A magnificent example of early Jazz Age architecture, the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel (today known as the Millenium Biltmore) was the first major commission for architects Leonard Schultze and S. Fullerton Weaver, who started the firm of Schultze & Weaver in 1921. A blend of Spanish and Italian Renaissance with an overall Beaux Arts style, it was meant as an homage to Los Angeles’ Spanish heritage. Modified through the decades (the main lobby was moved to the back of the building to allow for easier automobile access) it has received a multi-million dollar restoration and is quite a sight to behold. If you’re in Los Angeles, don’t miss the fascinating walking tour given by the Los Angeles Conservancy that takes place every Sunday starting at 2pm.
The magnificent interiors of the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel are a prime example of the Renaissance style popular during the Beaux Arts period of architecture in the United States (1880-1920). Designed by the architectural firm of Schultz & Weaver, it was associate architect Earl Heitschmidt who commissioned Giovanni Battista Smeraldi (known in the U.S. as John B. Smeraldi) to create many of the lavishly detailed interior ceilings. Smeraldi’s work can be seen in many historic public buildings in the United States, mainly on the ceilings, and he considered the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel to be his finest work in this country. The current hotel restaurant off the old lobby is named after him. Below are photographs I took of his incredible work during one of the wonderful walking tours given weekly by the Los Angeles Conservancy. I highly encourage taking one!
(Right) This is the main ballroom. This magnificent space is the largest of the hotels ballrooms and is able to accommodate 700 people at tables. The domed ceiling is a single canvas and the most detailed of Smeraldi’s magnificent frescos.
(Left) The balconies visible in this photograph and the one above extend from three of its walls.
(Right) Photograph of a famous socialite in her specially designed gown representing the Crystal Ballroom and it’s signature balconies (extending from the hip line of the gown). She had this gown created for the grand opening gala in 1923. This photograph hangs at the entry to the Crystal Ballroom.
A golden retriever face stares down at guests from one of the many murals painted by Smeraldi on the beams of the Emerald Room depicting scenes of the hunt. Once known as the Renaissance Room, it was the hotel’s main dining room seating up to 400 guests.
Originally known as the Los Angeles Incline Railway, it was the imagination and perseverance of Colonel James Ward Eddy that led to its construction. Opening in 1901, it connected the shopping district of downtown Los Angeles to the then upscale residential district of Bunker Hill.
“The World’s Shortest Railway” changed ownership a number of times during the ensuing decades. The grand Victorian homes which stood proudly on Bunker Hill in the teens had gradually become rundown by the 1940s. The homes and buildings on either side of the railway in the top photograph were gradually replaced with boarding houses and apartments, as shown in the photograph to the left from 1950.
In 1959 Angels Flight was scheduled to be demolished as part of the Bunker Hill Urban Renewal Project. Due to the tenacity of a dedicated group of supporters, Angels Flight was designated a Historic Cultural Landmark and the city dismantled it in 1969 to make way for office buildings and the Angelus Plaza senior condo complex promising to rebuild it in a few years. It was stored away in a Gardena scrapyard.
Those few years turned into 27 years, to be exact. Finally, in 1996 Angels Flight reopened in its present location near 4th and Hill Streets directly across from the Grand Central Market. Retaining 60% of its original materials, it operated until 2001 when an accident caused it’s closure. Construction of a new braking system and other updates were made, and after many false starts over the past few years Angels Flight will reopen once again.