Master Developer: Paul Trousdale


Paul Trousdale (1915–1990) was an American real estate developer. He is best known for developing the Trousdale Estates in Beverly Hills, California, although he ultimately built over 25,000 homes throughout Southern California.

Paul Whitney Trousdale was born on a farm near Gallatin, Tennessee in 1915. He grew up with relatives in New York City, Tennessee and Los Angeles, California. He graduated from Los Angeles High School. He spent a year at the University of Southern California, then dropped out. While at USC, Trousdale sold cars, clothes and automobile spotlights. He won a $5,000 college scholarship from the New York State Industrial Department, but decided to go traveling abroad with the money.

He returned to Los Angeles, arriving broke in San Pedro. He started selling gum, and transitioned to real estate shortly after. By 1946, he had founded the Trousdale Construction Company. He built tract homes and neighborhoods that came with churches and shopping centers, mostly in minority areas located in Long Beach, Wilmington, Compton and the San Fernando Valley.

"I built community centers in those projects," he proudly recalled, "and a community swimming pool, play yards and a clubhouse in each."

Trousdale borrowed money from Bank of America to finance his projects. The scale of his loans raised suspicions from its CEO, A.N. Giannini, as his advances to Trousdale had reached over $8,000,000, although this only accounted for one fourth of the entire financing of Trousdale's real estate projects. In late 1946, Gianninni visited him in his office in Westwood Hills, as Trousdale had already borrowed $30 million and was asking for an additional $50 million. After his visit, Giannini granted Trousdale the additional loan.

Trousdale Construction built "two houses per day, seven days a week" and had three hundred houses under construction at any given time.

In 1954, Trousdale purchased the Doheny Ranch, immediately north of Beverly Hills, from Mrs Lucy Smith Doheny Battson, wife of the late Edward L. Doheny, Jr. (1893-1929), the son of oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny (1856–1935). Doheny Ranch was developed into Trousdale Estates, later home to Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Curtis and Ray Charles. Early houses were designed by renowned architects Wallace Neff (1895–1982), Paul R. Williams (1894–1980), A. Quincy Jones (1913–1979), Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) and Harold Levitt (1922–2003). Allen Siple (1900–1973) acted as the supervising architect.

Trousdale also developed Westdale and sold furnished properties in the new neighborhood. He also built the 22-story Beverly Towers, located at 9220 Sunset Boulevard. Additionally, he developed residential communities in Marin County, and in Palm Springs, California.

The Palm Springs neighborhood now known as Tahquitz River Estates mixes homes ranging in size from cozy bungalows to impressive properties featuring upwards of 3,000 square feet. Originally called Palos Verde Estates in the 1930s, and featuring at the time a preponderance of Spanish Revival architecture in the area along South Palm Canyon Drive (particularly to the west end of streets south of Mesquite Avenue, e.g., Ocotillo, Morongo, Palo Verde), the entire neighborhood now stretches from East Sunny Dunes Road along the north, to East Palm Canyon Drive to the south, straddling Tahquitz Creek Channel in a northern pandhandle.

This newer section is where, in 1947, Paul Trousdale began building mid-century-style homes, in the process creating an eclectic variety that boasts old Palm Springs Spanish Revival charm with period Mid-Century Modernism.

Overall, Trousdale built more than 25,000 homes throughout Southern California. Outside California, he built a hotel on Waikiki in Honolulu, Hawaii as well as residential communities in Hawaii. Although he did not graduate, Trousdale remained a loyal alumnus and benefactor, and served on the Board of Trustees of the University of Southern California.

Trousdale died at the age of 75 at home in Santa Barbara, in April 1990. At the time of his death, he was serving as Chairman of the Board for El Camino Memorial Park and Mortuaries in San Diego.

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