Lost LA: 7 Historic Mansions You Need To Visit

Historic Mansion Tours in Los Angeles

From pop-up museums to food events and everything in between it easy to get distracted with all the new and exciting things happening in LA. What we often overlook are the places that have been around for decades and even centuries.

Yes, it is surprising just how much history Los Angeles really has.

If you take the time to look, you’ll realize that there are some truly extraordinary places here in LA that do not always get the attention they deserve. For instance, all the historic mansions that are accessible to the public. Not only are these mansions architecturally stunning and make for amazing photo ops, but they are great reminders of lost LA.

So whether you are looking to learn more about Los Angeles’ often forgotten history or just want to see some AMAZING homes, here are seven historic mansions in LA you NEED to visit.

Banning Residence Museum

401 E M St, Wilmington, CA 90744

First on our list of historic mansions is the Banning Residence Museum. If you’ve been following me for a while then You are already well aware of my love affair with this beautiful home.

A small museum ran mostly by local volunteers, the Banning Museum is one of the only Greek Revival style homes in Los Angeles. Built-in 1850 by Phineas Banning, Father of the Port of Los Angeles, the Banning Museum a testament to the rise of the city of LA we now know it today. Tediously restored and furnished with Victorian-era antiques, the museum serves to preserve the history of the Banning Family and share it’s unique link to the city of Los Angeles.

Days of operation, tour times, and events hosted by the Banning Museum can be found at banningmuseum.org

Rosenheim Mansion

1120 Westchester Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90019

Look familiar? I know all my American Horror Story fans are screaming YES. Regardless if you’re an AHD fan or not, the Rosenheim historic mansion has as an extensive history within the Hollywood film industry.

Built by renowned architect Alfred Rosenheim in 1908, it was once know referred to as “one of the finest homes in Los Angeles.” A recognized cultural and historical landmark (#660) the Rosenheim mansion stands as a tangible piece of film and architectural history.

Although privately owned, fans can still view and take pictures in front of the mansion. Just remember to be respectful and remain on the sidewalk or street.

For those of you interested in viewing the Rosenheim historic mansion, you can find it at 1120 Westchester Place, Los Angeles 90019.

Getty Villa

17985 Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

If you visited the Getty Villa before, you may be a little confused as to why this is even included as a historic mansion. Although the museum is an impressive structure, it is but a recreation of the Villa dei Pairi built in 1974. The historical mansion in question, which once served as both the home to oil magnate J Paul Getty and the original location of the Getty Museum, is actually hidden in plain view.

Although no longer accessible to the public, the former Malibu mansion of J Paul Getty can still be seen tucked just behind the Villa. To get the best view of the exterior of the historic mansion, guests should seek out the coffee cart on the second level near the restaurant.

Many people are aware of the Getty Museum, but not too many people know that there are in fact TWO. While the Getty Center (the beautiful, gigantic white structure just off the 405) is one of the most popular museums in L.A., the Getty Villa, in Malibu, is the original “Getty Museum.” Located just off P.C.H., the Villa houses the Getty’s collection of ancient Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art. A multi-level and immersive experience, the Getty Villa is unlike any other museum found in Los Angeles.

Whether you have visited before or are just coming to learn about the Villa, not everyone is aware of its unique origins. Being that I live for interesting and historical tidbits, I figured why not share all that I’ve come to learn about one of my favorite museums in LA. So here are 7 little-known facts about the Getty Villa.

  1. Oil magnate and founder J. Paul Getty made his first million at the tender age of 23. Soon after striking it rich, he “retired” and became somewhat of a playboy. After a few years, Getty realized the leisurely life was not for him. He went on to create one of the largest oil corporations, Getty Oil, and become America’s first billionaire.
  2. The original Getty Museum was located where the Villa is today, just not in the same structure. An avid collector of fine art and ancient antiquities, J Paul Getty opened his Malibu mansion to visitors in order to share his passion for the arts. The Getty Villa, the structure you visit today, was constructed in 1974 just two years prior to the death of Mr. Getty.
  3. The original Malibu residence of Mr. Getty is still in existence, although it has since been converted into offices. The best vantage point for visitors to catch a glimpse of the exterior of the mansion is located on the outdoor second floor, just past the coffee cart, near the outdoor elevator.
  4. With four gardens and six fountains, the Villa offers just as much outdoors as it does inside. While these features may just seem aesthetically pleasing, the outside spaces mimic areas that the ancients used on a daily basis. From the fountains that collected rainwater for drinking, cooking, and bathing to the gardens that grew food and medicinal herbs, the Villa creates an all-around immersive and engaging experience into these ancient cultures.
  5. Upon leaving the parking structure you may notice you just don’t walk into the museum. In fact, you have to take an elevator up a level, then walk a path just to come to a point where you overlook the entrance. Why make entering the museum such a task? Well, that is because you are meant to view the museum as an excavation site. Just as they recreated the Villa to resemble the Roman Villa dei Papiri, the architects of the museum wanted to create a fully immersive experience for visitors. As you make your way down to the museum entrance it is as if you’re walking through the layers of time that have covered this Villa. The water feature located by the tour meeting area (adjacent to the bookstore) also reinforces this idea. You may notice that the water seeps from the wall, just like a real archeological site
  6. Along with the different activities scattered throughout the Villa that allows for some hands-on learning (Reading Room, Timescape Room, and the Family Forum), there is a statue that the museum actually encourages guests to touch. Located just beyond the outer peristyle, follow the portico to the left. There  you’ll find a replica of Antonio Canova’s Venus, better known as the ‘touch statue.’ Installed for blind or low vision guests, the ‘touch statue’ allows all visitors to experience the art of form and texture.
  7. Mr. Getty’s final resting place overlooks the museum. Yes, you read that correctly. J. Paul Getty, along with his two sons, is actually buried on the property. Of course, the area is restricted from the public so don’t go asking for it. But to get a general idea of where he is located, just look to the left as you are passing the entrance gate in your vehicle. He and his sons lay just atop the hill.

Virginia Robinson Gardens

1008 Elden Way, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

One of the only historic mansions I have yet to visit here in LA, the Virginia Robinson Gardens can be found tucked in the away in the center of Beverly Hills. Built in the early 1900s by retail giants Virginia and Harry Robinson, owners of the Robinson’s Department store, the mansion now serves as a botanical oasis and historic estate. Take a tour and discover the beauty of Mrs. Robinson’s lavish and well-renown gardens and her equally famous Hollywood parties.

For more information about guided tours and events visit robinsongarden.org.

Huntington Library, Museum, and Gardens

1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA 91108

Set on 120 acres in San Marino, the Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens was founded by businessman Henry E. Huntington and his wife Arabella. Both avid art and manuscript collectors, the Huntington’s amassed a collection worthy of a museum and in 1919 created the Huntington Library out of their estate. As time went on and the number of acquisitions grew, various structures were created to house the collections. The once opulent residence of Henry and Arabella was eventually converted into an art gallery. While a library was constructed to house rare book and manuscript collections. As for the rest of the grounds, specialized gardens scattered the 120 acres of land showcasing flora and fauna from around the world.

The Huntington Library has quickly become one of our all-time favorite museums here in Los Angeles. Not only do we get to view art but also the various botanical gardens allow the little ones a chance to run wild and explore. We have already visited multiple times and have yet to see all that the Huntington has to offer, which is probably the reason why we have come to love it so much. So if you are in the LA area and can’t think of anything to do, here are some reasons why you should check it out!

Obviously, the reason anyone visits a museum is to view art but in the case of The Huntington, there is so much more to do than just that. If you have kids the first place I suggest visiting is the Children’s Garden. It is our first stop every time we visit and it is my daughter’s absolute favorite. Not only is everything children-sized, but there are also various water features placed all around for the little ones to play. Here kids can run around exploring the different plants, sounds, and sights helping to really engage them in sensory play. My daughter’s favorite thing to do is run through the tiny trellis’ and of course get sopping wet playing in the fountains. Once she has had her fill, we usually then make our way over to the Botanical Center conveniently located right next-door.

Another favorite of Hayden’s, and a place all kids will likely enjoy, the Botanical Center is located inside a beautiful glass conservatory that houses three distinct habitats. A truly immersive exhibit the greenhouse allows families to explore flora and fauna from tropical rainforests, cloud forest, and even a bog. There are even microscopes so children can get an even closer look at the plants and tiny critters that call these habitats home. After all the scientific exploration is through, we venture off to see what else will keep the little ones occupied. I for one LOVE art, so I always make sure we visit a few of the art galleries (in hopes my kids will one day share my passion or at least appreciate it.) But if do not have little ones, or don’t wish to bring them along there are plenty of other gardens, activities, and rotating exhibits to keep you occupied during your visit.

Greystone Mansion

905 Loma Vista Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Built during 1927 the Greystone Mansion was constructed for Ned Doheny, the heir to oil magnate Edward Doheny, and his wife Lucy. The mansion, nicknamed the ‘Greystone’ because of the “abundant use of stone construction and its rather gray somber appearance,” is also often referred to as the Doheny Estate due to the murder/suicide of its owner.

Besides its dark history, this historic mansion has been the backdrop for countless movies and continues to be very much a part of Hollywood history.

Now owned by the city of Beverly Hills, the Greystone Mansion and surrounding gardens functions as a public park with tours of the interior given sporadically throughout the year.

To check times and availability or guided tour, please check out dohneymansion.org.

J J Haggarty Villa

421 Paseo Del Mar, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274

Unlike most of the historic mansion’s previously listed, the J J Haggarty Villa is probably the least renown but has been repurposed in the most unique way.

Built-in 1927 as a summer residence for wealthy merchant J.J. Haggarty, this historic mansion was at one point the largest home in Palos Verdes. Constructed to resemble a Mediterranean villa, Haggarty’s mansion was comprised of nearly 32 rooms and included a private pier, as well as a conservatory. With Italian Renaissance frescoes decorating the interior and Ralphealesque decor throughout the home, the Haggarty mansion was a jewel amid the developing community of Palos Verdes Estates.

After the death of Haggarty in 1938, the mansion sat vacantly and rumors persisted that the property was haunted. In 1950, the house was purchased by a religious group and converted into the Neighborhood Church.

Still, an active religious center, the historic mansion of J.J. Haggarty now entertains churchgoers while beautifully landscaped grounds are open to the public.

So what did you think? Make sure to leave a comment below and tell me if you’d visited any of these historic mansions!

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