Beverly Hills is a city in the western part of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Beverly Hills and the neighboring city of West Hollywood are together entirely surrounded by the city of Los Angeles. The area’s “Platinum Triangle” of wealthy neighborhoods is formed by Beverly Hills and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Bel-Air and Holmby Hills.
Beverly Hills is bordered on the north by Bel-Air and the Santa Monica Mountains, on the east by West Hollywood, the Carthay neighborhood of Los Angeles, and the Fairfax District of Los Angeles, and on the south by the Beverlywood.
Beverly Hills contains some of the largest homes in Los Angeles County and the nation. These homes range from the extravagant and luxurious in size, to the more elegant and modern homes, and then to the many small duplex rental units and detached homes with less than 3,000 sq ft.
On October 22, 1906, the community of Beverly Hills was declared open by the Percy H. Clark Co., managers of the tract of land. It was described as a “beautiful suburban residence between this city [Los Angeles] and Santa Monica.” The community was designed to allow the buyers to build a custom house on the land they purchased in the new development. Prior to this, the land was known as the Hammel and Denker ranch, which was one of Southern California’s most fertile lands growing lima beans. It was purchased by a syndicate of Henry E. Huntington, C. A. Canfield, W G. Karckhoff, W. S. Porter, Burton M. Green, M. W. Whittier. The investment company marketed Beverly Hills as “between the city and the sea.”
In September 1911, work began on the Beverly Hills Hotel. The Los Angeles Times would call it a “monster hostelry” since it cost $300,000. At the time, lots were selling for around $2,000 each.
In 1919, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford bought land on Summit Drive and built Pickfair. In 1921, they announced that they would build the home which they had been “dreaming” about in Beverly Hills.
Will Rogers, a wisecracking political humorist, wrote of the land boom in 1923, “Lots are sold so quickly and often out here that they put through escrow made out to the 12th owner… They couldn’t possibly make out a separate deed for each purchaser; besides, he wouldn’t have time to read it in the 10 minutes’ time he owned the land.”
The movie colony was well entrenched by 1928 when Harold Lloyd, John Barrymore, Robert Montgomery and Miriam Hopkins built residences there.
The population in 1920 was 672; in 1924, it was 5,000; by 1930, it was 17,429.
In early 1920, the Beverly Hills Speedway, a 1.25 miles wood oval track with turns banked 35 degrees was opened. Joe Boyer ran his race car 110 miles per hour during the exhibition run. The races drew huge crowds and radio broadcasts were on a par with today’s Indianapolis 500. There were also aviation shows, another national craze. The speedway was closed in 1924 and the site was later subdivided for housing and businesses.
In 1923, annexation to the city of Los Angeles was proposed, but faced opposition. Residents Mary Pickford, Will Rogers and others mobilized local voters against the plan. Those for annexation argued that Los Angeles would provide an adequate supply of better quality water for growth. Workers left bottles of sulfur-smelling water on the doorsteps of every home in Beverly Hills with a label that read: “Warning. Drink sparingly of this water as it has laxative qualities.” Despite the campaign tactics, annexation was defeated 507 to 337. he following year, the city voted $400,000 in bonds to purchase the water system from the Beverly Hills Utilities Company and drill additional wells.
This fight for an independent city was arguably the first union of show business and politics in the United States. When Will Rogers became involved in the local city government the community received international advertising. In 1925, Rogers was given the title “Honorary Mayor of Beverly Hills,” becoming the first and (to date) only person so honored as such. The same year, the citizens of the city voted a $100,000 bond issue to purchase with Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Venice 385 acres for the building of UCLA. There were 96 miles of paved streets in the city limits by 1927. In 1928, the Beverly-Wilshire Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard between El Camino and Rodeo Drives, part of the old Beverly Hills Speedway, was completed. That same year, Greystone Mansion was completed by Edward L. Doheny, Jr., the only son and heir of wealthy oil man Edward L. Doheny. And in 1930, horses were banned in the City of Beverly Hills.
In the early 1930s, Santa Monica Park was renamed Beverly Gardens and was extended to span the entire two mile length of Santa Monica Boulevard through the city. At its Santa Monica and Wilshire corner, the Electric Fountain, a constant symphony of form and color at night, was installed, with a small sculpture at the top of a Tongva kneeling in prayer, homage to the heritage of Beverly Hills as a wellspring of fertility and abundance.
By the 1950s, small vacant lots remained and developers cropped whole mountains to ease the housing shortage. The stables and trails of the unusually large Doheny family estate, Greystone Mansion was bought by Paul Trousdale. The Trousdale Estates area was eventually annexed and an expensive housing development began to take shape in the hills above the city.
Beverly Hills marketed itself as one of the most glamorous places in the world to shop. The Golden Triangle, with Rodeo Drive at its center, was marketed as the apex of chic shopping and fashion.
The Via Rodeo, the first new street in Beverly Hills in seventy-six years, was completed in 1990. The Spanish cobblestone street leads to 2 Rodeo Drive, a “mini-mall” with upscale shops and restaurants. In 1992, the Beverly Hills Civic Center was opened. Designed by architect Charles Moore, it links the new public library, fire and police departments with the historic City Hall.
The city’s image has been enhanced by being featured in television shows and movies set in Beverly Hills, including the The Jack Benny Program (1950 to 1954), The Beverly Hillbillies (1962 to 1971), the Beverly Hills Cop movies, Beverly Hills 90210 (1990 to 2000), and 90210 (2008 – present).
Rodeo Drive, Beverly and Canon Drives all recently underwent construction to widen the sidewalks and beautify the streets. New construction has also just been completed that added more parking for visitors to the famed shopping area.