Fabulous article in the Hollywood Reporter about how fame originally came to Beverly Hills. Of course like with every other new ‘settlement’, it started with real estate. The founder of Beverly Hills was Burton Green who was hoping to strike oil. They bought 3,000 acres of the Hammel and Denker Ranch’s bean fields for $1.2MM. When that failed, they pulled in a few high-profile hotel owners to create the same experience in Beverly Hills, thus beginning the path to prestige and celebrity homeownership that Beverly Hills has today.
The full article continues below – I just love all of the history!
To attract a select set of citizens to the new neighborhood, Green enticed the mother-and-son team of Margaret and Stanley Anderson, at the time the managers of the Hollywood Hotel, a hub for the burgeoning film industry, to helm the creation of The Beverly Hills Hotel in 1912. Two years later, in 1914, the city was incorporated with a population of 550. Today, it’s about 35,000.
But Stanley Anderson did more than simply welcome guests to the hotel. He lured one of the period’s biggest stars to become a resident, helping Douglas Fairbanks find a hunting lodge near the hotel. Once Fairbanks leased the property (which doubled as a rustic aerie for assignations with Mary Pickford), the actor then invited friends such as Will Rogers — who would become the new city’s honorary mayor — and Charlie Chaplin to his hideaway.
Fairbanks and Pickford were so taken with the neighborhood they bought land and commissioned Pickfair, one of the world’s most celebrated homes — a 56-acre estate, crowned by a four-story, 25-room mansion designed by architect Wallace Neff. Others in Hollywood joined the mega-estate building boom: Comedian Harold Lloyd purchased a 15-acre property nearby that became Greenacres, while Buster Keaton’s elaborate 20-room Italian Renaissance-style mansion was built just three blocks behind the hotel in 1926.
After that, the floodgates opened, as Hollywood stars and filmmakers — Ronald Colman, King Vidor, Jack Warner, Marion Davies, Harry Cohn and Rudolph Valentino — started to build homes on land where only coyotes and bobcats had been before.
By the 1940s and ’50s, a second wave of stars, including Lucille Ball, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, Sammy Davis Jr. and George Burns and Gracie Allen, swept into the area with its unique curvilinear streets, some say modeled after the shape of Theda Bara’s torso.
Many of them became fixtures of the city: Fred Astaire routinely tap-danced up and down the Beverly Hills Post Office stairs; actors Richard Cromwell and Ann Sothern could be seen riding horses along the bridle path that once ran along Sunset; Marilyn Monroe was a regular at The Beverly Hills Hotel, where she lived between husbands and home renovations during the ’50s and early ’60s. And after decades of Los Angeles having awards-show glamour all to itself, Beverly Hills welcomed the Golden Globes to The Beverly Hilton in 1961.