The First Beverly Hills HouseSep 18th, 2012 | By Lindsay | Category: This and That
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, fellow stalker E.J., from The Movieland Directory website, recently published an e-book about Old Hollywood titled Unscripted: Hollywood Back-Stories, Volume 1 (which you can purchase on Nook here and on Kindle here). I read the entire tome – which was fascinating, by the way – in two nights, highlighter and stalking notebook in hand, and, of course, accumulated quite a few new addresses to add to my ever-growing To-Stalk list – the most notable of which was the address of the very first residence ever to be built in Beverly Hills. And I finally managed to drag the Grim Cheaper out there to stalk the place this past Saturday afternoon.
The city of Beverly Hills actually had a very inauspicious beginning. The six square miles that now make up one of the most exclusive and luxurious areas on the planet started out as a 4,539-acre Spanish land grant known as “El Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas”, or “The Ranch of the Gathering of the Waters”. In 1900, after a succession of different owners, Burton Green, president of the Amalgamated Oil Company, purchased the site – which at the time was being called “Morocco Junction” and was being utilized as a lima bean farm – and began drilling for oil. And while he did not come across any, he did find an abundance of water and, in 1906, decided to develop the land into an upscale housing community and changed his company’s name to the Rodeo Land and Water Company. Green dubbed his new locality “Beverly Hills”, in honor of his hometown of Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. Ground was broken on the site in 1907, whereupon wide, curving boulevards were mapped out (each planted with a different type of tree), parks were landscaped and model homes were built. The first model home (pictured below) stood at 515 North Canon Drive.
Green began selling plots of land for around $500, but, unfortunately, no one was buying. In order to bring attention to his faltering community, he decided to construct a luxury hotel and, in May 1912, the Beverly Hills Hotel, aka “The Pink Palace”, was born. Amazingly enough, according to Unscripted, the BHH “was an hour carriage ride from Hollywood and three hours by train and carriage from downtown L.A.” And I thought today’s traffic was bad! While the hotel proved popular with the showbiz set, it was not until Hollywood darlings Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks purchased a secluded estate in 1920 at 1143 Summit Drive, which they then commissioned famed architect Wallace Neff to transform into a mega-mansion dubbed “Pickfair”, that the city became a celebrity draw. As Unscripted says, “Pickfair brought the stars, who’d never been interested in Beverly Hills, to Beverly Hills. The hilltops within view of Pickfair were soon boasting mansion estates for the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Tom Mix, Rudolph Valentino, Francis Marion and Fred Thompson, and John Barrymore.” And the rest, as they say, is history.
There seems to be quite a bit of discrepancy online about Beverly Hills’ first model home. From what I have been able to gather via property records, the dwelling was originally constructed in 1908, which gels with the timeline of the city’s inception. According to the YouTube video below, though, which was made when the residence was for sale earlier this year, the 5-bedroom, 5-bath, 3,883-square-foot property was “recently built” by architect Alec Dugally. And while I could not find any permits or documents pertaining to a remodel, tear-down or rebuild at the site, according to Redfin, the property was, indeed, renovated in 1948. Adding to the confusion is the fact that Alec Dugally seems to have worked predominantly in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, though, not in 1948 and not in “recent” years. So it seems that both Redfin and YouTube might have some bogus information posted. Either way, someone’s wires got crossed somewhere over the years and I cannot state with certainty that the model home is still in its original form today. If I had to guess, though, I would say that the property was, at some point, remodeled. Boo!
According to this Beverly Hills Historic Resources Survey, Green’s model home was still standing in its original form in 1986. As you can (sort of) see below in the Historic Aerial’s view of the house circa 1980 as compared to the more current Bing image, it does appear as if some alteration may have taken place. Because the 1980 view is so hazy, though, it is impossible to say for certain either way.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: The first house ever built in Beverly Hills is located at 515 North Canon Drive.