It’s hard to believe that Beverly Hills was once a rancho of lima bean fields and chaparral-covered grazing lands, where land cost just $400 per acre. Later master-planned as a city beautiful by architects Myron Hunt and Wilbur David Cook—the broad, tree-lined, curving streets and greenbelts are the most visible reminder of their design—it’s clear that LA’s most recognizable neighborhood has come a long way in its first 100 years. But that fame has come with a price, as the enclave’s classic homes currently face redevelopment pressures (and even extinction), a direct result of the city’s exclusivity, soaring property values, and manicured environs.
Today’s hankering for massive contemporary mansions conflicts mightily with Beverly Hills’ charming mix of architecture from earlier eras. The city’s older stock of Spanish-style, Art Deco, Midcentury Modern, and Hollywood Regency showplaces—many by master architects—are often deemed out of date and undesirable by buyers who crave tech-ready houses, open floor plans, and sizeable kitchens and baths. Although a new historic preservation ordinance is intended to stem the demolition of culturally significant and historic homes and preserve landmarked exteriors, many of the city’s most famed estates, like its grande dames, have already gone under the knife and are no longer recognizable.