Times being a trifle tough these days, that $100 million mansion in Beverly Hills may be a bit beyond your reach. The next best thing has got to be Jeffrey Hyland's new 400-page volume The Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills, a meticulously researched and lavishly illustrated history of 50 magnificent estates in three world-famous enclaves of the ultra-wealthy - Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, and Holmby Hills. The $250 tome is a definitive history of the area's most famous estates - "the architecturally spectacular homes and lavish grounds that have been home to countless celebrities and the world's richest families for almost a century."
Aside from the purely visual pleasure of the photographs both old and new, Hyland explains the history and architectural importance of each estate, and tells the fascinating stories of the many famed owners, from their "passionate involvement in the design of these costly properties, to their intrigues, triumphs, calamities, and romances." The estates run the gamut from historic Beverly House, the sprawling 1920s Mediterranean estate inhabited by William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies and briefly listed a while back at $165 million, to modern classics like the notorious Fleur de Lys in Holmby Hills (above).
The 15-bedroom Fleur de Lys, which is currently on the market for $125 million, was built by Texan billionaire David Saperstein and is now owned by his ex-wife Suzanne - whom he ditched for the childrens' hot Swedish nanny. The five-acre estate is home to a 41,000-square foot French limestone mansion inspired by France's magnificent Vaux le Vicomte palace outside Paris. Surrounding the mansion are rolling lawns, ornamental gardens and mature trees, a 3,000-square-foot manager's house, staff quarters for ten people, a spa and pool with a pavilion and its own kitchen, a championship tennis court, and a lavish garden folly.
Gallery: Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills
Also featured in the book: Bellagio Road in Bel-Air, built for studio mogul Sol Wurtzel in the 1930s along the lines of the villas found on the hillsides near Florence, Italy; Casa Encantada in Bel-Air, a "modern Georgian with Grecian influences" built in the 1930s by a former nurse from New York who married a much-older multimillionaire glass manufacturer, then took up with her chauffeur after he died; and the storied St. Cloud Road estate which was owned by a string of luminaries including It Happened One Night director Frank Capra, Warner Bros. stars Dick Powell and Joan Blondell, director / producer Mervyn LeRoy, and MGM founder Louis B. Mayer. See the gallery for pix.