Historic Structures

Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Beverly Hills California

Date added: July 16, 2019 Categories: California Hotel

As the first major hotel to be constructed in the rapidly growing community of Beverly Hills since 1912, the Beverly Wilshire Hotel is representative of the quality of commercial architecture built in the city during its prime period of development. Associated with one of the city's most influential citizens, the hotel was constructed in 1927 for Walter G. McCarty, a real estate developer who once owned a quarter of the city, and was designed by the eminent Southern California architectural firm of Walker and Eisen in the Second Renaissance Revival style. The structure is the most prominent example of this noted firm's work in Beverly Hills. It was one of the first major buildings to be constructed on Wilshire Boulevard, and acted as an anchor for that street's commercial development. From its inception, the hotel has catered to many notables, including film stars, wealLthy business and social luminaries, and visiting royalty.

Walter G. McCarty, the founder of the establishment, was instrumental in the development of the southern half of Beverly Hills. To draw attention to the tracts of residential homesites he controlled and to demonstrate his faith in the community's potential for growth and as a desirable destination, he commissioned the firm of Walker and Eisen to create a nine story hostelry on Wilshire Boulevard in the center of the city. Percy Eisen and Albert Walker were among the premier architectural firms in the area. Particularly renowned for their traditional Second Renaissance Revival designs, the pair had been in partnership for eight years when the hotel was commissioned, and would continue until 1941, during that time providing to Los Angeles and its environs buildings of exceptional merit. The Beverly Wilshire is the most famous of their work in hotel design; others in the area are the Hollywood Plaza, the Gaylord Apartment Hotel, and the El Cortez Hotel in San Diego. Significant examples of their commercial work include the California Lutheran Hospital; the Taft Building in Hollywood; Security Title Insurance, Fine Arts/Signal Oil, and California Fruit Growers Exchange in Los Angeles; Bay Cities Guaranty in Santa Monica; and the City Hall, Civic Auditorium, Public Library, and Police Station in Torrance, California. Both Walker and Eisen were natives of California. Percy Eisen gained his training in the office of his father, Theodore; Albert Walker trained at Brown University in Rhode Island before working in the offices of prominent Southern California architects Parkinson and Bergstrum, A.F. Rosenheim, and Hunt and Grey. By 1924, the firm of Walker and Eisen were obtaining a large percentage of the contracts for height-limit buildings in the Los Angeles area, employing over fifty draftsmen. The Beverly Wilshire is a prime example of their work in the area of housing for the tourist trade, an apartment-hotel which provided for all the amenities wealthy travellers had come to expect from a resort facility, yet also contained provisions for extended stays and the privacy of a residence. The conservative design represented a combination of traditional styles, yet a continuity was achieved through the architects' use of well-proportioned spaces and the judicious use of decorative elements. The Beaux Arts tradition appealed to owner McCarty, who imported the finest materials from Europe, including Carrara marble, for use in the execution of Walker and Eisen's design. The design of the hotel exhibits a number of the characteristics associated with the style, including the tripartite composition of the facade, its street level arcade, classical embellishment, and use of terra cotta. The construction was supervised by the William Simpson Company. Interior decoration was done by noted muralist and designer Anthony B. Heinsbergen. Furnishings were from Barker Brothers, a Southern California furniture dealer who dominated the market in the 1920s.

Construction began in 1927, and McCarty's $2,000,000 investment received close scrutiny. It was part of the biggest year for building in the city to date. The decor of the hotel's lobby, ballrooms, and suites was carefully chronicled in the local press and in architectural periodicals, including Architectural Digest. The press extolled the virtues of the handpainted ceilings and the use of marble in the lobby, the opulence of the function rooms, the roof garden, and the elegance of the ninety suites, which ranged in size from two rooms to two ten-room penthouses with panelled libraries, gold fixtures, fireplaces, and tilework. Decor was primarily French, and every need of the guest was anticipated. The hotel had its own complete kitchens with bakery, grocery, and meat departments, a laundry and cleaning facility, electrical shops, and shopping facilities. Said one article, "Every modern hostelry convenience has been planned for tenants, every beauty and comfort of the finest mansion, augmented by every service and luxury that a metropolitan hotel provides." This level of service has been maintained since the opening, with the hotel staff adapting to the needs of permanent residents as well as transient clientele.

The hotel opened on New Year's Eve, 1928, with a gala attended by many film celebrities who lived in Beverly Hills. Over four hundred were in attendance for dinner and dancing. Among its guests over the years have been notables from all walks of life, including film stars, United States presidents, California governors, socialites, members of the British royal family, and others. The hotel has played a significant role in the commerce of the city as well, housing exclusive establishments like Oviatt's Menswear, Bullock's Department Store, Tiffany and Co. jewelers, and Kreiss Drugstore, whose restaurant was a major meeting place for the community. In the 1930s, the barbershop area briefly served as the office of the Austrian Consul.

The hotel was acquired by financier Arnold Kirkeby in the 1940s, and sold in 1958 to Evelyn Sharp, owner of several New York hotels. In 1961, it was briefly owned by William Zeckendorf, who sold it to Hernando Courtright, previous owner of the Beverly Hills Hotel. During Courtright's tenure, the garden, tennis courts, and pool were converted to a private street known as the El Camino Real, and an addition (the Beverly Wing), designed by Welton Becket and Associates, was constructed in 1971. The hotel is currently owned by Regent International Hotels. It has continued to maintain its status as one of the nation's luxury hotels, and was the first American hotel to be granted the Grand Luxe Hallmark in 1971. As one of the most prominent structures in Beverly Hills, both in size and architectural quality, the Beverly Wilshire Hotel is significant for its association with a prominent resident active in the city's growth and development, as one of the most noted projects of a notable Southern California architectural firm, as a social center of the community, and for its place in the tourist industry in California.