BHHS WALKING TOUR #1: FORMER HOMES OF THE GREAT STARS
The Beverly Hills Historical Society welcomes you to our walking tour of the former homes of the great stars. Below you'll find the route map and list of addresses on the tour. To enhance your tour experience, please listen to the audio clips connected to each stop along the route. Some stops also include a short video.
STOP 1 - 9641 Sunset blvd. / The beverly hills hotel
Our tour of the former homes of the great stars begins at Will Rogers Park on Sunset Boulevard. Right across the street is The Beverly Hills Hotel, the city's first business, there since 1912. This parkland and fountain were donated by hotel founder Margaret Anderson for Beverly Hills' first municipal park. You can watch our video on the birth of the city and the importance of the hotel by clicking below.
To the right of the hotel, were the long-gone mansions of silent-screen legends Gloria Swanson, on Crescent, and Will Rogers, on Beverly Drive. Will had a Polo field on his property and, when the riders were done, they’d walk across the street to the hotel bar. When Will died tragically in a plane crash in 1935, the hotel named that bar in his honor and the “Polo Lounge” was born. You can watch our video on Will Rogers and his invention of the reality show in Beverly Hills in 1923 by clicking below.
As we leave the park and cross Sunset Boulevard, please notice the pink bus stop built for the “dinky train” that brought visitors up to the Hotel a hundred years ago. The trolley is long gone, but the shelter is still in use. The green strip that divides Sunset Boulevard was actually a bridle path for horseback riding when most of the houses had their own stables and you could ride into town, hitch your horse, and ride home with your groceries.
STOP 2 - SUNSET BOULEVARD
As we walk along Sunset, the house on our right was once owned by then Disney Chairman, Michael Eisner. The next corner, at 901 Camden, was the filming location for “Troop Beverly Hills” with Shelley Long. It is currently the consulate for the Central African Republic.
STOP 3 - 904 NORTH BEDFORD DRIVE / STAR-STUDDED HOUSE
904 Bedford Drive is one of our city’s most legendary star residences. This 6,000 square-foot house was built in 1924 with five bedrooms. It was owned by Loretta Young who rented it to Gene Kelly, Greta Garbo, and Rex Harrison. In later years, it was rented by Ava Gardner with Artie Shaw, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Ringo Starr, and Joe Bologna with his wife, Renée Taylor. Further up and on the other side of the street are the remains of what was once Marlene Dietrich’s mansion at 913 Bedford.
STOP 4 - 910 NORTH BEDFORD DRIVE / Beverly Hills Landmark #14
On this corner, at 910 Bedford, is Beverly Hills Landmark #14. Called the Anthony-Kerry House, it was built in 1909 and moved here in 1923. It is our city’s only Greene and Greene-designed house still standing.
STOP 5 - UP BENEDICT CANYON / LEFT ON LEXINGTON
Benedict Canyon was the original destination of the silent movie superstars who first built mansions in Beverly Hills. Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks built “Pickfair" and Harold Lloyd called his massive estate “Green Acres”.
They were joined by stars Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Rudolf Valentino and many more. That same attraction to country living in the middle of the city continues today and the giant estates have been carved into little lots that stretch into the “Beverly Hills Post Office” addresses all the way to Mulholland Drive.
Over the years, Benedict Canyon has been home to Tom Mix, Ingrid Bergman, Fred Astaire, Ann-Margret, Danny Kaye, Jack Lemmon, Raquel Welch, Sammy Davis Jr, Barbara Eden, Eddie Murphy, Gene Simmons, Kim Kardashian and Bruce Springsteen among many, many more. It was also the site of notorious activities at the homes of Jean Harlow, George Reeves, Sharon Tate, Heidi Fleiss, and Susan Berman.
We are not walking that far up the hill, instead we will make a left turn at Lexington Drive and walk past the home of Charo and her late husband Xavier Cugat, next to them lived legendary RKO studio chief Pandro Berman. His neighbors to the west were some of Hollywood's immortal legends.
STOP 6 - 1000 NORTH ROXBURY DRIVE / LUCY & DESI
That wall we see ahead on the right, surrounding that back yard, was the home of our most beloved red headed resident. Not only did Lucy and Desi actually live there, and raise their kids there, they used the house in the episode of “I Love Lucy.” It’s the one where Lucy sneaks into Richard Widmark’s backyard to steal a grapefruit. Well, it was actually their own backyard. You can watch our video on how Lucy really felt about the tourists by clicking below.
STOP 7 - 1002 NORTH ROXBURY DRIVE / JACK BENNY
Lucy’s next door neighbor at 1002 was radio and television star Jack Benny. He may have been the stingiest man in the world on television, but in real life he gave away silver dollars to neighborhood goblins on Halloween. You can watch our video on Halloween in Beverly Hills by clicking below.
STOP 8 - 1004 NORTH ROXBURY DRIVE / PETER FALK & BABYFACE
Next door to Jack Benny is the home of TV’s detective Columbo, Peter Falk, who late in his life could sometimes be found wandering the neighborhood in his robe. After Peter’s death, Babyface Edmonds called this home for a few years.
STOP 9 - 1015 NORTH ROXBURY DRIVE / MOVIE STAR HIDEOUT
Across the street, at 1015 North Roxbury, is the Wallace Neff-designed, seven bedroom, 6,500 square-foot former home of Columbia studio chief Harry Cohn. When he moved out, World War Two’s most popular female star, Betty Grable, and her husband, bandleader Harry James, moved in. Years later, Academy Award-winner Diane Keaton purchased the house and redesigned the interior. Subsequent dwellers included Madonna and, more recently, Victoria and David Beckham and their family who inhabited the house with its luxurious pool, gazebo, and two guest houses.
STOP 10 - NORTH ROXBURY DRIVE / GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
At the end of Roxbury Drive were the former homes of the legendary Gershwin Brothers, George and Ira, at 1021. Rosemary Clooney and Jose Ferrer hosted the neighborhood kids at 1019, and Agnes Morehead dressed up as Endora the Witch for trick-or-treaters at her former house at 1023 Roxbury which, in the ‘30s, was also Spencer Tracy’s house. Unfortunately, all these homes have been demolished and replaced, as has the corner house at 1014, the former home of singer and congressman Sonny Bono, then real estate mogul Kirk Kirkorian, and most recently, Jennifer Lopez. Currently, it’s a vacant lot pending new construction. If you venture all the way to the corner, the house across the street at 1006 Hartford Way is the former residence of Oscar-winning movie villain Jack Palance and his family.
STOP 11 - 918 NORTH ROXBURY DRIVE / JAMES STEWART
Feel free to explore Roxbury Drive, then head back south to the corner of Lexington. There, at the south-east corner of Lexington and Roxbury, once stood the home of James Stewart. His house was demolished and replaced with the edifice that sits there now. He had two lots, one for his house, and the other a vegetable garden. When a neighbor once asked if she could hire Jimmy’s gardener, he replied, “Nope. You can’t afford her. The gardener is Gloria, my wife.”
STOP 12 - NORTH ROXBURY DRIVE
For many years, child star Ricky Schroeder was Jimmy Stewart’s neighbor across the street at 921 Roxbury. And decades earlier, actress and scientist Hedy Lamarr lived at 919 Roxbury. TV star Elizabeth Montgomery lived at 911 Roxbury for several years, but that house has since been demolished. And near the corner of Sunset is 906 Roxbury, that down-to-earth cottage that singer-dancer-Oscar winning actress Ginger Rogers once called home.
STOP 13 - SUNSET & NORTH ROXBURY / END SHORT TOUR ROUTE
• TURN LEFT TO RETURN TO WILL ROGERS PARK
• TURN RIGHT TO CONTINUE THE TOUR
We are now at Sunset and Roxbury, the turning point in the tour. So those of you who are a little tired, or hot, or need to use the bathroom should TURN LEFT and head back to Will Rogers Park where we’ll take care of you. But the rest of the Beverly Hills Healthy City Walkers should make a RIGHT TURN and cross at the corner of Whittier and Sunset and we’ll continue the “fast leg” of the walk which will take approximately another 20 minutes. But you’ll get to see another few treasures.
STOP 14 - SUNSET & WHITTIER / DARK TALES OF BEVERLY HILLS
Okay, you brave souls, you’ve decided to continue our tour. We’re now at Sunset and Whittier Drive. As we proceed safely across Sunset Boulevard towards the south, we begin a descent into some of Beverly Hills’ darkest stories and sordid legends. To your right is the part of Sunset Boulevard commemorated in the 1963 Jan and Dean hit song “Deadman’s Curve.” In the old days, if you were going too fast you’d end up in a pile of rubble.
"He passed me at Doheny, then I started to swerve, but I pulled her out and there we were at Dead Man's Curve. I still can hear 'em say, ‘You won't come back from Dead Man's Curve.’"
This very intersection was the scene of a senseless drive-by murder of press agent Ronni Chasen in 2010. But that is hardly the darkest chapter on this street.
STOP 15 - 810 LINDEN DRIVE / BUGSY SIEGEL MURDER HOUSE
The house at 810 Linden was the scene of the mob execution of Las Vegas hotel developer Bugsy Siegel on June 20, 1947. The killers snuck up the driveway next door, entered his patio and blasted him while he read the paper in his living room. Our police chief said he solved the case, but was not given any cooperation by the Las Vegas Police who he claimed sheltered the mob-connected killer. Years later, a deathbed confession claimed the killing was really done to protect an adulterous lover who Siegel had vowed to have bumped off. It is the stuff of gangster legend. Never to be solved. You can watch our video about the mystery surrounding the Bugsy Siegel murder by clicking below.
STOP 16 - HOWARD HUGHES PLANE CRASH SITE
Just down the street near the corner of Linden and Lomitas was the scene of Beverly Hills’ greatest disaster. On July 7, 1947, Howard Hughes experimental plane had engine trouble with Hughes himself at the throttle. He tried to land on the nearby golf course, but missed it by two blocks destroying three houses in a fiery crash that attracted 50,000 onlookers whose gridlocking of the city caused almost as big a disaster as the disaster itself. Hughes was saved by William Durkin, a soldier on his way to a date who pulled the billionaire from the burning wreckage. Durkin and Hughes became friends, but he always refused a reward, saying, “You shouldn’t be paid off for doing what was right." You can watch our video on the Howard Hughes plane crash by clicking below.
STOP 17 - 730 NORTH BEDFORD DRIVE / LANA TURNER
As we proceed eastward on Lomitas Drive, another of our city’s most notorious houses is on the southeast corner of Bedford, at number 730. On April 4, 1958, Lana Turner and her lover, Johnny Stompanato, were quarreling when a knife suddenly was thrust into Johnny’s chest, killing him instantly. Did Lana stab him in a fit of passion, or did her daughter, Cheryl Crane, stab him defending her mother? Was it an accident?
Cheryl took the rap and spent some time in juvenile hall before emerging “reformed” and becoming the hostess at our local Hawaiian restaurant called The Luau, which just happened to be owned by her father, Stephen Crane. Comedians Stan Laurel and Steve Martin also lived on this block, but their houses are not visible from the street.
STOP 18 - LOMITAS AVENUE TO RODEO DRIVE
Okay, now it’s time to pick up the pace and head for legendary Rodeo Drive and the final part of our walk. Rodeo Drive is one of the most famous streets in the world, and although it once had an equestrian bridle path down the middle of the street, it is not named after a Wild West horse show. It was named by the Spanish explorers after the native name meaning “The Gathering of the Waters.” In Spanish, “El Rodeo De Las Aguas.” These waters made Beverly Hills an oasis in the desert that was southern California. You can watch our video on how Cowgirls and Indians settled this area by clicking below.
STOP 19 - 801 RODEO DRIVE / BEVERLY HILLS LANDMARK #11
As we approach the corner of Rodeo and Lomitas, notice the house on your left at 801. This is Beverly Hills Landmark #11, a Craftsman-style home designed in 1914 for our first City Recorder, Judge Edwin Locke. It was later the home and offices of Joseph P. Kennedy, father of President John F. Kennedy, during his years in the movie business with Gloria Swanson. It was then purchased by screenwriter Edwin Blum and it has stayed in his family since the early 1940s.
STOP 20 - 732 RODEO DRIVE / LUPE VéLEZ
Across the street, on the southeast corner, at 732, is the final house of Mexican Spitfire actress Lupe Vélez who lived there with actor and Olympian Johnny Weissmuller, after having lived next door with Gary Cooper a few years earlier. The corner house on the south-west was once shelter to two-time Oscar-winner Fredric March, but as you can see, it’s now an empty lot awaiting a new mansion.
STOP 21 - 725 RODEO DRIVE / GENE KELLY & CARL REINER
Two doors down the street, at 725 Rodeo Drive, was the home of dancer-director Gene Kelly. In its day, it was the scene of some of Hollywood’s greatest parties and free-form creative adventures. In December of 1983, a Christmas tree fire destroyed the house and all the contents including his Oscar, Emmys, and all his dancing shoes. His son, Tim, pulled him from the burning house in the nick of time, leaving him with only the pajamas he was wearing. He rebuilt the house and died there in February 1996.
Across the street from Gene is the home of our local treasure, writer-director Carl Reiner. We’re not going to point out exactly where he lives just in case you decide to ring the bell and disturb his nap.
STOP 22 - RODEO DRIVE
As we head up Rodeo back to Will Rogers Park, there’s some pretty interesting history on both sides of this street. On the west side, I want to point out the house at 807 Rodeo. Originally, it was the house of Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor. Later, George Murphy moved in. He was a song-and-dance man who became the first actor to be elected to the U.S. Senate in 1964.
The east side of the street has some pretty interesting history itself. The corner house, at 804 Rodeo, once belonged to child star Jackie Cooper. The house at 806 Rodeo was occupied by Maurice Chevalier, and then Fred Astaire, before being purchased by “Tarzan” writer, Edgar Rice Burroughs. During a 2016 campaign fundraiser, a military-style armored tank was parked in front and the street barricaded off.
If you'd like to extend your walk, instead of returning to Will Rogers Park to the north, continue south on Rodeo and visit the commercial district between Santa Monica Boulevard and Wilshire, home to some of the most elegant stores and luxury brands in the world. Do movies stars shop there? Yes. But they come in the back and go upstairs. You can watch our video on the history of Rodeo Drive, from horses to horsepower, by clicking below.
STOP 23 - RETURN TO WILL ROGERS PARK / END OF TOUR
The Beverly Hills Historical Society thanks you for joining us. We now return to Will Rogers Park. I encourage you to enjoy the wonderful plants and animals, watch our historic videos, and have a wonderful day in Beverly Hills.