Garden of Allah Hotel

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Garden of Allah Hotel
General information
Status Demolished 1959
Type Hotel
Location 8152 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, Cal.
The Sunset Strip
Construction started 1926
Completed 1927
Opening January 1927
For other uses of this name, see Garden of Allah.

The Garden of Allah was a famous hotel in Hollywood, California, at 8152 Sunset Boulevard between Crescent Heights and Havenhurst, at the east end of the Sunset Strip. It was originally a 2.5 acre estate called Hayvenhurst that was built in 1913 by real estate developer William H. Hay as his private residence. Alla Nazimova acquired the property in 1918 and then, in 1926, converted it into a residential hotel by adding 25 villas around the residence. The hotel opened in January 1927 as the Garden of Alla Hotel (no final "h" on Alla). By 1930, new owners had changed the name to the Garden of Allah Hotel. Over the next two decades, the property went through a succession of owners, the last of whom was Bart Lytton, owner of Lytton Savings & Loan, who demolished the hotel in 1959 and replaced it with his bank's main branch.

History[edit]

Hayvenhurst[edit]

Hayvenhurst, an estate built by William H. Hay in 1913 and later purchased by Alla Nazimova who converted it into a hotel in 1927

The estate that later became the Garden of Allah Hotel was built in 1913 by real estate developer William H. Hay in the northwest corner of the Crescent Heights neighborhood, a 160-acre tract bounded by Sunset Blvd. at the north, Santa Monica Blvd. at the south and Crescent Avenue (later changed to Fairfax Avenue) to the east and Sweetzer Ave. to the west, which Hay had subdivided and developed starting in 1905.[1]

The estate's original address was 8080 Sunset Blvd., which was later changed to 8152 Sunset. It occupied a 2.5 acre lot that fronted Sunset Blvd. and was bounded by Crescent Heights Blvd. to the east and Hayvenhurst Dr. (now spelled Havenhurst) to the west. The property's southern boundary was also the border between the Hollywood District of the city of Los Angeles and the then-unincorporated area that later became the city of West Hollywood.

Hay and his wife Katherine personally supervised construction of the estate. The house had 12 rooms and four bathrooms. The finishes were all in Circassian walnut that the Hays had collected on a trip to the Philippines in 1912.[2] The interior walls were covered in canvas and hand painted. The garage had bays for two cars—a rarity in those days—with rooms upstairs for live-in servants. Construction and landscaping cost an estimated $30,000.[3]

The Hays' stay at Hayvenhurst was short-lived. Within a few years they had built and moved into a new house a few blocks east, at 7920 Sunset Blvd., the site today of the Directors Guild of America headquarters. William Hay also purchased Encino Ranch, a large tract of land in the San Fernando Valley that he would later develop into the upscale Encino District of Los Angeles.[4] Hayvenhurst reportedly stood unoccupied for several years.

Garden of Alla[edit]

Stage and screen actress Alla Nazimova leased Hayvenhurst from William Hay not long after she moved to Los Angeles from New York in 1918; she purchased it outright a year later.[5] Nazimova jokingly called her new home, "The Garden of Alla," which was a reference to her own name and the best-selling 1905 novel, The Garden of Allah, by British author Robert S. Hichens.

As her acting career declined, Nazimova built a complex of 25 villas around the main building in 1927.[6]

Garden of Allah Hotel[edit]

The Garden of Allah became home to many celebrities and literary figures. F. Scott Fitzgerald lived there for several months in 1937–38 at the beginning of his final sojourn in Hollywood. (He wrote himself a postcard while there: "Dear Scott — How are you? Have been meaning to come in and see you. I have living [sic] at the Garden of Allah. Yours, Scott Fitzgerald.") Humorist/actor Robert Benchley was a frequent resident. Fitzgerald's biographer and lover Sheilah Graham later wrote a book about the place called The Garden of Allah (New York: Crown, 1969).

Purchase by Lytton Savings[edit]

On April 11, 1959, Bart Lytton, president of Lytton Savings and Loan, announced that he had purchased the Garden of Allah Hotel from Beatrice Rosenus and Morris Markowitz for $755,000. Lytton's plans for the property included razing the hotel to make way for a new main branch for his bank, which had formerly been headquartered in the Canoga Park District of the San Fernando Valley.[7]

In August, Bart Lytton hosted a farewell party on the grounds of the hotel. Among the attendees were silent film star Francis X. Bushman and his wife, who had been at the opening party in January 1927. The bulldozers arrived within days, and by the end of October, all traces of the hotel were gone and work had begun on the Lytton Center.

Source of the name[edit]

The hotel's name was not a direct reference to Islam but rather to Nazimova's first name and the title of a 1905 novel, The Garden of Allah, by British writer Robert S. Hichens. The novel was adapted into a play first produced in London in 1909. Mary Mannering acted in the play in 1910. The novel also served as the basis for three movies, the final one of which starred Marlene Dietrich, who was once a resident of the hotel.

Quotes about the Garden of Allah[edit]

It reminds me of Hollywood.

George S. Kaufmanon why he liked living at the Garden of Allah.[8]

I'll be damned if I'll believe anyone lives in a place called the Garden of Allah.

Thomas Wolfea letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald, July 26, 1937[9]

Nothing interrupted the continual tumult that was life at the Garden of Allah. Now and then the men in white came with a van and took somebody away, or bankruptcy or divorce or even jail claimed a participant in its strictly unstately sarabands. Nobody paid any mind.

—columnist Lucius Beebe, a frequent Garden resident[9]

A light-hearted, unrealistic place.

Sheilah GrahamThe Garden of Allah

There is no place for a Garden of Allah that, for one brief moment, was Camelot. It was inevitable that Hollywood as we knew it, and its satellite, Alla's garden, should disappear together.

—Sheilah Graham, The Garden of Allah

Hollywood's and thus America's most unconventional hotel, actually "notorious" would be a more descriptive word.

—David Wallace, Lost Hollywood

Famous residents and guests[edit]

A representative list of the Garden of Allah Hotel's famous guests:

In popular culture[edit]

  • In 1956, just a few years before its demise, the Garden of Allah was one of the settings for Pamela Moore's novel Chocolates for Breakfast, the story of an teenage girl growing up with an actress mother.
  • Herman Wouk called the Garden "Rainbow's End" in Youngblood Hawke, his novel about a successful writer who goes to Hollywood.
  • It is a persistent urban legend that the bulldozing of the Garden of Allah in 1959 inspired the line in Joni Mitchell's song "Big Yellow Taxi," "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot." Indeed, Mitchell later lived in the Laurel Canyon neighborhood in the hills north of the site. However, Mitchell herself told journalist Alan McDougall in the early 1970s that the lyrics were inspired by her first trip to Hawaii in 1970 where she was struck by the jarring juxtaposition of nature and modern civilization.[10] Also, the next line after "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot" is "With a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot," which does not reflect what happened to the Garden of Allah site, which was replaced with a branch bank building.
  • Don Henley sang about it in his song "The Garden of Allah."
  • The hotel is the setting for a series of historical novels by Martin Turnbull: The Garden on Sunset (2012), The Trouble with Scarlett (2013), and Citizen Hollywood (2014).
  • In the 2013 film Gangster Squad, a signboard reading "Garden of Allah" is seen outside the apartment in which Ryan Gosling's character resides, just before the scene in which he wakes up with Emma Stone.
  • The location of the Garden of Allah, which is now a bank building, is prominently displayed in a comical scene from the 1987 movie Barfly starring Mickey Rourke.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Crescent Heights Tract", Los Angeles Times, March 12, 1905
  2. ^ "Life's Gentler Side—Society, Music, Song and the Dance," p. II6, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 19, 1915
  3. ^ "Palatial Homes Near Completion," p. V1, Los Angeles Times, April 6, 1913
  4. ^ McGroarty, John, LOS ANGELES: From the Mountains to the Sea: With Selected Biography of Actors and Witnesses of the Period of Growth and Achievement, Volume III, p. 576, American Historical Society, 1921
  5. ^ "Nazimova Buys a Home Here", Los Angeles Times, Aug. 7, 1919
  6. ^ Kally Mavromatis, Alla Nazimova – Silent Star of February 1999, Silent Star of the Month, Glen Pringle's Silent Movies site, Clayton School of Information Technology, Monash University.
  7. ^ "Noted Hollywood Landmark, Garden of Allah, Sold", p. F1, Los Angeles Times, Apr. 12, 1959
  8. ^ Thompson, Sylvia (5 Nov 2000). "Martini Time at the Garden of Allah". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles). 
  9. ^ a b "Show Business: End of the House Party". Time magazine. 27 July 1959. Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  10. ^ Hilburn, Robert (December 8, 1996). "Both Sides, Later". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, CA: Tribune Company). ISSN 0458-3035. OCLC 3638237. Retrieved May 19, 2012. "With the release of two 'best of' albums, Joni Mitchell looks back at her hits—and misses—and the artistry that's earning renewed recognition." 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°5′52.77″N 118°21′59.65″W / 34.0979917°N 118.3665694°W / 34.0979917; -118.3665694