skip to Main Content

Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills Featuring Edward L. Doheny

In the heart of the upscale Beverly Hills neighbourhood, a magnificent mansion stands as a living testament to the intertwining tales of wealth, intrigue, and history. The Greystone Mansion, nestled on Loma Vista Drive in Beverly Hills, CA, not only showcases architectural brilliance but also embodies the captivating narrative of Edward L. Doheny. His life is an enigma, woven through success, and a series of perplexing events. This cast an undeniable aura of mystery over the mansion, beckoning visitors and historians to delve into its secrets.

With each step taken within the Greystone Mansion, layers of history are unfurled. From the oil boom that fuelled its inception to the enigmatic events that transpired within its walls, the mansion offers an intimate glimpse into a past that continues to shape its present. Let us show you the exciting history of the Greystone Mansion. It all starts with Edward L. Doheny.

Edward L. Doheny: A Visionary Entrepreneur

Photo of the Edward L. Doheny
Edward L. Doheny

Edward L. Doheny’s legacy is deeply intertwined with the birth of the American oil industry. His pioneering spirit led him to drill the first successful oil well in Los Angeles, thus setting the stage for the city’s oil boom. Doheny’s business acumen was exceptional, and he played a pivotal role in the development of the oil fields. He turned them into a lucrative enterprise that shaped the region’s economy and urban landscape. Interestingly, the character, J. Arnold Ross, from the novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair is loosely based on Doheny. The novel was also the inspiration for the 2007 film, There Will Be Blood staring Daniel Day-Lewis.

Rags to Riches: Edward L. Doheny’s Extraordinary Journey

Edward Laurence Doheny’s life story reads like a quintessential American dream—a story of humble beginnings evolving into extraordinary success. He was born in 1856 to an Irish Catholic family in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. After graduating high school, Doheny was employed by the U.S. Geological Survey. Following his employment, he left to pursue his fortune prospecting land in South Dakota, Arizona and the New Mexico Territory. He continued prospecting land, mining, buying and trading mining claims. His adventures led him to meet two men who would later play important roles in his life: Albert Fall, the future Secretary of the Interior, and Charles A. Canfield, who later became his business partner.

Doheny and Canfield worked odd jobs together and separated on certain projects. He took on these odd jobs to support his family. Carrie Louella Wilkins, Doheny’s first wife, gave birth to their first child, a daughter. Unfortunately she did not make it past the age of 7. Less than a year later, Carrie gave birth to their second child, Ned, or Edward Jr. Unfortunately, Doheny and Wilkins divorced, and Wilkins took her own life shortly after.

Edward L. Doheny’s Move to Los Angeles and the California Oil Boom

The Mesa oil field in Santa Barbara, California, in 1935
The Mesa oil field in Santa Barbara, California, in 1935

Doheny’s life took a remarkable turn when he struck oil in Los Angeles, triggering an oil rush that transformed the city. With an unwavering spirit and remarkable acumen, Doheny ascended the ranks of the oil industry, ultimately amassing the wealth that would eventually fund the creation of the Greystone Mansion.

When Edward moved to Los Angeles, he was initially looking for natural asphalt. Although the first oil well in Los Angeles was dug by a man named Baker, Doheny and Canfield were primarily responsible for the California oil boom. Doheny and Canfield’s first well was on Patton and West State Street. The well may have been small, but it pumped steadily for 3 years. Throughout this time, Canfield and Doheny were able to sink 300 more wells. By drilling in the area and selling the oil to the nearby factories; they were able to make a fortune. The duo also were pivotal in persuading railroads to switch from coal to oil to power their locomotives. During this time Doheny had remarried to his second wife, Carrie “Estelle” Betzold. Carrie did not bear any children, but she raised Ned, Edward Jr., as if he were her own.

Greystone Mansion: An Architectural Marvel in Beverly Hills

View on one the buildings of the Greystone Mansion, Beverly Hills, California
Greystone Mansion, Beverly Hills, California

Construction of the Greystone Mansion began on February 15, 1927, and took three years to complete. The architect, Gordon B. Kaufmann, designed the manor. Paul G. Thiene was the landscape architect who used a mixture of gothic and neoclassic architectural styles. There was no lack of opportunity to showcase the grandeur and opulence of the era throughout the entire mansion and the estate. The mansion alone cost $1,238,378.76 and $3,166,578.12 to complete the entire e1state.  Note that the original estate had stables and kennels, tennis courts, a fire station, gatehouse, swimming pool and pavilion, a greenhouse, a lake, brooks and cascading waterfalls.

Additional materials such as steel-reinforced concrete, Indiana limestone and Welsh slate roofing of Welsh slate were used to complete the extraordinary mansion. Did you know that the abundant use of stone in the construction of the home (not to mention the somber gray appearance) eventually led to the mansion being known as “Greystone”?

Walking Through History: Inside the Greystone Mansion

However, the materials used within the mansion varied:  hand carved oak bannisters, balustrades, rafters, and black and white inlaid marble flooring in the grand hall. The seven chimneys were each designed and crafted by a different artist. Not only were the materials used in building the mansion extravagant, the design of the home was also elaborate. The living room featured a balcony where musicians would perform. The kitchen was built with a large adjoining wall safe (to store the family’s silver and gold) in the pantry in the kitchen. Lastly, the mansion had two floors of their east wing built solely for the servant’s quarters to accommodate a live-in staff of 15. 

The mansion has 46,054 square feet of living space that fits 55 rooms. All the rooms have southern facing windows that provide stunning views of Los Angeles from Santa Monica all the way to downtown Los Angeles. There is also a recreation wing which includes a movie theatre room, an original Brunswick bowling alley, a billiard room, and a hidden bar. A few of the children’s bedrooms were located in the north wing of the mansion. The master bedroom suite was located in the west wing. This master bedroom had an accompanying sitting room, two baths, a dressing room and a massage room.

Mansion Completed and Murder & Mystery Ensues

Photo of the "Los Angeles Examiner" newspaper with "Doheny JR. Murdered!" headline
“Los Angeles Examiner” newspaper with “Doheny JR. Murdered!” headline

Edward L. Doheny Jr, or, “Ned”, married Lucy Smith of Pasadena in 1926. Edward L. Doheny Sr. had the mansion built and gifted not only the mansion but the 12.58 acres of land with panaromic views of Beverly Hills to the newlyweds. The mansion was finally completed in September of 1928, and Ned, Lucy and their five children moved into the estate. 

On a late evening in February in 1929 Ned Doheny was found shot to death inside the home on the evening of February 16, 1929. He was only 35 years old at the time. In an interesting plot twist, his longtime personal friend and assistant, Hugh Plunket was also find dead the same evening with Ned. Many have speculated that Ned was the victim of an apparent murder, followed by Plunket killing himself. Theories of a lover’s quarrel, or a jealous best friend have all been brought forward but never substantiated into proof. The circumstances surrounding their deaths remain shrouded in uncertainty, giving rise to various speculations ranging from foul play to a heart-wrenching lover’s quarrel … I guess we’ll never know the truth behind the murder mystery of Greystone Mansion.

What Happened that Fateful Evening?

The newspapers recounted Lucy’s version of those evening’s events. Around 11 p.m. Lucy was reading magazines in the library when she heard gunshots fired. She called the family physician first rather than the Police. She and the physician headed to the East Wing where she reported to have heard the gunshots. In the east wing, Plunkett apparently emerged from the room in state of anguish while brandishing a gun. Upon seeing Lucy, it was reported that he ran back into the room and slammed the door – in which they heard another gun shot shortly after. Upon hearing the gunshot, they entered the room and found both Ned and Plunkett dead on the floor in a pile of their own blood.

Police were then called around 2 a.m. – almost two hours later from the time of the original gunshot. Lucy’s relatives were reported to have already been at the mansion when the police had arrived. Who knows what had occurred from the time of the original gunshot to when the police arrived. The police also admitted later that the bodies were moved prior to the police could photograph and dissect the scene.

Suspicions Raised

Photo of the Ned Doheny
Ned Doheny

We’ll never know what exactly happened that fateful evening. However, it was noted that Plunkett did let himself into the big house (he had his own key). He apparently made way to a bedroom in the east wing of the house (a room which might have been available for his use). According to the news reports,  Plunkett called Ned through the switchboard, and asked if they could talk. Ned, was noted to imbibe fairly often, and it wasn’t uncommon to posit that he may have already had a few drinks. 

The medical coroner was skeptical of Lucy’s account as the physical evidence did not comply with her story. Firstly, he had estimated that the bodies had actually died several hours earlier than the recounted story. Secondly, the medical examiner had found it difficult to see someone commit take one’s life in such an awkward manner. Plunkett was shot in the back of the head, and the coroner also found it surprising that the man was able to do so without having the barrel touch his head.

Despite these notable pieces presented, the Los Angeles Police department accepted Lucy’s words and Hugh Plunkett was identified as the guilty individual. The news put forth later that Plunkett had a dispute over unpaid wages with Ned Doheny. They further speculated that when things didn’t go his way, he shot his closest friend at point blank range. The story continued that he quickly turned the gun on himself once he had been found out by Lucy and the physician.

Secrets and Lies?

Photo of the Hugh Plunkett
Hugh Plunkett

While the Doheny case may have been closed, it was a long way from being over. Surprisingly, the devoutly religious family opted to cremate Edward Jr.’s remains rather than interring them in the sanctified soil of the local Catholic cemetery. In a surprising move, instead of keeping his ashes, Lucy had them buried alongside those of his alleged killer Hugh Plunkett in Forest Hills Memorial Park. The curious decision to lay the men to rest in the same graveyard set tongues wagging throughout the community. Many of those who were familiar with the family — and even more who weren’t — speculated that Lucy had made the whole story up to hide something even more sinister.

Rumors circulated that it was Lucy, not Plunkett, who had ended two lives on that February night. Supporters of this theory pointed to longstanding suspicions that Edward Jr. and Plunkett were more than friends as the catalyst that led a third party to commit double homicide.

There’s More…

Another bit of news that planted additional seeds of doubt was the fact that the coroner determined it was quite a feat for Plunkett to shoot himsef in the back of his head without the barrel touching his scalp. In light of this revelation, it seemed much more likely that someone else had pulled the trigger.

Furthermore, Edward had been denied a Catholic funeral — by his own family no less — this was also viewed as evidence that something was going on behind the scenes that had not been made public. While this was never addressed by the Dohenys, it has been theorized that he had somehow sinned against the church, thus precluding him from being buried in the family plot. If this was indeed the case, the nature of this transgression has never been named.

Taking all of this into account, some members of the public began to suspect that Lucy was the one behind the whole series of events. The public concocted many theories, such as she was driven to commit homicide after finding her husband and his assistant in a compromising position. However, there was no hard evidence to support this theory, but what are your thoughts with all the information that has been presented?

What happened next?

Ned’s wife, Lucy, remarried and continued to live at Greystone until 1955. The cost of the Greystone Mansion and grounds were substantial to upkeep. Lucy and Leigh M. Battson, her second husband, sold the majority of the original land to Paul Trousdale, the developer of the Paul Trousdale Corporation. The Paul Trousdale Corporation were land developers of the well-known “Trousdale Estates” in Beverly Hills [which still stands today].  In 1956, Henry Crown purchased the remaining 18.3 Acres (including the mansion) for 1.5 million. Mr. Crown never formally occupied the estate and mansion, but leased it out as a popular filming location under the Park Grey Corporation. The Mansion and Estate are still used as a filming location to this day. Notable films that have been shot on the Greystone Mansion property include: Spider-Man, The Big Lebowski, and X-Men. For a full list of movies and films shot here, please read here.

Oasis of Tranquility: Beverly Hills Parks

Beverly Hills Sign
Beverly Hills Sign

The entire 18.3 acres including the Greystone Mansion was formally dedicated as a public park by the city of Beverly Hills on September 16, 1971. Five years later, Greystone Estate was officially recognized as a historic landmark and was entered into the National Register of Historic places. Most recently, in 2013, the city of Beverly Hills designated the Greystone Mansinon as the #4 Historic Landmark and entered in the Local Register of Historic Properties.

The City of Beverly Hills perform an excellent job of maintaining the mansion as well as preserving the landscape to provide a beautiful and peaceful respite amongst the hustle and bustle of the city. The public park is free to enter and operates daily from 10 AM to 6 PM with no reservation needed. The interior of the mansion is open to viewing on the first weekend of every month and the tickets are $10 residents and $20 for non-residents. The gardens and landscape are an excellent place to enjoy the serene greenery while viewing Beverly Hills from above.

Where Love Meets Luxury: Weddings at Greystone Mansion

The undeniable beauty of the of the gardens, combined with architectural magnificence of Greystone Mansion create the ultimate backdrop for newlyweds. Couples looking for a magical – almost fairy-tale like venue should look no further. Lavish ceremonies, stunning photoshoots, breathtaking views – this estate has it all. The historical significance and the mystery surrounding the mansion does not appear to deter couples. In fact, the intrigue of the Doheny family history only seems to add further value to the venue.

The Doheny’s Legacy: Beyond the Mansion

Photo of the Greystone Mansion, Beverly Hills, California, 1930
Greystone Mansion, Beverly Hills, California, 1930

Edward L. Doheny Sr. and his wife, Carrie Estelle Betz were known to be active in the community for their business and philanthropic pursuits. Doheny Sr. notably contributed money to various foundations. He helped fund the St. Vincent de Paul Church, and to the University of Southern California to build the Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library after the death of his son ($1.1 million to be exact).

Carrie Estelle Doheny, also donated her rare book collection to St. John’s Seminary, and also to St. Mary of the Barrens Seminary in Missouri. She created and funded the Doheny Eye Institute (a world leader in vision research) after a brain hemorrhage left her partially blind. Upon her death, she left her antiquities and funds to the St. John’s Seminary.

What Happened to Edward L. Doheny?

Doheny Sr. lived in his own mansion until 1935 in Chester Place. Prior to his death, his French Gothic residence suffered damages from the earthquake in 1933, but it was repaired. The home is currently within Mount Saint Mary’s University Doheny Campus. The home houses college departments, runs docent tours and hosts chamber music concerts. The Doheny’s also owned coastal land and they donated it to the State of California for Doheny State Beach as a memorial to his murdered son. Doheny died at his Beverly Hills townhouse on September 8, 1935, of natural causes, a month after his seventy-ninth birthday. His funeral was in St. Vincent’s Church in Los Angeles.

Edward L. Doheny’s Enduring Impact: A Mansion and a Legacy

Presently, Greystone Mansion opens its doors to the public, granting visitors the opportunity to step back in time. Walking through the halls of the Greystone Mansion is akin to stepping into an age of wealth, power, and the mysteries that endure. The mansion’s allure, its tales of grandeur, and its untold secrets transform it into more than a historical relic—it becomes a living embodiment of its era.

Phot of Family standing next to one of the buildings in the Greystone Mansion
Family Enjoying their Private Tour

We can admire these opulent mansions from afar while we drive around Beverly Hills, but with such a significant tie into the history of Beverly Hills, we highly recommend to visit this on your trip to Los Angeles. The grounds are open weekly from 10 AM to 5 PM with free parking available on site. Every first weekend of the month, Greystone Mansion opens its doors for guests to view small sections of inside the mansion. Let us bring you to this incredible piece of history on your private tour of Los Angeles. 

Social Share:

+1 888 988-7725Book Now