Harold Lloyd Estate
'Greenacres' - Harold Lloyd Estate
Greenacres, Harold Lloyd Estate in 1974
|Location||1740 Green Acres Drive, Beverly Hills, California
|Architect||Webber, Staunton & Spaulding; landscape architect: A.E. Hanson|
|Architectural style||Mediterranean Revival architecture|
|NRHP Reference #||
|Added to NRHP||February 9, 1984|
|Designated LAHCM||July 24, 1984|
The Harold Lloyd Estate, also known as Greenacres, is a large mansion and landscaped estate located in the Benedict Canyon section of Beverly Hills, California. Built in the late 1920s by silent film star Harold Lloyd, it remained Lloyd's home until his death in 1971. The estate originally consisted of a 44-room mansion, golf course, outbuildings, and 900-foot (270 m) canoe run on 15 acres (61,000 m2). Greenacres has been called "the most impressive movie star's estate ever created." After Lloyd died, the estate was subdivided into multiple lots, though the mansion remains and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
Architecture and construction
In 1923, Lloyd purchased a historic home site from P.E. Benedict at the mouth of Benedict Canyon in Beverly Hills, California. The land had been owned by the Benedict family for more than sixty years and was close to the spot where Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks had built their famed Pickfair estate.
In 1925, Lloyd hired architect Sumner Spaulding of the firm Webber, Staunton & Spaulding, after an introduction by landscape architect A.E. Hanson, to design a house on the property. Lloyd also hired Hanson to landscape the 15-acre (61,000 m2) grounds.
The final plans for the house were not completed until July 1927, at which time the Los Angeles Times published the architectural drawing. The home was designed in the Italian Renaissance Mediterranean Revival style: modeled after the Villa Palmieri near Florence. Construction of the mansion began in July 1927 and was completed in 1928.
The 44-room, 45,000-square-foot (4,200 m2) house and estate was said to have cost $2 million.
Landscape architecture - gardens
A.E. Hanson, Lloyd's landscape architect, transformed the 15-acre (61,000 m2) site with the Villa Lante and Villa Medici as inspiration in Mediterranean Revival and Spanish Revival style motifs. The Los Angeles Times published a full-page illustrated article describing it as a "gorgeous fairyland playground" and a "Modern Eden of groves and gardens." The elaborated design of the grounds' landscape and gardens included the following elements:
- A private nine-hole regulation golf course.
- A 900-foot (270 m) canoe stream stocked with trout and bass, and a 100-foot (30 m) waterfall that plummeted into the canoe stream.
- The largest swimming pool in Southern California, measuring 50 feet (15 m) by 150 feet (46 m), and said to be "one of the finest swimming pools in the west." (The pool was surrounded by a tunnel with underwater windows to view and photograph swimmers.)
- Numerous gardens, including small tropical forests, sunken gardens, formal gardens, rose gardens, Italian gardens, and terraced gardens.
- Stables for horses, cattle and sheep, and a small farm for the estate's fruits and vegetables, including greenhouses for growing flowers.
- An open-air theater and dancing pavilion.
- Tennis courts, an outdoor bowling green, and a handball court. (Lloyd was a national handball champion and reportedly spent many hours there.)
- An automobile entrance court designed as a 120-foot (37 m) square, surrounded on two sides by a cloister.
One of the unusual features was the separate fairyland estate that Lloyd and A.E. Hanson designed for Lloyd's four-year-old daughter, Mildred Gloria. The play village had its own private gate with a sign reading, "Come into my garden and play." The fairyland estate included a four-room miniature old English house, a miniature old English stable with a pony and cart, Great Dane dogs, a wishing well with water for the daughter's garden, a slide, acrobatic devices and a swing. The miniature house had electricity and a kitchen and bath with running water, where the Lloyds' daughter played with friends, including Shirley Temple.
History during Lloyd's lifetime
Lloyd named his estate "Greenacres," and it became a gathering place for the Lloyds' family and friends. Sundays were known as "at home" day at Greenacres:
"The 'at home' day at Greenacres was Sunday when 30 or 40 friends would gather in the afternoon, amuse themselves with golf, tennis or handball, swimming, or with leisurely strolls through the gardens. A buffet would be set in the formal dining room and in the evening Lloyd would show a movie. Then he would wave everyone goodnight."
In 1937, Mrs. Lloyd hosted a bridal shower at the estate for Jeanette MacDonald attended by Hollywood's elite, including Ginger Rogers, Mary Pickford, Irene Dunne, Fay Wray, Norma Shearer, Dolores del Río, Loretta Young, Irving Thalberg, Mervyn LeRoy, Ernst Lubitsch, Hal Roach and Darryl Zanuck.
By the 1940s, Lloyd's movie career was at an end, and he had difficulty affording the upkeep of the enormous estate. He petitioned the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 1943 to reduce his property assessment, claiming he would like to continue living there, but the high taxes were "eating them out of house and home." The Board refused to reduce the $58,730 assessed valuation of the 15 acres (61,000 m2) of land, but did reduce the $119,840 valuation of the improvements to $100,000. Lloyd was forced to reduce the staff working at the estate, and parts of the estate began to deteriorate out of neglect.
One of the two film vaults on the estate, located safely away from the main house, caught fire in 1943 and destroyed many of Lloyd's valuable negatives and prints. According to his granddaughter Suzanne, Lloyd rescued as much material as he could from the vault before it became engulfed in flames.
In his later years, Lloyd lived a private life at his estate, jogging around the estate each day following a swim in the pool. He was also said to have developed an "addiction to stereo that shook the mansion at 3 a.m. with the force of 10 speakers in unison," causing the gold leaf to fall from the ornate living room ceiling.
Lloyd lived at the estate until he died of cancer in 1971, at age 77. One of Lloyd's longtime staff reported that he had a superstition about never allowing himself to be driven around the Italian fountain in the estate's front court, always making his chauffeur back up rather than circling the fountain. According to the longtime worker, "The only time he ever went around that fountain was the night he died."
History after Lloyd's death
Plans for preservation and a museum
Lloyd left his Benedict Canyon estate to the "benefit of the public at large" with instructions that it be used "as an educational facility and museum for research into the history of the motion picture in the United States." For a few years the home was open to public tours, but financial and legal obstacles prevented the estate from creating the motion picture museum that Lloyd had intended. Among other things, neighboring homeowners in the wealthy community were opposed to the creation of a museum hosting parties and attracting busloads of tourists.
In October 1972, the Los Angeles Times visited the property and noted that it had "the feel of Sunset Boulevard," bringing to mind the line spoken by the young writer when he first visits Norma Desmond's home: "It was the kind of place that crazy movie people built in the crazy 20s." The house appeared to visitors in the 1970s to be frozen in time at 1929. One writer noted that nothing had been moved or replaced, changed, or modernized, from the books in the library to the appliances in the kitchen and the fixtures in the bathrooms. Noted columnist Jack Smith visited the estate in 1973 and wrote that "time stood still", as Lloyd's clothes still hung in his closet, and the master bedroom and living room "looked like a set for a movie of the 1930s." A Renaissance tapestry presented to Lloyd as a housewarming gift by Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks was still hanging in the hallway.
The house also had Lloyd's permanent Christmas tree loaded with ornaments at the end of a long sitting room. Jack Smith described the tree as follows:
"[A]t the end of the room, dominating it like some great Athena in a Greek temple, stood the most fantastic Christmas tree I had ever seen. It reached the ceiling, a great, bulbous mass of colored glass baubles, some of them as big as pumpkins, clustered together like gaudy jewels in some monstrous piece of costume jewelry."
Sale and subdivision of the estate
With the inability to establish the museum, the estate was sold at auction in 1975. The entire property, including grounds and furnishings, was purchased by a retired Iranian businessman, Nasrollah Afshani, for $1.6 million -- $400,000 less than Lloyd had spent to build the estate 50 years earlier. Afshani subdivided the estate into approximately 15 lots in addition to the mansion, with individual lots selling for as much as $1.2 million.
The mansion was preserved on a smaller 5-acre (20,000 m2) parcel and sold for $3 million in 1979 to Bernard C. Solomon, the president of Everest Record Group. In 1986, Ted Field, heir to the Marshall Field department store chain and head of Interscope Films, bought the property for $6.5 million and lived there with his wife Susie and their three children. The Fields extensively updated and renovated the entire home and grounds and added a pool back to the site. (The original pool located down closer to Benedict Canyon had been lost in the 1975 subdividing of the property.) Restoring everything except the original theater-size forty-rank pipe organ (which remains today behind the walls of the 80-foot (24 m) living room), the Field family replaced all the electrical wiring and plumbing and modernized the kitchens and bathrooms before moving into the estate. Susie also added an 80-year-old carousel with hand-carved horses to the children's play yard and the same security system used at the White House. Field hosted a gala political fundraiser for Bill Clinton and Al Gore at the estate in 1992 where Barbra Streisand performed a concert in the formal garden. In 1993, billionaire and Democratic Party fundraiser Ron Burkle bought the home for $20 million -- $19 million less than the $39 million asking price (which had included a valuable art collection of old masters paintings in the original asking price) but still among the highest prices paid for a home in the United States in the previous three years. On May 20, 1994, the estate hosted yet another gala fundraiser attended by President Clinton at which R&B singer Natalie Cole performed.
In 2001, the mansion was estimated to be worth $50–60 million.
The main house and the estate's principal gardens are frequently used for civic fundraising events and as a filming location, appearing in films such as in The Godfather, Westworld and The Loved One.
- Virginia Robinson Gardens in Beverly Hills
- List of Registered Historic Places in Los Angeles County, California
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.
- "Harold Lloyd Estate". Office of Historical Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-09-06.
- "Lloyd Buys Noted Home Site: Film Comedian is Said to Have Paid $100,000 for Benedict Property". Los Angeles Times. 1923-05-22.
- "Lloyd Will Have Regal Hill Estate: Actor to Spend Millions for Home and Features on Fifteen-Acre Site". Los Angeles Times. 1925-08-27.
- Charles Sloan (1925-11-29). "Gorgeous Fairyland Playground Being Created by Landscape Architect for Harold Lloyd Home: Beverly Hills Estate Will Be Modern Eden of Groves and Gardens". Los Angeles Times.
- "Plans Completed for Actor's Home: Harold Lloyd Abode to be of French-Italian Type". Los Angeles Times. 1927-07-24.
- Lynn Simross (1975-07-29). "A Cliff-Hanger in Benedict Canyon: Fate of Lloyd Estate in Doubt". Los Angeles Times.
- "Greenacres: Shooting the Featurette for the Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection". Harold Lloyd Trust.
- "Sandstone by Tons for Two Homes: Vast Amount of Material to Beverly Hills and Bel-Air Estates". Los Angeles Times. 1926-02-28.
- "Little Girl Plays Princess in Her Own Fairyland with Dog Guardians". Los Angeles Times. 1927-11-28.
- "Down at Heels Harold Lloyd Estate May Make Comeback as Museum". Los Angeles Times. 1972-10-08.
- Marshall Kester (1937-05-09). "Bride-elect Inspires Shower: Harold Lloyd Home to Be Scene of Party for Famed Diva". Los Angeles Times.
- "Harold Lloyd Protests Assessment on Mansion". Los Angeles Times. 1943-07-22.
- Jack Smith (1973-04-23). "Backing Up to a Legend". Los Angeles Times.
- "Foundation Established: Lloyd Leaves Home to 'Public at Large'". Los Angeles Times. 1971-03-13.
- Gerald Faris (1972-11-09). "Council Indicates Backing for Lloyd Estates as Museum". Los Angeles Times. ("Opposition to the museum centered on allegations that the adjoining Benedict Canyon neighborhood will be forced to take the brunt of noise, traffic and bus fumes.")
- Lynn Simross (1975-07-31). "Lloyd Property Sold to Iranian for $1.6 Million". Los Angeles Times.
- Myrna Oliver (1976-04-30). "Harold Lloyd's Heirs Lose Fight on Estate Funds". Los Angeles Times.
- Ruth Ryon (1985-09-01). "Hot Property: Harold Lloyd's Mansion on Market?". Los Angeles Times.
- Ruth Ryon (1986-11-02). "Harold Lloyd Mansion for Sale Again?". Los Angeles Times.
- Desiree French (1993-08-15). "Estate Sale Brings $20 Million". USA Today.
- Ruth Ryon (1993-08-15). "Greenacres Is the Place to Be - For a Whopping $18M". Los Angeles Times News Service.
- Paul Sullivan (2001-02-17). "Search for glamour of old Hollywood: A few homes with the whiff of movie nostalgia have survived; Paul Sullivan visits those on the market". Financial Times (London).
- "An Arcadian Landscape, The California Gardens of A.E. Hanson;" by David Gebhard and A.E. Hanson; pub: Hennessey & Ingalls Inc.; 1985; ISBN 0-912158-91-3
- Historic American Buildings Survey, 20 photos and data pages