Will Rogers Memorial Park
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Located across the street from the historic and legendary Beverly Hills Hotel, the Will Rogers Memorial Park, named for the late actor, humorist, cowboy, and philosopher, dates back to 1915. Originally part of the front lawn of the Beverly Hills Hotel, the owner deeded five acres of land to the city in 1915 for the establishment of a local park. In 1926, Will Rogers, who owned a ranch in Beverly Hills, was named the Honorary Mayor of the city of Beverly Hills and held the title for two years. In 1952, 17 years after Rogers' tragic and sudden death in a plane crash, Sunset Park was renamed in his honor. The park features a historic fountain, a lily pond, beautiful gardens, and space for entertainment. The Will Rogers Memorial Park has offered pristine beauty and peace to the people of Beverly Hills and visitors for over one hundred years, and it pays homage to one of the kindest, most humble men to grace the city, Will Rogers.
Backstory and Context
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Located just south of the Beverly Hills Hotel and legendary Sunset Blvd. on five acres of land defined by Washingtonia palms, roses and other lush flowers and plants is the oldest public park in Beverly Hills, the Will Rogers Memorial Park. In the center sits a gorgeous fountain and lily pond inhabited by koi fish.
As the newly-formed city of Beverly Hills was residentially expanding, the Rodeo Land and Water Company created amenities and civic areas for the people to enjoy. The land south of the Beverly Hills Hotel was originally an extension of the grounds, but the hotel owner, Margaret Anderson, deeded the five acres to the city for the establishment of the city's first park. Beverly Hills' first architect, Wilbur Cook, Jr., designed the layout of the park, which opened in 1915 and was called "Sunset Municipal Park."
Besides being appreciated for its scenic beauty and use of recreational space, Sunset Park was also a popular site for filming. Charlie Chaplin filmed scenes at the park for his 1921 movie, "The Idle Class," and the classic duo Laurel and Hardy filmed the opening scene to their film "Pack Up Your Troubles" in the park in 1932. Will Rogers, an actor, vaudeville performer, well-known humorist, aspiring politician, and philosopher, also frequented the park. For a few years, Rogers and his wife owned a home on North Beverly Drive, just down the street from Sunset Park. In 1926, he was named the first Honorary Mayor of Beverly Hills and was a pillar in the community. Sadly, Rogers' life was cut tragically short in 1935 when he was killed in a plane crash in Alaska. The city honored their "favorite son" in 1952 by renaming Sunset Municipal Park "Will Rogers Memorial Park."
Over the years, few changes have been made to the park besides the addition of lush greenery and flowers and public restrooms. In 1996 the park closed for a $1 million renovation to restore it back to its 1920s appearance. At the time of the re-opening in 1997, new commemorative plaques were installed. The historic renovation won the park preservation awards from the California Park and Recreation Society and American Society of Landscape Architects. More than a hundred years after it first opened, the Will Rogers Memorial Park continues to hold true to its original intention of serving as a peaceful recreational space for everyone to enjoy.
Ostashay, John. City Landmark Assessment & Evaluation Report: Will Rogers Memorial Park. Beverly Hills. January 01, 2015. Accessed August 03, 2018. http://www.beverlyhills.org/cbhfiles/storage/files/924304369990615969/BHWRMP_LndmrkAssmntReport_JAN2....
Wayne, Gary. Will Rogers Memorial Park. Seeing Stars. Accessed August 03, 2018. https://www.seeing-stars.com/Immortalized/WillRogersMemorialPark.shtml.