Monday, April 6, 2015

"HILL GROVE" RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA




 
"HILL GROVE"
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 
ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE

     George and Gertrude Lewis were from a wealthy San Francisco society family.  Their wealth and unusual marriage enabled the Lewises to create "Hill Grove", one of the most beautiful and most storied estates in the history of Beverly Hills.  The Lewises had what was known as a modern marriage. They didn't live together most of the time, and they didn't interfere with each others personal... activities.

    When the Lewises built "Hill Grove", Benedict Canyon was still mostly rural and largely empty of residences. Ranch land and a few citrus groves were located on the lower, flat terrain, and patches of chaparral and clusters of live oaks dotted the steep, arid hillsides. Benedict Canyon Drive was a dirt road. 

    Upon its completion, ten-acre "Hill Grove" was a startling sight. Its grand wrought-iron gates, which stood on dusty, unpaved Angelo Drive, opened into a long, paved driveway that wound up the hill to the mansion, passing the swimming pool near the bottom of the property and the expansive, grassy lawns, which required a team of gardeners for constant watering and care. 
   
    For an estate of its architectural distinction, extensive grounds, and prominent location. Hill Grove nonetheless received almost no public notice upon its completion in 1925. Why? George and Gertrude Lewis-in true, blue-blood fashion-did not actively seek publicity for the estate. They didn't need to get press coverage by showing off their home, or to send out publicity stills to newspapers and magazines to increase the adulation of their fans. They weren't a part of the Hollywood hierarchy.

    But they were starstruck. Or at least Gertrude Lewis was.

  "Ever since Hollywood’s golden age of silent movies in the 1920s, cinema fans have flocked to Beverly Hills to see the 'homes of the stars'. One Beverly Hills resident, Gertrude Lewis, did not have to leave her 10-acre 'Hill Grove' to see the most famous actors and actresses.

    They came to her estate, and, no, she was not a powerful producer or director, or the financial backer of films.

    From the early 1920s to the early 1950s, Gertrude Lewis’ sprawling 10-acre 'Hill Grove' estate—and her very grand Tudor mansion—was a favorite shooting location for films, and later some early TV shows. Why did Gertrude Lewis rent out Hill Grove as a movie location so frequently? She  wasn't hard up for cash.

    Gertrude rented the estate for locations, then donated the fee to several charities helping the poor.

    The real reason was that she got to meet each decade’s leading stars and watch the filming of major motion pictures. Gertrude Lewis had plenty of time for this 'hobby'. Her husband, George, who owned Shreve & Co., the famed San Francisco jeweler, lived in the family’s San Francisco house.

    He enjoyed the life of a bon vivant. Herb Caen, the noted San Francisco Chronicle columnist, told some of the stories.

    George Lewis, wrote Caen, 'who owned the most beautiful women in town, was a good man to know: If he took a liking to you, gold baubles floated your way.' Another time, Caen wrote: 'Millionaire George Lewis, silver Champagne bucket at left elbow, ravishing ‘keptive’ at right, presiding over his sycophantic circle at the old Templebar.

    They knew how to keep women in those days: Nob Hill penthouses and open charge accounts, cinq-a-sept and off to Amelio’s for Bill’s peerless martinis.' Gertrude Lewis obviously knew about her husband, and obviously, she did not care.

    She had her Beverly Hills estate, traveled to Europe for a year at a time, and enjoyed meeting all the stars at her estate.

    Was Gertrude also entertaining men-friends at her home away from her husband’s prying eye?

    Like several great Benedict Canyon estates, 'Hill Grove' was demolished and its grounds subdivided in the 1960s.

    Today, 'Hill Grove', which had been such a prominent Beverly Hills landmark for so many years, and which appeared in so many films, has vanished entirely, except for a street named Hill Grove, which was one of the estate’s driveways." Haute Living — Los Angeles

"HILL GROVE"
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE

  Pictured at the front gate of the estate are Laurel and Hardy and Jacquie Lynn (the child) in a scene from Pack up Your Troubles

"Manhunt of Mystery Island"
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE
    Once the driveway reached the top of the hill, it traversed more flat lawn, passed through brick gateposts, and ended at the motor court with a circular lawn and lily pond in front of the mansion's main entrance.


Wayne Manor - "Batman & Robin"
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE

"HILL GROVE"
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE

Wayne Manor - "Batman & Robin"
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE
ENTRANCE COURT
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE
"HILL GROVE"
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE

"HILL GROVE"
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE

Larrabee Mansion - "Sabrina" (1954 film)
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE
"HILL GROVE"
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE

Larrabee Mansion - Sabrina (1954 film)
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE
Larrabee Mansion - Sabrina (1954 film)
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE

"HILL GROVE"
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE
    The Lewis mansion was an extravagant and skilled-essay in the Gothic Revival: stone-trimmed archways; large, leaded glass windows; slate roofs; castle-like crenellations at some rooflines; and picturesquely clustered red brick chimneys. Extensive stone and brick terraces around the house provided spaces for walking, or for gazing over Benedict Canyon.


TERRACE
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE

"HILL GROVE"
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE

"HILL GROVE"
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE

LIVING ROOM
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE

"HILL GROVE"
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE

"HILL GROVE"
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE

"HILL GROVE"
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE

DINING ROOM
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE
VIEW INTO LIBRARY
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE

LIBRARY
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE

"HILL GROVE"
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE
BEDROOM
RESIDENCE OF MR. GEORGE LEWIS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
 ALBERT FARR, ARCHITECT.   J. FRANCIS WARD, ASSOCIATE

        Soon after "Hill Grove" was completed, it played a leading role in Clara Bow's Kid Boots for Paramount in 1926. 

Kids Boots (1926)

Betty Co-Ed (1946)

    "Hill Grove" also appeared in Republic's King of the Newsboys (1938), starring Lew Ayres and Helen Mack; The Crooked Road (1940); You Belong to Me (1941), starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda; and Night and Day (1946), a completely fabricated Warner Bros, bio-pic of composer Cole Porter starring Cary Grant as the apparently heterosexual composer and Alexis Smith. The estate appeared in Monogram's 1932 film Police Court

    George Lewis sold Shreve & Co. in 1948. According to Herb Caen, "George Lewis had to retire from running Shreve's jewelry store, because he doled out so much of the stock to pretty ladies. Square-cut, pear-shaped, they all looked alike to George"

14 comments:

  1. Wonderful write up! I'd always wondered whether the home in Sabrina was filmed purely on-set, but I'd never researched it. Funny, I'd only just joined VINTAGE HOLLYWOOD HOMES late, l a t e last night ;) - what perfect timing!

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  2. Was that also a setting for the Cole Porter biopic?

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  3. Love the history of this house and the description of its owner, it's such a shame the house was torn down.

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  4. A beauty so far superior to the psuedo palace-like monstrosities that are being built in Beverly Hills these days.

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  5. Thank you for this informative article. "Hill Grove" was indeed a beautiful place and a great credit to its architects, Albert Farr and Francis Ward. Full credit must also go to the owners who paid for it all. I believe the cost of establishing the estate including furnishings, was about $650,000. By the way, the landscape architect was Seymour Thomas (associate John Finken) who also made a significant contribution.

    Apart from the mansion itself, there were other buildings on the property, including a fairly substantial Gatehouse/Cottage near the entrance gates, which were in Hillgrove Drive, about 150 feet from its intersection with Angelo Drive.

    As well as being used as a shooting location, the estate had another connection of sorts with the motion picture industry. In March, 1934, it was leased to noted film producer Walter F. Wanger and his wife, Justine at a rental of $18,000 a year. It was subsequently alleged that the tenants caused considerable damage to the property and the owners instituted court proceedings seeking to recover about $4,000 by way of compensation.

    Mr. & Mrs. Wanger denied liability and the matter was determined by the court in June, 1935. I don't know the outcome, but it seems that the damages were relatively minor - some debris in the swimming pool and on the tennis court, a few dead rose bushes etc. - the sort of thing most people would attribute to normal wear and tear, although some expensive glassware and curtains were alleged to have been damaged.

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    1. Thanks for the additional information. Do you know why it was demolished? Can you answer Ann's question - Was that also a setting for the Cole Porter biopic?

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    2. I don't know why "Hill Grove" was demolished. I expect time caught up with it as it did with many similar houses.

      I think Anne is referring to the film "Night & Day", which I haven't seen, but it is mentioned in the main article above, which states it was filmed at "Hill Grove".

      I saw the film "Sabrina" recently and some of the scenes in it as far as "Hill Grove" is concerned, are a bit confusing. The scenes of the front of the house in and around the entrance court were filmed at "Hill Grove", but the scenes of the garage area at the back of the house through the Porte-cochere were filmed elsewhere, as the garage and rear area at "Hill Grove" and that depicted in the film were entirely different.

      The garage in the film had from memory, three of four Basket Arches and a rather out of place metal spiral staircase leading to what were presumably servants' quarters, whereas the garage at "Hill Grove" was a three-car affair with a single rectangular opening and sliding doors. The garage area in the film was either a studio set or another house elsewhere. I know this a minor point and hardly worth mentioning, but I thought it may be interest to someone.

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    3. My mother and father bought part of the subdivide estate across from Hill Grove at 1181 Angelo Drive. Our house was built starting in 1953 until we moved there in 1955. My mother lived there for 58 years until her death at 98 in 2013. Our house was a Gregory Ain house and was a beautiful example of mid-century architecture. The house now looks nothing like my mothers home.

      I remember the Hill Grove estate as a child. (I was 4 years old when we moved to Angelo Drive.) I remember looking at that big house on the hill, as I remember looking a these pictures I may have climbed up and looked in to the estate when it was about to be torn down.
      It seems all the great homes are being torn down, as I see with my own eyes, and cheaply builder designed "mansionettes" are being build.
      When they started to tear it down I thought, "Why are they tearing down such a beautiful home, to build little ticky-tacky houses."

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  6. Ive never been able to figure out just where the main driveway was off of Hillgrove, which is off Benedict Cyn drive, and also where the house actually sat in relation to the area now.EJ Fleming tried to explain it to me, but I didn't get it..lol..Any ideas??

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    1. Hill Grove was a 10 acre estate located at the south-eastern corner of Angelo Drive and Hillgrove Drive, Beverly Hills. The main house was built on a hill in (more or less) the centre of the property. If you refer to a modern survey map and locate coordinates 34N-05'27" - 118W-25'58", this will be very close to the location of the original house.

      The entrance to the Hill Grove estate was in Hillgrove Drive, about 150 feet east from its intersection with Angelo Drive. The gates were set back from the road and the driveway went from the gates to the Gatehouse (part of which can be seen in the Laurel and Hardy photo above), where it turned left, then to the right and proceeded to a point near the southern boundary of the property where it did a U turn and proceeded up the hill, past the swimming pool on the left and on to the house; then through the Port-cochere, down the hill, then to the right, parallel with Angelo Drive to the front (North) of the property, then again to the right parallel with Hillgrove Drive past the front of the Gatehouse and back to the entrance gates. The southern part of the driveway and the U turn at the bottom are shown in the aerial photo above. I think (but I'm not sure) that present day Eventide Place, (or rather, the southern portion thereof) is part of the original driveway).

      I may have a few more photos of the property somewhere and if anyone is interested I could publish copies if I am permitted to do so by the Forum Moderator and assuming I can find them. I carried out a lot of research into Hill Grove some years ago with an idea I had in mind, but which I have since abandoned and wiped some of the discs containing the information. I still think Hill Grove was a magnificent property, but admiring it is as far as I want to go these days.


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    2. Ardeeque thank you for sharing all this information. Your certainly welcome to send any photos or other information via my contact link.

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    3. I have found a few more photos of Hill Grove which I will send on to you as soon as my wife finds time to extract then from the discs on which they are recorded. I am worse than useless at that sort of thing.
      I am not sure what you mean when you say to send them by your "contact link". Would you please tell me where to find it? I'm sorry to ask what is probably a stupid question, but I'm a complete novice when it comes to internet terminology.

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    4. You can reach me via my profile page - https://www.blogger.com/profile/05322213537553774149. There is a contact link there.

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  7. Thanks for sharing information, Your blog has always been a source of great ideas..

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