The News: After a wait of over a decade and deals that have been aborted with a long string of potential operators, it appears that at least the hotel portion of the building will open in January 2022 under the management of SoBeNY and will be called the SoBeNY Trinity. It's listed on the site Booking.com where there are also over 50 room and lobby photos to view. The firm specializes in venues offering short-term furnished corporate housing. There's no word on what's in store for the
Opened: 1914. The postcard is one that once appeared on the Facebook page Los Angeles Relics. A black and white version, along with many other vintage views of the street, appears in Brent Dickerson's Grand Avenue tour, part of his "A Visit to Old Los Angeles" site.
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. There are 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
2021 - Steven Kenny caught this nice view for a post on the DTLA Town Square Facebook page.
More Information: There have been several phases of remodeling in the last decade and at least four different hotel operators had been announced for the property. 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. Journal also operates the Hollywood Roosevelt. 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.
DTLA News had the news in a December 2018 story "Long-Delayed Hotels..." 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 had been almost ready for about five years. 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. What was to be a 2018 opening under Journal management was later set for the middle of 2019. It didn't happen that year or in 2020. See the latest news at the top of the page.
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