Historic South-Central's very historic Dunbar Hotel is set to be officially reborn on June 26 as Dunbar Village, a senior-living community, but it's still holding onto its cred as Los Angeles's most legendary jazz spot. The Dunbar first opened in 1928 (as the Hotel Somerville) and in the '30s and '40s, when the fancy hotels Downtown were segregated, hosted African-American greats (and their fans) including Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and Lena Horne. Original builder John Somerville (USC's first black graduate) lost the hotel after the stock market crash of 1929 and new owners renamed it after poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. Once other hotels started taking black guests, the Dunbar fell on tough times and closed in 1974. It operated in the '90s and aughts as low-income housing.
Now a public/private development partnership has renovated the place, which is on the National Register, keeping its "original architecture and Art Deco motif," reports the LA Times. Its 115 rooms have been converted into 41 studio and one-bedroom apartments and the developers have also added another 42 apartments for low-income families in two adjacent buildings (those are called the Somerville Apartments). They've maintained the fountain in the central atrium--which spans from the lobby to the hotel's old nightclub, along with three original murals with, somewhat incongruously, Southwestern themes. The hotel's neon sign has also been switched back on.
The developers are looking for someone to run a new "speakeasy" or restaurant in the famous old nightclub space. Meanwhile, new tenants, chosen by lottery, are already moving in.