Saturday, May 23, 2009

Park Avenue on Wilshire . . . part II

"MacArthur Park is melting in the dark."

So sang Richard Harris in the highly over-produced but uncannily prescient Jimmy Webb song. Harris was staying at the Sheraton Townhouse on MacArthur Park when he took a walk one morning in 1968 and discovered a cake left out in the rain, "the sweet green icing flowing down." The rest is history.

The Sheraton Townhouse on MacArthur Park

All that was an age and a half ago, but today the Sheraton Townhouse still stands thanks to the preservation efforts of Rob MacLeod. When the Japanese owners of the building wanted to raze it in the mid-1990s and wait for a better economic climate (sound familiar?), MacLeod secured funding and turned the historic apartment house-turned-hotel into low-income housing for families and seniors. It re-opened in 1997.

The building, as stately as they come in Los Angeles or anywhere else, is a 14-story Georgian revival masterpiece designed by Norman Alpaugh. Originally an apartment house in the mold of The Talmadge, just down the street, it was transformed into a hotel in 1937.

Socialite hotelier Conrad Hilton bought it in 1942 for a cool million, and in 1950 his son Conrad Nicholson "Nicky" Hilton (great-uncle of future tabloid fodderettes Paris and Nicky) got married to Elizabeth Taylor there, the first of her seven-some husbands.

The hotel closed in 1993, as MacArthur Park was rife with drugs and crime. ("Someone left the crack out in the rain," as my friend Steve Silberman so eloquently put it.)

Someone left the crack out in the rain
(photo from

I haven't (yet) been inside this place, but sooner or later will do a blog on the wonders to be found therein. Perhaps I can divest myself of all my wordly possessions and plead poverty in order to qualify for residency at the Townhouse in my impending old age.

As for the architecture, Richard Harris puts it best: "I'll never have that recipe again."


  1. When my younger brother was learning how to swim, I also took advanced swimming classes in it's pool just before my parents put in a pool. And I recall later seeing Kennedy make an appearance poolside during the 1960 Democratic Convention.

  2. The Sheraton is not in MacArthur Park but in the Lafayette Park area.

    Other than that, I love your blog. Keep it up!

  3. I stayed there in the late 80's with my Dad. We came from Australia and it was my first taste of America. Such a shame to see it no still being used for what it was designed. Beautiful buliding!


  5. Richard Harris didn't write the song - Texas songwriter Jimmy Webb did.

  6. I got married at the church next door and had my wedding reception there in 1987. We had cocktails and pictures in the gardens and the reception in the same atrium as Eddie Fischer and Liz!! We stayed in the hotel on our wedding night and have been married 27 years!! It was good luck!

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