History courtyard with fountain and arches

Hotel Bel-Air

History of Hotel Bel-Air

Discover the timeless appeal of our exclusive oasis, which is equally enticing to today’s Hollywood style-makers and stars as it was when it first opened in 1946.

Take a trip back in time with us to share some of our favourite historic highlights.
Historical photo of JM Danziger Ranch 1921 Bel Air

Alphonzo Bell, an entrepreneurial businessman and wealthy oil tycoon, bought 600 acres of land to the west of Los Angeles. He named the area ‘Bel-Air’ and created an exclusive neighborhood. When Clarke Gable bought property in the area, many other well-known people followed.

To manage the creation of his vision, Bell built an estate planning office nestled in the canyons. This building is now Hotel Bel-Air’s main mission-style property.

Historical photo Hotel Bel-Air 1946

In early 1946, a Texan hotel entrepreneur named Joseph Drown purchased 18 acres of land from Alphonzo Bell, including our original building. He immediately began transforming the site into an elegant and secluded hotel. Working with architect Burton Schutt, he restored the property and added a series of new guest rooms before the hotel officially opened on August 24, 1946.

1950s Film location for hotel

Hotel Bel-Air became very popular with many famous and wealthy people including Hollywood celebrities and world dignitaries, attracted by our luxury and privacy. Well-known guests during this time included Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn.

Historical hotel bel air entrance

The hotel underwent a major restoration, spearheaded by a young Cuban architect named Manuel S. Alavarez, who was famous for having built many celebrity homes in Los Angeles and Palm Springs. His aim was to bring the colors from the gardens into the rooms and provide a warm, ‘non-hotel’ look.

80s interior of Bel-Air suite with patio

The hotel was bought by Dallas businesswoman Caroline Hunt, who also bought an adjoining property to create more space and added our north wing to create an additional 30 rooms. She renovated the property with the help of five different designers to refine the look to her personal taste.

three swans in the lake with greenery

Hotel Bel-Air joined our prestigious portfolio of Dorchester Collection hotels in 2008.

Hotel exterior with logo sign, pink building and trees

Hotel Bel-Air reopened in October 2011, following an extensive two-year renovation project with revered interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud and the Rockwell Group. All 103 guest rooms and various public spaces were updated yet still remain reminiscent of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Staff portrait of general manager Denise Flanders

Denise Flanders takes on the role of general manager and less than a year later, in 2013, Hotel Bel-Air earned the coveted Forbes Five-Star rating.

View of the pool at Hotel Bel Air, Los Angeles

Hotel Bel-Air celebrates 75 years. In 1946, Alphonzo Bell’s vision to create LA’s ultimate community of exclusivity lives on, and our hotel remains at the heart of Bel Air.