Foothills Road Estate – The Amazing Pre-World War II Mansion

Before sound and color dominated the silver screen, there were the stars of the silent movie. Extraordinary individuals who could bring to life a story with just their actions and expressions. One such starlet during the silent film era, Ruth Clifford, excelled above the rest. At the tender age of fifteen, Clifford got her first role as an extra for a local film and her career skyrocketed from there. She landed her first starring role in the Universal film The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin that became an instant success. Her career continued in western films until she was cast as the first love of Abraham Lincoln in the 1924 critically acclaimed film The Dramatic Life of Abraham Lincoln. This role took her to a new level of stardom and her fame rose drastically.

Clifford soon met and married the vice president of the State Bank of Beverly Hills, James Cornelius. In 1925, the couple moved into their new home, located on Foothill Road. Not your average Beverly Hills home, the estate located on the south end of the prestigious Sunset Boulevard intrigued its star-studded neighbors. The mansion was the only home to be built in the area before World War II and was much larger than the neighboring homes. The estate was also situated on a one-acre double lot, something unheard of on the lesser-populated south side of Sunset Boulevard.

There was added mystery to the home thanks to Clifford and Cornelius. While the social norm during the Old Hollywood Era was to host extravagant parties, the owners of this massive Spanish-Moorish residence chose to remain more private, creating gossip and wonderment amongst the neighbors. The unusualness of the estate continued with the size and style of the home with its hidden front entryway, wrought-iron balconies and rumored hidden underground tunnels. The striking architecture of the home includes thick stucco walls, enormous chimneys, soaring windows, and cast-iron embellishments. After the home was sold, the rumors of underground rooms and tunnels was confirmed and it was stated that there was as much square footage underground as there was above ground.

While Clifford was a notable icon during her time in Hollywood, she was not the only nor the most famous person to live in the Foothills Road residence. As Clifford’s marriage became rocky, the couple began a series of break-ups and reconciliations. During their times of separation, the home was rented out by other Hollywood actors, including Conrad Veidt. In 1934, their tumultuous relationship finally ended, leading the way for Irving Mills, an early pop culture musician, to sweep in and purchase the home in the 1940’s. During the time Mills lived in the Foothills Road estate, he discovered piano player Duke Ellington and the Kentucky Club Orchestra, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller. In the 1950’s, Mills sold his home to an unknown family who currently occupies this historic mansion as a private residence. The new owners keep the home in pristine condition, preserving the grandeur of the 1920’s and providing a legacy for generations to come.

David Kramer