Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pipe Organs, Chili Peppers, and Prohibition: The Legendary Park Plaza Hotel

The Park Plaza Hotel opened in 1925, right at the start of the Art Deco years. It was designed by Art Deco architect Claud Beelman, and it was originally an Elks Lodge (Lodge Number 99).  The park referenced in the hotel’s name is MacArthur Park, made famous by a certain Donna Summer song where someone has left a cake out in the rain that took a really, really long time to bake. 
Although the hotel’s neighborhood, which is just outside of downtown Los Angeles, has changed a lot since the 1920s, families still enjoy the park and its lake, and it makes a beautiful view out the windows of the Park Plaza. 

Walking up to the hotel, it kind of felt like we were entering a glamorous tomb or temple, a little reminiscent of the Egyptian Theatre or the Los Angeles Central Library. The Park Plaza has angels perched on the outside, which gives a reassuring feeling that someone is keeping an eye on things, and also the Golden Rule (“Do unto others…”) carved right into the building above the entrance. 
The Park Plaza has an Olympic history, as the basement pool hosted many indoor swimming events in the 1932 games that were held in Los Angeles. The Elks sold the building after their numbers started dwindling, and it became a luxury hotel up until around 13 years ago.
Today, the Park Plaza Hotel is not actually a hotel anymore, but it hosts a lot of weddings and events, although one of the gals who works there told us that there was a chance it might reopen again as a hotel at some point. It is also used for movie shoots; in fact, the lobby ceiling (painted by American muralist Anthony Heinsbergen) was featured in David Lynch’s film Wild At Heart.
Many of the wedding ceremonies at the Park Plaza take place on the massive steps in the lobby, with the audience seated at the bottom of the stairs and sunshine streaming in through the large windows above the main entrance. 
After the vows, the celebration moves to one of the Park Plaza’s four ballrooms (there is also an outdoor space with a gazebo). There are also two bridal prep rooms (one right next to a secret elevator). The Park Plaza Hotel just feels like a place where there would be secret elevators and doors to bring in women and booze during prohibition, and it turns out that the building is full of them! 

One of the ballrooms is the Grand Terrace Room, which once hosted raves thrown by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, according to our Park Plaza guide. Oh, to have been there in the 1990s with a glowstick….
The room has a cathedral/church feel to it, and there is a 1925 Robert Morton organ console in one of the corners. Back in the day, the organ was hooked up to speakers in the Grand Terrace room and also in the lobby, so someone could be playing in one room while the music was pumped throughout the hotel. The perfect soundtrack to be playing as a handsome stranger that looks like Tyrone Power locks eyes with you across the room…
Kudos to the folks that run the Park Plaza! There is a lovely, mysterious feel to the place that you need to walk through the doors to experience. We say that buildings are alive and have a soul, and this one seems like it wants to be packed to the brim with glamorous folks enjoying themselves once again. 

The owners have done a beautiful job keeping things at this Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument true to their original form; whatever design is there, they just do the same design if it needs painting or any kind of upkeep. Now, if only they could find a way to make the walls talk and reveal their secrets…

Contact Info:
Park Plaza Hotel
607 South Park View Street
Los Angeles, CA 90057
(213) 381-6300


  1. Long before glowsticks, long before the 1990s - the Park Plaza was a big part of the punk/alternative music scene in the 1970s and 1980s. Google for the "elks lodge riot" or the "power tools" dance club and you can find some stories.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this! What great info. We love the rich history of this building and feel like we could write a whole book just on the Park Plaza!

  3. Thank you for sharing. A plumber should always be on time and should treat your home as if it was their own!


  4. The organ you have pictured is the 'small' lobby organ at the top of the stairs. The main organ was a large Robert Morton in the meeting hall to the right of the stairs.

  5. The organ you have pictured is the 'small' lobby organ at the top of the stairs. The main organ was a large Robert Morton in the meeting hall to the right of the stairs.