Millionaire oil tycoon Edward Laurence Doheny gifted a sizable tract of land in California to his son Ned as a wedding gift in 1927 and began construction of the Greystone mansion, a three-year undertaking which cost a staggering four million dollars to construct over a period of three years. The name “Greystone” came from the estate’s abundant use of Indiana limestone, grey in appearance. The mansion itself consists of fifty-five rooms over 46,000 square feet, and the estate grounds have stables and kennels, tennis courts, a fire station, a gatehouse, a swimming pool and pavilion, a greenhouse, a lake, babbling brooks, and cascading waterfalls. Today, the mansion is leased from the City of Los Angeles by the American Film Institute. Several television shows and movies have been filmed at the estates, including Spider-Man, X-Men, and Jurassic Park: The Lost World.
Backstory and Context
In 1892, an unsuccessful gold and silver prospector named Edward Laurence Doheny arrived in Los Angeles County and purchased 600 acres of barren land in the foothills to drill for oil. While much of this land would not become successful for oil, Doheny would find his true fortune (and nearly his demise in the Teapot Dome Scandal of the Harding administration) in oil discovered nearby. His foothill land did become excellent ranchland for orange and lemon trees, and it was here he decided to build a house for his son Ned as a wedding gift in 1927. Construction of the Greystone mansion cost over four million dollars and took four years to complete, an unimaginable cost for a home in the 1920s; Ned, his wife Lucy, and their five children moved into the mansion during construction. Five months after the family moved in, Ned was found dead in the home in an apparent murder-suicide committed by his longtime friend and secretary, Hugh Plunkett. Authorities believed the deaths may have been Plunkett’s reaction to a fear of being investigated for their role in delivering bribe money to Secretary of Interior Albert Fall during the Teapot Dome Scandal.
Lucy Doheny and her children remained in the mansion until 1955, when they sold most of the land to a developer, and later the mansion to a man named Henry Crown. Crown never occupied the home, but planned to demolish it. Concerned citizens petitioned to save it, and the city of Beverly Hills purchased it in 1965. The city rented it out to the American Film Institute for a dollar per year, and in exchange, the AFI tended the mansion and the grounds until 1982, when it became a public park.
The Greystone mansion is an impressive example of early Los
Angeles Baronial architecture, a style that resembles a European “castle”
design, though it is supplemented with a variety of distinctive architectural
forms that include Gothic, English, and Italian. The walls are made of gray
Indiana limestone, three feet thick, with a Welsh slate-shingled roof. The
plumbing, designed for the seismic activity of California, is suspended on
cables that sway when the earth shifts. Some of the distinctive internal
features of the mansion include “hanging ceilings, hidden panels, Italian
marble, hand carved oak and walnut, leaded windows … a dumb-waiter, bowling
alleys, a theater, servants’ quarters, and power hoisted chandeliers.” The art
in the formal gardens ranges from plaques in the style of Italian Renaissance classics
to Greek Ptolemaic sculptured masks to ornate lamps made of French crystal to,
perhaps most notably, the Italian Renaissance fountains.
Greystone is now a public park, leased out to film
production companies that contribute to the upkeep and improvements on the
mansion and the grounds. Several movies were filmed on the grounds and the
house, including There Will Be Blood and
The Manor, two films about the life
and controversies of Edward Doheny, as well as Spider-Man, X-Men, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, and the television series Arrow. The
mansion is also used for the Annual Hollywood Ball, a charitable auction
involving hundreds of dressed-up celebrities, and several art shows. The Greystone Estate was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
L, Donna. Greystone Mansion. Paranormal US. October 27, 2015. http://paranormalunitedstates.com/greystone-mansion.
National Register of Historic Places, Greystone Mansion. Beverly Hills, Los Angeles County, California, National Register #76000485.