Historic Restoration Tour: The Pool at Robinson Gardens

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Our final stop on this tour led us to the exquisitely beautiful Virginia Robinson Gardens, the very first estate built in the legendarily opulent enclave of Beverly Hills. Although also perched on a hilltop and only a few miles away from downtown L.A., it felt like we were in a completely different world.

The site, which is now operated by L.A. County, was the home of Virginia Dryden Robinson and Harry Winchester Robinson, who were heirs to the Robinson Co., best known for the department stores of the same name.

Similar in some respects to Hearst Castle, the Robinsons set out to create a Shangri-La for the rich and famous of the early 20th century, a grand venue for gala parties attended by movie stars and celebrities.

Virginia's father, architect Nathaniel Dryden, designed the main home, which was completed in 1911 in the "Beaux Arts" style. The seven-acre property included expansive and varied gardens with literally thousands of plant species and more than 500 varieties of roses. The bucolic gardens cover a wide range of styles and today serves as an arboretum and living testament to the creative vision of its owners.

The Renaissance Revival Pool and Pavilion were built in 1924 and were modeled after the Villa Pisani in the Tuscan region of Italy. The space features decorative panels of tile mosaics and Roman arches at the entry to the pavilion's solarium.

Unlike the other properties described in this article, this pool is still operating and is one of the most beautiful found anywhere. Bill's role is to revamp the circulation system, but in this case, the goal is to both update the equipment and return the pool's abandoned original gutter system to full operation.

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As we left this beautiful property, my mind was spinning from the experience of taking in the sights, sounds and even aromas of these important places. From soaring beauty of Hearst Castle to the World War II history of the "Hey Rookie" Pool, to the abandoned majesty of the Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial and finally the lavish beauty of Virginia Robinson's gardens, I felt deeply the impact of the historic role that some swimming pools and water features play in today's often disposable properties.

Taking that tour with a man who is actively participating in the perpetuation of these facilities for future generations, I had a sense of at least lightly touching history. More a man of action than of words, Bill simply said, "It's important that we preserve these places because they each tell their own important stories."

Editor's Note: As these projects are completed, we'll revisit them in upcoming issues.

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