The History of Bel Air

Bel Air homes are steeped in a rich 20th century tradition unique to California.  Located west of Los Angeles, Bel Air boarders UCLA and includes part of the breathtaking Santa Monica Mountains foothills. The community was founded by, and is named for, Alphonzo E. Bell, Sr. Bell made his fortune when oil was discovered on his Santa Fe Springs farm. Known for his honesty and integrity, Bell’s interactions with less scrupulous oil company figures were fictionalized in Upton Sinclair’s novel, Oil! and eventually the highly-lauded 2007 movie, There Will Be Blood. 

In 1921, Bell and his wife, Minnewa purchased 1,760 acres and built a house on top of what is now Bel Air Road. Like everyone else who has spent time there, Bell was in awe of the beauty of the landscape and developed a vision for an upscale community with generous lots.  Investing his oil gains, he opened a sales and development center in Stone Canyon. After remodeling, his original building became the main mission-style building of the current Hotel Bel-Air.

In 1924, he began subdividing property and planning the community. In that same year, he built the Bel-Air Beach Club in Santa Monica and the Bel-Air Country Club. Near his office he built stables and equestrian tracks as well as tunnels to keep riders away from automobile traffic. Those tunnels can still be seen today. Mrs. Bell chose Italian names for the streets and organized the Bel-Air garden club. Alphonzo Bell’s company, the Bel-Air Land Company continued to develop the area until 1952. The benefits of his investments and hard work are still felt today in luxurious Bel Air properties.

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