Beverly Hills celebrates its past as it prepares to turn 100

Kicking off its centennial celebration, Beverly Hills on Sunday is holding an equestrian parade and a preview of the city's events to make the occasion.

The parade commemorates aspects of the city's history including a bridle path that for four decades starting in 1924 extended along the Rodeo median north of the city's commercial zone to Sunset Boulevard and then on Sunset between the city's eastern and western limits.


Known for Hollywood glamour, designer boutiques and the 90210 ZIP Code, Beverly Hills officially turns 100 on Jan. 28, and the city wants residents and tourists to have plenty of opportunities to mark the occasion.

"This is a chance to take stock, look at our history, celebrate the people who made the city, and have fun together," Mayor John Mirisch said.

The centennial events are scheduled to begin New Year's Day with the Rose Parade and a float celebrating the city's "historical character and charm," according to the city's website.

On Jan. 28, according to the website, the city will hold a birthday block party and a sing-along concert at the Saban Theatre, featuring songs by composers who lived in Beverly Hills. The list includesg Albert Von Tilzer, who wrote "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

Also in the works are art contests and shows, photo exhibits, a documentary, a book, a custom Beverly Hills rose, and, in partnership with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a film festival that will show movies set in Beverly Hills or with Beverly Hills in their titles.

City Hall, the Conference and Visitors Bureau, the Rodeo Drive Committee and the Chamber of Commerce have been involved in the planning, officials said.

"We've all worked as a team," said Richard Rosenzweig, a longtime resident and Playboy Enterprises executive who heads the centennial committee. He said the effort has attracted "150 enthusiastic volunteers."

Today's Beverly Hills would be unrecognizable to its founders. The area was once part of a 4,539-acre rancho held by Maria Rita Valdez. Valdez named the rancho Rodeo de las Aguas, or gathering of the waters, after the seasonal flow down Canyon of the Live Oaks (now Benedict Canyon).

Valdez sold the land in 1854, and the property subsequently changed hands many times. By the turn of the 20th century, the area contained hundreds of acres of open fields planted with cabbage and lima beans. A few families lived on small hillside ranches, while farmworkers stayed in shacks along the Red Car railroad tracks south of Santa Monica Boulevard.

In the early 1900s, an investment syndicate, later called Rodeo Land & Water Co., bought more than 3,000 acres and began carving it into lots. The developers had little luck attracting buyers until railroad man Henry Huntington lured Margaret Anderson from her successful Hollywood Hotel to build and operate a posh destination in Beverly Hills.

The Beverly Hills Hotel opened in 1912 and offered an electric-trolley stop, riding stables, classes for children who spent the winter and Sunday worship. Fox hunts were held in the hills behind the hotel, amid bucolic open space now largely supplanted by mega-mansions. Celebrities and industry leaders who owned estates with stables used the system of trails, as did hotel guests.

After the hotel opened, "the city took off," said Robert S. "Robbie" Anderson, Anderson's great-grandson and a local historian.

The new city was incorporated in 1914, and the founders named it after Beverly Farms, Mass.

By the early 1920s, the automobile had dramatically reduced demand for the trolley. The tracks along Sunset were removed, and Pacific Electric Co. gave up its leases to the former rail strip in 1923. About that time, Margaret Anderson's son Stanley, the Beverly Hills Hotel manager, and Irving Hellman, a banker, organized the Bridle Path Assn. to promote installation of a "bridle path to the sea."