The Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills

Hill Grove
Beverly Hills

Ever since Hollywood’s golden age of silent movies in the 1920s, cinema fans have flocked to Beverly Hills to see the “homes of the stars.” One Beverly Hills resident, Gertrude Lewis, did not have to leave her 10-acre Hill Grove to see the most famous actors and actresses. They came to her estate, and, no, she was not a powerful producer or director, or the financial backer of films.

From the early 1920s to the early 1950s, Gertrude Lewis’ sprawling 10-acre Hill Grove estate—and her very grand Tudor mansion—was a favorite shooting location for films, and later some early TV shows.

Why did Gertrude Lewis rent out Hill Grove as a movie location so frequently? She wasn’t hard up for cash. Gertrude rented the estate for locations, then donated the fee to several charities helping the poor. The real reason was that she got to meet each decade’s leading stars and watch the filming of major motion pictures.

Gertrude Lewis had plenty of time for this “hobby.” Her husband, George, who owned Shreve & Co., the famed San Francisco jeweler, lived in the family’s San Francisco house. He enjoyed the life of a bon vivant. Herb Caen, the noted San Francisco Chronicle columnist, told some of the stories. George Lewis, wrote Caen, “who owned the most beautiful women in town, was a good man to know: If he took a liking to you, gold baubles floated your way.” Another time, Caen wrote: “Millionaire George Lewis, silver Champagne bucket at left elbow, ravishing ‘keptive’ at right, presiding over his sycophantic circle at the old Templebar. They knew how to keep women in those days: Nob Hill penthouses and open charge accounts, cinq-a-sept and off to Amelio’s for Bill’s peerless martinis.”

Gertrude Lewis obviously knew about her husband, and obviously, she did not care. She had her Beverly Hills estate, traveled to Europe for a year at a time, and enjoyed meeting all the stars at her estate. Was Gertrude also entertaining men-friends at her home away from her husband’s prying eye?

Like several great Benedict Canyon estates, Hill Grove was demolished and its grounds subdivided in the 1960s. Today, Hill Grove, which had been such a prominent Beverly Hills landmark for so many years, and which appeared in so many films, has vanished entirely, except for a street named Hill Grove, which was one of the estate’s driveways.