After more than a year of cancellations and postponements at Greystone Mansion, the Beverly Hills landmark has hosted its first wedding since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had been working so closely with some of the families and going through the heartbreak of planning and postponement, and planning and postponement,” Beverly Hills Community Services Director Jenny Rogers told the Courier. “When we were finally able to host that first wedding, that was the moment we kind of came into the daylight on this thing. That was such a glorious moment.”
Several weddings and other events were scheduled and canceled multiple times as public health restrictions were loosened and retightened over the course of the pandemic.
“It was emotionally tolling and it felt really disappointing every time,” the June bride, Kristin McIntosh, told the Courier. “You dream about your wedding day. Everything was ready to go and the rug just kind of felt like it was pulled out from under us.”
Like many others, Irvine residents Kristin and Ryan McIntosh had to permanently cancel their engagement party and bridal shower while they waited for California and the rest of the world to reopen. During that time, they considered other venues but the bride had her heart set on Greystone.
“We recognized the fact that Greystone would be one of the very last venues to open once things started to ease up a little bit, and I just couldn’t let it go,” said McIntosh. “It was really hard to find something that would live up to Greystone, and honestly nothing ever did.”
The city’s Recreation and Parks Commission, which oversees Greystone, has been following government health guidelines, opening park spaces incrementally over the last year. But they have used the time off to restore key features of the Greystone property.
Most recently, an $800,000 renovation of the mansion’s library was completed in spring of this year.
The library had been remodeled by its original matriarch, Lucy Doheny, in the 1940s, according to caretakers of the property. Doheny later stripped the library and moved it to her new home when she left the mansion in the 1950s, leaving little more than the original hardwood flooring behind. Various renovations to the space were done over the years, but all were far from preserving the original 1928 design.
Shortly before the pandemic struck, the city architect’s office began working off of a single black-and-white photo and designer’s sketches from the 1920s to replicate and restore the original library.
“Some of it is interpretation because we only had one black-and-white photo,” Beverly Hills City Architect, Mandana Motahari, told the Courier. “It was a great honor to be able to match something to its original style of architecture. Many of the other rooms have stayed original, so the fact that this room was significantly changed gave us a good canvas to work on. It was very gratifying.”
From intricate wood paneling and a hand-carved Italian marble fireplace to an embossed ceiling and ornate lighting fixtures, the library is now very near its original appearance, according to city officials who worked on the restoration.
Friends of Greystone, the property’s booster and historical preservation group helped fund and drive the library project. The plan is to use the library as a museum space to house artifacts from the Doheny family provided by Friends of Greystone. Artifacts will include items like oil paintings, a horse saddle, table settings, engraved brushes and other household items.
“Almost all of the artifacts and treasures were original to the house when the Doheny’s lived there,” Friends of Greystone’s President Susan Rosen, told the Courier. “We, as an organization, have been very lucky to receive these artifacts that tell the history. Besides just when the family lived there, it’s also part of California history. The City of Beverly Hills is very fortunate to have this estate.”
The mansion’s theatre was also restored just before the pandemic hit California, which meant its March 2020 grand opening had to be canceled. That project included the installation of state-of-the-art sound and lighting that is hidden within the walls and ceiling, preserving the historic integrity of the space while bringing it up to modern functionality.
“It’s a beautiful space,” Greystone’s Venue Coordinator Sara Scrimshaw, told the Courier, “and we’re looking forward to welcoming the community into that space.”
A new date for a grand opening has yet to be set, but once open, the theatre will be able to showcase live performances and films. While the interior of the mansion remains closed to the public until further notice, solo performances have been recorded in the theatre during the pandemic and streamed on Beverly Hills Television under the title “Music in the Mansion.”
Other maintenance projects like restoring a historic brick walkway and regular upkeep of the property were made easier during the closure as crews were able to work uninterrupted, Scrimshaw said.
Reservations are currently required to visit the grounds at Greystone Mansion, but they are open and free to the public.
“It’s been wonderful,” said Scrimshaw. “We’ve been open since late April for the grounds. We’ve got camps onsite as well. We’re looking forward to in the future being able to open up the inside of the mansion and share the library with the community.”