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What the 1920s Critics Said About 3 of LA's Most Famous Hotels

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[Image via Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection]

Visitors to Los Angeles in the 1920s would have been met by several new, stately hotels, some of which are now lost (the Ambassador) and some of which have taken quite a turn in quality since their opening days (the Cecil Hotel). One home-away-from-home that's dodged both the wrecking ball and a wrecked reputation is the always-classy Biltmore. A 1924 review of the Biltmore ("erected at at a cost of $8,500,000") that appeared in the LA Times shortly after its fall 1923 opening referred to the new hotel's "unobtrusive luxury and beauty." The reviewer was especially excited to find that "[i]ncorporated into every nook and corner of the Biltmore are the values of home life." (Whose home? ) Though the furniture is all described as Spanish and Italian, it's noted that "[e]verything in the scheme harmonizes." Also worth a mention was that all the rooms include a bath, and that the ventilation system is "one of the most extensive."

[Image via Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection]

"This magnificent pile occupies a site that was a barley field a few years ago," proclaims the subtitle of a January 1921 photo roundup (for lack of a better term) talking up the new Ambassador Hotel in the LA Times. A few days later, a write-up of the hotel's opening dinner/dance fête (also in the Times) gave some insight on the luxurious new lodging and event space: 3,000 people filled the dining room and ballroom of the hotel, both of which were extravagantly decorated in spring blooms, despite it being "the dead of winter." The food was wonderful and "European in nature." As the partygoers dined, they were serenaded by the "blare and clash of jazz." This postcard hints at the immense size and sprawl of the once-so-grand hotel that was demolished to make way for a high school.

Before the Cecil Hotel was a must-visit for serial murderers and other deeply unsavory types, it was a "completely up-to-date, completely comfortable" newly constructed hotel furnished exclusively by the LA company Barker Brothers, whose former factory has been repurposed into highly popular Arts District lofts. This display ad from a December 1924 edition of the LA Times paints a very detailed picture of the kind of place the Cecil was.

[Image via LA Times Historical Archives]
· Hotels Week 2014 [Curbed LA]