11-01-85 | News

Lunch With "Mr. Beverly HilIs"

Meet Raymond Page, a pioneer in the landscape industry


Raymond E. Page FASLA in his office patio overlooking Crescent Drive, one of the main streets of Beverly Hills, which he recently designed.

It happened late summer 1919. World War I was won by the Allies and Beverly Hills was a new concept in city planning. "That was back when Beverly Hills was developed by the Rodeo Land and Development Co.," winked Raymond Page FASLA and holder of the #2 license for Landscape Architects in the State of California. "When they hired me on as a Landscape Architect they were working on Douglas Fairbanks house. That was back in 1919."

"I remember a funny story about the Douglas Fairbanks job," continued the man the local Beverly Hills Courier Newspaper called ???Mr. Beverly Hills.' You see, Doug was a very important man. He always wanted things done immediately. When we started to put in the driveway we told him it would take about three days too finish. But that wasn't good enough for Mr. Fairbanks."

"He called his brother who worked at one of the studios and borrowed some of the stage lights. The stage crew set up the lights and we worked three eight hour shifts to finish in one day."

Besides the Fairbanks residence, Page worked on other well-known residences such as the Jack Benny Estate and the George Burns residence. Page was the Landscape Architect of the Roxbury Park, Coldwater Canyon Park, the County Courthouse, Beverly Hills High School, and The Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

In addition Ray was one of the leading Landscape Architects for the planned community of Beverly Hills, which consisted of three major roadways, Crescent Drive, Canon (pronounced Canyon) Drive and the world famous Rodeo Drive.

Raymond Page is the perfect example of your elder statesman. A man who has collected knowledge for the past 90 years and has used his immense collection to improve the industry that we all work in. But his greatest accomplishments didn't come at the drafting table. Instead, Raymond E. Page made his contribution to the profession of landscape architecture in response to an overly sarcastic lawyer.

"He called me a Possy Planter," cracked the spry L.A. as we sipped Dubonet at the world famous Bistro Gardens Restaurant. "I was called into court as an expert witness. When the (other) attorney questioned me about my profession I told him I was a Landscape Architect. We weren't licensed back then and when he asked if I was licensed he quickly added ???No! You're just a Possy Planter.'" That's when Mr. Page decided that the only way to gain respectability was to establish a legislative licensing board for Landscape Architects.

In the early 1950's Ray and his associates Harry Shepard, Lynn Harriss, Art Barton and George Huntington, got together and raised $7000 to get the process started. A friend of his knew an assemblyman who would introduce the bill to the state legislature. They used $5000 to fund the proposal and the bill went through. The state however stipulated that there must be a local government board to appoint the State Board of Directors.

The five pioneers set a meeting at the Jack London Cafe in Oakland and laid the ground work for the CCLA. Art Barton became the first president of the CCLA. The CCLA was then required to appoint somebody for the State Board that was not affiliated with the National ASLA, so they called up an L.A. named Jack Evans and the rest is history.

"Not too many people are aware of the roots to Landscape Architecture and its licensing. When I see bills (like SB 392) introduced to the state it really gets to me." Page feels that not enough attention is spent combating outside political forces. "There should be people like the CCLA constantly on the prowl for harmful legislation. We spent a lot of effort getting licensure through the assembly."

For the record, Raymond E. Page holds the Number 2 license in the state of California. According to Page, "We gave the Number 1 license to a fellow named Harry Shepard who was an instructor at Cal State Berkeley. He was terminally ill at the time and past away about five months later."

Although Ray has put up the drafting tools he still is active in many areas of the industry. When asked what one bit of advice he would like to give younger LAs he added, "Don't overplant your project for the immediate effect. Too often I see a new landscape and you just know in 10 years from now they are going to have to replace or remove plant material to compensate for the overgrowth. The LA must look to the future when drawing his plans."

Raymond Page has spent 90 years looking to the future and by the bounce in his step and the sparkle in his eyes, I'm sure he'll keep right on looking to the future for some time too come.

Thanks for lunch Ray. It was indeed a pleasure not soon forgotten.


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