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