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24 Photos From 90 Years of Downtown’s Biltmore Hotel

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[All photos via the Los Angeles Public Library]

Downtown’s elaborately-decorated Millennium Biltmore Hotel (née the Biltmore Hotel) turned 90 yesterday, and with its marble walls and crystal chandeliers and fabulous Art Deco pool, it’s still just about as classy as ever (its surroundings, less so). The tri-towered hotel was designed by Schultze & Weaver, who went on to design the nearby Jonathan Club and Subway Terminal Building; it was built in 1923 for about $10 million and has hosted the Oscars nine times, the first in 1931 (and it’s where members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences came up with the idea for the awards show in 1927); the 1960 Democratic National Convention nominated John F. Kennedy at the hotel; and the Beatles stayed there in 1964, on their first trip to the US. It’s also the last place Black Dahlia Elizabeth Short was seen, in 1947, shortly before she was found murdered in Leimert Park. If you haven’t been, please go wander around (the LA Conservancy has tours every Sunday!), or at the very least watch it in ChinatownGhostbustersMad MenNational Treasure, or one of the many many other movies and TV shows it’s played in. And scan through this gallery of the hotel getting up to hijinks through the ages.

  • 1922: Early construction.
  • Ca. 1922: Construction.
  • Ca. 1922: View of construction from Pershing Square.
  • Ca. 1939: Biltmore Coffee Shop at Fifth and Grand.
  • 1952: Inside the coffee shop.
  • No date: Outside the Biltmore Florists on the first floor.
  • 1938: Fifth annual Biltmore Hotel Employees Dinner Dance.
  • 1937?: Southwest corner of hotel and its garage entrance.
  • Ca. 1930: Models at a fashion show.
  • 1927: A guest register.
  • 1954: After a fire.
  • 1954: After a fire, in the Cowie Art Gallery, which was hosting $1-million worth of art that “narrowly escaped destruction.”
  • 1955: Chefs preparing for a Thanksgiving gala.
  • 1934: President Roosevelt’s birthday ball.
  • 1967: “A woman leaped, apparently from the 11th floor and landed in the gutter. Suicide victim lays covered on the ground.”
  • 1963: “Circle marks the figure of Harold Hicks, who threatened to jump from the roof of the 11-story Biltmore Hotel. Hicks was finally talked out of leaping from his high perch.”
  • 1934: “Edward Kuskey, at right, an employee in the auditor’s office at the Biltmore Hotel, shows how he was held up by an armed bandit.”
  • 1949: “Husky Don Sinnott” called himself Superman and “smashed seats, yanked radiators and fire extinguishers from walls, and pulled doors from hinges at the Biltmore Theater.”
  • 1942: Christmas Eve at the Biltmore Theater.
  • Ca. 1940s: “Beautiful California models” in a fashion show for buyers.
  • Ca. 1953: An Arden Ice Cream promotion for Texas pecan ice cream, featuring actor Lock Martin.
  • 1920s: The facade.
  • 1960: The Democratic National Convention.

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