AKA: Kirkeby, Arnold Sigurd and Carlotta Cuesta, House, Bel-Air, Los Angeles, CA; Perenchio, Andrew Jerrold and Margaret, House, Bel-Air, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - dwellings - houses

Designers: Neff, Wallace, Architect (firm); Samuel, Henri, Interior Designer (firm); Spaulding, Sumner Architect (firm); Edwin Wallace Neff Sr. (architect); Henri Samuel ; Sumner Maurice Spaulding (architect)

Dates: constructed 1933

total floor area: 21,253 sq. ft.

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750 Bel Air Road
Bel-Air, Los Angeles, CA 90077-3006

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This quintessential plutocrat's mansion, featured as the Clampett's upscale crib in the 1960s sitcom the Beverly Hillbillies, has served three owners, and was overhauled by its most ambitious, Jerry and Margaret Parenchio, between 1986 and 1991. The Parenchios retained the legendary French interior designer Henri Samuel redesigned the chateau, who transformed it into one of California's most rarified and tasteful private houses.

Building History

Los Angeles architect Sumner Spaulding (1892-1952) designed this enormous chateau for the engineer/real estate developer Lynn S. Atkinson and his wife, Bernice E. Stephens, during the depths of the Depression. Construction took about five years to complete between 1933 and 1938. The web site, Curbed Los Angeles.com, described some of the unusual details of Atkinson's dream manse: "Lynn Atkinson was an engineer and public works contractor who retired in his thirties and built Bel Air's most expensive Depression-era house, at 750 Bel Air Rd. It had a ballroom with an orchestra stage, a pipe organ, six bedroom suites, a 150-foot, manmade waterfall, a landing pad for autogyros, gold-plated doorknobs and hinges, and an elevator that ran seventy-five feet below the house to tunnels leading to the pool and landing pad." (See Adrian Glick Kudler, Curbed Los Angeles.com, "Beverly Hillbillies House Builder's Strange Smog Suicide," published 11/02/2011, accessed 07/24/2018.) Supposedly, once the project was finally completed, Bernice objected to the excessive grandeur of the gated, French Neo-Classical house and refused to live there.

The financier and hotelier Arnold Sigurd Kirkeby (1901-1962), who developed a chain of luxury hotels across the US, Cuba and Panada between the 1930s and 1950s, apparently purchased it from the Atkinsons in 1945 for only $250,000. Kirkeby began his hotel empire by buying the Drake Hotel in Chicago, IL, in 1937, and moved to Los Angeles, CA, where he would purchase the Beverly-Wilshire Hotel, the Town House, and the Sunset Tower in West Hollywood. Where Kirkeby got the wealth to buy ahis many luxury hotels is not entirely clear, with some sources indicating that he, along with hotelier Conrad N. Hilton (1887-1979), operated as laundering fronts for Italian- and Jewish-American organized crime figures. Hilton moved to Los Angeles in 1938 and bought a residence on Bellagio Road in Bel Air. Although this house burned in 1944, Kirkeby would move into the same neighborhood less than a decade later.

How Kirkeby ended up with Atkinson's lavish estate has also never been made clear. According to author Michael Gross: "A local gossip column claimed that Atkinson gave the house to Kirkeby in repayment of a gambling debt. Carla Kirkeby, Arnold's younger child, says her parents told her that Atkinson had run out of money to finish the house, borrowed it from Kirkeby, and unable to pay it back, lost the house, his collateral." (See Michael Gross, "Unreal Estate: Money, Ambition, and the Lust for Land in Los Angeles, [New York: Broadway Books, 2011,] p. 160.)

Arthur's wife, Carlotta Cuesta Kirkeby (1906–1985), resided in the house until her death, when it was sold to the part-owner of the Univision television network, A. Jerrold Parenchio (1930-2017) for $13.5 million in 1986 . According to Variety.com, "Perenchio, a former talent manager and sports promoter, teamed up in the mid 1970s with Norman Lear and Alan “Bud” Yorkin on Tandem Productions, which turned out a long string of iconic sitcoms that included “All in the Family,” “Sanford and Son,” “Maude,” “The Facts of Life,” and “Diff’rent Strokes.” He later and briefly owned the Loews Theater Chain and in the early 1990s he partnered with Mexican media mogul Emilio Azcárraga Milmo to buy the Spanish language Univision television network that they sold in 2007 for $13.5 billion to investor Haim Saban’s Saban Capital Group, Inc." (See Mark David, Variety.com, "Jerry Perenchio’s Epic Bel Air Estate Comes to Market With $350 Million Price Tag," published 08/07/2017, accessed 07/24/2018.) Parenchio renamed the house "Chartwell," after Winston Churchill's residence in Kent, England.

Building Notes

This house's facade was featured in the opening of the popular CBS television show, The Beverly Hillbillies. The gates that framed the house in the opening of the show were later removed by Parenchio, who radically redesigned the grounds. The main entrance was moved from 750 Bel Air Road to Nimes Road, to shield the house from direct public view. After Parenchio's death, the house went up for sale in 2017 for the staggering price of $350 million.


Many changes have occurred to the property since the 1930s. Parenchio spent about $9 million altering the house and grounds after acquiring the estate in 1986. He moved the entrance and hired French interior designer Henri Samuel (1904-1996), to supervise the remodeling. Under Samuel's exacting decision-making, the house was According to the Los Angeles Times.com: "The property was amassed during the last 30 years to include 10.3 acres of grounds. Adjacent sites acquired to expand the estate include a Wallace Neff-designed guesthouse and the long driveway. The grounds contain manicured gardens, a tennis court, covered parking for 40 cars, a 75-foot swimming pool and a pool house." (See Lauren Beale,Los Angeles Times.com, "America's most expensive home hits the market in Bel-Air at $350 million," published 08/07/2017, accessed 07/24/2018.) Parenchio purchased three nearby properties, combining them into his, including the neighboring house of Ronald and Nancy Reagan (bought in 2016).

An article in Town and Country.com detailed some of the changes wrought by Samuel: "Perenchio agreed to Samuel’s demand that everything, even the slope of the roof, had to be redone in order to achieve a “proper representation of an 18th-century château.” Over the next five years the house was gutted, rebuilt, and decorated. Before the south façade was rebuilt, a crew of 26 painted a full-size trompe-l’oeil version of the elevation for the Perenchios to approve. To find limestone that matched the original, Samuel and the Perenchios flew by helicopter from quarry to quarry in France and then hired a local couple to live on site to ensure that it was cut properly. The entrance hall was transformed with a new staircase and a floor of limestone and black marble. The front and interior wooden doors were replaced with glass ones, so that what had been a dark space became a light-filled, welcoming one. The domed plaster ceiling of the Morning Room proved to be one of the most ambitious architectural features. Made in France in one piece, the ceiling was too large to fit through the eight door of a 747—so it was cut into sections for transport and reassembled on site." (see David Netto, Town and Country.com, "The Enduring Legacy of French Interior Designer Henri Samuel," published 03/15/2018, accessed 07/24/2018.) The Samuel restoration was completed in 11/1991.

PCAD id: 6262