Frank Vanderlip Sr., a New York financier and a syndicate of investors purchased the entire 16,000 acre Palos Verdes Peninsula in 1913 for approx. $1.5 to $2.0 million. He had visited Los Angeles a number of times, as he was one of the leading financial figures in the country in the early 1900’s as the president of National City Bank of New York ( today Citibank ) and had been assistant secretary of the Treasury under President McKinley, but had never visited Palos Verdes.
Once he came to visit what he had purchased, he fell in love with the Mediterranean splendor of the Peninsula which reminded him of the Sorrentine Peninsula and the Amalfi Drive in Italy.
Vanderlip chose the Portuguese Bend area of Rancho Palos Verdes as the site for the Vanderlip´s summer home, which was constructed in 1916 as the first residence on the Palos Verdes Peninsula other than a couple of ranch houses that no longer exist. The home, a Hudson River Craftsman design, was copied from their vacation house in Shrub Oak, New York. The home was initially called the "Old Ranch Cottage", and is now known as "The Cottage".
The Cottage has been in the Vanderlip family since it was constructed, and was most recently occupied by John Vanderlip and his wife Suzanne.
A larger guesthouse known as the "Villetta" was built in 1924 ( re-named as "Villa Narcissa" for Frank Vanderlip's wife). Frank and Narcissa preferred to stay in the Cottage when visiting and used Villa Narcissa to house guests. Vanderlip also constructed a barn and stables called the "Farmstead" , which later became the Portuguese Bend Riding Club.
At the top of Narcissa Drive just past the Portuguese Bend Riding Club was the proposed site for the "Villa Palos Verdes", a grand villa modeled after the Villa Papa Guilio in Italy ( today the Etruscan Museum in Rome ) which Mr. Vanderlip planned to build. The Great Depression put a stop to those plans however, and when Frank Vanderlip died in June 1937, his grandiose plans died with him.
During the1940's, Villa Narcissa hosted many Hollywood celebrities. Myrna Low, had lived there before World War II, and Paulette Goddard and Burgess Meredith had honeymooned there. In 1946, Frank’s son Kelvin and his recent bride Elin hosted their good friend Ted Geisel (a.k.a "Dr. Seuss", the famous children’s book author) during the summer. Elin continued to add on to the Villa Narcissa and care for her extensive gardens until her death in 2009. The Villa is still owned by the Vanderlip family.