Cecil Hotel (Los Angeles)

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Stay on Main
Stay on Main Hotel logo.jpg
Stay on Main Logo
Hotel Cecil LA.jpg
Cecil Hotel, photographed in 2013
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 Street, Los Angeles, CA 90014
Coordinates34°02′39.04″N 118°15′01.97″W / 34.0441778°N 118.2505472°W / 34.0441778; -118.2505472
Technical details
Floor count19
Other information
Number of rooms600[2]
stayonmain.com[dead link]

Stay on Main (formerly Cecil Hotel, Hotel Cecil and informally The Cecil) is a budget hotel in Downtown Los Angeles, located at 640 S. Main Street, opened in 1927.[1] It has 600 guest rooms. The hotel has a checkered history, but is currently being renovated and redeveloped into a mix of hotel rooms and residential units.[2]


The Cecil was rebuilt in 1924 by hotelier William Banks Hanner, as a destination for business travelers and tourists. Designed by Loy Lester Smith in the Beaux Arts style, the hotel cost $1 million to complete and boasted an opulent marble lobby with stained-glass windows, potted palms and alabaster statuary. Hanner had invested confidently in the enterprise, in 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. Though the hotel flourished as a fashionable destination through the 1940s, the decades beyond saw the hotel decline, as the nearby area known as Skid Row became increasingly populated with transients.[2] As many as 10,000 homeless people lived within a four-mile radius. By the 1950s the hotel had gained a reputation as a residence for transients.[3] A portion of the hotel was refurbished in 2007 after new owners took over.

In 2011 the Cecil Hotel was rebranded as "Stay on Main," complete with a new website—its old website, thececilhotel.com, expired at the end of 2013.[4]

The hotel was sold in 2014 to New York City hotelier Richard Born for $30 million,[5] and another New York-based firm, Simon Baron Development, acquired a 99-year ground lease on the property. Matt Baron, president of Simon Baron, said he was committed to the preservation of architecturally or historically significant components such as the hotel's grand lobby, but that his company planned to completely redevelop the interior and fix the "hodgepodge" work that had been done in more recent years.[6] Beyond renovating rooms, the developer also plans a rooftop pool, gym and lounge. Construction is projected to be complete by 2019.[2]

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.[7]

Reputation for violence and suicide[edit]

As the area where the Cecil Hotel is located began to decline, suicides and other violent deaths on the premises became more frequent. The first documented suicide at the Cecil was reported in 1931 when a guest named W.K. Norton died in his room after taking poison capsules.[8] Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, more suicides at the Cecil occurred. By the 1960s, longtime residents had begun to call the Cecil "The Suicide."[8]

In addition to suicides, the Cecil's history includes other kinds of violence and salacious happenings. It also became a notorious rendezvous spot for adulterous couples, drug activity and prostitution.[8] In 1947 Elizabeth Short, dubbed by the media as the Black Dahlia, was rumored to have been spotted drinking at the Cecil's bar in the days before her notorious and, to date, unsolved murder.[8]

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 and beaten, and her room ransacked. A man named Jacques B. Ehlinger was charged with Osgood's murder, but he was later cleared; her death remains unsolved.

Perhaps most infamously, in the 1980s the hotel was rumored to be the residence of serial killer Richard Ramirez, nicknamed the "Night Stalker." Ramirez had been a regular presence on the skid row area of Los Angeles, but, according to a hotel clerk who claims to have spoken to him, is rumored to have stayed at the Cecil for a few weeks.[8] Ramirez may have engaged in part of his killing spree while staying there.[9] Another serial killer, Austrian Jack Unterweger, stayed at the Cecil in 1991, possibly because he sought to copy Ramirez's crimes.[10] While there, he strangled and killed at least three sex workers, for which he was convicted in Austria. He hanged himself shortly after his conviction.[11]

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; her naked body was subsequently discovered in a water supply cistern on the hotel roof, following complaints from residents of odd-tasting water and low pressure. Why she got into a cistern remains a mystery.[12] The Los Angeles County Coroner ruled her death accidental due to drowning, with bipolar disorder being a "significant" factor.[13]

Cultural references[edit]

On March 27, 1987, the band U2 performed an impromptu live concert on the rooftop of a one-story building on the corner of 7th and Main in Downtown Los Angeles, next door to the Cecil Hotel. The performance, with the hotel featured as a backdrop, was filmed and commercially released as a music video for the release of the band's song "Where the Streets Have No Name".[14] The hotel is also known as the inspiration for Barton Fink. It was also the inspiration for the 5th season "Hotel" of American Horror Story.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Body found in LA hotel water tank may be missing Canadian tourist". Yahoo! News. 20 February 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
  2. ^ 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. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  3. ^ Condé Nast Traveler, article 14 December 2012
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "The 'American Horror Story Hotel' exists in real life, here's where to find it". FOX News. 15 January 2016. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  6. ^ LAist.com: article by Juliet Bennett Rylah, 31 May 2016
  7. ^ "Downtown LA's notorious Hotel Cecil named historic-cultural monument - MyNewsLA.com". MyNewsLA.com. 28 February 2017. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
  8. ^ 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. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  9. ^ "L.A. Hotel Where Body Was Found In Water Tank Has 'Long, Dark History'". NPR. 21 February 2013. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  10. ^ "The Real-Life Inspirations Behind American Horror Story: Hotel". 20 October 2015. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  11. ^ "Austrian Slayer of L.A. Prostitutes Kills Self". 30 June 1994. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  12. ^ "Elisa Lam Drowned in a Water Tank Three Years Ago, but the Obsession with Her Death Lives On". Vice. 27 October 2015. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  13. ^ "The Strange Death of Elisa Lam". Snopes. 14 August 2016. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  14. ^ 'Flashback Monday: U2 performs on a roof-top in down-town L.A.', LAist.com, 23 September 2013, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-06-11. Retrieved 2017-05-05.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]