A GI on leave during World War II could have stayed at the Hayward Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles and descended the marble stairs into the hotel's basement club, the Rhythm Room, for a stiff drink and a bit of jazz. The club's motto was "Just for Fun."
The club, which was founded in the 1920s, was one of the attractions of the hotel at the corner of Sixth and Spring streets in the city's financial district. It was one of the city's first high-rise buildings when it went up in 1905, and architects John and Donald Parkinson (City Hall and Union Station) gave it its current form in 1925.
As fortunes changed, the hotel fell into squalor, and the hotel and Rhythm Room were boarded up in 1972. But the club may soon return, Los Angeles Magazine reported:
Owners Cindy La and Vincent Vongkavivathanakul plan to keep its legacy as a jazz and blues nightclub while infusing it with a restaurant, coffee counter, and plenty of games.
The original Rhythm Room was designed by Charles F. Whittlesey for Harris C. Fryman in 1906, La told Curbed. “When we found out about it, we knew there couldn’t be a more fitting name and re-branded it into Rhythm Room LA,” she said (presumably so as not to be confused with the Rhythm Room club in Phoenix).
By the middle of the last century, the Rhythm Room was a popular venue, hosting shows by such artists as Central Avenue boogie-woogie and swing singer and pianist Betty Hall Jones, who performed in the spring and summer of 1945.
By the 1970s, the party was over. Here's how the Los Angeles Times described the building in 1995:
The Hayward's sad state is a far cry from its original billing, circa 1905, as a fireproof, elegant hotel where "special attention is given to ladies traveling alone." Today's Hayward, a labyrinth of hallways, staircases and elevators, is infested with cockroaches and rodents; the smell of dead rats lingers in the air. The carpeting in today's Hayward is pock-marked with cigarette burns from tenants who prefer the carpet to ashtrays. Today's Hayward is a place where a decomposed body was recently found only because somebody noticed a trail of maggots under the doorway.
Since then, and for the last 15 years, developer Izek Shomof has been fixing up the hotel, LA Magazine reported.
In the Rhythm Room, the new owners will preserve some of the club's 1920s details, including that marble staircase, Art Nouveau columns and original tile. They'll even resurrect an old dance floor. They're chronicling the effort on Instagram.
“I think we were both very lucky to have met some great contacts and had a vision for a concept that we felt would be complementary to the already thriving DTLA bar and restaurant community,” La said about the new Rhythm Room. “We felt it was the right time because it was the perfect canvas for our vision.”
The new Rhythm Room is expected to open in June.
- A Long-Forgotten Nightclub from the ’40s Is Coming Back to Life [Los Angeles Magazine]
- Rhythm Room [Official website]
- Gussying Up Downtown's Hayward Hotel [Curbed LA]