The famed Beverly House in Beverly Hills is now listed for $135 million. The 30-bedroom, 40-bathroom estate, built in 1927, was once a prized component of newspaper and real estate magnate William Randolph Hearst’s vast empire. Hearst (1863-1951) lived there with his longtime companion, actress Marion Davies. The media baron once owned the largest private art collection in United States and of course, famously built and outfitted Hearst Castle just north of San Simeon, on the California Central Coast.
In Santa Monica, Hearst and Davies once owned the beachfront at what is now the Annenberg Community Beach House (opened in 2009). All that remains of their 1929-built, 110-room, Georgian Revival-style mansion by architect Julia Morgan is the long, marble faced pool. Hearst and Marion Davies lavishly entertained Hollywood’s elite, including Clark Gable, Cary Grant and Greta Garbo, at the five-acre compound. Davies sold the entire property in the late 1940s, which was transformed into a hotel and then the Sand & Sea Club.
Despite protests, the manse was demolished in 1956. However, through the efforts of the Annenberg Foundation along with the city of Santa Monica, the 7,000 square foot, North House guesthouse was saved and is open to the public as is the gorgeous marble pool. It’s where one can still experience Morgan’s graceful style, artfully restored by Frederick Fisher and Partners Architecture; the firm also added a modern bathhouse and indoor and outdoor event spaces to the property.
At the Beverly House, architectural elements added by Hearst include a grand fireplace from the Hearst Castle and a long colonnade surrounding the pool. It was Julia Morgan who assisted Hearst in realizing his vision for San Simeon: she was hired to build permanent, comfortable structures for “the ranch,” Hearst’s outsized portion of the Central Coast. For 28 years she worked on the commission designing and supervising most details from the main house to guesthouses, the scenic outdoor pool and legendary mosaic tiled indoor pool to the castle’s zoo. She also aided Hearst in his purchase of European antiquities, which are among the Hearst Castle’s most amazing finishes.
Although the project was never officially finished, visitors today are still awed by Hearst and Morgan’s unequaled contribution to California residential architecture. The 165-room and 123 acres of terraces, gardens, pools and pathways on the historic estate now belong to the state of California and remain one the state’s most valued possessions, open to all. In the 1970s when I was in elementary school, I was fortunate to visit the Hearst Castle on a family trip. I remember being amazed by it back then and the winding trip up the mountain! More information on the house museum’s history and daily tours can be found at hearstcastle.org.