The hotel opened on December 20, 1924, as a budget hotel, with 14 floors and 700 guest rooms.
The Cecil Hotel was built by three hoteliers: William Banks Banner, Charles L Dix, and Robert H Schops
It was to be a destination hotel for business travelers and tourists.
It was designed by Loy Lester Smith in the Beaux Arts style, which was an important style in France until the end of the 19th century, drawing upon French neoclassicism, and incorporating Renaissance and Baroque elements. The style, however, used modern materials like iron and glass.
This style heavily influenced American architecture from 1880 to 1920
The hotel cost $1.5 million to complete and had an opulent marble lobby with stained glassed windows and alabaster statues.
Together the hoteliers invested around $2.5 million, knowing that other similar hotels had been established in the area.
Less than 5 years after opening, in 1929 the Great Depression hit the US after a major fall in stock prices.
The GD lasted from 1929 to 1939.
In the 1940s, with the economy strengthening, the hotel was a popular destination through the decade. The following decades saw the hotel’s popularity and opulence decline, as the area known as “Skid Row” began growing both closers, and larger in population.
In 2008 new owners took over and refurbished a portion of the hotel. By 2011 it was rebranded as “Stay on Main” with its own entrance, while still operating as the Cecil in other sections.
In 2014 the hotel was sold for $30 million to New York hotelier Richard Born, who then leased the building to another New York firm, Simon Baron Development, on a 99-year lease.
In 2016 Matt Baron, the president of Simon Baron, stated he was committed to the preservation of the historically significant parts of the building, such as the grand lobby, but otherwise planned to completely redevelop the interior and fix the chaotic repair jobs done up until then.
The hotel closed in 2017 for renovation, but it was suspended due to Covid.
In February of that year, the LA City Council voted to make the Cecil a Historical-Cultural Monument, due to its historic significance to architecture.
The hotel reopened on December 13, 2021, as an affordable housing complex operated by the Skid Row Housing Trust to offer affordable housing for 600 low-income residents.
DEATHS (and near deaths):
THESE ARE JUST THE CREEPIER ONES, AS FORMER MANAGER AMY PRICE CLAIMED THAT BETWEEN 2007-2017 THERE WERE OVER 80 DEATHS IN THE HOTEL
In April of 1929, 33-year-old Dorothy Roberson of San Francisco was hospitalized after wandering around the hotel for 3 days. She was depressed over the sudden death of her husband and tried to poison herself with barbiturates, but failed in her suicide attempt.
An elderly man was picked up near death after drinking poisoned liquor.
It was rumored that Cecil resident George Ford, who was a successful dealer of morphine and opium may have been involved.
The first documented suicide at the Cecil occurred on the evening of January 22, 1927.
Percy Ormond Cook, age 52, shot himself in the head in his room after failing to reconcile with his wife and child. He was rushed to the Receiving Hospital and died that same evening.
The next death occurred in 1931 when guest W.K. Norton, age 83 died in his room after taking poison capsules. He had checked into the room a week prior under the name “James Willys” from Chicago.
In September of 1934, a maid found 25-year-old Benjamin Dodich in his room, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The reason for his death is unknown as he failed to leave a suicide note. A year later a young truck driver was fatally pinned against the hotel by a large truck.
July 26, 1937, former Army Medical Corps Sgt Louis D Borden, age 53 was found dead in his room, having slit his own throat. He left several notes behind, stating the reason for his suicide as poor health.
An elderly resident of the hotel tried to shoot himself in nearby Westlake Park but survived, and an elderly female tenant was found drowned in the ocean. Tenant Dorothy January claimed a man answered her advertisement seeking a child care position, only to choke her in her room and steal $40 she had in her purse.
March of 1938 Grace E Magro, age 25 fell from a 9th-story window.
Her fall was broken by telephone wires, which wrapped around her body. She later died at the Georgia Street Receiving Hospital. Police never did determine if she fell accidentally or if it was suicide, and the sailor she was staying with, 26-year-old M.W. Madison from the USS Virginia stated he was sleeping at the time and had no idea why she would have jumped.
In January 1939 marine fireman Roy Thompson, age 35, committed suicide by jumping from the building. His body was found in the skylight of the building next door. The reason for his suicide is unknown, but he had been residing at the Cecil for several weeks prior to his death.
4 months later, in May of 1939, naval officer Erwin C Neblett, age 39, was found dead after ingesting poison. The reason for his suicide is unknown.
In 1940 a café manager who was a long-time resident of the Cecil was killed in a nearby bar called the Waldorf Cellar after getting into a gunfight with a bartender. The bartender who killed him was his childhood best friend.
January 10, 1940 teacher Dorothy Seger, age 45, checked into the hotel under the pseudonym Evelyn Brent. She committed suicide by ingesting poison. Apparently, just before her death, she sent relatives a note indicating she was going to kill herself. She was found and transported to General Hospital and died there 2 days later on January 12th.
Four years then passed without issue before another death happened in September 1944. In this case, 19-year-old Dorothy Jean Purcell claims she had no idea she was pregnant when she went into labor. She did not want to wake her boyfriend, 38-year-old salesman Ben Levine, so she went into the bathroom where she gave birth to a son. She claims she thought the newborn was dead, so she threw him out of the window, and he landed on the roof of an adjacent building. Three psychiatrists testified at her murder hearing that she was “mentally confused” at the time of the incident and was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
In January of 1947, the Black Dahlia, Elizabeth Short, was reportedly seen at the Cecil bar shortly before she was brutally murdered. It has also been said that she was staying as a guest in the days prior to her death, though that is unconfirmed.
In November of 1947, 35-year-old Robert Smith committed suicide when he jumped from a seventh-floor window. No note was left.
Nearly 7 years would go by before the next suicide- that of Helen Gurnee, a 55-year employee of a San Francisco stationery firm. Helen checked in to the hotel one week prior to her death, under the name “Margaret Brown” from Denver, and died October 22nd, 1954 after jumping from her 7th-floor room onto the Cecil Hotel’s marquee. Hundreds of spectators gathered as firemen and ambulance attendants placed a ladder so they could climb up and lower her body from the marquee.
The hotel continued to decline and occupancy was reduced over the next 7 ½ years before the next woman fell to her death. 50-year-old Julia Frances Moore jumped from the window of her 8th-floor room and landed in a 2nd-story light well. She did not leave a note. Among her possessions left behind was a bus ticket showing she had traveled from St. Louis and just .59 cents in change. However, her bank book for an Illinois facility showed she still had a balance of $1800.00 available.
Months later, 27-year-old Pauline Otton fell to her death on October 12, 1962. Otton had an argument with her estranged husband, Dewey, who had left the room. Otton then threw herself out of her 9th-floor window. Tragically, she landed on an elderly pensioner, George Gianinni, age 65. Both died instantly. Police initially thought Otton and Gianinni had jumped together until it was noticed that not only did he still have his shoes on, rather than them falling off during the fall or upon impact, but his hands were also still in his pockets.
A year-and-a-half later the Cecil had a murder on its hands when the body of “Pigeon Goldie” Osgood, a retired 65-year-old telephone operator was found in her room. Goldie had been raped, stabbed, beaten, and finally strangled, with her room ransacked. She was well-known in the area and had earned her nickname as she often fed the birds in nearby Pershing Square. Next to her body was the Dodgers cap she always wore and a paper sack full of bird seed. 29-year-old Jacques B Ehlinger was found a few hours later walking through Pershing Square in bloodstained clothing. He was arrested and charged with Osgood’s murder but was later cleared. Her murder was never solved.
December 16th, 1975 a woman registered for room 327 under the name “Alison Lowell”. Approximately 23 years of age, she jumped from a 12th-floor window onto the Cecil’s 2nd-floor roof. Her real name is still unknown.
During his 1970s-1980s killing spree, Richard Ramirez the “Night Stalker” was said to have stayed in the Cecil for several weeks at a time, staying on the 14th floor. He is said to have dumped his bloodied clothes in the hotel’s dumpster and then walk up to his room naked.
In the early 1990s, Austrian serial killer Jack Unterweger, the “Poet of Death” stayed at the Cecil. He had killed a woman in Austria and was released on parole. He went back to killing, but the Austrian police were unable at the time to link him to the crimes, despite the methods of killing hadn’t changed. He became a minor celebrity for his published writings and moved to Los Angeles, accepting a job with a magazine to write an article on crime against sex workers in the city. Some speculate he took the job as the police in Austria were getting closer to pinning the new killings on him. Shortly upon moving to LA, he is thought to have killed three sex workers during his stay at the Cecil- using his familiar MO of strangling the women with their own bras tied in a signature knot and sexually assaulting them with tree branches. In all, it is thought that he killed 9 women in America before he was caught.
September 1st, 1992 the body of an unknown African-American male, approximately 20-30 years old was found in the alley behind the Cecil. Police determined he had either fallen, jumped, or was pushed from the 15th floor. His identity has never been determined, nor have the circumstances of his death. In 1995, escaped murder suspect Eric Reed was found hiding out in the hotel.
February 19, 2013, the body of 21-year-old Elisa Lam was discovered in one of the hotel’s rooftop water supply tanks. Lam had been reported missing nearly 3-weeks earlier and her personal items were stored away. A maintenance worker only found her naked and decomposing body when he checked the tanks in response to guest complaints of low water pressure and “funny tasting” water Surveillance tape footage later showed Lam acting strangely before her disappearance. She was noted to be hiding in the corner of an elevator, pressing multiple buttons, waving her arms erratically, and peering, then stepping, in and out of the elevator as if she expected someone to be there. Armchair detectives came up with wild speculations about her death, including blaming her bipolar condition, playing the elevator game, and worse.
Speculation that Lam’s death was a cover-up by the government about tuberculosis as the new test is called the LAM-ELISA test. Controversy also lies in the fact that the last place Lam was seen outside of the Cecil Hotel was a place called The Last Bookstore in LA. Web detectives looked up the bookstore’s website and found a Canadian postal code in its registration information. It turns out that the postal code is for Lam’s burial site in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Burnaby, Canada. References have also been made to her death’s similarity to the plot of the movie “Dark Water” which was released nearly a decade before she died.
The armchair detectives focused on musician Pablo Vergara due to his heavy death music lyrics and imagery. The accusations and hatred towards him grew so bad that Pablo stopped making music altogether and nearly committed suicide. Police have since ruled her death as an accidental drowning and Pablo was shown to have never been considered a suspect as he wasn’t even in the country at the time.
** It is of note that after her death that the Cecil Hotel saw an upswing in bookings from people who were intrigued by her death and the reputation of the hotel.**
Most recently, the body of a 28-year-old man was found outside of the hotel on June 13, 2015. It has been speculated that the man committed suicide by jumping from the hotel, though the coroner never determined an actual cause of death, nor has his identity has been discovered.
The 5th season of American Horror Story was called HOTEL and was inspired by the Cecil and Lam’s death. It premiered on October 7, 2015
CREEPY SHIZ at the Cecil Hotel:
While the hotel was closed for renovations in 2017, a man named Peet Montzingo moved in across the street. After witnessing strange occurrences, he began documenting them on his YouTube channel. Peet has footage that shows balcony doors opening and shutting on their own. Curtains moving with no one in the building, room lights turning on, even at a time when the building had no electricity turned on.
Shadows and apparitions have appeared in the hotel’s windows. He saw a man on a balcony smoking a cigar at 2 am in the morning. As it appeared the man was looking right at him, Peet moved to another window, and the man’s head followed him. He was later told no one was in the hotel at the time. He has seen the silhouette of a person hanging on the top floor of the hotel, which disappeared a few hours later, though there were no reports of death around the hotel at that time.
He did have a scare where he saw a girl in a window who looked like she was going to jump. Panicked he called to her if she was alright. She stayed in the window but distractedly told him she was fine. He called the police anyway. Turns out she was an actress filming a recreation for the show “Ghost Adventures”
Peet finally talked to an evening security guard to allow him to explore the building and stated that the guards he talked to all agreed that they sense some truly strange things on the upper floors. In fact, the higher up you go in the hotel the scarier it felt to Peet. He visited room 1419, where Richard Ramirez stayed, claiming “I definitely felt like I was being watched, which was freaky. As soon as I left his room, I heard this weird wind howl. It was very eerie”. The building management company, Skid Row Housing Trust, has stated that they did not agree to his visit, and were very upset once they learned about it.
Ghost Adventures explored the hotel in 2020. The episode aired on January 4, 2021. Zak Bagans and his team of paranormal investigators captured odd visual and audio recordings, along with experiencing “physical afflictions”. The team determined that the dark energy of the past was still affecting the hotel today.
On February 10, 2021, Netflix aired a limited series called “Crime Scene: A Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel”, covering the death of Lam and interviews with the former hotel manager, Amy Price, speaking on the other creepy experiences the hotel has had.
The hotel reopened as low-income housing on December 14, 2021. Montzingo showed up for the ribbon cutting, assuming it was open to the public, but he was promptly escorted out. He believes it’s because the guard recognized him from his videos, saying “They just came up to me and kicked me out. I got threatened and I don’t really understand why exactly that was” The Skid Row Housing Trust, however, insists that the ceremony was “invite-only” and that he was trespassing as he was not considered a credentialed press.
The entrance to the housing facility appears to have been moved to the back of the building, as the front, which still holds signage for the Cecil Hotel, is locked and covered up by the paper.
ROOMS THAT ARE SUPPOSEDLY HAUNTED at the Cecil Hotel:
1402- Richard Ramirez’s room
506- Elisa Lam’s room
The 8th floor, where Julia Frances Moore jumped to her death
Listen to the podcast here.