin, who Barham was convinced was a holy man who could heal animals and humans, and that he was viciously murdered and a victim of years of character assassination.
Barham filled the home with memorabilia and correspondence from newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and Hearst’s mistress, Marion Davies. She also entertained a great deal in the spectacular public spaces which are still intact. The mahogany woodwork in the entrance hall, living room, and the dining room are irreplaceable. Standing there, you can’t help but wonder who else has been in the very same place over the last almost 100 years.
Like most old houses, additions were made over the years, some better than others. According to permit records, rooms were added to the back of the house, upstairs over the service wing. But most of the original floor plan appears to be intact and the Fremont Place Codes, Covenants and Restrictions, which require that any changes to the house that can be seen from the street must be approved by the Fremont Place Association, are likely to insure the preservation of this historic home, at least the outside. While the neighborhood is not a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ), the architectural preservation of Fremont Place is managed through a design process modeled after nearby HPOZs, and changes can be made to the interior.
100 Fremont Place with its prominent siting at the entry to Fremont Place and its lineage of interesting occupants, holds special place in local history. It also offers a new owner a wonderful place to create their own layer of history.