Cecil Hotel (Los Angeles)

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Cecil Hotel
Stay on Main Hotel logo.jpg
Stay on Main logo
Cecil Hotel, L.A.jpg
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
ArchitectLoy Lester Smith[2]
DeveloperSimon Barron Developments[2]
Other information
Number of rooms700[3][4]
Number of suites301[4]
http://www.thececilhotel.com/ 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.[5][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][6][7] On December 13, 2021, the Cecil Hotel was reinaugurated as an affordable housing complex.[8]


Hotel Cecil LA.jpg

The Cecil was built in 1924[9] by three hoteliers—William Banks Hanner, Charles L. Dix and Robert H. Schops—[10] 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,[11] 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[11] 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.[12]

The advertisement on the right side of the building originally had the word "monthly." 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.[13]

In 2007, a portion of the hotel was refurbished after new owners took over from there.[12]

In 2011, part of the Cecil Hotel was rebranded as "Stay on Main",[14] with separate reception areas during the day, but with shared facilities[15] and its official website remained thececilhotel.com.

In 2014, the hotel was sold to New York City hotelier Richard Born for $30 million,[16] 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.[17] The hotel closed in 2017 for the renovation, but the work was suspended indefinitely when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.[18][19][3][6][7]

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.[20]

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.[8]

Reputation for violence, suicide and murder[edit]

The first documented suicide at the Cecil occurred on the evening of January 22, 1927, when Percy Ormond Cook, 52, shot himself in the head while inside his hotel room after failing to reconcile with his wife and child. The Los Angeles Times reported that he was rushed to The Receiving Hospital with a slim chance of survival; death records reveal that he died that same evening.[5] The next reported death occurred in 1931 when a guest, W. K. Norton, died in his room after taking poison capsules.[21] Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, more suicides at the Cecil occurred.[5] In 2008, two long-time residents referred to the Cecil as "The Suicide",[22] and it became a popular nickname in social media years later.[21] RoomSpook, a website that tracks hotel deaths, lists at least 13 suicides that happened at the hotel.[23]

In addition to suicides, the Cecil's history includes other violence and disturbing happenings. It also became a notorious rendezvous spot for adulterous couples, drug activity and a common ground for sex workers.[21]

In 2015, while researching the Cecil Hotel for an article for KCET, researcher Hadley Meares claimed that in 1947, Elizabeth Short, dubbed by the media as the Black Dahlia, was rumored to have been seen drinking at the Cecil's bar in the days before her notorious and unsolved murder.[21] However, this claim appears to be nothing more than the retelling of a long forgotten falsehood that first appeared in a 1995 column written by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Harvey. Without verifying the claim, Harvey had quoted Ken Schessler, author of the book, This is Hollywood, as saying: “On Jan. 11, 1947, just three days before she was murdered, the Black Dahlia was seen in the bar in the Cecil Hotel with a girlfriend and two sailors.” Schessler then added, “In fact, the hotel and the bars in the same block, including the Dugout next door, were some of Elizabeth Short’s favorite hangouts during the week before she was killed.”[24] Schessler's Black Dahlia claim is easy to disprove. According to LAPD records, Short was last seen alive at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel on January 9 and was not seen again until her body was discovered in an empty field on January 15. There are no known records of Elizabeth Short ever being at the Cecil Hotel.[25]

In 1964, a retired telemarketer 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.[26] 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.[27] Her murder remains unsolved.[28]

In the 1980s, the hotel may have been the 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.[21] Ramirez may have engaged in part of his killing spree while staying there.[29] 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 from cancer in 2013.[30] Another serial killer, Austrian Jack Unterweger, stayed at the Cecil in 1991, possibly because he sought to copy Ramirez's crimes.[31] While there, he strangled and killed at least three sex workers, for which he was convicted 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; subsequently, her naked body was discovered in a water supply cistern on the hotel roof, following complaints from residents of odd-tasting water and low pressure. How she got into the cistern remains a mystery.[32] 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.[33] Thus, police ruled that her erratic behavior on the elevator was caused by hallucination, and she stepped into the tank herself, believing that she was in danger. The Los Angeles County Coroner ruled her death accidental due to drowning, with bipolar disorder being a significant factor.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Body found in Palmdale hotel water tank may be missing Canadian tourist". Yahoo! News. 20 February 2013. 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 c "Los Angeles - Cecil Hotel Deaths". March 20, 2016. Archived from the original on February 10, 2021. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "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.
  10. ^ Keeler's Hotel Weekly, Vol. XVIII, No. 6, February 7, 1925.
  11. ^ a b Keeler's Hotel Weekly, Vol. XVIII, No. 6, February 7, 1925, page 7.
  12. ^ a b Condé Nast Traveler article (14 December 2012)
  13. ^ "Hotel Cecil Los Angeles | Los angeles hotels, Haunted places, Hotel". Pinterest. Archived from the original on 2021-04-01. Retrieved 2021-02-19.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ "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.
  17. ^ Rylah, Juliet Bennett (31 May 2016). "Article". LAist.
  18. ^ Ocampo, Joshua (February 13, 2021). "Here's What We Know About the Dark Past of the Cecil Hotel". www.yahoo.com (in American English). Archived from the original on April 1, 2021. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ "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.
  21. ^ a b c d e "'The Suicide': The Hotel Cecil and the Mean Streets of L.A.'s Notorious Skid Row". KCET. 29 September 2015. Archived from the original on 26 October 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  22. ^ "Change checks into skid row hotel" by Ari B. Bloomekatz, Los Angeles Times, January 25, 2008, p. A-16
  23. ^ Suicides at the Cecil Hotel, 4 February 2021, archived from the original on 14 February 2021, retrieved 1 April 2021
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2021-02-10. Retrieved 2021-02-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2021-01-18. Retrieved 2021-02-20.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. ^ "The Dark History Of LA's Cecil Hotel – From Its Hay Day, To Richard Ramirez & American Horror Story". www.msn.com. Archived from the original on 2021-04-01. Retrieved 2021-02-14.
  27. ^ "Bird Lover Slain, but Friends Remember". The Los Angeles Times. 1964-06-06. p. 15. Archived from the original on 2020-06-27. Retrieved 2020-06-26.
  28. ^ Alan Duke. "Hotel with corpse in water tank has notorious past". CNN. Archived from the original on 2021-02-12. Retrieved 2021-02-14.
  29. ^ "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.
  30. ^ Staff, M. M. (2021-02-17). "Night Stalker Richard Ramirez and the Cecil Hotel: Here's Everything You Need to Know". MovieMaker Magazine (in American English). Archived from the original on 2021-02-19. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  31. ^ "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.
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ "The True Story of What Happened to Elisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel". www.msn.com. Archived from the original on 2021-02-10. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  34. ^ Mikkelson, David (14 August 2016). "The Strange Death of Elisa Lam". Snopes. Archived from the original on 1 April 2021. Retrieved 13 February 2021.