Beverly Hills and its famous zip code, 90210, is known around the world because of the 1990s Fox soap opera, Beverly Hills 90210. And the continued fixation with this fabled district today comes from the fact that it is the backyard of the very, very rich. The city resembles a lush park nestled comfortably in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountain. Homes in the neighborhood are elaborate and range from French farmhouses, to Spanish haciendas, to grand Tudor mansions.
Beverly Hills touts itself unequivocally as the "The World's Most Glamorous City". Its residents are certainly glamorous – driving in Benzes and sporting casual elegance in their attires and in the way they stroll. Location is prime, too. Beverly Hills is only 20 minutes away from downtown LA and 15 minutes away from the beaches and waves of the Pacific. And staggeringly, there are over 3,000 private swimming pools within its 5.6 square miles. This same area is lined with significantly more banks and patrolled by substantially more police officers than any other town in the world of the same size.
Its 34,000 residents have included legendary names like Will Rogers, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks. Scores of stars still live in these fantasy neighborhoods, including Jack Nicholson, Harrison Ford, Warren Beatty, Michael Caine, Joan Rivers, and Linda Evans. Most Beverly Hills residents are extremely protective of their privacy, explaining the town’s strict laws concerning walking in the residential areas at night and parking overnight on private streets. There are a few digs worth dropping in for an improbable chance at a celestial sighting. Caffé Roma on North Canon Drive is a favorite among some celebrities such as Mel Brooks, Mickey Rourke, and Anne Bancroft. Nate ’n Al’s Delicatessen is an old favorite where celebrities go for comfort food. Other legendary restaurants in Beverly Hills include Prego, Trader Vic’s, L’Escoffier, and Bistro Garden.
Beverly Hills’ more obvious attractions are its shops, restaurants, and hotels. It is also worthwhile, however, to visit the city’s examples of luxurious residences by driving its streets. North of Santa Monica Boulevard consists of flatlands where expensive homes are built close to one another within view of the streets. Lush landscapes and grand architectural styles such as Tudor, Georgian, Italian Renaissance, Mediterranean, Mission, Ranch, and Colonial are on full display here.
North of Sunset Boulevard, you’ll find glimpses of the wealthiest mansions hidden behind walls of green trees and shrubbery and amidst canyons and hills. It is a good idea to take a scenic drive on the famed Sunset Boulevard, which curves through the city’s foothills and offer the best views of the large mansions. Summit Drive is another curvy route that winds uphill. The highlight of this drive is the Pickfair at 1143 Summit Drive, the private mansion originally built in 1920 by Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. It has been renovated greatly and expanded by actress Pia Zadora.
Rodeo Drive is Beverly Hills (and the Los Angeles area’s) world-famous luxury shopping street. This three-block stretch is at the heart of the “Golden Triangle” and is lined with two- and three-story buildings between Santa Monica Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard. Dozens of fashionable boutiques selling clothes, jewelry, antiques, and art clutter within this space, spilling somewhat onto surrounding streets as well. These stories cater to the eclectic and expensive tastes of its well-to-do patrons.
Notable is the Anderton Court complex located at 328 North Rodeo Drive on the block between Brightway and Dayton. This three-story white shopping mall sports a geometric spire at the center, which is surrounded by a winding open ramp. It was designed by the famous Los Angeles architect, Frank Lloyd Wright and completed in 1954.
Beverly Hills Hotel
One of Beverly Hills’ other claim to fame is its trendy hostelries, chief among them the Beverly Hills Hotel. Located at 9641 Sunset Boulevard, this 5-star hotel has a legendary Polo Lounge. Its iconic pool, The Pink Lady, was once the haunt of Princess Grace and the Beatles and the pool where Faye Dunaway learned how to swim in Mommie Dearest. The Beverly Hills Hotel is also the hotel featured in the 1976 Eagle’s album, “Hotel California”.
Regent Beverly Wilshire
The Regent Beverly Wilshire is a classy 5-diamond hotel that is located at 9500 Wilshire Boulevard, facing Rodeo Drive. Its service is impeccable. Visitors are greeted with a lobby lavished in antiques. Rooms feature generous-sized marble baths. The hotel’s health spa pampers even the most finicky and beats your “avoirdupois” into submission. If you’ve watched the movie “Pretty Woman”, you might recognize the hotel. This was the venue where Richard Gere and Julia Roberts engaged in some on-screen “unfettered frolicking”.
Peninsula Beverly Hills
The Peninsula Beverly Hills is another 5-star hotel in Beverly Hills, located at 9882 Santa Monica Boulevard. Hidden away from the big streets, the hotel targets a low-key clientele that prioritizes privacy and is accustomed to meticulously personalized service. Guests roll around in Rolls Royces and Limos and prefer the quiet and professional setting of the Belvedere restaurant to the latest “restaurant-of-the-moment”. Legendary is the hotel’s afternoon tea served every day at the Living Room. The interesting feature of this hotel is the little guest villas that are set in an enclosed courtyard. The bar and lobby lounge are also the frequent scene of various celebrities.
Museum of Television & Radio
The Museum of Television & Radio at 465 North Beverly Drive opened its doors in 1996. It is the West Coast branch of the Museum of Television & Radio of New York City. The museum focuses on preserving the heritage of American broadcasting – fitting then that there be a branch in the nation’s entertainment capital. It is housed in a glass-and-marble building. Its sleek design comes from the creative hands of architect Richard Meier. Inside, you’ll find several public galleries, a large tape library, a 150-seat theatre, and a series of education and listening rooms.
The museum’s library boasts more than 100,000 programs, many of them duplicated from the holdings found in New York. The programs cover a period of 85 years of television and radio broadcasting. Computer workstations provide visitors with access to scanned collections of documentaries, news broadcasts, variety shows, comedy and drama productions, sports events, and commercial advertisements. These programs can be viewed in the units found at the Console Center. The education and listening rooms and studios on the ground floor, meanwhile, allow visitors to listen to the radio collections.
Center for Motion Picture Study
The Center for Motion Picture Study is located in a lavish, lean tower designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style complete with graceful arches. The building is perched on top of the former La Cienega Water Treatment Plant. At one time, this plant housed the pump system that provided water to the residents of Beverly Hills. The Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences took over the building after it was abandoned in 1976 and restored and reopened it in 1991.
Today, the former plant houses the Margaret Herrick Library, which has a collection of more than 6 million still photographs, 25,000 books, 70,000 scripts, 450 special collections on film industry leaders and organizations, and clipping files on over 83,000 films and 74,000 film personalities. The Academy Film Archive also has a comprehensive collection of early cinema works, personal film collections of filmmakers and important Academy members, and works related to Academy Award nominees and winners.
Virginia Robinson Gardens
The Virginia Robinson Gardens on 1008 Elden Way is a six acre estate perched atop the hillside behind the Beverly Hills Hotel. This lushly landscaped refuge was once a barren grassland before it was purchased in 1911 by department store heir Harry Robinson. It was the first residential lot purchased in the city back then. Harry Robinson and his wife, Virginia, went on a four-year honeymoon to Europe and came back inspired to build an elegant, Mediterranean-style villa. They also erected a pool house to accompany the villa and enclosed it with terraced Mediterranean and formal English gardens, decorating it with more than 50 varieties of camellias. They added two acres of palm forest as well, which today remains the largest series of king palms in the world outside of Australia. The Virginia Robinson Gardens are open to the public.
The Beverly Gardens is located along the northern edge of Santa Monica Boulevard. This narrow strip is covered by verdant gardens that serve as a buffer for the residential and commercial sections of Beverly Hills. The section between Bedford and Camden feature an extensive collection of cacti and other plants.
Beverly Hills was originally known as El Rancho Rodeo de Las Aguas, which was part of a Spanish land grant. Its name means “the ranch of the gathering of the waters”, referring to the streams running from the narrow canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains in the north down to the present-day site of the Beverly Hills Hotel. Most of the land in the 1800s were used to grow lima beans and raise sheep, cattle, and wheat.
At the turn of the 20th century, oil prospecting took place a couple of miles east of Beverly Hills in Rancho La Brea. The venture was led by Burton E. Green. Thirty wells were drilled in El Rancho Rodeo, but no oil was found. In 1907, the partners founded the Rodeo Land & Water Co. and turned their efforts to developing a new community, which Green named Beverly Hills in honor of President Howard Taft’s Massachusetts vacation retreat “Beverly Farms”.
The city’s grid layout in the commercial district was designed by architect Wilbur Cook and consists of streets north of Wilshire Boulevard running parallel at 45 degree angles before curving into the residential area north of Santa Monica Boulevard. The layout north of Sunset Boulevard, on the other hand, was plotted by landscape architects John and Frederick Law Olmsted and consists of winding roads traversing the foothills. The single-acre lots there sold for as little as $400 back in the day.
Only after the 1912 opening of the Beverly Hills Hotel did the rich and famous began coming into the area. In 1920, Hollywood stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford built the first celebrity mansion in Beverly Hills, the Pickfair, a plot north of Sunset Boulevard and high up on Summit Drive.
Today, Beverly Hills is home to the rich and famous, ranking among the highest in the United States in average household income. Movie and television actors, media and entertainment moguls, and business tycoons all claim it as their backyard. Lined with high-rise office buildings, Wilshire Boulevard is the city’s main thoroughfare. Along with Canon Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard, Wilshire also serves as one of the borders in the “Golden Triangle” of Beverly Hills’ prestigious shopping district. Much of the area, however, keeps to itself in exclusivity and privacy, boosting the aura of privilege enveloping the city.
Baker, Christopher, Judy Wade, and Morten Strange. California. New York: Macmillan General Reference, 1994. ISBN: 0671879065.
“Beverly Hills Hotel.” <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beverly_Hills_Hotel>
Dickey, Jeff. Los Angeles, 3rd Edition. Rough Guides, 2003. ISBN: 1843530589.
Michelin Travel Publications. California. Greenville: Michelin Travel Publications, 2001. ISBN: 2060001315.
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