The current luxury real estate market is redefining “extravagant.”
First, a 8,930-square-foot house on nine acres in Northern California found a buyer for a state record-breaking $117 million. Then word came that financier Gary Winnick is quietly asking $225 million for his trophy home on an 8.4-acre knoll in Bel-Air.
Now, a Beverly Hills estate is being offered for lease at $600,000 a month, dwarfing the $150,000 a month asked for summer months at Malibu’s finest properties or the $100,000 a month paid by singing legend Michael Jackson for his last residence in Holmby Hills.
In three decades of selling Westside real estate, it is the highest price for a lease that listing agent Jeffrey Hyland of Hilton & Hyland has seen. “It may be the most expensive lease in the country.”
The Mediterranean-style Beverly House was built by local banker Milton Getz in the 1920s but is more commonly remembered for its former residents: publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst and actress Marion Davies.
Later, it served as a honeymoon spot for Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy.
The fourth owner, attorney-investor Leonard Ross has spent more than three and a half decades in the house. He has spent countless amounts on maintenance, restoration, expansion and upgrades, adding more than 20,000 square feet of living space on four levels during his tenure.
“It has been a labor of love,” Ross said in an interview several years ago. “This is not a spec house.”
To step through the front door is to wonder if one is in Beverly Hills or Santa Barbara; in a mansion or the grand lobby of a historic hotel. The 50-foot entry hall looks out onto a series of gardens, fountains and a pool.
Listed at one point for $165 million, it was priced at $95 million three years ago to reflect the site being reduced by three acres.
Today, the 3.7-acre compound is still among the most expensive houses listed on the local Multiple Listing Service.
The formal living room off the grand entry hall is museum-like in its quality and appearance. Ross purchased the estate with some of its original furnishings, many of which adorn the oldest parts of the house.
Designed by Davies and Hearst to double as a theater complete with a drop-down screen and built-in projection portals, the 22-foot-tall living room also has served as party space over the decades. It was the site several years ago of a 60-person sit-down dinner for Prince Albert II of Monaco. “We just rolled up the rug,” Ross said.
The nearby billiards room is a more intimate space with a coffered wood ceiling, a fireplace surround moved down from Hearst Castle in San Simeon and a 1888 Brunswick pool table. Ross added a large painting of Marion Davies that he purchased later.
The heart of the house’s original rooms is the two-story library, lined with wooden shelves on both levels and a wrap-around walkway with railing above. Extra-thick glass windows let light into the restful room but shut out all sound.
The wing of the house Ross added is hard to discern at first, subtly integrated to create an overall H-shaped footprint. But the Art Deco décor, including carved glass and mirrors as well as a bar from Hugh Hefner’s now-defunct club Touch, is the giveaway, lending the lower level of the mansion a newer ambience.
Upstairs, wings of family bedrooms and staff quarters are connected by a central hallway large enough to hold two bowling lanes. There are 17 bedrooms and 29 bathrooms.
Throughout the years the grand manse’s more than 50,000 square feet of living space has been used from time to time as a movie location. Scenes from “The Godfather” and “The Bodyguard” were filmed there.
Hyland and Brandon Wolsic of Vires Real Estate Group are the listing agents.
Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun