Los Angeles is renowned for having some of the most magnificent estates in the world. But you’ll have to take our word for it, because getting a glimpse of one isn’t easy. You can end up peering at a tall hedge and a pair of grand gates securing an empty, seemingly endless drive. But from Santa Monica to Pasadena, a few of our most legendary and opulent mansions are open to give you an eyeful.
Ever since the Santa Fe Railroad first chugged into town in 1885, Los Angeles has been a magnet for the über wealthy. Soon after, tycoons across the country began dropping in to build “summer homes” (read: jaw-dropping mansions) in our flowery climate. A few years later, the moguls and stars of the new movie industry chimed in. Then international air travel took our circle of affluent fans global.
In Santa Monica, the guest house is all that remains of an early film star’s 100-bedroom seaside mansion, along with the pool designed by Hearst Mansion architect Julia Morgan. In Beverly Hills, an oil tycoon’s 1928 manor has a bowling alley … and some dark history. Nearby, in Holmby Hills, the massive contemporary art collection of a Minnesota industrialist still glows in the 1920s Mediterranean estate he bought to house it in 1982. In Hollywood, a wealthy Nebraskan’s 1907 manor, often considered the last of LA’s pre-movie-era mansions, is getting ready to enchant a new audience. In Glendale, the era of private flying parties inspired a 1907 spread with its own airfield. And in Pasadena, the estate that was once called The Shadows, owned by the man who also bought Catalina Island, is now world-renowned under his own famous name. All of these estates welcome visitors … and evoke life in grand and bygone LA eras.