Unearthing acres of history: Greystone Mansion opens doors to events, mystery

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As seen in the March 7 print edition

Braden Bochner, staff writer

Greystone Mansion and Park is an iconic symbol of Beverly Hills. The property is owned by the city and has undergone multiple restoration projects to conserve its history. Today, Greystone Mansion and Park is open to the public and is a popular venue for filming and photography, as well as an event space for weddings and performing arts. In 1976, the mansion was recognized as a historic landmark.

 

History of the mansion 

In 1926, Edward Laurence Doheny, a self-made oil tycoon, gifted his son Edward “Ned” Laurence Doheny, Jr., 12.58 acres of land. In 1927, Ned and his wife Lucy began construction on the site. Three years and $3 million later, Ned, Lucy and their five children moved into the Greystone Mansion.

The mansion, 46,000 square feet with 55 rooms, was the most expensive home in California at the time. The Greystone Mansion received its name due to its stone construction and dark appearance.

According to the recreation services manager Brad Meyerowitz, the most interesting room in the mansion would be “the bowling alley and billiard room located in the lower level of the Recreation Wing…The bowling alley was in a dramatic scene in the movie ‘There Will Be Blood.’ The adjacent billiard room has a prohibition bar; the bar is hidden behind a wall that you have to push up to expose.”

The original grounds included tennis courts, a fire station, a bowling alley, a swimming pool, two waterfalls, two lakes and a greenhouse.

In early 1929, only six months after the family had moved in, Ned Doheny was found dead in the mansion. Doheny, along with his secretary Hugh Plunkett, were the victims of an apparent murder-suicide.

Lucy remained at Greystone with her family until 1955, when she sold the majority of the land to developers for $1.5 million. In 1965, the City of Beverly Hills purchased Greystone Mansion and Park with plans to install a 19-million gallon water tank directly on the property. The water tank now serves as the city’s largest reservoir. In 1971, the City of Beverly Hills designated the 18.3 acre estate, including the mansion, as a public park.

 

Greystone Mansion today

Greystone Mansion and Park is used for a variety of events and special occasions. From January to June, chamber music concerts are held in the living room of the mansion monthly. Every May, the annual Greystone Mansion Concours d’Elegance car show is held, where cars and motorcycles made before 1975 are displayed throughout the grounds Another annual event is the Design House International, where a select group of interior designers are each assigned a room of the mansion, and are given the ability to express their design style and aesthetic. Last year’s theme was “Titans of Business and the Best of Design.”

Theatre Forty, a community theatre group based in Beverly Hills, has performed over 100 performances of “The Manor,” a play loosely based on the Doheny Family.The interactive show travels from room to room of the Mansion.

In addition to events held at the Mansion, the park is open to the public. On the first Saturday of each month, Park Rangers offer tours that are known to sell-out quickly.

“I think the main drawing point is the fact that it [Greystone] is a beautiful tranquil venue in the heart of the city,” Meyerowitz said. “People come up here with a book and a blanket and escape from the urban sprawl.”

The fact that the mansion and grounds have been in many television shows and films make it a draw as well. Over 50 films have been filmed on the mansion’s grounds, including “Spider Man”, “The Big Lebowski” and “Ghostbusters.”

For the first time since 1930, the City of Beverly Hills has opened the doors of the Mansion to the public to host special events. Just this past year, a catering kitchen was built and air conditioning and heating were installed. The Speciality Restaurants Corporation (SRC) Event Group has collaborated with Greystone to host numerous industry events, including weddings and events for destination management companies.

“People are very excited about this beautiful destination,” Vice President of Special Events for SRC Connie Armijo said. “The history [of the Mansion] is what attracts people to host their events at the Greystone. I don’t think there is any other estate in Beverly Hills with the history, architecture and providence of the entire mansion and its grounds.”

Armijo’s talent and skill has allowed her multiple clients to create their events with the opulence and lavishness of Greystone.

“It has everything California loves: murder, sex, mystery and wealth,” Armijo said with a smile.

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