From an Oriental gatehouse, a palm-lined private road led to a hill crowned by a group of small one-room Japanese houses the home of Adolph Bernheimer, a cotton exporter and designer of the gardens, who in 50 years made 17 trips to the Orient collecting the treasures in the house and gardens. To the left of the gatehouse was a reproduction of the stables in the temple grounds at Nikko, Japan, in the black, mauve, and gold colors characterizing all the buildings. Beside the stables was a rock-lined lily pool with a bronze miniature of Lao-tse, Chinese philosopher of the 6th century B.C., mounted on a horse.
The exceptionally life-like bronze figure of Ten-Jin, ninth-century Japanese religious teacher, mounted on a representation of a sacred ox, watched over the entrance to the flower and bronze-lined path which winds to the Bernheimer home. Each room of the home was a separate house, although the four units were connected by pergolas. Treasures included color paintings on rice paper many hundreds of years old, bridal and temple kimonos, fingernail tapestries woven by specially-grown fingernails; and two pairs of devil-dogs, the traditional protectors from evil spirits, the female of each pair represented with suckling pups. More bronzes enhanced the downward path to the Sunken Garden, among them a Burmese Buddha in a “wishing well.” At the bottom was a miniature lake, replete with miniature temples and figures of warriors and elephants.
Bernheimer, a native of New York, began collecting Oriental objects in 1887, came to Los Angeles in 1913, and in 1915 created an Oriental garden on a hilltop near Hollywood Boulevard and Franklin Avenue. Work was begun on the present location in 1925 and completed in 1927. Total expenditures came to $3,000,000.