Cecil Hotel (Los Angeles)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cecil Hotel
Cecil Hotel (Los Angeles) is located in the Los Angeles metropolitan area
Cecil Hotel (Los Angeles)
Location within the Los Angeles metropolitan area
General information
Address640 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90014, United States
Coordinates34°02′39.04″N 118°15′01.97″W / 34.0441778°N 118.2505472°W / 34.0441778; -118.2505472
OwnerRichard Born[2]
ManagementSkid Row Housing Trust
Technical details
Floor count15
Design and construction
Architect(s)Loy Lester Smith[2]
DeveloperSimon Barron Developments[2]
Other information
Number of rooms700[3][4]
Number of suites301[4]
Archived official website at the Wayback Machine (archived February 24, 2013)
Governing bodyPrivate
Reference no.1140

The Cecil Hotel is an affordable housing complex in Downtown Los Angeles. It opened on December 20, 1924 as a budget hotel.[1] In 2011, the hotel was renamed the Stay On Main. The 14-floor hotel has 700 guest rooms. The hotel has a checkered history, with many suicides and deaths occurring there. Renovations started in 2017 were halted by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the hotel's temporary closure.[3][5][6] On December 13, 2021, the Cecil Hotel was reinaugurated as an affordable housing complex.[7]


The Cecil was built in 1924[8] by three hoteliers—William Banks Hanner, Charles L. Dix and Robert H. Schops[9]—as a destination for business travelers and tourists.[4] Designed by Loy Lester Smith in the Beaux Arts style, and constructed by W. W. Paden,[10] the hotel cost $1.5 million to complete and boasted an opulent marble lobby with stained-glass windows, potted palms, and alabaster statuary. The three hoteliers invested about $2.5 million[10] in the enterprise, with the knowledge that several similar hotels had been established elsewhere downtown, but within five years of its opening, the United States sank into the Great Depression. Although the hotel flourished as a fashionable destination throughout the 1940s,[citation needed] the decades beyond saw the hotel decline, as the nearby area known as Skid Row became increasingly populated with transients.[3] As many as 10,000 homeless people lived within a four-mile (6 km) radius.[11]

In 2008, a portion of the hotel was refurbished after new owners took over from there.[11]

In 2011, part of the Cecil Hotel was rebranded as "Stay on Main",[12] with separate reception areas during the day, but with shared facilities[13] and its official website remained thececilhotel.com.

In 2014, the hotel was sold to New York City hotelier Richard Born for $30 million,[14] after which another New York-based firm, Simon Baron Development, acquired a 99-year ground lease on the property.[4] In 2016, Matt Baron, president of Simon Baron, said he was committed to the preservation of architecturally or historically significant components of the building, such as the hotel's grand lobby, but his company planned to completely redevelop the interior and fix the "hodgepodge" work that had been done in more recent years.[15] The hotel closed in 2017 for the renovation, but the work was suspended indefinitely when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.[16][17][3][5][6]

In February 2017, the Los Angeles City Council voted to deem the Cecil a Historic-Cultural Monument, because it is representative of an early 20th-century American hotel and because of the historic significance of its architect's body of work.[18]

On December 13, 2021, the Cecil Hotel reopened as an affordable housing complex operated by the Skid Row Housing Trust. The facility will provide affordable living accommodations for 600 low-income residents.[7]

Exterior | Historic Room Rate Sign

In April of 2022, the historic Cecil Hotel room rate advertisement painted on its southern façade was illegally white-washed. Although it is unclear whether the owners, the lessees, or the sub-lessees were responsible for the removal of the protected landmark's signage, it was likely removed to make way for a new mural or billboard. It was reported that artist Matthew Garcia was commissioned to paint a mural on the building. Additionally, an artist's rendering of billboards designed by Found Design for Simon Baron Development and organized by media developer Kevani, in which the project is entitled "The Frames," has been in circulation. Kevani's website indicates that the billboards are "coming soon." The original advertisement had been on the building since at least 1927. It originally read "HOTEL CECIL LOW MONTHLY WEEKLY RATES 700 ROOMS" with monthly later changed to daily. The remains of the first letters can still be seen and this is why the current word "daily" is aligned on the right side unlike the other rows.[19][20][21][22]

Reputation for violence, suicide, and murder[edit]

In 1931 a guest, W. K. Norton, died in his room after taking poison capsules.[23] Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, more suicides at the Cecil occurred. In 2008, two long-time residents referred to the Cecil as "The Suicide",[24] and it became a popular nickname in social media years later.[23]

Cecil became a notorious rendezvous spot for adulterous couples, drug activity, and a common ground for prostitutes.[23]

In 1964, a retired telephone operator named "Pigeon Goldie" Osgood, who had been a well-known and well-liked long-term resident at the hotel was found dead in her room. She had been raped, stabbed, beaten and her room ransacked. Jacques B. Ehlinger was charged with Osgood's murder because he was seen covered in blood roaming the streets close to the hotel, but was later cleared as a suspect.[25] Her murder remains unsolved.[26]

In the 1980s, the hotel was the temporary residence of serial killer Richard Ramirez, nicknamed the "Night Stalker". Ramirez was a regular presence on the skid row area of Los Angeles and according to a hotel clerk who claims to have spoken to him, Ramirez is rumored to have stayed at the Cecil for a few weeks.[23] Ramirez engaged in most of, if not all of, his killing spree while staying there. He reportedly stripped off his bloody clothes in the alley outside the building before climbing the interior stairs to his residence in his blood-stained underwear.[27] On August 30, 1985, a group of Los Angeles residents spotted him in the street and prevented him from escaping until police arrived to arrest him. In 1989, Ramirez was convicted of 13 murders and sentenced to death, although he would ultimately die of cancer in 2013.[28] Another serial killer, Austrian Jack Unterweger, stayed at the Cecil in 1991, possibly because he sought to copy Ramirez's crimes.[29] While there, he strangled and killed at least three prostitutes, crimes he was convicted of in Austria.

In 2013, the Cecil (by then re-branded as the "Stay on Main" although still maintaining the original Hotel Cecil signs and painted advertisements on its exterior) became the focus of renewed attention when surveillance footage of a young Canadian student, Elisa Lam, behaving erratically in the hotel's elevator, went viral. The video depicts Lam repeatedly pressing the elevator's buttons, walking in and out of the elevator and possibly attempting to hide from someone. It was recorded shortly before her disappearance. After 19 days, her naked body was discovered in a water supply cistern on the hotel roof, following complaints from guests of odd-tasting water and low pressure. How she got into the water tank long remained a mystery.[30] The floor Lam stayed on was one of the floors that did not have security footage, which left uncertainty as to whether her death was a homicide until Lam’s sister had revealed to detectives that Lam had a history of not taking her medication. Among her possessions left at the hotel were several prescription medications, seemingly untouched. Lam had previously been diagnosed with an extreme form of bipolar disorder and was known for displaying similar psychotic behaviour in the past, also claimed by her friends to act weird at times when her medications were not taken. [31] Police ruled that her erratic behaviour on the elevator was caused by a paranoid hallucination, as she had climbed into the tank herself, believing that she was in danger. Police then speculate that perhaps when she entered the tank, the water level was high enough that she could've gotten herself out; but as guests and residents used the tap water, the level could have decreased leaving her trapped in the tank, without a way to get herself out. They also speculate she undressed while in the tank, attempting to remove the clothing weighing her down. The Los Angeles County Coroner ruled her death accidental due to drowning, with bipolar disorder being a significant factor.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Whitcomb, Dan (20 February 2013). "Body found in LA hotel water tank may be missing Canadian tourist". Yahoo! News. Archived from the original on 22 February 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d "Hotel Cecil could finally reopen in late 2021". Curbed Los Angeles. Sep 3, 2019. Archived from the original on September 4, 2019. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d "Once a den of prostitution and drugs, the Cecil Hotel in downtown L.A. is set to undergo a $100-million renovation". Los Angeles Times. 1 June 2016. Archived from the original on 30 October 2017. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Dean Boerner (2019-09-04). "Smaller Apartments Are Doing Big Things For Developers NationalMultifamily September 4, 2019". Bisnow. Archived from the original on 2019-11-15. Retrieved 2019-11-15. The Cecil, also known as The Stay on Main, sits just off Seventh and Main streets. Built in 1924, it holds 299 hotel rooms and 301 single-room occupancy residences.
  5. ^ a b Rowan Kelleher, Suzanne (28 February 2021). "What Netflix Fans Need To Know About The Cecil Hotel's Rumored Reopening". Forbes. Archived from the original on 4 July 2021. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  6. ^ a b Donahue, Sarah (3 April 2021). "No opening date in sight for the Cecil Hotel". Downtown Los Angeles. Archived from the original on 5 May 2021. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  7. ^ a b "The Cecil Hotel Featured in Creepy Netflix Doc Will Reopen As Affordable Housing". Los Angeles Magazine. City News Service. December 13, 2021. Archived from the original on December 15, 2021. Retrieved December 15, 2021.
  8. ^ "Clipped From The Los Angeles Times". The Los Angeles Times. 1924-12-20. p. 4. Archived from the original on 2021-04-01. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  9. ^ Keeler's Hotel Weekly, Vol. XVIII, No. 6, February 7, 1925.
  10. ^ a b Keeler's Hotel Weekly, Vol. XVIII, No. 6, February 7, 1925, page 7.
  11. ^ a b Condé Nast Traveler article (14 December 2012)
  12. ^ Wallace-King, Donna (October 29, 2014). "True tales of terror to keep you up at night". KSLA News. Archived from the original on November 11, 2014. Retrieved November 17, 2014.
  13. ^ Finch, Jenna (22 April 2020). "The Deadliest LA Hotel: What They Didn't Tell Me About Stay on Main". Travel Dudes. Archived from the original on 19 January 2021. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  14. ^ "The 'American Horror Story Hotel' exists in real life, here's where to find it". Fox News. 15 January 2016. Archived from the original on 21 October 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  15. ^ Rylah, Juliet Bennett (31 May 2016). "Article". LAist.
  16. ^ Ocampo, Joshua (February 13, 2021). "Here's What We Know About the Dark Past of the Cecil Hotel". www.yahoo.com. Archived from the original on April 1, 2021. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  17. ^ Barragan, Bianca (2019-09-03). "Downtown LA's creepy Hotel Cecil set to finally reopen in 2021". Curbed LA. Archived from the original on 2019-09-04. Retrieved 2020-06-01.
  18. ^ "Downtown LA's notorious Hotel Cecil named historic-cultural monument". MyNewsLA.com. 28 February 2017. Archived from the original on 1 March 2017. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
  19. ^ "Cecil Hotel's Historic Room Rate Sign Gets White-Washed, Angering Preservationists". L.A. TACO. 2022-04-18. Retrieved 2022-04-24.
  20. ^ "LA Conservationists are Mad as Hell - Muralist Commissioned to Repaint the Historic Cecil Hotel - Speaks! | Downtown Los Angeles Weekly | the Spirit of DTLA". dtlaweekly.com. 20 April 2022. Retrieved 2022-04-24.
  21. ^ "Digital Billboards - Los Angeles, CA". Kevani. Retrieved 2022-04-24.
  22. ^ "Billboards Los Angeles, CA". BULLETIN. Retrieved 2023-01-09.
  23. ^ a b c d Meares, Hadley (29 September 2015). "'The Suicide': The Hotel Cecil and the Mean Streets of L.A.'s Notorious Skid Row". KCET. Archived from the original on 26 October 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  24. ^ Bloomekatz, Ari B. (January 25, 2008). "Change checks into skid row hotel". The Los Angeles Times. p. A-16.
  25. ^ "Bird Lover Slain, but Friends Remember". Los Angeles Times. June 6, 1964. p. 15. Archived from the original on 2020-06-27. Retrieved June 26, 2020.
  26. ^ Duke, Alan (February 23, 2013). "Hotel with corpse in water tank has notorious past". CNN. Archived from the original on February 12, 2021. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  27. ^ "L.A. Hotel Where Body Was Found In Water Tank Has 'Long, Dark History'". NPR. 21 February 2013. Archived from the original on 26 October 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  28. ^ "Night Stalker Richard Ramirez and the Cecil Hotel: Here's Everything You Need to Know". MovieMaker Magazine. February 17, 2021. Archived from the original on 2021-02-19. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  29. ^ "The Real-Life Inspirations Behind American Horror Story: Hotel". Patriot Ledger. 20 October 2015. Archived from the original on 12 August 2019. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  30. ^ Swann, Jennifer (27 October 2015). "Elisa Lam Drowned in a Water Tank Three Years Ago, but the Obsession with Her Death Lives On". Vice. Archived from the original on 26 January 2021. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  31. ^ "The True Story of What Happened to Elisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel". MSN. Archived from the original on February 10, 2021. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
  32. ^ Mikkelson, David (14 August 2016). "The Strange Death of Elisa Lam". Snopes. Archived from the original on 1 April 2021. Retrieved 13 February 2021.