Behind Beverly Hills’ Iconic Name

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Throughout history, there appears to have always been something special about the land that became Beverly Hills. The original inhabitants, the native Tongva, recognized it as a kind of oasis in a semi-arid basin, the place they poetically called “the gathering of the waters.” The Spanish explorer Don Jose Gaspar de Portolà realized it, too, and when his expedition happened upon the Tongva’s Eden, he recorded the locals’ name for it in Spanish, El Rodeo de las Aguas.

Empty Canyons of BH (right) | LILY POND (right)

The Original Owner

Maria Rita-

According to the Beverly Hills Historical Society, in 1838, Maria Rita was deeded 4,500 acres — the core of today’s Beverly Hills. Maria Rita was an African-Mexican widow of a Spanish soldier, with, get this, eleven kids! Her ranch was called El Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas (“the gathering of the waters”), with the main house situated at today’s intersection of Alpine Drive and Sunset Boulevard.

The ranch was attacked by Native Americans in 1852, and although Maria Rita prevailed, two years later she sold the land to Henry Hancock, a Harvard-educated lawyer and land surveyor, and Benjamin Wilson, a California politician. But pretty soon, the water dried up and the cattle died. So Wilson and Hancock sold the land to Edward Preuss, a doctor who converted the ranch into a lima bean field.

EARLY BEVERLY HILLS HOTEL (left) Courtesy of BH Historic Society | Current Beverly Hills Hotel (right)

The Name

Beverly Massachusetts-

The land exchanged hands again until the turn of the century, when the Amalgamated Oil Company, headed by Burton E. Green, purchased it and began drilling for oil. But there was no black gold to be had. Instead, they tapped into a wealth of water. So in 1906, Green and his partners regrouped and renamed their business The Rodeo Land and Water Company. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Green and his wife decided to rename the bean field “Beverly Hills,” after Beverly Farms, in Massachusetts, a place he had happy recollections of (Beverly Farms is a lovely ocean-front community next to the city of Beverly, MA).

The Icon Arrives

The Beverly Hills Hotel-

The first house was completed in 1907, but sales were slow. To bolster the interest of potential buyers, Green, in 1912, completed construction of the Beverly Hills Hotel on the site where the waters once gathered. The luxurious establishment served not only travelers but the locals as a de facto city hall, community center, movie theatre, and religious worship venue. Sitting in what was then the middle of nowhere, the hotel was reached by the specially-constructed Dinky Railroad, a wondrous attraction in itself at the time. By 1914, the local population was large enough to support incorporation of Beverly Hills as a city, but real growth didn’t take off until the era’s most glamorous couple, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, bought a lot on Summit Drive, where they built their home, Pickfair. Following their fashionable lead was a host of film industry stars, directors, and producers, who began the celebrity mystique that remains a constant of Beverly Hills to this day.


Calculated using the past 30 days

  • Median List Price: $6.29M
  • Avg. Sale / List: 94.9%
  • Median List $/Sq Ft: $1.3K
  • Median Sale Price: $3.77M
  • Median Sale $/Sq Ft: $958
  • Number of Homes Sold: 29

- Real Estate Highlights -

For Sale

Location | Beverly Hills, 90211

R.E. Information courtesy of

Article info, Blog details, images courtesy of BH Historical Society & Destination 360


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