Discover the Magic of Robinson Gardens: LA’s Best Kept Secret Revealed through Enchanting Beauty and Serenity
by Stefanie Michaels
Robinson Gardens is a historic estate located in the LA neighborhood of Beverly Hills. John and Virgina Robinson, prominent figures in the Los Angeles arts and cultural scene of the 20th century, made their fortune owning Robinson’s Department Stores.
Their 6-acre property is historically significant as it was the residence of many famous guests. Since the Robinsons were known for their patronage of the arts, they rubbed elbows with many film stars of the day, such as Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, and Winston Churchill. They hosted them on the property for weekenders, pool parties, tennis, and croquet games on the grounds.
Architect Lucian Nielson designed the main house, considered an essential example of the Mediterranean Revival style of architecture, popular in Southern California during the 1920s and 1930s. The use of stucco walls, red tile roofs, and arched openings.
Today, the Gardens are known for this Mediterranean-style architecture and lush landscaping, which includes a variety of flowers, trees, and shrubs. Most notable is the use of native California plants—incorporated into the design to create a sense of harmony between the built and natural environments.
The property also includes a large main house, several smaller buildings, a swimming pool, rose gardens, and a jaw-dropping palm tree jungle.
Considered a cultural and architectural gem of the city, The Robinson Garden is now open to the public for tours, special events, and private rentals.
Visitors to Robinson Gardens can see a variety of features, including:
- The main house: The Mediterranean-style main house is where visitors can explore the interior and see its original furnishings and artwork.
- The gardens: The gardens are one of the highlights of Robinson Gardens, including the Italian Garden, the Rose Garden, and the Lagoon Garden. (The gardens are known for lush landscaping and diverse plant collections including a variety of flowers, trees, and shrubs).
- The swimming pool: The pool is located in the gardens and surrounded by a terrace with views of the garden.
- The smaller buildings: Visitors can also explore the smaller buildings on the property, such as the Guest House and the Pool House, decorated with original furnishings and artwork.
- The art collection: As patronage of the arts the art collection is on display throughout, including paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts.
- The historical aspects: Guests can learn about the history of the property and the people who lived there.
TIP: It’s important to call ahead and make reservations. Limited visitor times are available.
Did you know?
Robinson’s Garden in Beverly Hills features a stunning fountain designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. The fountain, located at the center of the garden, was commissioned by the owners of Robinsons-May in the 1990s as part of a significant renovation project.
Gehry’s design for the fountain features a series of angled, brushed stainless steel sheets that cascade water down into a shallow pool below. The fountain has become a beloved landmark in Beverly Hills and is often cited as an example of Gehry’s innovative, boundary-pushing design aesthetic.
A little history:
John Albert Robinson, who built the Robinson Estate and gardens, was an American entrepreneur and founder of Robinson’s, a prominent department store chain in Southern California. He was born on November 17, 1856, in Ontario, Canada, and grew up in Illinois.
After working as a traveling salesman for a wholesale grocery firm, Robinson moved to Los Angeles in 1880 and opened a small dry goods store on the corner of Spring and Temple streets. The store was successful, and Robinson soon expanded his business by purchasing a larger building and adding more merchandise, including clothing and housewares.
In 1882, Robinson opened the first Robinson’s department store in Los Angeles, offering a wide range of goods under one roof. The store quickly became popular with Southern California’s growing population, and Robinson opened additional locations in Pasadena, Santa Ana, and other cities.
Robinson was known for his innovative merchandising techniques, including the use of window displays to attract customers and the creation of “model rooms” to showcase furniture and home decor. He also introduced a number of customer service innovations, such as free delivery and in-store cafes.
Robinson remained involved in the operation of his stores until his death in 1929 at the age of 72. Today, his legacy lives on through the Robinson’s brand, which was eventually merged with May Company to form Robinsons-May and later acquired by Macy’s.