Front facing view of the legendary Beverly Hills Hotel display.
Design

Legendary architect of The Beverly Hills Hotel

August 01, 2022

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share via email
Paul Williams’ granddaughter, Karen Elyse Hudson, author and biographer, shares interesting insights into his incredible legacy and connections with The Beverly Hills Hotel.
Fountain coffee room at The Beverly Hills Hotel

Architect to the stars

I doubt any of us can imagine The Beverly Hills Hotel any way other than the visionary designs of Paul Revere Williams. My grandfather’s legacy is even more remarkable when you realise this was a man who overcame countless challenges to rise to the pinnacle of his profession. Let me share the story of one of America’s greatest architects, whose trailblazing career included designing the hotel’s Crescent Wing, and reimagining the Polo Lounge and Fountain Coffee Room.

How it all began

The original hotel design by Elmer Grey, completed in 1912, was a Mediterranean Revival masterpiece that quickly became the place to be for the rich and famous. Situated on Sunset Boulevard, it was the cornerstone for the soon to be incorporated city of Beverly Hills. Under the watchful eye of owners Margaret J. Anderson and her son Stanley, the hotel attracted international dignitaries, solidifying its reputation as a world-class home away from home.

Vintage hotel entrance sign
Courtesy of “The Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows – The First 100 Years” by Robert S. Anderson
View across the pool into a row of private cabanas

Building a reputation

The hotel thrived in the Golden Age of Hollywood, and by the early 1940s impresario Hernando Courtright, along with a group of investors, purchased the property. Courtright went on to manage the hotel and instinctively knew that its success depended on updating its look, and courting favour with the most high-profile actors, producers and directors of the day.

Major makeover

Courtright chose African American architect Paul R. Williams to join him in this crucial makeover. I like to think it was their shared immaculate attention to detail that sealed the deal. The hotel we enjoy today is the hotel Paul R. Williams designed. Known as the ‘architect to the stars’, he became highly sought-after by Hollywood’s elite.

Hotel exterior, red carpet and green striped ceiling
Black and white vintage art of hotel by Paul R. Williams

My grandfather’s legacy is even more remarkable when you realise this was a man who overcame countless challenges to rise to the pinnacle of his profession. Commissioned in a less enlightened time when he could not eat or stay at the restaurants and hotels he was working on, this did not deter him from reimagining what would become an iconic landmark.

Karen Elyse Hudson

Pioneering spirit

Born in Los Angeles in 1894, Williams was an orphan by the age of four. Discouraged at every turn, he was constantly told he would never become an architect. We can only imagine his inner strength of character, fierce determination and commitment to excellence that brought him to Beverly Hills. As the first African American member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1923, he went on to become their first black Fellow in 1957, and their first black Gold Medalist.

Architect Paul Revere Williams portrait circa 1950s
Courtesy of Paul Revere Williams estate
The Beverly Hills Hotel Crescent Wing signage and palm trees

Making his mark

Paul R. Williams designed The Beverly Hills Hotel’s Crescent Wing, introduced its grand entrance, poolside cabanas, Crystal Ballroom, as well as redesigning the Polo Lounge, Fountain Coffee Room and lobby, introducing their timeless pink and green signature look. In the 1950s, he also created the now famous hotel script on the Crescent building and front signage, which remains a popular backdrop for photos.

Lasting legacy

Having created over 300 designs in the Platinum Triangle of Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Holmby Hills, when you stay at The Beverly Hills Hotel you’re surrounded by my grandfather’s architectural brilliance. Nearby designs include the original Music Corporation of America (MCA) building, now Platinum Equity, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Even though he designed over 3,000 projects worldwide, The Beverly Hills Hotel will always stand out as a testament to his signature, understated elegance. He was, and will forever be, a gentle man with a dream.

Alcove booths inside the Polo Lounge dining room

Experience our cool 1950s style Paul R. Williams Suite at The Beverly Hills Hotel; with its bespoke curved bar and large patio, it’s the perfect place for entertaining.

Back to Dorchester Collection Moments
Design
More like this
Collect issue 27

Collect Magazine

View the latest issue of Collect, our bi-annual magazine featuring a curated mix of culture, art and lifestyle, together with the latest news from Dorchester Collection hotels.