La Venta Inn
compiled by Jim Wharton
[Originally published in the Palos Verdes Bulletin, Fall 2001]
La Venta Inn is perhaps the most beautiful, certainly the most charming, public building in Palos Verdes Estates. The origins of the community, and this, its first “clubhouse,” can be traced back to the purchase in 1913 of some 16,000 acres of the former Rancho Los Palos Verdes from George Bixby by Frank Vanderlip. Vanderlip, a successful New York banker, and his associates dreamt of developing an ultra luxurious residential community that would encompass the entire peninsula. Their monumental plans were stalled when American found itself drawn into the First World War, and following the war, new partners decided to scale back the project into 3200 acres.
The Inn, designed by architects Pierpont and Walter Swindell Davis, was built in 1924 and initially used as a sales center for the Palos Verdes Project. Prospective home buyers and their guests were invited to take the slow, scenic drive up the winding dirt road to the La Venta Inn Clubhouse, where they would be greeted in a style befitting such an upscale community. After being offered refreshments, they were taken out on horseback to view home sites. Upon their return to the Inn, the guests would wander through the impressive, though still immature, gardens designed by the Olmsted Brothers before their return to a bustling civilization below.
Over the years, La Venta has gone through many changes; however, entertaining guests has always been its main objective. La Venta was a famous black-tie restaurant during the ’20s and used as a weekend retreat for such notables as Charles Lindbergh, Tyrone Power, Cary Grant, and Gloria Swanson in the ’30s. During World War II, La Venta’s tower was utilized as a 24-hour lookout point by the U.S. Coast Guard while the U.S.O hosted parted downstairs.
La Venta was sold in 1944, intended for use as a private residence. Due to overwhelming demand, however, the home was almost immediately reopened for parties and sometimes used as a movie location. Today, under the management of New York Food Company, it is one of the most sought after wedding and special event sites in all Southern California.
La Venta Inn is a State of California Point of Historical Interest open to the public for viewing whenever an event is not in progress. For more information or to find out when the grounds are available, contact them at 373-0123.