Bryson Apartment Hotel

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Bryson Apartment Hotel
Bryson Apartment Hotel, Los Angeles.JPG
Bryson Apartment Hotel, Spring 2008
Bryson Apartment Hotel is located in California
Bryson Apartment Hotel
Location 2701 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, California
Coordinates 34°3′40″N 118°16′53″W / 34.06111°N 118.28139°W / 34.06111; -118.28139Coordinates: 34°3′40″N 118°16′53″W / 34.06111°N 118.28139°W / 34.06111; -118.28139
Built 1913
Architect Frederick Noonan & Charles H. Kysor
Architectural style Classical Revival, Beaux Arts, Other
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 83001184[1]
LAHCM # 653
Significant dates
Added to NRHP April 7, 1983
Designated LAHCM 1998-09-18[2]

The Bryson Apartment Hotel is a historic 110,000-square-foot (10,000 m2), ten-story apartment building on Wilshire Boulevard in the MacArthur Park section of Los Angeles, California. Built in 1913 in the Beaux Arts style, it was one of the most luxurious residential buildings in Los Angeles for many years. The building is also closely associated with the city's film noir history, having been featured in Raymond Chandler's works and the 1990 neo-noir The Grifters. The building's stone lions and large rooftop "Bryson" sign have become Los Angeles landmarks. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 and designated a Historic Cultural Monument (#653) by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission in 1998.

Construction and architecture[edit]

View from west with "Bryson" sign atop the building

The Bryson was built in 1913 by real estate developer, Hugh W. Bryson, along a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard that was considered to be the "West Side" and which was then principally a residential area. Bryson acquired the property in 1911, purchasing and razing four houses that occupied the space.[3][4] He had originally intended to construct a six-story building flush with the sidewalks along Wilshire Boulevard and Rampart Street. When neighbors complained about his plans, Bryson chose instead to build a taller structure, but one set back 100 feet (30 m) from the center Wilshire Boulevard and Rampart Street.[5] In March 1912, Bryson announced his revised plans: "It is my intention to make this apartment house in a class by itself on this coast and finer than any other west of New York City. To that end, I shall spare no expense."[4]

Bryson hired architects Frederick Noonan and Charles H. Kysor to design the building.[4] The construction was undertaken by Bryson's own company, F.C. Engstrum & Co. and completed in only seven months between June and December 1912.[5] The total cost, including land, construction, and furniture, was approximately $750,000.[5]

The Bryson in 1913, Los Angeles Times

The building combines Beaux Arts and Classical styles. The structure was built around a central court 26 feet (7.9 m) wide and 50 feet (15 m) deep. At the time of its opening, it had 320 rooms divided into 96 apartments, with a configuration allowing apartments to be connected to form suites with as many as 12 rooms.[5] All four sides of the building "presented a finished appearance", each being "handsomely ornamented with vari-colored tiles and concrete moulding."[6] The interior was finished with cut-glass chandeliers, Italian marble stairs and wainscotting, tile floors, and richly upholstered mahogany furniture.[5] The tenth floor was dedicated to common use, with a ballroom, library, billiard-room and three enclosed loggias.[5] Bryson reportedly spent $60,000 just for rugs, fine art, rare plants and furnishings for the top floor.[3] Being located at an elevation, and being the only high-rise in the area, the building's top floors offered panoramic views. A 1920s brochure for The Bryson touted the view:

"It has three large loggias from which one can see the Pacific Ocean, Catalina Island 67 miles (108 km) away, on a clear day; green foothills, orange groves and snow-capped mountains."[7]

Because of its 100-foot (30 m) setback, The Bryson was also able to make room for tennis courts and a wide lawn and gardens.[5] One writer in the buildings early days noted: "The landscaping of the place constitutes one of its principal charms."[6]

Operation as an apartment hotel[edit]

Early success[edit]

Lions at front entrance to the Bryson

When the new building opened in January 1913, it was met with glowing praise. The Los Angeles Times called it "magnificent" and opined that it "is probably the finest apartment-house west of New York City, comparing favorably with the splendid apartment-houses and apartment-hotels in the Riverside drive district of Manhattan."[5] When Bryson had announced his plans, some thought Los Angeles was too small to support "an institution of this character,"[3] but the building proved to be a success. In fact, the building was fully occupied within two days of its opening.[3] And in 1915, the building was sold for $1,250,000 -- $500,000 more than it had cost to build three years earlier.[8]

In its early years, The Bryson was reportedly a favorite location for the "beautiful people" of the day."[7] It was the only high-rise and the dominant feature of Wilshire Boulevard for many years.[7] It was not until 1921 that The Bryson was joined by the Ambassador Hotel, followed by The Gaylord in 1924, The Arcady in 1927 and Bullocks Wilshire in 1929.[7]

Association with Raymond Chandler and film noir[edit]

Novelist Raymond Chandler added to The Bryson's landmark status when he featured it in his 1943 work The Lady in the Lake. Owing to its connection with Chandler, The Bryson has been described as one of the city's "high-rises that were meant to house wealthy transplants from back East but became the faded palaces of L.A. noir."[9] In the novel, detective Philip Marlowe visited the Bryson Tower in pursuit of the title character.[10] Chandler described the Bryson:

"Twenty five minutes brought us to the Bryson Tower, a white stucco palace with fretted lanterns in the forecourt and tall date palms. The entrance was in an L, up marble steps, through a Moorish archway, and over a lobby that was too big and a carpet that was too blue. Blue Ali Baba oil jars were dotted around, big enough to keep tigers in. There was a desk and a night clerk with one of those moustaches that get stuck under your finger nail."[11]

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce reports that thousands of Chandler fans travel to Los Angeles to see the locations of Chandler's works, including the Bryson and the Montecito Apartments.[12] In a 2007 article about Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles, one writer described the view of The Bryson, with "its enduring rooftop sign," as "a symbol of a cityscape that is rapidly disappearing" -- the city "as it looked to Philip Marlowe, heading toward the Bryson Apartment Hotel for another rendezvous."[13][14]

The Bryson has also been featured in other noir stories and books, including Double Indemnity. Fittingly, when Stephen Frears shot his 1990 neo-noir, The Grifters, he chose The Bryson Apartments as one of the principal locations—the home of John Cusack's character, Roy Dillon, and the site of the bloody climax.[15][16][17]

Post-war years[edit]

Fred MacMurray bought The Bryson the same year he starred in Double Indemnity.

In 1944, actor Fred MacMurray, who starred in the 1944 film noir classic Double Indemnity (co-written by Chandler), purchased The Bryson for $600,000.[18] MacMurray owned the building for approximately 30 years. By the late 1940s, as other parts of the city expanded, The Bryson began to lose some of its prestige. In 1949, MacMurray secured a reduction in the property's assessment to $100,000, arguing that high costs made the building unprofitable.[19]

By the 1970s, as glitzier locations on the westside and in other areas became more popular, the shine was gone from The Bryson. In 1977, the Los Angeles Times reported that the 10th floor, formerly the building's showplace, had been stripped and was used only for storage.[7]

In 1999, the building underwent a $5.5 million renovation. The project drew attention by dressing up the building landmark statues of the lions (pictured above) in hard hats and orange construction vests. The contractor noted: "It's become quite a conversation piece for people along Wilshire Boulevard."[20]

Historic designations[edit]

The Bryson was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 and designated a Historic Cultural Monument (HCM #653) by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission in 1998.[21] It is one of several Registered Historic Places encircling Lafayette Park, including the Granada Shoppes and Studios, The Town House, the Felipe De Neve Branch and Bullocks Wilshire one block to the west

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15. 
  2. ^ http://preservation.lacity.org/monuments
  3. ^ a b c d "Big Sum Buys Bryson Hotel: Ten-Story Pile at Wilshire and Rampart Sold; Close to a Million Gets It for O.S. Weston; Large Tract of Land Part of Consideration". Los Angeles Times. 1913-11-29. 
  4. ^ a b c "To Follow New York Models: Fine Apartment House for Wilshire Corridor; Structure Will Be Absolutely Fireproof in Type; Will Stand in Heart of Ultra-Fashionable District". Los Angeles Times. 1912-03-12. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "Finest West of New York: Splendid Bryson Apartments Ready for Opening; Building Stands in Heart of Wilshire District; Cost Nearly Three-quarters of a Million". Los Angeles Times. 1913-01-05. 
  6. ^ a b "Record-Breaker: Huge Rental for Bryson; Magnificent Hotel Leased for Ten Years; Prominent Hotel Men Secure Wilshire Apartments; Property Is Finest of Type West of New York". Los Angeles Times. 1913-09-28. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Apartment Hotel Erected in 1913 Gets Facelifting". Los Angeles Times. 1977-02-20. 
  8. ^ "Los Angeles' Finest Apartment-House Sold: Capitalist Gives Valuable City Property and Large Cash Consideration for 'The Bryson' - Holdings Include Southwest Acreage, North-end Business Frontage and Bunker Hill Corner". Los Angeles Times. 1915-12-12. 
  9. ^ Robert Greene (2005-04-28). "Revising Los Angeles’ DNA: The perfect apartment balcony beats any ranch tract house". LA Weekly. 
  10. ^ Tom Nolan (2002-09-06). "View/Travel: Los Angeles, My Lovely". The Wall Street Journal. 
  11. ^ http://web.univ-pau.fr/saes/pb/annales/copieftppoitiers/AGRCAPES/ANNALES/ANNAGREG/AGRVAL98.RTF
  12. ^ William Arnold (1986-08-27). "Raymond Chandler's Fans Flock to Scenes of His Fictional Crimes". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 
  13. ^ "Touring Raymond Chandler's L.A." (PDF). The Clipboard. Fall Winter 2007-2008.  Check date values in: |date= (help); |chapter= ignored (help)
  14. ^ "Filming locations for The Grifters". imdb.com. 
  15. ^ "The Grifters". Out of the Past.  ("In fact, Roy lives in the Bryson Apartments, which played a prominent role in Raymond Chandler's "The Lady in the Lake" and was (an) oft-filmed site in noir.")
  16. ^ "The Grifters - Technical Details". Theiapolis Cinema. 
  17. ^ Gary Indiana. "Extracts from the bfi Modern Classic Salò or The 120 Days of Sodom by Gary Indiana". The Buckminster Fuller Institute.  ("I lived in a somewhat sinister apartment hotel on Wilshire (The Bryson, where Stephen Frears shot The Grifters many years later, simulating its mid-70s desuetude - when I lived there ...)")
  18. ^ "Wilshire Blvd. Property Sold to Film Star". Los Angeles Times. 1944-09-14. 
  19. ^ "Screen Stars Win Slashes in Assessments". Los Angeles Times. 1949-07-22. 
  20. ^ Shirley Leung (1999-07-07). "Guys in Hard Hats Can Seem Like Animals Sometimes". The Wall Street Journal. 
  21. ^ "Historic-Cultural Monuments Listing" (PDF). City of Los Angeles. 2008-06-04.