Docent Chuck Tellalian led an exclusive “Behind the Scenes” Tour of the first estate of Beverly Hills on Saturday, January 27, 2018. For the first-of-its-kind tour, guests were invited behind closed doors to hear about and experience what life was like with Harry and Virginia Robinson and how Virginia entertained friends at her elegant one-storied turn of the 20th-century mini-mansion. Chuck had four wonderful docents: Tom O’Connor, Kathleen Campbell, Tina Varjian, and Betty Rodriguez Goldstein who were assigned to various portions of the tour where they each shared fascinating stories and history.
The guests gathered in the Loggia where Chuck began with introductions and a brief history of how Virginia and Harry met and how they decided to develop their Beverly Hills estate on the hill in 1911. From there, the tour started in the 1955 themed kitchen with a history of the decor and household help that resided at the property. Then the guests learned about Virginia’s collection of beautiful china (displayed in the butler’s pantry), which she had access to, due to the abundance of patterns and styles sold at the Robinson Department stores.
The tour moved into the formal dining room where Virginia entertained both socialites and Hollywood stars. The entry foyer held its own stories, as a dance floor for many parties and how it has some fascinating architectural designs reminiscent of typical early turn of the century structural elements. Also staged in the entry foyer is Virginia’s guest book that she always kept out for guests to sign when they came to visit. She and Harry signed the very first guestbook when they officially moved into their home and so it became a tradition to the end of her life. The tour continued throughout the house, where Virginia’s furniture and antiquities that she and Harry collected from all over the world uniquely decorated each of the rooms.
Once the tour of the home was completed, it proceeded outdoors through the five themed gardens, where guests learned about the history of many of the century-old plants and trees that adorn the property. Some of them are registered as the largest of their species, such as the Coral tree and bougainvillea. Another outdoor fascination includes the Australian King Palm Forest…the largest in the Western Hemisphere.
The group worked its way over to the Pool Pavilion, which was added to the property in 1924. It has two guest rooms with kitchens (one of the rooms was more recently converted into a larger kitchen), a main front hall, a billiard room (now used for lectures) and a hidden upstairs card room. The guests were invited to ascend up the spiral staircase to view the newly renovated card room. They enjoyed viewing the intricately detailed wall panels that told many stories in European pictograph style about the enchanted life of Virginia and her beloved pets and entertaining.
The tour ended with Cartier Champagne and appetizing treats both savory and sweet from Le Pain Quotidien and a closing message from the Friends of Robinson Gardens President, Marian Power. The organization and guests were very grateful to Chuck for presenting such a unique and informative tour!
Post and photos by Diane Jenkins
Friends of Robinson Gardens Board Member