This report was transcribed from the SOS! Outdoor Sculptures Archives at the Architecture and Fine Arts Library, the University of Southern California.
Request for determination of eligibility for inclusion in the national register of historic places
Agency Requesting Determination:
United States Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
Attention: Bruce Cannon
California Division Administrator
P.O. Box 1915
Sacramento, CA 95809
Property Name: Beverly Gardens
Location: Adjoining Wilshire Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard between Whittier Drive and Doheny Drive
City of Beverly Hills
Los Angeles County, California
Representation in Existing Surveys: NONE
The Beverly Gardens lie on the north side of Santa Monica Boulevard between Doheny Drive (the eastern city limit) and Wilshire Boulevard, and continue on the north side of Wilshire Boulevard to Whittier Drive (near the western city limit of Beverly hills) a distance of almost 1.8 miles.
There are two breaks in the continuity of the park. These are the block between Rodeo Drive and Camden Drive and the east half of the block between Bedford Drive and Roxbury Drive. This land was not available because three churches had been built on it between 1924 and 1926.
Beverly Gardens is a linear park. It is an array of lawns, gardens, trees and objects 21-1/2 blocks long and 16.3 acres in area. The three central blocks, between Rodeo Drive and Crescent Drive, were designated as park land in the 1906 plat of the Beverly Hills subdivision. The adjoining park-lands were added in 1930 and are integrated with the 1906 concepts of the master plan for Beverly Hills.
The general plan of the park has lawns adjacent to the street frontage and trees, fountains, benches, gardens and pathways toward the rear.
The park is really a series of small parks each differing slightly from the other but unified by tree plantings and a path on the north side. Focal points are three fountains, and clumps of trees planted at intervals to break-up the linearity of the scene.
The fountain at Alpine Drive is the smaller of the three. It has a basin supported by four cast-concrete figures of Pan and a circular base.
The major fountain at Wilshire Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard is known as the “Electric Fountain.” It was designed by Ralph Flewelling in 1930. The fountain has a cast concrete figure of a Native American by Merrell Gage mounted on a square concrete shaft, which rises from a cylindrical splash basin. The basin has a frieze of relief carvings, which depict various scenes from California history. This is surrounded by a pool 50-feet in diameter with tiled sides. A broad promenade with low wall, neatly trimmed hedges and concrete benches along the perimeter completes the structure. The fountain began operation in 1931, its water jets and color effects were times to give 60 different combinations every 8 minutes. Though the fountain is still in operation, the spectacular lighting effects have been curtailed for energy conservation. The cost of the fountain was $22,000 of which $8,000 was spent for electrical equipment and wiring. A fourth fountain was planned at Roxbury Drive but this was not built.
There are four pergolas in the park. These lie between: Alta and Arden Drives, Foothill Road and Alpine Drive, Bedford and Roxbury Drives, and between Carmelita Avenue and Trenton Drive. The most ornate of these is between Foothill Road and Alpine Drive. The pergolas were designed by G. McAllister and the firm of Farrington and Stickney in 1930.
A formal cactus garden is located between Camden and Bedford Drives. A monument dedicated to Frances E. Bullard, the donor, is located south of the garden.
Period street lights line most of the park frontage.
There is one intrusion in the park, this is an incompatibly designed restroom facility at Canon Drive. One known alteration is the replacement of a large lily pond by a flower garden (the pond boundaries are clearly evident in the remaining cement work).
In the early years of this century the Los Angeles area experienced dynamic growth, largely due to relentless nationwide advertising, the rapid expansion of the Pacific Electric Railway, and Henry Huntington’s parallel enterprise – the Huntington Land and Improvement Company. Competition among subdividers was intense. Many novel and fanciful subdivisions were devised to attract buyers. Naples near Long Beach and Abbot Kinney’s Venice of America survive as patterns on the land. These two subdivisions and many others as well were located along the coast.
Several miles inland, on the Los Angeles to Santa Monica interurban route was the 3,600 acre Hammel-Denker ranch. The ranch had been acquired by the Amalgamated Oil Company, which drilled several wells on the land but found little oil. With a developable water supply, abundant land and transportation available the obvious course of action was to subdivide. Consequently the Rodeo Land and Water Company was formed in 1905 to develop what eventually became the City of Beverly Hills. Most of the stockholders of Amalgamated Oil participated in the new endeavor. These men were already wealthy and prominent citizens of the County.
Wilbur D. Cook Jr. was chosen to prepare the master plan for the new subdivision. Cook was the first trained landscape architect/city planner to work in the Los Angeles area. Cook had worked for the Olmsted Brothers, and participated with the Olmsteds and Daniel Burnham in the plan for San Francisco. Just prior to his move to Southern California he had worked with Charles Mulford Robinson on the park plan for the City of Oakland.
Cook’s master plan for Beverly Hills was a radical departure from the monotonous grid patterns of Huntington’s and other developments on the one hand, and the somewhat exotic plans such as those for Naples and Venice on the other. His plan was firmly based on the concepts of the City Beautiful Movement.
Indeed, given his association with the foremost proponents of City Planning, as embodied in the City Beautiful Movement, it would have been surprising had Cook designed otherwise.
The master plan called for curvilinear streets, street trees, unobtrusive utility location, and parks and other public areas at designated locations. The plan called for a 40-foot wide strip park along the north side of Santa Monica Boulevard, which formed part of the southern boundary of the master planned residential area. Only 3 blocks of this park were originally built. Lots between Santa Monica Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard were of moderate size, while north of Sunset Boulevard lots were of estate size –exceeding one acre each.
The first plat, filed in September 1906, was for a triangular parcel south of Santa Monica Boulevard and west of Crescent Drive. This land was the location of the Pacific Electric Railway Station, a lumber yard and the land office of the Rodeo Land and Water Company and eventually became the site of the Civic Center. This area was opposite the 3 –block long park.
The second plat, filed in November 1906 was for the core of Cook’s plan; the residential land north of Santa Monica Boulevard between Crescent and Rodeo Drives. Other plats filed in 1907, 1912, 1913 and 1923 covered the City, which incorporated in 1913.
The financial panic of 1907, continuing remoteness of the City and World War I retarded development of the area. By the 1920’s, however, the transportation problem was solved by the increasing use of the automobile and westward expansion of Los Angeles. Beverly Hills growth also stimulated by the creation of a new “nobility” composed of movie stars, many of whom chose to live in the city.
In 1930 the use of the nearly vacant strip of land immediately north of Santa Monica Boulevard became an issue. At the urging of prominent citizens it was decided to build a park along the Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevard frontage. Bonds were voted and a Park Improvement Association was designated to oversee the work.
The now well established firm of Wilbur D. Cook Jr. was chosen to design the park extension.
Beverly Gardens, as the park is known, serves as a buffer between the heavy traffic on Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevard and the residential area to the north.
It is probable that the design of most of Beverly hills north of Wilshire/Santa Monica Boulevards is potentially eligible, but in consideration of the limited nature and location of the proposed project, the State Historic Preservation Officer ahs agreed to submittal of only Beverly Gardens for National Register eligibility.
Beverly Gardens has integrity of location, setting, workmanship, feeling and association. Integrity of design is only slightly compromised. Beverly Gardens is significant in landscape architecture and community planning.
Beverly Gardens appears to qualify for eligibility for inclusion in the National Register under Criterion C.
It is the result of the combined efforts of Southern California’s first accredited landscape architect –Wilbur D. Cook Jr., and one of Southern California’s most noted landscape architects –Ralph D. Cornell, and has retained its high artistic values.
Beverly Gardens appears to be a part of the first application of concepts of the city Beautiful Movement in Southern California and is one of it not the fist applications of these principles to a residential subdivision in the State of California. It is, thus, the pioneer in a design and a method of planning that influenced many subsequent developments in the State.
Architect and Engineer, May 1911, p. 56-62
Basten, Fred E, Beverly Hills: Portrait of a Fabled City, Douglas-West, 1975, p. 26
Benedict, Pierce Edson, History of Beverly Hills, Cawston-Meier, 1934, p. 61
Building Permits, Department of Building and Safety, City of Beverly Hills
“California Landscaping”, 8/19/1956
“Electrical West”, November 1, 1931, p. 282-3
Fabos, Julius G.; Milde, Gordon T.; and Weinmayr, V. Michael; Frederick Law Olmstead: Founder of Landscape Architecture in America, University of Massachusetts Press, 1968
Landscape Architecture, May 1977
Los Angeles County Recorder
Los Angeles Herald, January 27, 1911, PT. II, p.6
Los Angeles Magazine, January 1975, p. 105, 109-110
Los Angeles Times, July 1, 1914, PT II, p.7
Los Angeles Times, March 1, 1938, PT II
Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1982, PT VII, p.1
The New Yorker, September 15, 1980, p. 117
Padilla, Victoria, Southern California Gardens: An Illustrated History, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA 1961
Sanborn Maps, Beverly Hills, 1922, 1926; 1943, 1952, 1961
Spence Air Photos, TICOR Photograph, Collection, California Historical Society, Los Angeles, CA
Southwest Builder & Contractor, November 28, 1919, p. 13
Southwest Builder & Contractor, April 2, 1920, p. 12
Southwest Builder & Contractor, April 16, 1920, p. 11
Southwest Builder & Contractor, October 19, 1928, p. 46
Southwest Builder & Contractor, October 3, 1930, p. 47, Col.1,2
Southwest Builder & Contractor, November 21, 1930, p. 50
Southwest Builder & Contractor, October 9, 1931, p. 38, illus.
Sunset Magazine, April 1973
“Western City”, September 1931, p. 9-12
“Westways”, April 1962, p. 17
“Westways”, April 1976, p. 38-42
“Westways”, May 1976, p. 13
Who’s Who in California, 1928/1929, p. 352
Who’s Who in the Pacific Southwest, Times Mirror, Los Angeles, 1913, p. 99
Zaitzevsky, Cynthia McCarthy, Frederick Law Olmsted, and the Boston Park System, Belknap Press, Harvard University, Cambridge Massachusetts, 1982, p. 127-135
George Cook, son of Wilbur David Cook, telephone interview, 5/12/83
Wilbur David Cook, Jr., son of Wilbur David Cook, telephone interview, 5/26/83, 5/31/83
Ray Page, prominent Beverly Hills landscape architect, telephone interview, 5/24/83, 6/10/83
This report was prepared by Lois M. Webb and George Casen, Heritage Preservation Specialists in the Environmental Planning Branch of the California Department of Transportation, District 7.