Sunset Park & Will Rogers

sunset_park_beverly_hills_will_rogers_memorialSunset Park in Beverly Hills was dedicated in 1915, the year after Beverly Hills was incorporated, and became the new city’s first municipal park. In 1926 humorist Will Rogers was named honorary mayor of Beverly Hills in a mock ceremony held across the street from the park that now bears his name

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The Beverly Hills Hotel and grounds in 1915, the year Sunset Park was donated to the city. Water & Power Associates.

beverly_hills_hotelBy 1926, a lot of film-folk were abandoning Hollywood for the wide open spaces of Beverly Hills. Rogers called it home. Gloria’ Swanson’s house was right across the street from the hotel. Tom Mix, Marion Davies, Carl Laemmle of Universal Pictures, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, and Charlie Chaplin lived in the vicinity, as had the late Rudolph Valentino. Harold and Mildred Lloyd had purchased a 115-acre site in 1925 and were building a hilltop estate.

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Will Rogers’ first Beverly Hills home, “The House That Jokes Built”

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beverlyhills.org

On December 21, 1926, a glittering contingent of Beverly Hills residents, including Eleanor Boardman, Douglas Fairbanks, Tom Mix, William S. Hart and Conrad Nagel, met “Hizzonor” at the Santa Fe station in downtown Los Angeles and paraded him through the streets to the Beverly Hills Hotel where he was inducted into office. Billie Dove handed him the key to the city.

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Rogers’ trademark humor was evident in his acceptance speech. “They say I’ll be a comedy mayor.” he said. “I won’t be the only one. Take Los Angeles Mayor- Cryer- he’s got a sad name, but he’s funny just the same. I intend to be the only mayor who is purposely funny.” Rogers’ “term” lasted until 1928.

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My grandmother, Lorraine, at Sunset Park with her dad, Herbert Graham April 24, 1927. Her future husband (my grandfather) would be born five months later, September 1, 1927, only a few blocks from here. Author photo.

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“Then & Now” views of Sunset Park/Will Rogers Memorial Park. LAPL (left); beverlyhills.org (right)

Will Rogers died in a plane crash in 1935. Seventeen years later, in 1952, the city rededicated the park in his honor. Today, the fountain in the center of it is called the Margaret J. Anderson Fountain after the first owner of the Beverly Hills Hotel and donor of the land for the park.

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