10 Historical Facts You Didn't Know About Brentwood

Mary Lu Tuthill  |  April 9, 2021

10 Historical Facts You Didn't Know About Brentwood
Nestled at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains, Brentwood is situated on the Westside between Westwood and Santa Monica. It is one of the most affluent communities in Los Angeles—and for good reason. Brentwood’s many appealing qualities attract an astounding number of significant figures. Here you will find an abundance of green spaces, quality schools, and luxurious homes. But beneath the palm trees and prestigious mansions, Brentwood has a fascinating history. From its humble beginnings to affluent celebrities who have owned homes here, here are 10 historical facts to expand your knowledge of this stunning Los Angeles neighborhood.

The Origins of Brentwood

The origins of Brentwood Real Estate can be traced back to the Mexican-American War that took place from 1846 to 1848. Brentwood was originally part of the Rancho San Vicente and Santa Monica land grant. However, after the defeat of Mexico in the war in 1848, it was sold off as parcels by the Sepulveda family. The modern development of this quintessential neighborhood began in the 1880s after the establishment of the 600-acre Pacific branch of the National Home for Disabled Soldiers and Sailors. A tight-knit community formed outside the facility’s west gate, calling themselves Westgate. In 1916, Los Angeles annexed Brentwood and, since then, the town quickly evolved to be one of the most illustrious communities in Los Angeles. Westgate Avenue, however, still pays tribute to the past as many of the local streets are named after British regions.

San Vicente Boulevard

Built in the early 20th century, San Vicente Boulevard quickly transformed into one of the most famous streets on the Westside and maintains that status more than 100 years later. Winding its way through Santa Monica and Brentwood, this drive begins at Venice Boulevard. It was originally named after the Rancho San Vicente and Santa Monica land grant. It was here that the Old Soldier’s Home, now the VA Medical Center, was located. Once stretching 130-feet wide, the street was lined with trees and trolley lines running down its center. After being oiled, surfaced, and officially completed in 1906, Santa Vicente Boulevard became one of the most beautiful drives in the city. Starting on Wilshire Boulevard and ending at the ocean, this was the perfect street for a Sunday afternoon drive while taking in the sights of one of the most famous streets in Los Angeles. Today this beautiful boulevard is lined with some of the finest hotels, restaurants, and boutiques in the city. Whether you want to imagine the early days of Los Angeles while enjoying a drive through the winding streets or celebrate a night out with a steak dinner at Baltaire, San Vicente Boulevard is the perfect spot for a night out.

Brentwood Country Mart

Visitors and residents alike thoroughly enjoy spending time at this charming country mart. Here, you can shop at choice boutiques, enjoy local eateries, and step back in time to get a taste of Brentwood in days passed. A historical landmark, the Brentwood Country Mart first opened its doors in November 1948. It was designed by renowned architect Rowland Crawford and built in a surprisingly quick six months. The red-door bar structures give an undeniable sense of early American and English country marketplaces, with shops and stalls thoughtfully organized around a central plaza. The Brentwood Country Mart quickly gained popularity as celebrities frequented the local establishment. It was also here that locals celebrated birthdays and other special occasions. The Brentwood Country Mart is still thriving and bustling today. Grab a healthy and satisfying lunch at Farmshop or catch up with friends while enjoying a cup of coffee at Caffe Luxxe.

Bel Air-Brentwood Fire

With a dry climate and strong winds, Los Angeles is no stranger to fires. The Bel Air-Brentwood fire of 1961 was particularly devastating to the community. It started as a brush fire on November 5th—not an unusual occurrence due to the notorious Santa Ana winds. Unable to contain the fire and ignited by the merciless wind, the fire rapidly grew and spread across town. The fire eventually burned through 16,900-acres and destroyed around 500 structures, including a handful of celebrity homes. Some celebrities—including former Vice President Richard Nixon and actor Robert Taylor—stayed to fight the flames that threatened their properties before they, too, were forced to evacuate to safety. The aftermath of the fire was inarguably devastating but it also prompted Los Angeles to enact a series of laws and fire safety protocols. Miraculously, no one was killed during the fire.

The Getty Center

Los Angeles is a town overflowing with museums, art, and creativity. The Getty Center, located in Brentwood, is among the best of the best. This museum is the legacy of businessman and art collector J. Paul Getty. He strongly believed in the importance of art and its intrinsic value in society. Getty wanted his art to be enjoyed by the public and, beginning in 1948, gifted valuable pieces from his personal collection to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It was due to his valuable contributions and love for art that paved the way for the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades and The Getty Center in Brentwood. The Getty Center is a widely-respected collection of art, known for its bold architecture, perfectly-manicured gardens, and awe-inspiring views of Los Angeles. First opened in 1997, the $1.3 billion Center specializes in pre-20th century European paintings, drawings, sculptures, decorative arts, and much more.

Skirball Cultural Center

The Skirball Cultural Center, located on Sepulveda Boulevard, first opened its doors to the public in 1996. Since then, it has quickly evolved into one of the world’s most revered cultural and educational institutions, honoring the Jewish faith and traditions as well as American democratic ideals. The museum has an impressive set of events and activities, including film events, live performances, comedy, literacy, and cultural programs. This expansive space comprises a performing arts center, a café, conference halls, classrooms, and gardens. The original purpose of this institution was to create a safe and welcoming space for like-minded individuals and provide opportunities for educational experiences.

Celebrities Who Call Brentwood Home

With its luxurious mansions and ample amounts of privacy, it’s no wonder why this exclusive Los Angeles neighborhood attracts successful professionals, celebrities, and political figures. Many distinguished and talented Hollywood elites have purchased homes in Brentwood, including Marilyn Monroe, Cindy Crawford, and Harrison Ford. During the summer of 2018, legendary basketball player LeBron James purchased a $23 million house in this elite neighborhood.

Nesbitt House

Brentwood is filled with architectural gems, such as the acclaimed Nesbitt House. This 3,400-square-foot home was originally built in 1942 for radio personality John Nesbitt. Designed by the talented architect Richard Neutra, the home reflects a mid-century style. It was recently renovated before its sale of over $7 million.

Marilyn Monroe’s House

A blonde bombshell, Marilyn Monroe is known for being a global icon. Her life was filled with glitz and glamor as she played an intricate role in Hollywood through acting, singing, and modeling. Over the course of her short 36-year-old life, she lived in dozens of homes but only bought one—a residence in affluent Brentwood. The Some Like It Hot actress purchased her.
1929 Spanish hacienda-style home in early 1962. Located in the Helenas District, the house consisted of four bedrooms and three bathrooms spread over modest 2,624-square feet. The house was comfortably nestled at the end of a cul-de-sac behind a high wall and surrounded by trees and foliage. The privacy made it the perfect place for the famous movie star to take advantage of the quiet and serenity. Not only was this the only property Monroe bought in her lifetime, but it was also where she tragically passed away later in 1962.

George D. Sturges House

The George Sturges House was designed by acclaimed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and built-in 1939 for George D. Sturges—an engineer for the Lockheed Corporation. Sturges and his wife were first introduced to Wright’s work while pursuing a copy of Architectural Forum Magazine. Unsurprisingly, they were immediately enthralled with Wright’s work and quickly sent him a letter of inquiry. Floyd was widely-known for his bold and innovative architectural ideas and excelled in mid-century and modern styles. He agreed to take on the project and drew up the plans for a one-story residence spread over 1,200-square feet. Although modest in size, the redwood-and-brick residence reflects the talent and creativity of Wright. Since its inception eighty years ago, Wright’s masterpiece has become a historical landmark of the city.

If you are interested in exploring Brentwood real estate, contact Mary Lu Tuthill today. With years of experience as a real estate agent, Mary serves a wide range of neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area. With expertise in real estate and dedication to top-tier client loyalty, Mary can help guide you through the homebuying process.
Recommended reading: Ways to Get Outside in Brentwood

Mary Lu Tuthill

About the Author

Mary Lu Tuthill

Mary Lu Tuthill is the Vice President of Global Luxury Brentwood. She brings a refreshingly genuine, earnest and forthright work ethic to the business of real estate. It's these qualities along with her incredible knowledge and experience, that has allowed her to become a leading luxury realtor on the LA Westside.

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