Los Angeles is home to many historic hotels—with some dating back more than a century. Even longtime regulars may not be familiar with the more obscure trivia associated with particular properties. For instance, can you name the hotel that had a city named after it? Or the one that used to be the home of trout ponds, where Hollywood stars like Bette Davis and John Wayne are said to have taught their children to fish? Find out these answers and more below.
Not only did the Millennium Biltmore host a number of Academy Awards ceremonies in the 1930s and ‘40s, but the very idea for the Oscars was actually dreamed up at luncheon here in 1927—two years before the first statuettes were handed out. According to lore, Cedric Gibbons, who designed the Oscar, made his first sketches on a napkin that same day.
506 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213.624.1011
Now an Arabian-style boutique hotel popular for post-Grammy parties and other private events, thanks to its proximity to L.A. LIVE, the Figueroa Hotel got its start as a YWCA in 1925. It was specifically designed as a residence for female business travelers, and cost more than a million dollars to construct.
939 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, 213.627.8971
Opened in 1927 by a group of Hollywood’s biggest box office draws and movie moguls, the Hollywood Roosevelt has always been synonymous with celebrity. Over the years, it’s hosted everyone from Golden Era stars like Shirley Temple, Charlie Chaplin and Judy Garland to modern musicians like Marilyn Manson and Prince, who played a series of sold-out shows here in 2007. The David Hockney mural at the bottom of the hotel's pool was restored in 2008.
7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 323.466.7000
Though it’s now part of the Best Western brand, this freeway-adjacent hotel traces its roots back to at least as early as the ‘40s. It’s a great location for hitting all of the Hollywood hot spots, and remains something of a destination in itself, ever since its diner, the 101 Coffee Shop made several cameos in the hit 1996 film Swingers. The owners have changed since then, but the décor remains much the same. Locals refer to it by the sly advertising mural painted on the building: “Last Cappuccino Before the 101."
6141 Franklin Ave., Hollywood, 323.464.5181
When the “Pink Palace” opened in 1912, there wasn’t much development between Downtown LA and the beaches. Once it was founded, the city of Beverly Hills actually derived its name from the hotel—staff members say it’s the only known instance of this in the country. The Polo Lounge, incidentally, was christened in 1940 because of its post-match popularity with players from the nearby Will Rogers Polo Field.
9641 Sunset Blvd., Bevery Hills, 310.276.2251
The Hotel Bel-Air’s uniquely shaped pool—one element that has remained the same for more than 65 years, despite the extensive renovation that was completed in 2011—wasn’t just designed to be different. It actually used to be a horse-riding oval. And the guest rooms adjacent to the pool were once stables.
701 Stone Canyon Rd., Bel-Air, 310.472.1211
Opened in 1926 as Club Casa Del Mar, an exclusive, members-only venue, it attracted silent film stars and well-to-do businessmen. Of course, Prohibition was in full swing, so in addition to tame activities like operas and beach barbecues, lots of Flapper-esque fun was being had, too. Boozing and gambling were prevalent, but for the most part, the local law enforcement looked the other way.
1910 Ocean Way, Santa Monica, 310.581.5533
At one time, the Sportsmen’s Lodge was just that: a lodge for sportsmen (and women). The original lodge structure is located in what is now the Events Center, where trout ponds were the toast of Hollywood. Celebrities such as John Wayne, Bette Davis and Clark Gable brought their families here to fish.
12825 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818.769.4700
This storied venue was first established as a hotel back in 1907. A landmark property with historical elements, the outdoor swimming pool was the first Olympic-sized one in the state. It used to stretch completely underneath the Picture Bridge, but thanks to high school kids daring each other to jump off, it was later shortened. The bridge itself is an important site—its panels were painted by Frank M. Moore and inspired by those at a similar structure in Lucerne, Switzerland.
1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena, 626.568.3900
During WWII, the Queen Mary was converted into a military ship and repainted for camouflage purposes, earning her the nickname “the Grey Ghost.” To this day, she holds the record for the most passengers transported on a single ship, delivering 16,000-plus American soldiers to England. In fact, her contributions to the war effort so frustrated the Axis powers that a $250,000 reward was offered for her destruction.
1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach, 562.435.3511