Friday, October 15, 2004

LA Losing a Piece of History

A 4-3 vote from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) defeated years of struggle to save the historic Ambassador Hotel.

For the past eight years conservationists, spearheaded by the L.A. Conservancy, have battled to save the legendary hotel from total demolition. The school board decided to raze the most of the grounds and build a $318.2 million complex for grades K-12.

Conservationists were hoping that the LAUSD would incorporate existing buildings into the their designs for the school and remove only what was necessary. However, the latest vote was that only the renowned night club, The Cocoanut Grove, would be preserved and a committee will decide if other historic locations in the hotel should be saved.

The famous hotel is home to many infamous moments. It is of course where Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968 by Sirhan Sirhan. The pantry where the murder occured is one of the locations up for committee decision. Its bungalows were the home-away-from home for many celebrities like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Rudolph Valentino and Albert Einstein. After its closing in 1989 it became a stage for many movies including Pretty Woman and Charlie's Angels 2. It was used so often that it was referred to as Ambassador Studios. The hotel was also home to six Academy Award ceremonies, and was where the Oscar made its debut.

Erika and I saw a performace there last year by Dance Collage that depicted what life would have been like at the hotel in its prime through modern dance. The building itself is an architectural gem with an amazing art deco design.

I am very sad that the battle was lost. I wonder why progress has to be at the expense of history? I think we lose a sense of who we are when this happens. I love history and I love to visit historical places. My active imagination takes me back to what it must have been like in its heyday.

Buildings like the Ambassador Hotel are a part of L.A. culture, a place many argue doesn't have much to begin with. I wish they would let us have one more tour of the place before it is destroyed as an homage to what it was.

On a side note - The L.A. Convervancy offers great walking tours. Go check out some of the great architecture in the city, who knows what will be next on the chopping block.

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