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Step back in time and discover historic Beverly Hills

August 22, 2020

Little more than a century ago Beverly Hills was scrubby farmland, but in just over 100 years the area has transformed into the world’s most famous neighbourhood.

Tongva and Spanish settlements

The area we today know as Beverly Hills was the home of the Tongva Native American people, before becoming a ranch El Rodeo de las Aguas, meaning ‘the gathering of the waters’ in 1838, when the land was granted to Maria Rita Valdez, a Spanish soldier’s widow who raised cattle and bred horses.

Vintage photo of a Beverly Hills Lily Pond from 1915
Vintage Beverly Hills history photo of road

The discovery of water

In 1868, the land was acquired by a German entrepreneur, but his plans for a farming community were thwarted by drought. Two decades later, another ill-fated plan sank with the economic collapse of 1888. It seemed nothing – except lima beans – could flourish. That is, until 1900, when oil speculators led by Burton E. Green bought the land and drilled wells. Instead of oil, they found crystal-clear water. Their business became the Rodeo Land and Water Company and the land was named Beverly Hills.

The birth of a city

The water discovered could support a city and so, in 1907, a landscape architect was asked to plan one. He laid out the wide curving streets to the north, with a triangular commercial district separating it from the more modest south side, while planting parks and ensuring thoroughfares were lined with trees. But houses were slow to sell, and it was clear that what the area needed was a centrepiece. That arrived in 1912, with our Mediterranean revival-style The Beverly Hills Hotel, which immediately began to welcome travellers and provide rooms for locals to meet, worship and watch movies.

Will Rogers Memorial Park 1915
Historic 1920s view of Beverly Hills Hotel

Star-studded residences

By 1914, the population was booming and Beverly Hills was a real city. Its appeal shot up when a famous couple, pioneering Canadian actress Mary Pickford and her actor/producer husband Douglas Fairbanks, bought a lot on Summit Drive, where they built their mansion Pickfair. Big names from the film industry of the era – including Gloria Swanson, Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino – followed suit, building their own mansions and forming the city’s now-legendary celebrity community.

The Golden Era

In 1923, Los Angeles attempted to annex Beverly Hills but the plan failed and one of the leaders of the opposition – Will Rogers – went on to become the city’s first mayor. The Beverly Hills Hotel continued to attract high-profile guests thanks to the launch of its Polo Lounge and – in 1934 – by the opening of the Roosevelt Highway (later known as the Pacific Coast Highway), a 655-mile scenic route connecting California’s coastal towns. The area continued to evolve into the 1930s, as Santa Monica Park was extended and re-named Beverly Gardens and the famous Electric Fountain – with its Tongva sculpture – was installed.

Historic Polo Lounge entrance
Rodeo street sign in Golden Triangle of Beverly Hills
© iStock Lena Martynowa

Shopping, film and fashion

Following the Second World War, the Golden Triangle ­– set out 40 years earlier with Rodeo Drive at its heart – was well on its way to becoming the world’s most desirable neighbourhoods. Television shows and large-scale productions were filmed here, taking advantage of the city’s sunset hues – in fact, The Beverly Hills Hotel was painted pink in 1948. Nicknamed the ‘Pink Palace’, it has served as a backdrop to many iconic silver-screen scenes. The 1950s saw Los Angeles cement its reputation as the home of West Coast music with the opening of the Capitol Records Building in nearby Hollywood. And, due to increased demand for more international travel links, the airport’s modernist, flying saucer-shaped Theme Building was completed in 1961. Fashionistas also flocked to Beverly Hills as designers, such as Gucci, made Rodeo Drive their home.

A century of history

As the 100th anniversary of Beverly Hills’ foundation approached, the City Council began to protect its most historic buildings, and started with the hotel at the centre of it all. The Beverly Hills Hotel was designated Historic Landmark No.1 and today still continues to welcome the brightest stars. From the moment guests pass the much-photographed sign for the ‘Pink Palace’, they can expect timeless elegance and luxury, alongside the unique atmosphere created by a century of glamour.

Hotel welcome sign on Sunset

Follow in the footsteps of Beverly Hills’ most discerning visitors and enjoy red-carpet treatment at its heart with a stay at The Beverly Hills Hotel, where it all began.

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