#149, Visit 5 Historic Homes (1/5)
Today I ventured to Beverly Hills to tour Greystone Mansion. (The above image came from www.greystonemansion.org.) Note to self- Get an establishing shot of the places you visit.
I have driven past the mansion many times over the years. Several years ago, I even catered a lunch and provided craft service for a shampoo commercial shoot on the estate grounds. I don’t think I stepped into the house or thought much about it that day. My focus was on feeding people.
So it was lovely today to arrive on a crisp, clear January morning with no agenda except to learn about the space and enjoy the view. My cousin, Kit, joined me, and was cheerful despite the fact that he had missed his morning coffee.
The minute we stepped out of the car, I had a good feeling. The views from the grounds are spectacular. You can see all of Los Angeles on a clear day like today. The sheer size of the house is even more impressive up close. We were lucky to spot a bride taking her wedding pictures.
I had arranged the tour through the Beverly Hills Parks and Recreation Department, as the mansion and grounds were formally dedicated as a Beverly Hills public park in 1971. Our tour was $15 per person. It was led by a Park Ranger named C Yi, and a sweep ranger who followed us to make sure we didn’t get lost.
According to the brochure, construction on Greystone Mansion began in 1927. The original proprietor was Edward Lawrence Doheny, a man who had arrived penniless in Los Angeles in 1891, but 29 years later was the wealthiest oil man in the world. He built the 55 room mansion for his son, Ned, as a wedding present. It was built on a 12.58 acre parcel, a mere fraction of the original 415 acres he owned. Edward Doheny had the largest family estate in the history of Beverly Hills.
Greystone was designed by Gordon B. Kaufmann, the southern California architect who also designed the Hoover Dam, the Los Angeles Times Building, and Santa Anita Park. The mansion has a three foot thick limestone facade. The Welsh roof tiles weigh 20-30 pounds apiece, and sit on steel supports.
The home is over 46,000 square feet and in addition to the main rooms, there are servants quarters, a massage room, a walk-in vault for furs and jewels, a flower cutting room, a room to store guns, a room for wrapping gifts, a motion picture theater, and a bowling alley. There is an enormous garage. The mansion, at one time, had its own gas pump, fire station, and instead of a Victory Garden, Greystone had a Victory Farm.
Greystone is a popular film location. You might recognize, this kitchen as being the same one from The Bodyguard where Kevin Costner had a fight scene and said one of the greatest lines ever.
Scandal and tragedy are part of Greystone’s history. Ned Doheny and his private secretary, Hugh Plunkett, were shot and killed in the mansion in 1929. No one knows what happened on the night of their death. It is speculated that perhaps it was a murder/suicide, or the sad result of a lovers’ quarrel, or a possible love triangle featuring Lucy Doheny, Ned’s wife, or perhaps even an outside hit set off by the events surrounding the Teapot Dome scandal.
Our tour guides told us stories about the mansion being haunted. They told of other tragedies that happened in the mansion over the years, including four more deaths. They told us how none of the rangers like to be in the house alone and how they are all wary of going into the basement. Psychics have visited the mansion and given chilling explanations for the horrors. As an added bonus, we were scared out of our wits a few times during the tour. I even screamed at one point, which was funny because I had just finished saying that I don’t really scream when I’m scared. I don’t want to spoil the fun for you, so that’s all I’ll say.
In addition to relaying volumes of information, the rangers made the tour fun. Here is the sweep ranger popping out of a hidden “speakeasy bar” which was hidden behind wood panels in the recreation room.
Visiting Greystone Mansion was a gorgeous way to spend a Saturday morning. Kit and I enjoyed our time together and I’ve managed to mark another thing off the list.
Only 363 days to go.