Posted by: Brad Nixon | October 5, 2010

Hotel Grand

As I promised in yesterday’s post, I’ll spend a few minutes taking a look inside one of downtown L.A.’s memorable buildings.

One attribute of great cities is their landmark hotels. In New York, there are the St. Regis, Ritz and the Waldorf Astoria; Paris has its own Ritz and the Crillon; Chicago: the Palmer House; Venice: the Danieli; San Francisco: The Palace and the Fairmont, and in Hong Kong it’s the Peninsula. Smaller cities, take Richmond and Cincinnati, have the Jefferson and the Netherland. I’ve reported on a few iconic hotels, including Edec Roc and Fontainebleau in Miami Beach, Florida.

Probably when you think of hotels in downtown L.A., you think of Bruce Willis running barefoot over broken glass, or Clint Eastwood riding one of those iconic elevators with the exterior view, in the Bonaventure, shown here:

Bonaventure Hotel Brad Nixon 3457 640

But you may not know that Los Angeles, too boasted a hotel of appropriate grandiosity as its fortunes expanded in the early 20th Century.

Millennium Biltmore Brad Nixon 3424 640

This is the Biltmore Hotel, constructed in 1923, now known as the Millennium Biltmore. The style is called “Beaux Arts.” Because they know more about this subject than I, I’ll quote from the Los Angeles Conservancy’s page about the Biltmore:

The hotel’s grand meeting rooms are an opulent mixture of European styles including Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical and Moorish. Italian muralist Giovanni Smeraldi decorated many of the luxurious interior banquet rooms. The original lobby (now the “Rendezvous Court”) contains a Moorish beamed ceiling and a giant Spanish baroque staircase leading to a 350-foot long galleria. Various ball rooms, each lavishly decorated, lead off the galleria.

For the full description, please CLICK HERE to visit the Conservancy’s site. You can also CLICK HERE to see the hotel’s own photo tour.

Given the whirlwind of my schedule,  I don’t  have a clutch of photos of Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical and Moorish decor for you, but this main corridor that accesses most of the Biltmore’s large meeting rooms will give you an idea.

Millennium Biltmore Brad Nixon 3421 640

There’s much, much worth lingering over about L.A.’s Biltmore, including, were there time to enjoy it, one of the city’s notable watering holes, the Cognac Bar, although it wasn’t open for my trade at 11 a.m. on a Friday.

Millennium Biltmore Brad Nixon 3422 640

The Biltmore today is a busy, thriving place, full of corporate meetings, business  luncheons and evening soirees. It’s the kind of place that in 1923 certainly assured the business community of L.A. that they could stand proudly next to other American cities with moxie unpalled, and, frankly, it gives the downtown Los Angeles of today some world-class presence.

It is not what many visitors see when they visit Los Angeles because, when they come here, they see Disneyland, Universal Studios, Rodeo Drive, the Santa Monica Pier, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Rose Bowl or — more or less contemporary with the Biltmore — the Farmer’s Market. Even having seen ALL of those sites on some unimaginably vigorous touristical extravaganza, a visitor still has neither been to downtown, nor, with the exception of the Farmer’s Market, even set foot in Los Angeles proper. It’s taken me 17 years to get around to making my one-hour sprint around a tiny portion of downtown (although we have made a few other forays there). It’s no surprise, then, that the Biltmore, and dozens of other classic venues have withered and, in many cases, expired, unsung. That’s no different than is the case in a hundred other cities, but it’s reassuring that it’s here, for now. It’s worth a look if you can find time between your trip to Disneyland (don’t forget to ride the teacups!) and the jaunt out to Santa Monica Pier.

Tomorrow, we head east to Broadway and then north two blocks to downtown’s oldest surviving commercial building. I think you’ll be knocked-out by it. If not, I’ll gladly refund your money.

This is the third in a series. Click the previous post listed below to see the previous post.

© Brad Nixon 2010, 2017

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Responses

  1. niiiiice! thanks bard!

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  2. Enjoyed the tour, Brad. Reminds me of my days when, as a young lawyer, I walked the streets of downtown L.A. to the various old city buildings a few decades ago. If you want iconic, don’t forget the L.A. city hall building. If you want the REAL old, wood-paneled courtrooms (complete with white-haired, old frizzled judges with unique personalities) that TV law shows are modeled after, go into the downtown L.A. Superior Court building sometime and watch a court proceeding. L.A. state and federal court judges are famous in the legal community and stories abound.

    BTW, is Miami really a “mediocre city?” I think they’ve done a remarkable job of restoring major parts of the city a la Art Deco, and reviving the arts community. It has become a major center of tourism for Europeans, if not so much we here in the U.S. who may not appreciate our heritage sometimes.

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