Whenever I see a sign like the one below hanging outside of an abandoned property, I immediately feel an intense desire to get inside. When such a sign is hanging outside a hotel built in the early 1900’s in Southern California that has been boarded up since 1939, that urge goes through the roof.
Let me repeat: has been boarded up since 1939.
The hotel was built in the Spanish Revival-style at the turn of the century, similar to the infamous Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles…
…and the Mission Inn in Riverside California.
On a beautiful summer morning this past September, I met up with my contact for the first time in person, and together we approached the grounds. The caretaker met us at the enormous iron gates surrounding the property and escorted us in.
Founded in 1917, I’m told the hotel was once THE destination for California’s upper class, including Hollywood’s elite looking to escape LA for a night or two. As we roamed the grounds making our way to the entrance, it became clear that, guests or no guests, the caretaker takes his job very seriously. Though a bit overgrown in places, the grounds are absolutely stunning, with a full array of Southern Californian vegetation.
Antique relics are strewn about the property, like this top to a Greek column (known as a capital):
We passed by an old gardening shed. The caretaker now has a much larger facility on the grounds to deal with the upkeep of the hotel, but has left this as a memento of simpler times.
As we continued down the walk, we passed by this statue. I’ve explored about a zillion abandoned places in my scouting travels, and 99% of the time, something like this would have long since been stolen or vandalized. And yet here it is, in perfect condition, as if we had stepped into the past. Unbelievable.
Despite the caretaker’s efforst, there are some signs of decay, like this worn hole in the pathway wall. Still, excellent shape overall for 70+ years.
This sign had me stumped – what the heck is a natatorium? According to Wikipedia, it’s an old word for a structurally separate building housing a pool…
Judging from this list of amenities, you can imagine how large the property must have been. Unfortunately, most of it has been sold off over the years to developers. Driving through California’s newest suburbs, you’d never know stables or a grand terrace formerly occupied the space.
As you head to the main entrance, you pass under a lattice wood roof, covered in vines.
This old pool, covered in cracks, hasn’t been filled with water in decades (well, excluding rain).
I love these beautiful lily pad lights. I can’t imagine how beautiful their glow would be in a filled pool.
The cracks are pretty upsetting, but the caretaker is hoping to repair them in the near future.
Also want to point out the beautiful tile work:
Continuing on, I love how the trees have taken a stranglehold around the posts.
A look up toward the hotel’s balconies:
This gorgeous balcony at the front of the hotel once commanded an unparalleled view of the Pacific. Now, with all the overgrowth, you’d never even know it was there.
Before I post my interior pictures, I wanted to elaborate a bit more on the closing of the hotel. In 1939, there was a tragic fire. It started at approximately 11:51PM in one of the upper guest suites, and is believed to have been caused by a lightening strike. The plasterboard used throughout most of the hotel turned out to be particularly flammable, and the fire swept through the upper floors where the wealthiest clients were staying. Poorly designed escape routes instantly became inaccessible, and in the end, over 45 people were killed, nearly all of whom belonged to very rich and very powerful families.
The resulting lawsuits closed the hotel down for good. Contractors were jailed, the owners disgraced, and even California fire code laws were changed over the incident. Hope remained that sometime in the future, the hotel would be able to re-open to its former glory. Unfortunately, the death of the family patriarch sent the heirs into a frenzy over ownership, and it looks like that day will never come.
Though the front doors have been boarded up, the caretaker led us through a service entrance. After passing through a series of dark tunnels, we finally wound up in the lobby, to which he had recently restored lighting and power. Words fail me…
The ceiling in particular is amazing:
The old front desk. Note the luggage – apparently, after the fire was finally extinguished, luggage was gathered in the lobby for guests to retrieve. Apparently, some guests simply fled, leaving their belongings behind. They have remained here ever since.
A close-up look at the front desk, complete with bell:
To the right of the entrance is the concierge desk. I love the lampshade:
A game of mahjongg has never been finished:
An old room service cart, complete with antique teacups and kettle. The newspaper’s date is that of the fire:
Beside the sofa, a dust-covered wine glass still sits on a napkin:
Love this image of the fireplace – the owl (or is it a hawk?) seems particularly ominous.
More forgotten luggage as you make your way in:
An ancient phone long since disconnected. Clothing from a bygone era.
This directory was positioned beside the elevators:
This window display case exhibits some of the expensive items that were once available in the hotel’s gift shop:
We trucked down into the basement, which is filled with junk:
This old radio still works!
Finally, the telegraph room, with newspaper clippings and photos tacked up by former employees.
And that’s all I can post…for now! I’m hoping it gets landmark status in the future. If by any chance you’ve ever been here, please, leave a comment describing your experience!
And if you ever have the chance to visit the hotel for yourself someday, I’d avoid the elevators if I were you. They’re very unreliable.
Note: This was originally posted on April 1st.
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