Fremont Hotel (Part 2) – 401 South Olive Street



When we last discussed the Fremont Hotel, we took a look at the antics of some of the hotel’s residents over it’s five decade existence. This time around, the Fremont employees get to bask in the OnBunkerHill spotlight.

First up is Harry Stewart, the Fremont bellboy who was arrested on grand larceny charges in 1903. Apparently Mr. Stewart supplemented his income by stealing valuables from the rooms of hotel guests. The jig was up when a valuable diamond pin was removed from the room of Owl Drug president D.W. Kirkland (who would live out his days at the hotel). While the jewel was not recovered from the bellboy’s living quarters, some other items were discovered, including a sock. For some reason, Stewart had also lifted the sock from Kirkland’s room and left behind its mate. The footwear was enough to implicate him in the crime and he served the next six months in jail. Upon release, the former Fremont bellboy just couldn’t give up his wicked, wicked ways and was immediately arrested again for stealing five bucks out of a purse.

Next is S.J. Messing, a clerk at the Fremont Hotel who was arrested in 1910 for embezzlement. It seems that Messing had had a business partnership in San Francisco the previous year and his partner, Frank Smith, felt he had been embezzled out of a whole $25. Mr. Smith felt so wronged by his former partner that he repeatedly had Messing arrested, hoping the charge would stick. The first arrest came when Messing was recovering from malaria in a Napa hospital and the second arrest occurred while he was enjoying a show at the Orpheum. The final time came when Messing was in his bed at the Fremont. He was taken out of the hotel all the while proclaiming his innocence and swore he would go back up to San Francisco to clear his good name. No word if they ever came to a settlement over the $25.

In their defense, it’s probably hard for bellboys and clerks to behave when the management did not always set a good example. In 1913, proprietor Richard A. Von Falkenberg was accused of drastically raising the rent on a female tenant when she refused his unwelcome advances. Von Falkenberg proclaimed his innocence. Three months later, when the hotel was in, as the Los Angeles Times stated, "a precarious financial position," Von Falkenberg and his wife mysteriously dissappeared. Turns out, he was just suffering from ill nerves and decided to rest up in Ventura without notifying anyone.

It is worth noting that just because someone was the owner of the Fremont, does not mean they were immune from the shadier goings on. In February of 1913, Fremont owner Mary Jauch (former resident of the Rose Mansion) reported $8,300 in jewels stolen from her room. The burgler had also entered the room of E.H. McElroy who caught the bandit red handed and the two scuffled until the theif got away.

The antics of the Fremont Hotel abruptly came to an end in the mid-1950s as the building was an early victim of the Community Redevelopment Agency’s grand plan for urban rewewal. By 1955, all that remained at the Southwest corner of 4th and Olive was the retaining wall that a long time ago separated the Fremont Hotel from the Olive Public School.

Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

4 thoughts on “Fremont Hotel (Part 2) – 401 South Olive Street”

  1. hailfremontia

    Archtetypal early shot of the Fremont (trees at right where the Mutual Garage would go in 1923, and to the left, the Olive Street Public School, which would be replaced by a parking lot/underground garage for the Subway Terminal Bldng ca. 1926).

    Then there’s this postcard of the now-neon’d Fremont, ca. 1940:


    …which has the nifty little inset of the patio area.


    …which was down there ’round about where the word Fremont was, one supposes:


  2. up4th1912

    Looking up Fourth, 1912. Theodolite-peering USC engineering students, their derbied prof on the right, practice surveying.

    On the Hill in the bg, the Zelda.


    From the USC Digital Archives

  3. Another chapter in the What’s Left of Bunker Hill bestiary. There’s the dirt patch of Second and Hill; there’s the Savoy Garage, which doesn’t exactly reek classical BH; there’s the 1924 Telephone Building that’s been 60s-ized beyond recognition. And then there’s the premier archaeological site of the Hill: the south flank of the Fremont retaining wall. If Bunker Hill is our Acropolis (Teddy Roosevelt, our Pericles), then the Fremont’s limestone wall is the Parthenon’s limestone foundation. (Granted we lack so much as a standing stick of our Parthenon, the Fremont. The Greeks would have torn down the Parthenon too if they needed the parking on the Crecropia.)

    In images of the Fremont one can see the wall that wrapped around the building. It looked like this:


    thewallupfourthJohn C. Austin may have had a hand in the retaining wall, but probably just the building proper. (“Hey John, you want a pitch-faced ashlar limestone block wall ‘round this?” Austin: “Mmm.”) At left, note the stonework on the pier at the steps.

    It was the retaining side of the wall that the Fremont Hotel Company and the Board of Education and City Engineers wrangled over through the summer of aught-two; neither the Olive Street School nor the hoteliers wanted to lose land or money in the deal. But settled it was, the wall was built and stands:


    Where the rest of the world uses Indiana limestone, I’m assuming this has come from the limestone pits of the Mojave…pulled from the Mitchell Caverns, for all we know, back when helictites were just things that got in a quarryman’s way.


    That this wall is in near-perfect shape after one-hundred plus years is perfectly understandable. Every stone wall built in this town in the last forty is falling apart; who today knows the proper mix of lime (softer mortar necessary when using a sedimentary rock) to sand and cement, or seal their mortar with boiled linseed oil, or abhor shag pointing a join?



    And let’s not forget the retaining wall behind the Fremont’s neighbor-down-Olive, the Olive Street School:



    But that’s another tale of urban archaeology.

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