The Golden Shield program highlights Beverly Hills locations, including businesses, people and landscaped areas, of historic and cultural significance.
The most recent nominees are Beverly Hills Nurseries, Beverly Hills Speedway, Warner-Beverly Theatre, and the Rachmaninoff Residence.
“The way we see this program, it fosters a public appreciation and civic pride in the character and quality of the city and reinforces a sense of place associated with Beverly Hills,” Cultural Heritage Commission Chair Kimberly Reiss told the Courier. “It gives us something to touch that’s part of our past and reminds people where we come from.”
Established in 2019, the Golden Shield Recognition Program authorizes the Cultural Heritage Commission to review and recommend nominees to the City Council for the City Council to award Golden Shield recognition plaques. The first site honored was the Don?a Maria Rita Valdez de Villa Homestead, considered the first home built in Beverly Hills.
The commission recommends 12 sites each year. To date, the program has nominated 31 sites, including the original Giorgio Beverly Hills Boutique; Morocco Junction, the original train station in Beverly Hills; and Polynesian-themed restaurant the Luau, a favorite hangout of the Rat Pack.
Twelve of the 31 nominated locations are currently awaiting council approval – though Reiss said she expects them to be approved. Since the program was launched approximately four years ago, the commission has overseen the installation of six bronze plaques designating Golden Shield recipients. A dozen more just arrived from the bronzer, Reiss said.
Golden Shield awardees exist not only in history books and archives. Case in point: Edelweiss Chocolates, a Golden Shield recipient, continues to operate at 444 N. Canon Drive, just as it did when the shop opened in 1942. What’s more, the decadent chocolate shop which inspired the famous conveyor belt scene from “I Love Lucy” still has its original fac?ade.
The Beverly Hills Speedway, among the latest nominees waiting City Council approval, was a 200-acre wooden automobile racetrack. Built in 1919, it featured banked turns and a 70,000-seat stadium. It operated for four years. Increasing land prices, however, meant the acreage became too valuable for use in auto racing, and the speedway’s last race was held in 1924. It was the first speedway designed with banked turns. Today, banked turns, where the outer edge of the track rises above the inner edge, are incorporated into racetracks everywhere.
Two Golden Shield plaques will be installed for the speedway, one marking the main public entrance and the other indicating the location of the VIP and driver entrance. Approved plaque language for the speedway says, “This marks the location of the main public entrance to the legendary, 75,000-spectator capacity Beverly Hills Speedway. The oval-shaped, 1.25-mile racetrack was located south of Wilshire between Beverly and Lasky Drives from 1919 to 1924… The 200-acre site was later sold and redeveloped into a residential subdivision.”
Meanwhile, approved plaque language for the Rachmaninoff residence, the Beverly Hills home of the virtuosic composer, symphony conductor and pianist, is equally descriptive. “This was the seventh and final home Sergei Vailyevich Rachmaninoiff… Although he did not compose any music here, he and his wife hosted evenings of music and conversation.”
Reiss described the language-approval process as “a community effort,” involving historic preservation consultant Jan Ostashay; city staff people Mark Odell and Minjee Hahm; and all five current members of the Cultural Heritage Commission: Reiss, Vice Chair Marc Teren, Jill Tavelman Collins, Craig Corman and Josh Flagg.
The commission’s latest meeting lasted nearly four hours and included the review of potential changes to portions of the Historical Preservation Ordinance. Possible alterations include increasing the frequency of meetings, procedural adjustments, and refining criteria for landmarking properties.
“It’s a very preliminary effort,” Reiss told the Courier. “We’re just getting started.”
The group also weighed a Certificate of Appropriateness for a residence located at 910 N. Bedford Drive, known as the as the Anthony-Kerry House. Designated a local historic landmark, the residence is considered the best example of high-style Craftsman architecture in the city, and the current property owner has requested to add a structure on the property. The commission approved the owner’s request.
The Cultural Heritage Commission is one of four Beverly Hills commissions that drive the design and functionality of the city. Established in 2012, it is relatively new compared to the city’s other commissions. Among other responsibilities, the commission is tasked with connecting Beverly Hills residents and visitors with the city’s deep roots.
“My favorite part of being a Cultural Heritage Commissioner is being able to bring the past into the present and make it relevant,” Reiss said. “And sharing the history of the city with the community.”