The six-acre estate & gardens in Beverly Hills that the Robinson Department Stores bought.
The Virginia Robinson Gardens is a unique historic estate, a cultural jewel that transports the visitor back to the birthplace of Beverly Hills. Built in 1911, it was once the residence of retail giants Virginia and Harry Robinson (of the Robinson department stores) and now occupies an illustrious place in history as the first luxury estate built in Beverly Hills.
Today, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open by appointment to the public. Located behind the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel, the beautiful six-acre property contains a breathtaking display garden, mansion and pool pavilion.
No need to travel to Hawaii to see this beautiful hibiscus.
When Virginia Robinson died in 1977 just before her 100th birthday, she was arguably one of the last grand dames of the Hollywood era. Nevertheless, she left her legendary home and gardens in serious disrepair.
She willed her six acre estate to the County of Los Angeles, but the endowment was insufficient to rescue this historic treasure from slow but sure disintegration.
The LA Board of Supervisors placed the estate under the auspices of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, and then turned to the community to help save the Robinson Estate.
“The Friends of Robinson Gardens” was founded in 1982 with a Board of Directors and a general membership of over 75 committed women.
They raised enough money to begin crucial repairs, establish docent programs, and begin educational seminars.
The renaissance revival pool pavilion was built in 1924 and is modeled after the Villa Pisani in the Tuscan region of Italy. Decorative panels of Sgraffito ornamentation adorn the Roman arches at the entry to the pavilion’s Solarium.
The Formal Mall Garden is a perfectly-manicured stretch of emerald lawn flanked by cypress trees, perennial flower borders, rare specimen Cycad ‘palms’ and is bookended by the blue tiled pool at one end, and the Robinson home at the other.
Inside the pool pavilion.
Born into wealth and privilege, Virginia married a man of equal social stature—Harry Winchester Robinson, who became president of the J.W. Robinson department store company.
Virginia loved birds which can be found throughout the estate.
The Robinson home, a split-level, beige-colored, Beaux Arts-style house, is fairly modest by today’s Beverly Hills’ standards – with ‘only’ 6,000 feet and five main rooms.
The rooms include the bright and sophisticated dining room (with a silver fireplace), a parlor/sitting room (with a grand piano and an impressive chandelier), and a large library. The entrance hall itself contains a massive, ornately-carved oak desk, as well as a grandfather clock that was stopped (by the butler) at 6:20, the hour of Mrs. Robinson’s death.
On this barren plot of land surrounded by bean fields they built their dream house and gardens.
The gardens range in style and plant type from Italian Renaissance Mediterranean to Tropical Oceanea.
A walk down the “musical steps.”
“Musical” = listening to the water cascade down the brick stairway.
A very nice 100 year old specimen.
The estate has five distinctive gardens: – The Italian Renaissance Terrace Garden – The Formal Mall Garden – The Rose Garden – The Kitchen Garden or Potager – The Tropical Palm Garden
The Italian Renaissance Terrace Garden…
…with views of mature specimen trees and citrus terraces. Planted under large magnolia trees are a variety of camellias, gardenias, and azaleas.
The guardians of the Italian Renaissance Terrace Garden.
The winding brick path up to the main house.
Outdoor sculptures dot the six acre grounds.
The main house was designed in 1911 by architect Nathaniel Dryden (1849-1924), who was Virginia’s father, in a Beaux Arts style.
That’s Harry the cat, named after Virginia’s late husband Harry Winchester Robinson (1878-1932) who died at the young age of 54. Virginia would live on to almost 100 years old and never remarried. They also had no children.
The estate offers views of Century City, the ocean out to Catalina (on a clear day) and the surrounding hillsides of Beverly Hills.
The kitchen is original.
The upper floor above the driveway archway.
The Kitchen Garden or Potager, with vegetables and an herb garden.
Virginia had real monkey’s on the property back in the day.
The small little greenhouse outside the kitchen contained a few orchids. The peak blooming season for the garden is April and early May.
Monkey sculptures in the Tropical Palm Garden.
The Tropical Palm Garden includes a grove of King Palms…
…reportedly the largest in the continental United States.
The tropical area also contains gingers, bananas, and plumerias.