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Waverly Estate

At Aug 01, 2016

Waverly Estate

The homes lining the streets of the Platinum Triangle, a commonly known moniker for the communities of Beverly Hills, Holmby Hills and Bel-Air, are by far the most impressive, extraordinary estates in the Los Angeles area. The homes are constantly changing as new owners add their unique style or current owners change the look and design of the home to keep up with the latest home trends. Many of these grand homes were first built in the early 1900’s and many have seen multiple renovations, while others have been torn down and built back to be even grander than before. Fortunately, there are a small number of these houses that are still in their original condition, their owners determined to keep the classic, traditional setting that made the home magnificent in the first place. It is these homes that help us see the beauty of the old Hollywood era and the visions of the founding investor in the Platinum Triangle.

One home in particular, The Waverly Estate, has kept its 1920’s charm throughout the last 90 years. Located on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Hillcrest Road, The Waverly Estate was built in 1923 for the Christie brothers. Al and Charles Christie were pioneers in the filmmaking industry and together they began the Christie Film Company. The brothers purchased their 4-acre lot from the Rodeo Land and Water Company and were given strict building regulations. The minimum they could spend on building their home was $30,000, which was a lot of money during that time.

The Christie brothers were not alone in their success. Al’s wife Shirley, their mother Mary and sister Anne, were also part of the core Christie family. They knew that the home would have to be big enough to accommodate each person, so in the end, the Waverly home was over 12,000 square-feet and contained seven master suites with bedroom, bathroom and sitting rooms for each. The English manor was perfect for entertaining and hosting parties. The Christies worked with architect, Leland Fuller, to ensure the home had everything the family needed such as a large living room, reception room, library, private offices and a large, two-story entryway.

The Christie brothers hit hard times during the depression and lost their studio and their home. Sadly, they sold the Waverly Estate to actor Richard Barthelmess in 1933. Over the years, the Waverly Estate has had ten owners, including shoe manufacturer Harry Karl and talent agent Arthur Lyons. Each of the ten owners have respected the old style of the home and chose not to add or remove anything from the original home. In a rare occurrence, the owners have also chosen not to sell any of the original acreage purchased by the Christie brothers.

The house is still sitting atop the hill on Sunset Boulevard, but can no longer be seen from the road. It is a testimony of the style and grandeur that was loved during the silent film era.

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Timeless Architecture in Old Hollywood

At Jul 01, 2016

The key to the iconic homes of Beverly Hills in the 20’s and 30’s was not how large the home was or how many acres it encompassed. Instead, the significant detail was the stunning architecture, provided by some of the top designers in the era that marked a home as a step above the rest. Whether a homeowner was looking for something extravagant or a subtler, classic look, finding the right architect meant everything.

When banker, Robert Rogers, decided to purchase land on the corner of Lexington Road and North Crescent Drive, he knew he wanted to stand out among the young Hollywood homeowners in the area. He wanted an elegant home that mirrored the more conservative lifestyle of him and his wife Josephine. He began looking for an architect who could accurately portray his vision for his new estate and found Robert Farquhar, a well-educated designer who studied at Harvard, MIT and the Ecole de Beaux Arts Academy in Paris.

Robert and Josephine were impressed with Farquhar’s use of Spanish, Italian and French styles of architecture for residential homes and also his work in commercial buildings such as the California Club and the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. The building of the Rogers estate began in 1926 and ended in 1927 with a total cost of $175,000. The home was built to withstand the devastating earthquakes that often shook California, with its infrastructure built of sturdy steel beams and the exterior sporting a stucco façade, massive stone entryway and tiled roof. The home was exactly what Robert and Josephine had wanted and they were extremely happy with the beautiful home and its surrounding landscape and orchard.

After Josephine’s untimely death in 1931, the home was sold to the infamous Harold McCormick of Chicago, who purchased the estate as a summer home in 1938. McCormick was a divorcee and quite the ladies’ man in his younger days, but at this time in his life he was ready to settle down with his third wife. He hired the original architect, Farquhar, to add an elevator to the main house and to also build new garages and servants’ quarters on the property. Just a few years later, McCormick passed away and the home was sold to Lewis and Dorothy Rosenstiel of Cincinnati, Ohio and then again to one of the most brash and infuriating Hollywood moguls, Harry Cohn.

Harry and his wife Joan were more social and loved to entertain and have parties. They decided to once again hire Farquhar to design a projection room and a bath house so their guests would have the best in comfort and entertaining. When Harry died, Joan decided to stay in the home that she loved on Crescent Drive and remained for another twenty years. While the house had many add-ons, the use of Farquhar for each new addition kept the home looking much the same as the original. The timeless elegance of the home is still present today. The next time you are in the Beverly Hills area, you can drive by and see the home still seated at the corner of Lexington Road and North Crescent Drive.

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Foothills Road Estate – The Amazing Pre-World War II Mansion

At May 02, 2016

Before sound and color dominated the silver screen, there were the stars of the silent movie. Extraordinary individuals who could bring to life a story with just their actions and expressions. One such starlet during the silent film era, Ruth Clifford, excelled above the rest. At the tender age of fifteen, Clifford got her first role as an extra for a local film and her career skyrocketed from there. She landed her first starring role in the Universal film The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin that became an instant success. Her career continued in western films until she was cast as the first love of Abraham Lincoln in the 1924 critically acclaimed film The Dramatic Life of Abraham Lincoln. This role took her to a new level of stardom and her fame rose drastically.

Clifford soon met and married the vice president of the State Bank of Beverly Hills, James Cornelius. In 1925, the couple moved into their new home, located on Foothill Road. Not your average Beverly Hills home, the estate located on the south end of the prestigious Sunset Boulevard intrigued its star-studded neighbors. The mansion was the only home to be built in the area before World War II and was much larger than the neighboring homes. The estate was also situated on a one-acre double lot, something unheard of on the lesser-populated south side of Sunset Boulevard.

There was added mystery to the home thanks to Clifford and Cornelius. While the social norm during the Old Hollywood Era was to host extravagant parties, the owners of this massive Spanish-Moorish residence chose to remain more private, creating gossip and wonderment amongst the neighbors. The unusualness of the estate continued with the size and style of the home with its hidden front entryway, wrought-iron balconies and rumored hidden underground tunnels. The striking architecture of the home includes thick stucco walls, enormous chimneys, soaring windows, and cast-iron embellishments. After the home was sold, the rumors of underground rooms and tunnels was confirmed and it was stated that there was as much square footage underground as there was above ground.

While Clifford was a notable icon during her time in Hollywood, she was not the only nor the most famous person to live in the Foothills Road residence. As Clifford’s marriage became rocky, the couple began a series of break-ups and reconciliations. During their times of separation, the home was rented out by other Hollywood actors, including Conrad Veidt. In 1934, their tumultuous relationship finally ended, leading the way for Irving Mills, an early pop culture musician, to sweep in and purchase the home in the 1940’s. During the time Mills lived in the Foothills Road estate, he discovered piano player Duke Ellington and the Kentucky Club Orchestra, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller. In the 1950’s, Mills sold his home to an unknown family who currently occupies this historic mansion as a private residence. The new owners keep the home in pristine condition, preserving the grandeur of the 1920’s and providing a legacy for generations to come.

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Harry Lombard and the magnificent Grayhall Estate

At Mar 25, 2016

During the early years in Beverly Hills, most of the new homebuilders chose to stay centrally located around the Beverly Hills Hotel, keeping within just a few blocks of the iconic landmark. Few dared to branch out into the more “rustic” areas where the land was still used for ranching and growing citrus trees. Things changed in 1916, when an adventurous banker from Boston left his home in Massachusetts to begin a new venture as a real estate investor in Los Angeles. He began his life in Los Angeles by turning part of this unpopulated pastoral land into a magnificent 15-acre estate. The man was Harry D. Lombard, and the estate was beautifully named “The Grayhall Estate.”

The focal point of the Grayhall Estate was the superbly designed two-story mansion that was Lombard’s home. He chose two ambitious designers, Sumner P. Hunt and Silas Burns, to produce a home that was both elegant and comfortable. Grayhall got its name from the exquisite gray stone façade that blended with the soil so well that it looked like the home had grown from the earth itself. Lombard loved the view that he could get from his property of the ocean, mountains and the city of Beverly Hills, so he chose large plate-glass windows so he could look out over these areas in different parts of the home. Adding on a spoon-shaped swimming pool and tennis courts to the already beautiful gardens completed the Grayhall Estate.

In 1918, Grayhall became the home of its most famous tenant, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. The movie star leased the Grayhall Estate so he would have a secret place to meet his lover, Mary Pickford, who was still married at the time. Although he spent most of his time on movie sets or sneaking around with Mary, Douglas also showed his support to the American efforts in World War I. He turned the land surrounding Grayhall into a carnival where attendees showed their support of America by purchasing $50 Liberty Bonds. This was not your ordinary carnival. Fairbanks enlisted the help of many of his famous friends that gave performances in areas such as wrestling, aeronautical tricks and bull riding done by Douglas himself. Guests could mingle with upcoming stars and starlets, stuntmen and star athletes.

Fairbanks had only leased the Grayhall Estate for one year, and during that time he fell in love with the beautiful piece of property across the road. This 14-acre piece of property and hunting lodge was owned by Lee A. Phillips who sold out to Fairbanks in 1919. After the departure of Fairbanks, Grayhall was sold to Silsby and Carolyn Spalding. Carolyn was the daughter of one of Beverly Hills’ founders, Charles Confield. Her husband, Silsby, became mayor of Beverly Hills in 1922 and held that office until 1929. The couple wanted to expand their home so they brought in the original designers used by Lombard to add on 22,000 square feet of living space including 9 bedrooms, 20 bathrooms and hidden passageways throughout the home.

The Spaldings also wanted more land, so they purchased an additional 37 acres to increase the estate to 52 acres. Grayhall was the largest estate in the area until the creation of the Greystone Estate on Doheny Road. After Silsby died in 1949, Carolyn sold all they had amassed except two acres of the land and the house. Land developers turned their estate into the Beverly Hills Park Estates and began building new houses all around Grayhall. The home still remains today and is seen as a historical landmark of the old Hollywood era.

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Harry and Virginia Robinson Home

At Feb 26, 2016

It is a truly rare and extraordinary experience to be able to walk into a home, turn back the hands of time and see the beauty and wonderment of a bygone era. When you visit The Virginia Robinson Gardens, located on Elden Way in the prestigious Beverly Hills community in Los Angeles, California, you are transported back to 1911, when Beverly Hills was a growing neighborhood of affluent families. The historical gardens and museum began as the estate of Harry and Virginia Robinson. Harry was the president of W. Robinson Company, a prestigious department store in Los Angeles.

The Robinsons made the short trek from Los Angeles to Beverly Hills to start a new life in February of 1911. They purchased a piece of property with a dramatic view of the Pacific at the end of Elden Way and began building what would be their forever home. Harry and Virginia were very different from the typical socialites during this era. Instead of a massive, showpiece home, the couple chose to build a home where they could live comfortably while doing all the things they loved. They also decided to go with an amateur architect, Nathaniel Dryden, to build their home. Dryden, who was Virginia’s father, had designed homes for other family members and wanted to do this grand gesture for his daughter and son-in-law.

The Mediterranean-style home was one-story with 12 rooms including a library, large bedroom suite for Harry and Virginia, a large kitchen and staff quarters. Each room in the home featured stunning views of the surrounding grounds and gardens. The estimated cost of building the home in 1911 was $25,000. The Robinsons preferred the roles of host and hostess over going to parties as a guest, loved sports such as tennis and swimming and spent their free time collecting exotic plants and animals for their gardens. They turned their estate into an entertainment paradise, including his and hers tennis courts and a new pool with a magnificent Italian Renaissance-inspired pool pavilion that sat at the far end of their house. Architect William Richards used the Villa Pisani in Stra, Italy to give him ideas for the dramatic pavilion.

Almost as amazing as the home itself was the landscape surrounding the home. The pair loved their gardens and spent their time and resources making their estate into a garden oasis. During their travels overseas, they would pick up exotic seeds and plants to add to their gardens. The estate became well known for growing practically every exotic, rare fruit imaginable. Virginia also kept what she called a “Kitchen Garden,” where she grew a variety of vegetables all year long. The Robinson’s collection of palm trees, which are still present today, was located on a three-acre lot along the eastern slope of the property that provided the couple and their friends a private area where they could walk and soak up the California sun without interruption. The Robinsons called it “The Tropical King Palm Garden” and it is still one of the finest gardens in the United States.

In 1932, Harry succumbed to illness and passed away. Virginia kept the home and continued on with her love of gardening and entertaining. Sometime during the 1960’s, the Robinson estate shrunk from 15 acres to the current six and a half acres for reasons unknown. Virginia donated her beloved gardens and the home to the County of Los Angeles to be made into a botanical garden and museum after her death. In 1977, Virginia died at the age of 99, and in 1981, the county opened the Virginia Robinson Gardens to guests. The Robinson’s legacy continues today, and through their donation, many people can enjoy a glimpse of Beverly Hills in its glory days.

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Playboy Mansion listed on the market for the first time since the 1970s! Discover the home’s history.

At Jan 18, 2016

For the first time in over 40 years, the legendary Playboy Mansion, located on Charing Cross Road outside of Beverly Hills, is on the market. Built in the Golden Age of Hollywood, it is one of the few estates that has remained intact, staying true to its original formation. With its beautiful, yet unique H-shape, it is not surprising that this remarkable English Tudor style home has only been sold twice since its construction in the 1920’s.

Built for Broadway department store icon Arthur Letts, the magnificent estate was an illustration of the vision that Letts had for a new neighborhood to the west of Beverly Hills. Letts, who at the time was president of the Holmby Corporation, moved to the area after selling his father’s business in Hancock Park. He knew he needed to show potential investors that this new development would grow and exceed expectations, and to do that, he must build something extravagant. In essence, it was in that moment the foundation for the Holmby Hills community was formed.

Letts hired architect Arthur R. Kelly to design the 14,000 square foot house. Kelly let his creativity flourish when he choose to rearrange the layout of the home from the conventional house model to a more asymmetrical outline. While the design of the home itself was extraordinary, the Grand Hall was the interior’s masterpiece. The two-story room was lavishly decorated with solid oak paneling, marble floors and a richly carved double staircase.

In 1961, The Letts’ home was purchased by scientist and industrialist, Louis Statham. Statham was known for his inventions of rockets and satellites that aided space exploration as well as inventing life-saving medical devices. Louis and his wife Anne bought the home for a mere $110,200 and promptly renamed the home “The Statham House.”

In 1971, Playboy Enterprises bought the Statham House for a record breaking $1.05 million. It was the highest real estate transaction in Los Angeles at that time. Initially called the Playboy Mansion West, it was the second “bachelor pad” to be established by Playboy, with the other one located in the prestigious Near North Side in Chicago. Playboy eventually left behind their Chicago roots and turned their Holmby Hills manor into the Playboy headquarters.

For over 4 decades, Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner has called the Playboy Mansion home, both working and playing in the now 29,000 square foot residential space and 5 acres of pristine landscape. The Playboy Mansion has 29 rooms, including a wine cellar with a secret entranceway, a theater room with a built-in organ and a full gymnasium.

In addition to the amazing features of the home itself, throughout the grounds there is also a game house with the customary pool tables, pinball machines and Wurlitzer jukebox, a four-bed, two-bath guesthouse and of course, the famous swimming pool with an underground grotto built by Playboy after their purchase of the home. The Playboy estate is also one of the few private residences in Los Angeles that has a zoo license, and is called home by many exotic birds, monkeys, flamingoes and peacocks.

The Playboy Mansion is being sold by Hilton & Hyland, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. If sold for the asking price, an incredible $200 million, it will once again be the largest transaction in Los Angeles history.

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The Greystone mansion in Beverly Hills

At Jan 08, 2016

The Greystone mansion in Beverly Hills, has a notorious past: built by the immense wealth of oil barons, touched by a scandal involving corruption and the scene of a murder never fully explained. It was eventually left to deteriorate until it gained a new life as a national landmark and property of the City of Beverly Hills. The imposing castle on a hill has a story to rival any movie plot, which may be appropriate for an estate in the heart of Beverly Hills.

The story of Greystone begins in 1892, when a broke Doheny Sr. realized the potential of the oil tar that was being used locally in place of coal. He borrowed the $400 he needed to lease a promising piece of land…then literally began digging for oil with a pick and shovel, because he couldn’t afford a drilling rig. Surprisingly, he managed to strike oil in what would be the first oil well in Los Angeles.

He later purchased a property in Mexico which became the greatest oil discovery in history, producing a quarter million barrels of oil per day at its peak. And Doheny Sr. became an extremely wealthy man.

What does one do with such wealth? Doheny Sr. decided to build the grandest mansion in Southern California for his son Ned and his family. He already owned the 429-acre Doheny Ranch, a working cattle ranch with avocado and citrus groves. He set aside 22 acres of it for the new estate, then hired architect Gordon B. Kaufmann and landscape designer Paul G. Thiene to construct a $4 million English Tudor-style castle which radiated stateliness and grandeur. From the gray stone façade to marble staircases, vaulted ceilings and a terrace with a view of the Los Angeles Basin, Greystone was the epitome of old money.

Unfortunately, the Doheny’s became involved in a national scandal when they loaned money to a friend to cover his back taxes. But it wasn’t just any friend: they loaned money to Albert Fall, the secretary of the interior who was in charge of government oil reserves. And they didn’t just loan him money: they hand-delivered $100,000 cash to him, bundled with rubber bands. When Fall got a law changed which opened up government oil reserves to private development, the resulting Teapot Dome Scandal embroiled Fall and the Doheny’s in civil and criminal trials for years.

Greystone became a retreat from the harsh glare of the public spotlight. But tragedy followed the Doheny’s home. Ned Doheny and his family had barely begun enjoying the mansion when Hugh Plunkett showed up at the estate. Plunkett, Ned’s secretary and friend, had been involved in delivering the money to Fall. Ned called a family doctor to treat the agitated Plunkett; the doctor arrived in time to hear two gunshots. Plunkett was dead and Ned was dying. It was clearly a murder-suicide. But who was the murderer? And why? The Los Angeles District Attorney squelched the investigation, but rumors abounded. Were Ned and Hugh lovers? Or was Plunkett distressed at the possibility of going to jail for his involvement in Teapot Dome?

After Ned’s death, his widow remarried and moved from Greystone. The estate gradually deteriorated until 1965, when the City of Beverly Hills purchased the grounds to build a new reservoir. The American Film Institute leased and repaired the building in 1969. But ultimately, the City declared Greystone a public park and it became a national landmark.

It is no longer occupied, but it still draws filmmakers, photographers, weddings…and witnesses who have seen the ghost of a weeping woman wandering the halls, one last mystery for a national landmark with a storied, if tragic, past.

Written by the David Kramer Group | Based on an article in the Book, The Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills, By Jeff Hyland 

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Beverly House on North Beverly. Pink Mediterranean mansion famous for William Randolph Hearst and “The Godfather”

At Nov 27, 2015

Beverly House, on North Beverly Drive, was not the first residence that famous couple William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies shared. It wasn’t even the largest and most extravagant residence they shared—that honor goes to Hearst Castle in San Simeon. However, it is a beautiful estate in its own right, and the home in which the couple spent Hearst’s last years, and where Davies lived until her later death.

William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies: their story was one of the most famous love stories of the Golden Age of Hollywood. He was a newspaper publishing magnate and she a beautiful young starlet who became an unlikely but loving couple. They met in 1917 when she was twenty and he was fifty-four; they stayed together for thirty four years, until his death in 1951.

His wife Mildred agreed to separate from Hearst and live in New York while he lived in California with Davies as his mistress, where they bought a series of properties. They started with a mansion at 1700 Lexington Road in Beverly Hills. Hearst also bought Marion a hundred-room beach house in Santa Monica. And their most famous residence is the one that bears his name today: Hearst Castle. Located on 127 acres with the house itself on the highest hilltop in San Simeon, the castle became the site of expensive parties for the Hollywood elite.

However, at the age of eighty-four, Hearst developed health issues that made it necessary for him the move closer to Los Angeles. Of course, the man who was used to living in a castle on a hill wanted absolute privacy. So Marion Davies bought him the property at North Beverly Drive. It sat on only eight acres but it was on a hilltop above any neighbors, with panoramic views of Coldwater Canyon Park. While it cost the original owner, Milton Getz, $1 million to build the estate, Marion bought Beverly House in 1946 for the bargain price of $120,000.

Getz had built a Mediterranean mansion finished in pink stucco. Notable features of the gorgeous H-shaped home included a two-story library of rare books, a formal dining room, a ballroom, an airy tiled hallway that runs the length of the house, and a billiard room which holds a stone mantel place Davies had shipped in from San Simeon. But the true gem of the property is the series of three pools cascading down the slope behind the house, framed by Venetian arches, beneath a huge outdoor terrace.

Beverly House became a honeymoon spot for John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Later, the mansion was used as the set for various movies, including “The Godfather” – the famous scene with the horse’s head was filmed here.

Marion continued to live at the property until her death in 1961. After her death, the estate was ultimately sold to new owners. But Marion’s portrait continues to hang in the billiard room, a reminder of the powerful and glamorous couple that once lived there.

Written by the David Kramer Group | Based on an article in the Book, The Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills, By Jeff Hyland 

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Golden Age of Hollywood

At Oct 30, 2015

The Jack Warner Estate on Angelo Drive is one of the few – and certainly one of the most magnificent – remaining properties from the Golden Age of Hollywood. There are many gorgeous modern properties in Beverly Hills but they don’t have the rich history of this iconic home.

Just as the estate is larger than life, so was the man who built it: Jack Warner of Warner Brothers Studios. He formed the studio with three brothers. They capitalized on sound in movies in its earliest days and produced Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer in 1927, which became a huge success, the first of many for the studio.

With his newfound wealth, Jack Warner bought the property on Angelo Drive for his first wife, Irma. However, Irma wasn’t enough for her philandering husband. A young actress named Ann Alvarado Page caught his eye. Jack Warner decided she would make the perfect trophy wife for a studio head…and he didn’t let the fact that they were both married to other people at the time stand in his way. They divorced from their spouses and, in 1936, married each other.

There was one hitch though: Ann refused to live in “another woman’s home.” Jack Warner’s solution? He loved the property on Angelo Drive, but he leveled the Spanish-style mansion that already existed and then took a decade to build a new mansion from scratch that would suit his new bride.

Warner spared no expense, either. He brought in famous architect Ronald E. Coate, who decided on a Georgian Revival style that featured six large Greek columns. The result was simple but stunning.
Warner brought in designer William Haines to oversee the $1 million plus project of designing the mansion’s interiors. Haines played off of the simple architectural lines of the house although he infused the interiors with Ann Warner’s interest in Buddhism, and his own trademarks: Chinese wallpaper, Louis XVI furniture and whimsy.

And Warner brought in landscape architect Florence Yoch, who had worked on both Hollywood estates and movie sets, to design the grounds which spanned nine acres. She bulldozed the existing gardens and used her $100,000 budget to install formal and informal gardens, guesthouses, and greenhouses.
The result was a glamorous spot where the Warners entertained the likes of Howard Hughes, Albert Einstein and Madame Chiang Kai-shek. And it remains a tribute to the wealth and history of Old Hollywood.

Written by the David Kramer Group | Based on an article in the Book, The Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills, By Jeff Hyland 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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