Beverly Hills, a city synonymous with luxury and flashiness, is taking a look at the past as it prepares to celebrate its centennial, trying to move beyond film and television stereotypes that "can sometimes be a little unfair," Beverly Hills Mayor John A. Mirisch told Efe.
The snobbish and glamorous image of the wealthy Southern California city, which was founded on Jan. 28, 1914, was forged by World War II.
The world's purveyors of luxury brands found homes on the city's quiet streets as the war consumed Europe.
Beverly Hills, located near the Hollywood studios, became a haven for movie stars during the first third of the 20th century.
The city's "Golden Triangle" shopping district, an area between Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards, and Rexford street, which crosses iconic Rodeo Drive, is home to jewelry stores and upscale boutiques, drawing throngs of tourists.
Rodeo Drive gets its name from the Rodeo Land and Water Company, a corporation that was founded in 1906 and purchased the area's beanfields for oil exploration.
The investors instead found huge aquifers and Burton E. Green, who ran the company, gave the area the name Beverly Hills, inspired by Beverly Farms, Massachusetts.
Green built the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1912 in what was then the middle of nowhere.
Movie stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks put Beverly Hills on the map when they built their mansion there and others followed.
The city has counted stars such as Marlene Dietrich, Fred Astaire, Marlon Brando, Charlie Chaplin, Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra and Jack Nicholson among its residents.
The relationship between Beverly Hills and Hollywood stars has long "fascinated" the public, Mayor Mirisch said.
The city's 90210 zip code is the most expensive neighborhood in the United States, with 18 houses selling for $10 million or more between July 2012 and June 2013.
Beverly Hills is also home to the 90211 and 90212 zip codes, where more than half of the 34,000 residents are renters from households with moderate incomes who live in the city "so they can send their kids to good public schools," the mayor said.
"Pickfair," the 56-acre (23-hectare) estate that was home to Pickford and Fairbanks, was demolished in 1988 so actress Pia Zadora, who believed the house was haunted, could build a new mansion.
The house of composer George Gershwin, who wrote "Rhapsody in Blue" and "An American in Paris," was demolished in 2005.
"We have not done a good job of valuing our history," the mayor said.
The Beverly Hills centennial celebration will feature a concert and the screening of a documentary to educate the public about the importance of protecting the city's legacy, Mirisch said. EFE