In 1922 when Alphonzo Bell decided to sell parcels for “gentlemen estates” in Bel Air, he predicted that this new community would be “the crowning achievement of suburban development. Just like the start of Beverly Hills real estate, everyone was skeptical about this new community that was developing because of the failed promises other real estate developers had made and under-delivered or had gone bankrupt.
Bel Air at the time was not in the best location as well as the difficult access going from Bel Air to Beverly Hills to Los Angeles. As much as buyers admired the hillsides and views they had to think about what schools their children would attend, how they would be able to visit their friends in Los Angeles, and run everyday errands.
Bell had purchased Jake and Daisy Danzinger’s mansion at the top of today’s Bel Air Road for $2.5 million. A year later he purchased 22,000 acres for $6 million. In a little more than a year, Bell had owned the largest holding of the best-situated land in Los Angeles. Bell had then realized that affluent Angelenos could now live in the hills and that views would be an important feature in any expensive home. Because automobiles were becoming more popular and common, online casino games people would be more open to turn empty hillsides into their home.
In November 1922, the first buyers paid $40,000 for a seven-acre lot. Bell had hired the Frank Meline Company to handle sales and promotion for Bel Air. The Meline firm had a lot of credibility. They had worked for Rodeo Land & Water Company in Beverly Hills, and the Huntington Land Company developed, which included Oak Knoll in Pasadena. In 1923 the Meline Company launched its first sales and Marketing campaign (see above image for pamphlet cover) for Bel Air promoting it as, “Bel Air: The Exclusive Residential Park of the West.” Estates ranged from $7,500-$30,000 and promised that lots were generously portioned out.
Not everyone was able to purchase an estate in the new community and would have to be approved. Every potential buyer would have to have letter of recommendations and have their credentials investigated before any sales are approved. Bell specifically did not want any “movie people” to buy in his new community. Bel Air became a success. Through the development of the community, Bell completed the clubhouse, eighteen-hole golf course, and tennis courts for the Bel Air Country Club.
Bell had other major plans for Bel Air, but in the early 1930s, he had lost control of the Bel Air Corporation. New homes that were built were smaller. In 1941, Bell regained control of the development and sales. After WWII sales in Bel Air increased and new homes being built were far different from the homes built in the 20s.
Old Bel Air were the original 1920s tracts close to Sunset Boulevard. New Bel Air were the lower elevations closer to the West Gate and postwar homes on the smaller hillside lots. Bel Air has a legacy and historical importance and is still today one of the most fashionable neighborhoods with extraordinary estates.
Hyland, Jeff. Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills. Rizzoli, New York. November 2008. Print.