During the 1920s, Los Angeles was flying high. Ornate high rises were springing up all over the city, and LA was becoming the center of the low-brow cultural world, as Hollywood’s movies and their stars were exported around the globe.
It was the perfect storm of developers looking to build and credit flush flappers and philosophers searching for a place to rest their weary, modern bones in chic surroundings.
Mixing the glamour of East Coast metropolitan structures with the unique Southern California take on Revival and Art Deco styles, architects designed sophisticated apartment buildings perfect for the oil tycoon, gangsters moll, or movie starlet on the go.
But these apartments didn’t appear overnight, and many opened precariously close to the stock market crash of 1929, making their aristocratic ascendancy brief. Today, you can still live in some of these modern marvels, where everyday is a black and white picture show.
The Gaylord Apartments (named after Gaylord Wilshire, the innovative namesake of Wilshire Boulevard) were among the first “own your own” apartment/co-op buildings in Los Angeles. The building was home to many celebrities and socialites, who were drawn to the Gaylord’s luxury accommodations and prime location—right across the street from the fabled Ambassador Hotel.
The building opened in Los Angeles on April 9, 1924. The $2 million building was designed by Walker and Eisen, while the interior public spaces were designed by Oscar B. Bach, known for his work in the Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center.
Today, the Gaylord is still a tight-knit community: 28 percent of the residents have lived here for 10 years or more. Because of this, openings are rare, but a single is available for $1,650, and a one-bedroom is coming online for $2,100. But worry not, you can always soak up some of the Gaylord’s fabled atmosphere in the building’s legendary bar, the HMS Bounty.
Address: 3355 Wilshire Boulevard, Koreatown
This charming 25-unit 1929 Spanish-Colonial Revival hillside apartment building was designed by the architect Frank Webster. According to the Los Angeles Times, this Hollywood building has Hollywood roots—it was built for cast and crew members working for legendary director Cecil B. DeMille.
Legend has it that numerous stars lived in the Villa Bonita over the years, including opera star Ethelind Terry, Errol Flynn, and Francis Ford Coppola. Units are occasionally available.
Address: 1817 Hillcrest Road, Hollywood
Designed by architect Max Maltzman, this Mediterranean Art Deco apartment building on California Avenue in Santa Monica opened in 1929. Its design paid special homage to the outdoor-indoor living ethos of Southern California, featuring a fountain tiled in sunset and sea colors, and stylized foliage motifs throughout the building.
These special touches made the Charmont a hit, with the Los Angeles Times reporting that it had “attracted much attention here because of its beauty.”
Although the building was seriously damaged by the Northridge earthquake in 1994, it survives as a prime example of California Art Deco. Units are often available. Studios start at $2,395, while one bedrooms average around $2,975 a month.
Address: 330 California Avenue, Santa Monica
Opened in 1929, this castle-like New York-style Spanish-French Revival apartment tower was designed by prominent architect William Douglas Lee (a longtime collaborator of LA developer Florence Casler).
When the El Royale opened at 450 North Rossmore, it became a hub of LA aristocracy- home to Loretta Young, William Faulkner, Clark Gable, and the actor/mobster George Raft. It was later home to legendary LA TV personality Huell Howser, who adored the building’s rich history and magnificent architecture.
It continues to be a popular residence for Hollywood stars—Cameron Diaz, Judd Apatow, Ellen Page, and Katie Holmes all lived here for a time. Rentals are available but pricey, with a studio running for about $3,100 and a two-bedroom for $6,950 a month.
Address: 450 N Rossmore Avenue, Hancock Park
Nothing says old Hollywood glamour like a building named after a movie star! In 1924, this grand brick tower was built at Wilshire and Bernardo Boulevard. While it was being constructed, it was bought by early studio executive Joseph Schenck and his wife, silent movie star Norma Talmadge.
Schenck and Norma, the most famous of the glittering Talmadge sisters, soon moved into an apartment on the 10th floor. When the building formally opened in July 1924, the Los Angeles Times reported: “The new Talmadge Apartments… were opened formally yesterday with a lawn fete and reception. Guests were present from San Francisco, Pasadena, San Diego and Santa Barbara.”
Guests were the owners and lessees of apartments, including luminaries like Mr. and Mrs. Edward Lawrence Doheny. There are currently no units available for rent.
Address: 3278 Wilshire Boulevard, Koreatown
St. Germaine Apartments
No architect was more responsible for the fantastical high-rise apartments of Hollywood’s Golden Age than the architect Leland Bryant, whose structures include the iconic Sunset Tower. Located in the Mid-Wilshire area, the French-Norman Revival St. Germaine, which opened in 1929, is a perfect example of Bryant’s iconic style.
Bryant “worked in all styles, but he tended to work more in the French chateau,” Adrian Scott Fine, advocacy director of Los Angeles Conservancy, told Variety. “It was all about creating a kind of exotic fantasyland with architecture, which fit well with the Hollywood scene.”
The St. Germaine infrequently has openings, but when it does they are listed at here.
Address: 900 South Serrano Avenue, Koreatown
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this 1929 French-Norman style tower at 6200 Franklin Avenue, right next to the Hollywood Freeway, is a legendary symbol of LA’s Golden Age.
Originally known as “La Belle Tour,” it was designed by the architectural firm of Cramer and Wise. “It has been a major landmark since it was built,” Hollywood historian Marc Wannamaker told the Los Angeles Times.
It has long been alleged that the building was the inspiration for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disneyland. Units are currently available. Studios start at $2,650, one bedrooms at $2,980, and two bedrooms at $4,375.
Address: 6200 Franklin Avenue, Hollywood
Los Feliz Manor
First built as an upscale hotel, this ornate Art Deco tower opened in 1929. Los Feliz was home to silent movie stars and early film impresarios, so such a luxurious hotel was a welcome addition to the neighborhood.
In the 1950s, the manor was converted into an apartment building. It has been carefully preserved, featuring 10-foot ceilings, original tile work, and mahogany doors. Using photographs from 1929, the manor’s management is continually renovating the building- completing a restoration of the hallways and working on an ongoing renovation of the lobby. There are no vacancies right now.
Address: 4643 Los Feliz Boulevard, Los Feliz
Subway Terminal Building
When it opened in 1926, Downtown’s Subway Terminal Building signaled that Los Angeles was a major metropolis. It was designed by Leonard Schultze, the architect behind New York’s Grand Central Station.
The underground terminus for LA’s fabled first subway line, it also featured space for around 600 above-ground offices.
As part of DTLA’s continuing evolution, the Subway Terminal Building has been transformed into Metro 417, a “boutique rental residence.” The building currently has numerous openings with studios starting around $1,775, one bedrooms at $1,950, and two bedrooms at $2,980.
Address: 417 South Hill Street, Downtown LA
Built in 1928, Casa Laguna was designed by the fascinating Arthur and Nina Zwebell. Originally from the Midwest, the self-taught Zwebells specialized in courtyard complexes, including the El Cabrillo, Andalusia, and Casa Laguna.
Situated on Franklin Avenue in Los Feliz, the Andalusian-style Casa Laguna features beautiful tile work, high beamed ceilings, and French windows. Units are sometimes available, with one bedrooms ranging from $2,495 to $3,500.
Address: 5200 Franklin Avenue, Los Feliz
This Beaux Arts tower was built by Olive Philips in the 1920s, in the then posh neighborhood of Westlake. Philips was the head of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and a dedicated voice in the prohibition movement in Los Angeles.
Philips originally called the 12-story structure “The Arcady,” and published ads boasting that all the work at the building would be “taken care of by a thoroughly-trained crew of maids, butlers, housemen, pages, valets, laundresses and porters.”
The building was recently renovated, and there are now units available for rent. Bachelors start at $1,595 and one bedrooms start at $2,190.
Address: 2619 Wilshire Boulevard, Westlake
Built in 1934, this 10-unit Streamline Moderne complex in Hancock Park was commissioned by Jack and Flo Haley. It was designed by the architect Milton J. Black. Jack—an actor best known as the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz—and Flo lived in the Mauretania’s lush penthouse for two decades.
The penthouse featured two formal dining rooms and a ballroom. It was so luxe, in 1960 it was inhabited for four days by John F. Kennedy while he was attending the Democratic National Convention (where he was nominated for president ).
Today, units very rarely come up for rent. In 2016, a one bedroom went for $2,500 a month.
Address: 522 N. Rossmore Avenue, Hancock Park
1934 was a busy year for architect Milton J. Black. It was the year he designed both the Mauretania and this French Art Deco building in Larchmont Village, which gives the appearance of a tiny, angular castle.
In 2018, a penthouse studio was renting for $2,750 sans parking spot, $2,850 with parking.
Address: 585 North Rossmore Avenue, Hancock Park