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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 be operated by Stephen Brandman under his brand Journal Hotels. It's the firm that also operates the Hollywood Roosevelt. The New York Post had the March 2018 story. It was later picked up by Urbanize L.A. and Curbed L.A. It's been almost ready for about four years. An opening for the Trinity is now expected by the end of 2018. No word on plans for the auditorium. The plans are 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.

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 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 Auditorium 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 pals drunkenly carousing nearby in "High and Dizzy" (Rolin Films/Pathé, 1919). John has several images from that film in his article "How Charlie Chaplin Filmed The Bank." Visit his blog "Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)" for accounts of his latest investigations.


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:


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



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



A lovely c.1914 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.



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.



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.



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



A c.1938 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.



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.   



A 1948 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.



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



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.



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



The entrance in 1987. It's a photo in 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 |



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



An entrance detail. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010



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



An evocative early morning 2012 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.



The boarded up facade in 2012. Photo: Hunter Kerhart



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



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


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



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



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



A flyover of the Trinity Auditorium's dome from Ian Wood's "Downtown Los Angeles" on Vimeo. He spent several months in 2014 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.



A Hunter Kerhart photo appearing with "Life Signs at DTLA's Trinity Auditorium," a January 2018 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. 



Lights working on the dome -- for the first time in decades. Photo: Bill Counter - September 2018

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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