By bwalker | September 13, 2013
History of Beverly Hills
Like many cities in California, the recorded history of Beverly Hills begins with a Spanish land grant assigned to Maria Rita Vladez De Villa and known as El Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas (The Ranch of the Gathering Waters). It was the Spanish explorers and missionaries who transformed California from Indian territory to ranching and farming country.
In 1854, El Rancho was sold for $4,000 to Major Henry Hancock and Benjamin Davis Wilson who used it to farm wheat, ranch cattle, produce wool and pump oil. In the 1890s, ownership passed to Charles Denker and Henry Hammel, who planted nearly the entire tract in lima beans to supply their downtown Los Angeles Hotel.
After the turn of the century, the bean fields were sold for oil development and local families such as the Dohenys and the Richfields made their fortunes by selling the land. In 1906, Burton E. Green became the first land developer, founding the Rodeo Land and Water Company and laying out an official subdivision of wide-curving, tree-lined streets and a park-like setting.
In 1912, The Beverly Hills Hotel opened. This palatial compound of rooms, suites and bungalows was joined by The Regent Beverly Wilshire in 1927, firmly establishing the legacy of glamour, elegance, luxury and fine living that continue as the hallmarks of Beverly Hills.
In 1919, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford began the trend of Beverly Hills as “home to the stars” when they built their famous estate “Pickfair”(Located at 1143 Summit Drive). Rudolf Valentino and Tom Mix as well as many others were soon to follow. In 1925, actor Will Rogers became the first and only honorary mayor of Beverly Hills and led the effort to build a post office on Crescent Drive.
The building, completed in 1933, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was recently acquired by the City of Beverly Hills to become a cultural center.
Today, Beverly Hills is a 5.7 square mile city with 33,000 residents and a daytime population of 200,000. The ties to entertainment remain strong. The city’s 900 retailers serve as emporiums to the stars, many famous names reside here, and powerhouses such as Castle Rock Entertainment, The Firm, DreamWorks SKG, Imagine Entertainment, Merv Griffin Enterprises, Creative Artists Agency, William Morris and International Creative Management all have offices here. Star gazing is a major past-time with big name stars, as well as the familiar faces of supporting casts spotted regularly.
Beverly Hills is one of the premiere shopping Mecca’s in the United States. Featuring Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and all of the world famous designers including: Gucci, Ferragamo and Louis Vuitton just to name a few.