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So What's Left of the Old Ambassador Hotel?

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Central Los Angeles Learning Center #1, rising on the site of the former Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard, still doesn't have a real name, but it's one-third up and running, and less than a year away from completion. The K-5 school, on another portion of the campus, opened in September; the middle and high schools will be ready in fall 2010.

The high school's facade is meant to mimic the facade of the Ambassador--it's the same size and shape, but is glass-clad to bring light into the classrooms. (It will also let students see out to that giant Coors billboard on Wilshire. Harry Drake, a principal for project architect Gonzalez Goodale, tells Curbed that LAUSD is hoping to work with the owners on that content.) Above: The library, which'll house archives donated by the Kennedy family.

A few pieces of the Ambassador have been preserved, and a few have been recreated.

The Cocoanut Grove nightclub's circular entrance canopy is original, and so is its eastern wall, which was built later than most of the hotel-- in 1938--and is much stronger than the rest of the structure was. Windows on the exterior and interior (see photo captions) have been refurbished and reused.

The entranceway into the school from the Cocoanut Grove canopy is a recreation, and the faculty lounge will be housed in the former Paul Williams-designed coffee shop. The stainless steel counter and marble finishes are original; the booths and stools will be replicas. Drake says so many movie productions had been filmed in the coffee shop that it was difficult to know what the Williams design really looked like. The firm worked off of original plans from the fifties and photographs.

The 500-person auditorium is an adaptation of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub. The original had a flat floor, Moorish columns, and palm trees. This version has a sloped floor, adapted versions of the columns, and will have palm frond lights projected on the ceiling. The ceiling is faithful, as is the Myron Hunt-designed ceiling in the library, on the footprint of the hotel's ballroom. (The info desk is in the area where Robert Kennedy gave his victory speech the night he was assassinated.) A room in the library will house archives donated by the Kennedy family. Murals by Judith Baca will show RFK on the campaign trail and with other social justice leaders.

A pocket park dedicated to RFK sits up front on Wilshire Boulevard and will be open to the public. Sidewalk widening is happening now, and the park will be finished at the end of 2009 or beginning of 2010. It's flanked by a pylon from the Ambassador, and will have a stainless steel wall with an RFK quote on it, as well as a marble wall with an image of RFK. The school won't be accessible from Wilshire during the day, but there'll be an entrance from Wilshire to the soccer field after school.

Drake tells Curbed that LAUSD plans to name the campus once it's staffed, so that the new principal, teachers, parents, and students can all be involved, but most people think/hope it will be named for Kennedy.
· Wilshire Blvd's Ambassador Hotel--Not Everything Is Lost [Curbed LA]
· ConstructionWatch: Robert F. Kennedy Park At Ambassador Hotel Site [Curbed LA]