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Trinity Auditorium

855 S. Grand Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90017  | map


The News: The Trinity Hotel and the Hotel Clark will supposedly be operated by Stephen Brandman under his brand Journal Hotels. What was to be a 2018 opening for the Trinity was later set for the middle of 2019. It didn't happen that year or in 2020. We'll see if anything materializes in 2021.

DTLA News had the news in a December 2018 story "Long-Delayed Hotels..."  Journal also operates the Hollywood Roosevelt. The New York Post had a March 2018 story about Journal being the operator. It was later picked up by Urbanize L.A. and Curbed L.A. It's been almost ready for about five years. No word on what's in store for the auditorium. The plans at one time were for a 150 seat street level restaurant with a patio south of the building plus four bars in various locations. The 183 room hotel has a new rooftop pool.

Opened: 1914. The postcard is one that once appeared on the Facebook page Los Angeles Relics.

Architects: Thornton Fitzhugh, Frank G. Krucker and Harry C. Deckbar designed this nine story Beaux Arts style mixed-use hotel, office building and auditorium. The 1922 edition of Architectural Digest lists Deckbar as the architect with Krucker as an associate. The building originally featured a roof garden, various social halls, a ladies parlor and a library. It was owned and operated by the Los Angeles Investment Co.

Seating: 1,600 more or less. Some estimates go as high as 2,500. A 2018 New York Post story gave the capacity as 2,000 and noted that it had been "fully restored."Originally the main floor was sloped and had fixed theatre seating. It got leveled out at some time in the past. The auditorium features balconies on three sides and a massive ceiling dome with a stained glass medallion at its center.

When it was the Trinity Auditorium Building and being used as a church, three stories of the building were church offices and the hotel portion (325 rooms) was a hotel for men. The auditorium had a huge pipe organ. It was church on Sundays and the auditorium was rented to meetings, conventions, theatrical events, etc. during the week.



L.E. Behymer, well-known L.A. impresario, was running the place in 1915 when it had an early film booking that played with a 15 piece orchestra. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the ad that appeared in the December 25, 1915 issue of the L.A. Express for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.

The L.A. Philharmonic played their first season here in 1919 before moving to the Temple Theatre, which they re-christened the Philharmonic Auditorium. Perhaps one of the stranger events to have graced the Embassy stage was a 1960 program featuring keynote speaker Adolphe Menjou plus six horses and their riders a few days prior to the Veterans' Day cross-country ride celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Pony Express. Thanks to Roberta Tuthill for that story.

When the hotel became the Embassy Hotel, the auditorium was known as the Embassy Auditorium. As the Embassy, there were various musical programs and a number of legit theatre runs. In the 80s, the building was purchased by USC and used as a dorm and residential college for several years. 

Status: See the news at the top of the page. The New York-based building owner Chetrit Group, also owners of the Hotel Clark, had let the building lie dormant for over a decade while various plans have been proposed and speculations had swirled around. See links to many news stories down at the bottom of the page.

The Trinity in the Movies: 


Charlie Chaplin filmed the opening scene of "The Bank" (Essanay, 1915) in front of the Trinity. Thanks to the famed silent film detective John Bengtson for the screenshot. See his article "How Charlie Chaplin Filmed The Bank" for more details and a history of the building. There's one more shot from the film on the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post.



Harold Lloyd is in contemplation in front of the Trinity Auditorium in "Bumping Into Broadway" (Rolin Films/Pathé, 1919). Thanks to John Bengtson for this screenshot appearing with his article "How Charlie Chaplin Filmed The Bank."



Harold looks up Grand Ave. with the Trinity as a backdrop in "Bumping Into Broadway." John Bengtson's fine article "How Harold Lloyd Filmed Bumping Into Broadway" details some of the locations for the 25 minute film that also features Bebe Daniels. Thanks to John for the screenshot.



The facade of the Trinity also puts in an appearance with Harold Lloyd and his pal drunkenly carousing in front in "High and Dizzy" (Rolin Films/Pathé, 1920). Thanks to John Bengtson for spotting the building in the film. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for two more shots in front of the Trinity. 



The Trinity Auditorium is in the background as Conway Tearle and Richard Dix have a rooftop fight in "Day of Reckoning" (MGM, 1933). On the right it's the Commercial Exchange Building at 8th and Olive. In this prison drama Dix is sent to a high-rise prison facility in L.A. after a bit of embezzlement. We're on top of the Western Costume Building, 939 S. Broadway. Thanks to John Bengtson for the screenshot. See his Silent Locations post "Laurel & Hardy's Liberty Rooftop" for a shot from the same scene looking north with the RKO Hillstreet in the background. John's post is mainly about locations for the 1929 film "Liberty" which also used the roof of Western Costume.

The Trinity on TV: The auditorium interior was used for church scenes in the 2020 HBO TV series "Perry Mason." 


In the lobby:


Looking north in the lobby. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014. Thanks, Hunter! Keep up with his recent explorations: on Facebook | hunterkerhart.com | on flickr



The lobby from the 2nd floor. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014



A 2014 view of the lobby looking south. The plywood on the doors and windows was down and the building was getting closer to reopening as a hotel but still very much under wraps. It didn't happen. Thanks to Brigham Yen for the photo, one of many with his March 2014 DTLA Rising story.  



The lobby's windows that look out onto Grand Ave. Photo: Brigham Yen - DTLA Rising - December 2011



A detail of the art glass above the doors into the auditorium on the lobby's west wall.  Photo: Brigham Yen - DTLA Rising - December 2011



Art glass in the lobby windows as seen from the rear. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014


Auditorium views:


A view of the stage in the early days when it housed a huge pipe organ. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo. Also see a closer stage view the Library has.



Looking toward the rear of the auditorium in an undated Ralph Morris photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. Note that the main floor was sloped at the time of the photo.



A 2008 view of the house right side of the proscenium by Pdodog. His photo set was once on Flickr but has vanished.



A house left proscenium detail. Photo: Pdodog - 2008

 

On the right the two-balcony seating section at the rear of the auditorium. That's the house right side balcony at the left of the image. Photo: Pdodog - 2008



The rear of the auditorium house left. Photo: Pdodog - 2008. Thanks for the photos!



A 2010 view from the house right balcony. It's a photo by Sterling Davis Photo on Flickr. On the right note some of the black lighting grid in front of the stage. Thanks to Michelle Gerdes for spotting this one!



On stage looking at the back of the house from in a view from Brigham Yen's December 2011 article "Trinity Auditorium May Become Second King & Grove Hotel in Downtown L.A." It didn't happen.



Looking toward the stage. Photo: Brigham Yen - DTLA Rising - December 2011



 The Trinity Auditorium ceiling dome. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014 



The center of the dome. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014  



Art glass in the auditorium at balcony level. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014   



A balcony view toward the stage. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014 



The house left side of the auditorium. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014 



Looking across from the house right balcony. The stage is off to the right. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014



Another sidewall art glass view. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014



The dome in November 2015, at a time when the building was scheduled for a January 2016 opening. Thanks to Edgar Varela for this and the three photos below, added as comments to a 2018 Steven Sharp post on the Facebook page DTLA Development concerning an article about the Trinity that was on the site Urbanize L.A. 



The rear of the auditorium. Photo: Edgar Varela - November 2015 



The stage and house right. Photo: Edgar Varela - November 2015



A closer look at the stage. Photo: Edgar Varela - November 2015


More exterior views: 


c.1913 - A section from a five-panel C.C. Pierce panorama taken from 9th and Main. The Trinity Auditorium, under construction, is in the distance on the left. To the right is the Stillwell Hotel, dating from 1912. The eight story building on the right in the foreground is the Majestic Theatre.  The photo is on the USC Digital Library website.



1914 - A view taken from the east side of Broadway. It's a photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



c.1915- "The largest building of its kind in America." An early postcard view of the building once offered on eBay for $4.77.



c.1915 - A lovely view of the Trinity Auditorium Building in the USC Digital Library collection from the California Historical Society. Also in the USC collection there's another early facade view taken from a bit to the north.



1915 - A view south along Grand Ave. The Elks were in town and having meetings at the Trinity Auditorium. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Ethereal Reality for finding the shot on eBay. See his Noirish post #50841 for some more views of the boys. 



c.1920 - A card with a 1921 postmark. The rear says "Hotel Trinity has 350 rooms and is absolutely fireproof. Hotel Trinity has the largest lobby and sun-parlor in Los Angeles. Hotel Trinity has its own power, light and cooling system. Within Hotel Trinity is Trinity Auditorium, seating 2,500 people and having one of the largest pipe organs in the west." Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Chuckaluck for including the card on his Noirish post #20680 about the building.



1922 - A look at the building in the Architectural Digest's 1922 survey issue of noteworthy Southern California buildings. It's from the Stanford Library and on Google Books.



1931 - The streetscape south on Grand. It's a photo from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



c.1938 - A look west on 9th toward the building in its Embassy Hotel days. It's a Dick Whittington Studio photo in the USC Digital Library collection.



c.1948 - The building with signage as the Embassy Auditorium. Thanks to Gianpiero F. Leone for the photo from his collection. He posted it on the Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.   



1948 - A Los Angeles Examiner photo in the collection of the USC Digital Library. The Trinity Auditorium is over there on the lower left. The prominent dome in the mid-right is the RKO Hillstreet Theatre at 8th & Hill. USC also has a 1970 aerial view looking north.



1948 - A detail of the Hotel Embassy/Embassy Auditorium from the USC photo above.



c.1965 - The north side of the building. There's now a parking garage on the lot in the foreground. The photo is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



1987 - A William Reagh photo in the California State Library collection.



1987 - An entrance view from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.

More exterior views in the LAPL collection: 9th & Grand corner - 1931 | from a bit to the south - 1980 - William Reagh | Embassy Auditorium facade - an undated Herald Examiner photo | from Olive and Olympic - 1984 | entrance detail - 80s - Anne Knudsen |



  2010 - A view looking south on Grand. Photo: Bill Counter



2010 - An entrance detail. Photo: Bill Counter 
 


2011 - The top of the auditorium's dome from the outside. It's a photo from Brigham Yen's December article "Trinity Auditorium May Become Second King & Grove Hotel in Downtown L.A."



2012 - An evocative early morning view by Yasmin Elming looking east toward the Trinity building. Thanks, Yasmin! It was a post on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles. Just to the left of the Trinity's dome is the tower atop the United Artists Theatre.



2012 - The boarded up facade. Photo: Hunter Kerhart



  2012 - Looking west on 7th toward Grand. Photo: Bill Counter



2013 - A detail of the facade. Photo: Bill Counter
  


2013 - A look upward by Ken McIntyre, a post on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.



2013 - A doorway detail by Ken McIntyre. It was a post on Photos of Los Angeles.



2014 - A look down. Thanks to Brigham Yen for the photo, one that appears with his DTLA Rising article "Mystery Unfolding..."



2014
- A flyover of the Trinity Auditorium's dome from Ian Wood's "Downtown Los Angeles" on Vimeo. He spent several months shooting downtown theatres and other historic buildings from a drone that resembled "a mutant chicken." It's four minutes and forty five seconds of wonder that's not to be missed. Thanks, Ian! The footage also appears with stories by Brigham Yen and LA Observed's Kevin Roderick.



2018 - A Hunter Kerhart photo appearing with "Life Signs at DTLA's Trinity Auditorium," a January article on Urbanize L.A. Note the two new elevator shafts on the south side of the building. The "life signs" that were spotted seem to be limited to a delivery of a bunch of chairs.



2018 - Lights working on the dome in September. Photo: Bill Counter


 
2018 - An aerial view. Thanks to Hunter Kerhart for his photo appearing as a post on the DTLA Development Facebook page.  
 

2019 - "Will it Ever Open?" That was Paul Wright's query with the post of his photo in a 2020 post on  the DTLA Development Facebook page. Thanks, Paul.

More Information:  There have been several phases of remodeling in the last decade and at least three hotel operators had been announced for the property before the 2018 selection of Journal Hotels. In 2007 Curbed L.A. had the story on a planned (and then canceled) hotel makeover for the property "No Gansevoort for Downtown LA" by J. Williams. Also on Curbed see: "... A Planned Palace" from 2008. Curbed did a 2009 article: "Quick Tour of Downtown's Trinity Auditorium" by Dakota Smith.

Downtown Los Angeles News did a 2010 story by Anna Scott about the building owners, the Chetrit Group: "To Have and to Hold..." A November 2011 Curbed L.A. story, "More clues at the Embassy," was about mysterious construction on the roof. See the Brigham Yen stories from December 2011 and June 2012. The latter one discussed the building's future (as seen at that time) as the Empire Hotel, to be operated by King & Grove. They were also to have operated the Clark Hotel on Hill St., another Chetrit property. "Embassy Auditorium goes the hotel route, again" was a July 2012 Downtown Los Angeles News story on the project.

In the Fall of 2013 the hotel workers union was trying to force the project to have a union deal as a condition for allowing it to proceed. The union's filing of lawsuits on environmental grounds slowed down the process of getting a use permit. At that point it was still to be a King & Grove operation.

 Brigham Yen had a March 2014 story, "Mystery Unfolding...," about the property being almost ready to open. A followup story "First Look Inside" featured many interior photos of the hotel spaces by Hunter Kerhart. Mattresses and other furniture had been delivered to the rooms. L.A. Downtown News had a July 2014 story indicating that the building was edging closer to a certificate of occupancy. Another L.A. Downtown News story about the ongoing saga, "A Clash Over Two Downtown Hotels," appeared in August 2014.

The final legal impediment to opening was cleared with a favorable ruling October 28, 2014 on the hotel workers' union appeal of the projects approval. The Central Area Planning Commission gave the nod to the owners. L.A. Downtown News had that story. The opening didn't happen as King & Grove had a falling out with Chetrit.

"Fën Hotels flag chosen..." was Brigham Yen's story about a proposed opening in November 2015 under the banner of Argentina-based Fën Hotels. Curbed L.A. picked up the news of the anticipated opening in their November 2015 article "Two Historic Downtown LA Hotels to Return..." A summer 2016 opening was expected. But Chetrit had a falling out with Fën.

In fall 2017 work was underway on new elevator shafts on the south side of the building. More furniture was delivered in January 2018. "New York hotelier making moves in Tinseltown" was the March 18, 2018 New York Post story announcing that Stephen Brandman's Journal Hotels was to be the operator. Urbanize L.A. followed up with their story "New Operator Announced...." Curbed L.A.'s story "Pair of long-delayed downtown hotels set to open..." appeared March 20.

Brent Dickerson's Grand Avenue tour also has yet another early view of the facade. See the 2009 post by Mr. Ethereal Reality on page one of SkyscraperPage's Noirish Los Angeles forum for several Trinity Auditorium photos. 

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5 comments:

  1. Are there any registers of hotel guests/lodgers from 1914-1920? Looking for Ida B Stetson, shown as lodger at 851 S Grand in 1920.

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    Replies
    1. Well, if there are I certainly don't know where we'd find them. Sorry.

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  2. it should be placed on the N R H P what a beauty of a building

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  3. I wonder what became of the "huge" pipe organ...

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  4. Truly an interesting building. I lived there from Fall 1988 thru Spring 1989 as a student at USC. There were so many interesting nooks and crannies in the building. It was said Jim Jones and the People's Temple lived there for a time in the early 70's. They said he kept a secret apartment above the theater which he used as a church. A group of us went up there and had a seance once. No one responded. I remember they once shot a "Murder She Wrote" there. Lots of things filmed in the theater.
    I myself filmed most of my student films in the building as it offered some great spaces not the least of which was the dynamic great dome on the roof.
    I was told USC moved students out for safety reason after the Northridge earthquake of 1994. By that time, I'd moved back to NY. I did go by the place in 1996 and a security guard on duty let me go in and walk around. The only earthquake 'damage' seemed to be hairline cracks in the wall. These could've been there for decades. I remember I walked up to my old room on the 6th floor. It was very creepy.
    The next time I went back was about 14 years later by which time the place was boarded up with no signs of life. It was sad.
    A few years later I read it was undergoing a transformation by the group that runs the Gansevoort Hotel here in NY. Alas that fell through.
    I went back again just this last October after the death of my sister who had once visited me there while I was a student. Nothing had changed and the place was still in disrepair. There was however a video shoot going on in front of the building so it wasn't a total loss.
    I do hope the building is restored. It more than deserves it. It holds many great memories for me.

    ReplyDelete