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Greystone Hearing to Detail Its Use as Museum

February 18, 1988|JULIO MORAN | Times Staff Writer

The Beverly Hills City Council will hold a public hearing March 1 on the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History's proposal to use Greystone Mansion as an exhibition and research center.

The council at that time will also consider entering into exclusive negotiations for a lease agreement.

A committee--made up of Mayor Benjamin H. Stansbury, Councilman Maxwell H. Salter, city staff members and representatives of the Beverly Hills Unified School District, the Greystone Foundation and the county museum--met last week and discussed how the museum would redesign the 60-year-old, city-owned mansion.

Wide Public Access

Except for the basement, all areas of Greystone would be open to the public, either directly or on a guided-tour basis, Michael Cart, director of library and community services, said in a report to the City Council.

Research areas would be located in wings of the mansion now housing servants' quarters.

On the first floor, all but two rooms would be open to the public. The exceptions are the guest bedroom in the west wing, which would house the museum administrator/curator, and the kitchen.

The west and east halls of the second floor are to be used for public exhibit space. The suite of bedrooms at the south would be used for a library and the adjacent sitting room and porch for reading rooms. The wing of bedrooms connecting the mansion with the entertainment wing at the north would be reserved for research.

The entertainment wing--which houses the theater, bowling alley and billiard room--would be used for community and museum meeting rooms.

Fidelity to Building

Cart said that Natural History Museum staffers regard the mansion as an exhibit in itself and are dedicated to preserving the building in its original form.

He said the museum, which is the county's liaison for all National Register-related historic surveys, wants to relocate its Historic Site Survey operations to Greystone. The mansion could also house the headquarters of the Beverly Hills Historical Society.

Exhibits at Greystone would mix permanent and changing displays. In addition to the ornithological collections of the Western Zoological Foundation, the museum contemplates permanent exhibits of gems, pre-Columbian art and art indigenous to the Western states including sculptures by Charles Russell, paintings, and Navajo Indian blankets.

There had been some questions about the museum's estimated of $2.5 million to renovate Greystone because the Frederick R. Weisman Foundation in a previous proposal had said it would spend $8 million to restore the mansion.

Accessibility Stressed

But Stansbury said that the county's cost is lower because it is not planning to knock down interior walls or do any other major renovation. Stansbury also said that because every level of the mansion is at ground level at some point, making it accessible for the handicapped would be less costly.

In an effort to keep vehicular traffic to a minimum in the residential area, the entrance to the parking lot would be relocated from Loma Vista Drive to Doheny Road.

The City Council has moved slowly in making a formal commitment to let the county museum use Greystone, primarily because of concerns raised by Councilman Robert K. Tanenbaum. He is scheduled to be Beverly Hills' next mayor, a post rotated annually among the five council members.

Tanenbaum said he wants the county museum to be more specific in its proposal about what exhibits would be housed permanently at Greystone, what the fiscal impact for the city will be, and on whether all five county supervisors support the proposal.

"I want to know exactly what they are proposing," he said.

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