One of my later life bucket list items was to one day visit the famed Vanderlip Estate in Rancho Palos Verdes. It was built by the late Frank A. Vanderlip, the wealthiest early landowner on the Peninsula, in the early 1920s. His son Kelvin Vanderlip’s widow Elin Vanderlip lived there and I had met her various times at social events but had never been invited though she often entertained there. Then Elin died in July 2009 at age 90 and I assumed this wish would not be fulfilled. I had photographed her only a few weekends prior to her death at a library function. She was one of the those larger than life kinds of persons. I wrote about her on June 16, 2009.
Elin’s daughter, Narcissa and her siblings, have not sold the home, as it turns out, and I was invited several weekends ago by a friend to attend an outdoor youth theater presentation given by the Ensemble Theater Company and Boomkat Productions in the gardens. These are non-profit theater companies established by Narcissa and her husband Parmer Fuller who teaches at USC.
I picked up my friend and off we went to the compound in Portuguese Bend I had longed to visit all the years I've lived in South Bay. I was not disappointed. The gardens were magnificent, the compound intriguing and it was a gorgeous evening although the ocean was misted over with fog. The evening was extremely entertaining and I look forward to seeing one of the companies' productions.
Excerpts from a 2007 write-up on the Vanderlip gardens from Landscape Online, “A Forsaken Garden Survives: The Mediterranean Gem of Palos Verdes", appears below:
Frank Vanderlip, the "Father of Palos Verdes", constructed his first residence on the Peninsula in 1916 in the Portuguese Bend area, the "Old Ranch Cottage", now known as the "Cottage". Other buildings were added to the estate in the 1920's including a small guest house and garage called "La Casetta" and a larger guest house known as the "Villetta", now known as "Villa Narcissa". The Cottage is still owned by Suzanne Vanderlip, the widow of John Vanderlip, the youngest son of Frank Vanderlip, Sr., and Villa Narcissa is still owned by Elin Vanderlip, the widow of Frank Vanderlip Sr.'s third son, Kelvin. A third structure, a barn and stables called the "Farmstead" later became the Portuguese Bend Riding Club. The Vanderlip properties are located at the end of Vanderlip Drive, near the end of Narcissa Drive, the road through a private gated community just south of the Wayfarers' chapel at the beginning of the Portuguese Bend area, and public access to visit the property is not available. You can see the original gatehouse to the property at the gated entrance of Narcissa Drive just off of Palos Verdes Drive South.
To see a beautiful set of photos of the estate and gardens on 9/7/2008 taken by Brad Graverson of the Daily Breeze, go to My Capture.