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Biltmore Hotel History

Hermosa Beach History

Hermosa Beach History from The Daily Breeze - September 27, 1957

Hermosa Beach Election History

History of the Biltmore Hotel and The Bijou Theater

City of Hermosa Beach --- Biltmore Hotel History


(The following narrative is from a sales brochure from approximately the late 1950s, there is no way that we can verify the accuracy of the account.)

Postcard photo of Biltmore Hotel


In 1926 a group of South Bay Businessmen sold memberships for construction and operation of an exclusive professional men's club. It was named THE SURF AND SAND BEACH CLUB. A few years after its construction, in 1929, it was sold to the Los Angeles Athletic Association, but was again sold, this time to private interests, when the City Fathers could not agree on giving the Association private beach rights.

At the beginning of World War II the now-named Hermosa Biltmore Hotel was converted into a 120-room hotel. Each room contained a toilet and wash bowl, over half the rooms a private bath, several with connecting baths. Every room completely renovated and new bed, springs, mattress and furniture and numerous new rugs in the first half of 1955


This 6-story reinforced concrete building is Class A construction and was built at a cost of $840,000.00; with furnishings of $286,000.00. Its foundation is of concrete piling which goes into blue clay and averages forty-two (42) feet in depth. The Hermosa Biltmore Hotel can never be washed out by the ocean, so strong and deep its foundation.


Sun bathing is enjoyed on the spacious and unencumbered roof of the Hotel, and there are unlimited possibilities for remodeling this roof for Starlight Dancing and daytime lounging. The restful view takes in a panorama encompassing Catalina Island to the Southwest, the lovely Palos Verdes Hills to the South, Los Angeles and environs due East, Hollywood Hills to the North. Malibu and Ventura Coastline to the Northwest. Completing the panorama, and giving it ever new hues, are the brilliant ever-changing sunsets on the blue Pacific.


The entire second floor has been equipped for recreation. Three large rooms are used for dancing and banquets. The ballroom extends across the entire front of the building and is 198' long, and faces the ocean and beach. It is two stories high and the acoustics are excellent. The floor is hardwood laid in cement slab, and is highly finished for dancing. This area can be used entire or can be divided into two separate rooms by means of soundproof folding doors, making one ballroom or banquet room, an area of approximately 138' X 40' with raised bandstand and walk-in fireplace at the south end, and a 40' set-in bar. This space will accommodate about 1500 guests. The north ballroom space is 50' X 40' and will accommodate approximately 1000 guests, and similarly has a raised bandstand and a 40' bar. The thick-carpeted foyer, well-ventilated men's and ladies' restrooms, and a checkroom immediately adjoin the ballrooms. For cabaret style dancing, chairs and tables for 1000 guests and service for 2500 are available.


This floor is composed of two large offices for the hotel, what was once a health studio, a large completely equipped kitchen and clubroom presently named the KEY ROOM.

The room which used to have the health studio is equipped with Howard steam cabinets, Gyro-Wave chair, massage tables, slenderizing tables, Finnish style steam rooms, dressing rooms, showers, approximately 20 booths, and weights and cycles for reducing and exercising.

The KEY ROOM has its own scroll-shaped bar, seating 15 persons. The room is completely carpeted except for a small dancing space which can be converted into dining space when needed. The tables and booths will seat 50 diners-and-dancers. This room has been decorated in the past by an outstanding Hollywood Cocktail and Lounge designer and decorator. The overhead indirect lighting fixtures are especially designed to carry out the Key Motif, and are an attractions in themselves. This room faces the spacious beach and blue Pacific.

The KITCHEN adjoining is large, and completely equipped with a deep freeze, 10' square walk-in refrigerator, gas, steam, dishwasher, Rainier 3-tier oven, Hobart mixer, Timkin vegetable peeler, Cass charcoal broiler, french fryer, double unit steam table, 4-urn McKie coffee maker, Hobart meat slicing machine and complete dinner and silver service for 2500 guests.


The first floor lobby as been recently remodeled and redecorated. One feels the tranquillity of lush tropical quiet as one enters this coral and jungle-green lounge. The decor, so skillfully planned and executed, actually creates a three-dimensional effect by reason of the lavish tropical colors blended and balanced by true artistic skill. Coral lamp shades and brown and coral upholstered lounges and chairs complete this inviting atmosphere.

Leading off the lobby is a cocktail room and a cocktail bar, Coffee Shop with complete kitchen and a room where a cigar and magazine stand was at one time. Also on the first floor is a large swimming pool with men's and ladies' dressing rooms.

THE COFFEE SHOP KITCHEN is equipped with 2 reach-in refrigerators, 14' steam table, range and grill, french fryer, meat slicer (Hobart), ice cream cabinet and miscellaneous work tables. There is feeding space for employees in the kitchen. Seating capacity in the Coffee Ship: 15 at the counter and 35 at the tables. It is carpeted and decorated in Marine motif and has copper lighting fixtures. The kitchen can be closed off and steam table and grill, the 2-urn coffee-maker and refrigerator can take care of the lighter trade.

The COCKTAIL ROOM is by name the CITY ROOM. It is finished in light natural wood and decorated in natural-wood-framed enlarged sepia photographs of city scenes. The luxurious lounge chairs are upholstered in antique imitation lather. There is seating accommodation for 200 guests. A dance floor and baby grand piano and deep carpeting complete this beautiful, cozy, relaxing fun room.

The COCKTAIL BAR adjoins the CITY ROOM and is decorated in sport plaid with natural wood finish. The bar stools and upholstered chairs here are of antique imitation leather also, and will accommodate 100 guests. It opens directly onto the beach and is a highly popular place for strollers and bathers. Television and juke box are for the pleasure of the guests. The bar has 2 stations and 2 cash registers with 3 work keys on each. There are 3 large beer boxes and unlimited glass service.

The SWIMMING POOL is 60' X 25' and water is chlorinated and heated. Men's and women's dressing rooms are immediately adjoining the plunge which opens onto the Strand and beach. In summer it clears $1,000.00 net and enjoys an even better take during the winter months.


Adequate space for guests' cars is hotel-owned and adjacent to the Hotel. In the case of overflow, numerous parking lots are available within a stone's throw of the Hotel entrance.


Please notice that this Hotel is but 12 minutes from the Los Angeles International Airport and is the nearest hotel to it. The Pacific Coast Highway (101) runs but four blocks east of the ocean front, making the HERMOSA BILTMORE HOTEL an ideal resting and stopping point for travelers.


The REPLACEMENT VALUE of this structure at present-day costs is $2,250,000.00. The sale price of the Hotel is $800,000.00 with 10% down or some cash or trade; long term on the balance; 3-1/2% or 4% interest. Make offer.


HERMOSA BEACH, CALIFORNIA(The costs given for the Hermosa Beach Biltmore Hotel are from the sales brochure and can not be verified in any manner.


Assistant Manager $300.00
3 Clerks @ $85.00 255.00
3 Elevator Operators at $65.00 195.00
1 Relief combination Clerk & Operator 85.00
1 Dishwasher 85.00
1 Houseman 85.00
1 Plunge Man 100.00
1 Lifeguard 160.00
1 Swimming Instructor 160.00
1 Cook 225.00
2 Waitresses 240.00
2 Bar Maids 200.00
3 Bartenders @ $14.00 728.00
1 Bartender @ 12.00 288.00
1 Housekeeper 150.00
4 Maids 430.00
1 Bookkeeper 195.00
1 Engineer & Liquor Man 150.00
TOTAL $ 4,031.00




Actual Payroll Month of July Including Reliefs and Vacations 4,104.56
Actual Payroll Month of June Including Reliefs and Vacations 4,030.98


Telephone 587.06
Water 299.18
Gas 407.59
Electricity 393.65
Swimming Pool 38.50
Food 1,946.56
Bar 2,136.00
Laundry 623.19
Taxes 1,875.00
Maintenance 276.90
Painting 107.75
Elevator Repair 32.55
Incidentals 3.75
Motors, Boilers Repair 5.75
Ice Machine Repair 62.50
TOTAL $8,795.93


Rooms $12,976.13
Food 4,711.20
Bar 7,814.64
Magazine Stand 108.00
Commissions 19.73
Telephone 901.20
Valet and Laundry 349.48
Plunge 2,285.57
Lessons Income 362.50
Beach Rentals -----
Health Studio -----
Juke Box 338.20
Game Machine 142.00
Ballroom 3,427.02
Incidentals 364.88
TOTAL $33,800.55


History of the Bijou Theater



Author of "Castles on the Sand" and "Footnotes on the Sand"


old photo of the Bijou

It was a blooming, building, striving time.

Between wars, the City of Hermosa Beach was moving up, growing fast.

At the time an inspiration to build a new bank-theatre edifice occurred to Ralph E. Matteson and his coterie of business allies, other businessmen were expanding their enterprises too.

Plans were to build a hotel south of the Pier on the WEST side of the Strand. Iconoclasm!

Golden State Silk Mills organization was capitalized at $1 million.

Hermosa Glass Works had extensive plans.

All these enterprises together could be expected to draw new people with new ideas, new money to spend, seeking new avenues of recreation. Why not combine business and pleasure? Offer banking accommodation for increased circulation of money, and entertainment for the surge of new people.

The project surfaced with a page one news story in the Hermosa Beach Review of January 19, 1923. A $200,000 theatre would be built by the First Bank of Hermosa Beach at the Southwest corner of 13th St. and Hermosa Ave. Adding two more lots to three already possessed by the bank, the site would total five city lots. The new two story complex would offer banking rooms, offices, and a theatre ... all in the "last word in modern construction."

The proposed theatre was to offer 1,200 seats, a $10,000 pipe organ, and the new building, 100 x 150 feet with a terra cotta front, would be erected over the present quarters of the First Bank of Hermosa.

In addition, the capitalization of the First Bank climbed from $50,000 to $125,000.

In May of the same year a NAME THE THEATRE contest was called. In the May 25, 1923, Hermosa Beach Review, winners were announced.

THE METROPOLITAN, suggestion of J.H. Claudius, was winner of the $10 gold first prize.

METROPOLITAN THEATRE was a unanimous choice of the judges. More than 500 contest entries were received, and indeed the name METROPOLITAN had been suggested by others, but Claudius' entry was first and hence the winner. Second prize went for the name ARISTOCRAT (doubtless intended to harmonize with the city's motto "Aristocrat of Beaches".) The second winner chose to remain anonymous and donated the prize money, $5 in gold to the Boy Scouts.

A carefully orchestrated publicity program (probably written by the Review staff anyway) faithfully carried some news item every week. Grand opening set for June 27 was fully touted with promises of terrific vaudeville shows and visiting movie stars.

Promotion promised the Metropolitan would open with a world premiere of a Hollywood product "CIRCUS DAYS" starring Jackie Coogan. His presence was not guaranteed however, and subsequent stories fail to mention that he appeared personally.

On the big day, doors opened to a "great crowd which overflowed a block down the street." Stage and lobby were awash with flower tributes, sent by businesses of Hermosa Beach, the South Bay, even Los Angeles, Hollywood. Five Orpheum acts were offered, plus the feature, a novelty and a cooking comedy, and the extravaganza lasted till almost two a.m.

Well before the opening, the theatre building had already been leased to the biggest corporation of its kind, Venice Investment Co. and West Coast Theatres, a distributing company which already had a chain of more than 100 theatres.

Raved the Hermosa Beach Review, "The theatre has a beautiful entrance...underneath a marquee of rare artistic design, a tile lobby surmounted with Homan (sic) stones...jazzed plaster decorated in various colors...prominently arched and filled with expensive hangings...alcoves and costly paintings...

"...seats range from mammoth divans to leather covered opera chairs...more than $10,000 invested in the rear of the theatre, for equipment...lights...a $20,000 Roberts Morgan pipe organ ...settings adequate to handle acts from the Orpheum, Pantages, and Hill St. theatres...first run movies...fresh from L.A..."(The discerning reader may deduce that hyperbole is not the invention of the '80s.)

Architects for the Metropolitan Theatre were R.D. King, local resident, and the Los Angeles Engineering Co. The first floor design included bank and theatre plus one store. Second story, 14 offices, third floor, one half to be the Masonic lodge room of a new Masonic group; the other half to be the club rooms of an existing Masonic group.

The very first theatre in Hermosa Beach, a nickelodeon, preceded the Metropolitan by at least ten years. This was the Hermosa Theatre operated by C.J. Barlow, located, approximately where Loreto Plaza now stands.

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