The Hotel Cecile at 640 S. Main Street in downtown Los Angeles opened on December 20, 1924. Owners William Banks Hanner, Charles L. Dix and Robert H. Schops wanted the hotel to be a destination for tourists from the middle class and international companies. travellers. The hotel was once grand and magnificent with Beaux-Arts decor, 14 floors and 700 rooms.
Everything changed five years later when the United States suffered the longest and deepest economic free fall in history. The great Depression began in 1929 and ended in 1941 during World War II. Meanwhile, unemployment soared, families separated and downtown LA neighborhoods died. The Cecil Hotel had to adapt to stay open and changed from a middle class retreat to a budget hotel and rooming house for the destitute.
It was around this time that the hotel began a dark spiral of violence that claimed so many lives that it earned the name “Hotel of Death” by Esquire. Hundreds of deaths have occurred at the Cecil throughout its 100-year history. In fact, the chain of violence dates back to the year it openedwith the suicide of Brand of Eggega January 22, 1927. The most recent (hopefully the last) fatality occurred on June 13, 2015, when an unidentified 28-year-old man fell or jumped from the hotel.
There have been around 16 unexplained or sudden deaths, murders, suicides and disappearances, not including two serial killers who lived there according to a former hotel manager. Amy Award tells his story in the new netflix series, Crime Scene: The Disappearance at Hotel Cecil. In an interview, she said there were at least 80 deaths during the ten years she was there from 2007 to 2017.
The Nexflix streaming documentary now tackles several bizarre deaths and the decades of documented paranormal activity that take place at the Cecil. It also highlights the Canadian Student of 2013 Elisa Lam. She was found in one of the hotel’s rooftop water tanks after being missing for days. His tragic death is still shrouded in mystery and unexplained incidents. The chilling footage from the elevator of the last time she was seen alive only adds to worldwide speculation as to how she died.
Despite the bloody reputation of the Cecil Hotels, people were still booking rooms at the hotel until it closed in 2017. Some tourists from other countries booked the Cecil online due to its low prices and location. Unwitting foreign travelers were looking to visit the country of Hollywood and be close to all the excitement.
When they arrived they quickly realized that the hotel and surrounding area was nothing like what they expected. Hotel Cecil sits in the middle of the area known as Skidrow. The community never recovered after the Great Depression. For more than 60 years, the area has been desolate and awash with homelessness, drugs, prostitution and crime.
The City of Los Angeles declared the Cecil Hotel a Historic-Cultural Landmark and closed it for renovations in 2017. The LA landmark was taken over by Skid Row Housing Trust and was renamed Stay on the Main. This reopened under the new brand and now operates as a social housing complex. I’m glad the old hotel is being refurbished to help people, however, given its history, I wouldn’t want to stay there.