Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Greatest Story Ever Told: The Hotel Glendale.

If you remember to bring your library card to work, good things happen.

First you go onto the library's web site.  If you click on "my account" on the left there, the next page is to enter your library card number.  Your password is the last four digits of your phone number.

The next screen tells you all your book stuffs, but there are tabs for other things to peruse.  Like "articles and databases."

LOTS to check out here - literature, art, music, jobs, business, law - but The Hotel Glendale opened in 1925, so let's try that.
Other than the hopeful #1 and the announcements #3 and #5, we get two articles about the Hotel Glendale. I'd previously read the article about the old people.  It was nice, a niche found in every pleasant way, But that other article, #4, I'd not previously seen.  "Grand Dreams Now a Shabby Reality."

Yes, every history book and news article says it,  and they say it the same way: "...the venture was a commercial and design failure."   Specifically cited each time is the missing freight elevator and the restaurant in the basement.
(click on picture to get to the Glendale Historical Society.)
These two things alone never sold themselves as the catastrophic death knell that is this Hotel's eternal dark cloud.  This article, published in 1972,  is the missing link to the whole story, and it's a fantastic story, as told by the guy who was there for it all, Elwood M, Ingledue.  It was Elwood's father, Charles, who brought the Hotel from an idea to fruition.  But while father Charles built this dream, son Elwood ran it for four years from the day it opened. This is his story, a mere excerpt of the entire article.

     "This was the dream, circa 1925: Immaculately attired bellhops scurry about the lobby of the Hotel Glendale.  Situated at Glendale Ave. and Broadway, the hotel is the commercial hub of the city, and shoppers throng the hotel's fine restaurant.
     "On the roof, an aluminum dirigible discharges passengers arriving from New York and San Francisco.  A commuter train on Glendale Ave. pauses in front of the hotel to pick up hotel guests and shoppers for the quick run into Los Angeles.
     "If there is anything constant in the 47 years between the conception of the dream and the present day reality is that Hotel Glendale has steadfastly refused to live up to the plans people had for it."

     "A succession of owners and managers has attempted to operate the six-story building profitably as a nightspot, a residential hotel, a low-cost transient hotel, and, of course, a grand hotel.
     "Now well past middle age, the hotel appears to have found a reasonably stable stable identity as a combined apartment building for the retired and a low-cost transient hotel for people of all ages.

     " is difficult today to imagine Hotel Glendale with its narrow corridors, small rooms and undersized lobby topped by an oversized mezzanine, as a grand hotel.  It is hard to imagine fashionable tourists disembarking from the interurban at its front door and queuing up at the desk to register."

     "It is difficult to imagine well-dresed shoppers crowding into the cavern-like basement restaurant.
     "Such difficulties go to the heart of the hotel's woes.  The men of commerce who built it knew nothing about translating marketing plans into a functional hotel design.
     "Elwood M. Ingledue, who managed the hotel for four years after its grand opening June, 1925, rues the day he ever laid eyes on the structure.
     "'It was absolutely hopeless from the start,' Ingledue says.  'I can laugh about it now but I've been trying to forget that hotel for decades.'
     "As Ingledue and other old-timers in Glendale remember it, the story of Hotel Glendale began just before World War 1, when the economy was expanding willy-nilly.  The Pacific Electric Railway criss-crossed San Fernando Valley communities with its interurban lines.  In Glendale, the railroad chose to build its main line up Brand Ave., with a spur going over to the intersection where Hotel Glendale stands. 
     "Glendale Ave. businessmen rankled at the plan but only one tried to capitalized on it.  This entrepreneur conceived a grand hotel - twice the size of the existing structure - on the corner of Broadway and Glendale Ave.
     "The concept got as far as the digging stage when the plan fell through.  At least a part of the hole remained, a neighborhood pockmark for the next two decades.
     "After the war, Southern California resumed its rapid expansion and the Glendale and Brand Ave. businessmen resumed their rivalry.
     "These were heady days for real estate men.  A building could be purchased with an unsecured loan and then resold a few years late for double or triple its original value.  Expansionist fever raced through the community.
     "Charles Ingledue, Elwood's late father, caught a bad case of the fever.  He and other Glendale Ave. landowners soon found out they had overbought.  Land they had purchased on the assumption that almost every conceivable investment would turn a profit wasn't producing enough income to meet interest payments."

     "It was the first warning of the collapse of the real estate boom but in 1924 no one sensed the impending doom, certainly not Glendale Ave. businessmen.
     "Searching around for a device to reestablish their avenue as the city's commercial focus, they decided to take up where the prewar hole digger had left off.
     "They formed the Glendale Hotel Co. and quickly raised $600,000, a third of it thrown in by the elder Ingledue who also served as company president.  It was a mistake from which he never recovered.
     "The 100-unit hotel went up in less than a year.  The elder Ingledue had his son, Elwood, named manager and, with appropriate fanfare - it was the city's first major league hotel - the doors swung open for business June 1925.
       "Reginald Spicer, a retired drug manufacturer who participated in the disaster, remembers it this way:
     "'It didn't take long to learn the building was badly conceived.  There was only one bathroom for every two rooms.  The architect forgot to install heaters - later we had to put in gas heaters.
   "'They forgot to put a kitchen on the dining room.  There was no money left to buy furniture, so Ingledue had to buy all the furnishing out of his own pocket. And the worst thing was that Ingledue knew no more about running a hotel than I did.'
     "There were other problems.  The planners forgot that each midnight a freight train rumbled up Glendale Ave. to pick up a load of wood at a lumber company on the site of what is now Fashion Square.  The more expensive rooms were on the Glendale Ave. side, and high-paying guests ($6 a suite) complained about the nocturnal noise.
     "Then there was the plan to sell the remaining portion of the property (or hole) to meet operating costs. A buyer was never found.  Without operating capital, services fell off.  Without proper services, patronage fell off still more.

     "The younger Ingledue, then in his mid-twenties, made a valiant effort to put the hotel on the map, hoping business could somehow be generated if people knew about the hotel.
   "One gimmick was to hire a circus performer who dressed himself as a human fly and scaled the building from the street to the roof to the excited gasps of the crowd in the street. 
     "'As I remember it, it did some good in bringing in business for a short time' Ingledue said. 'Of course I think the performer cheated a bit, pounding spikes in the masonry the night before as I recall.'"

     "The eyes of all California turned to the hotel when the younger Ingledue and Capt. Thomas B. Slate unveiled plan to use the hotel roof as a terminal for a fleet of cross-country dirigibles.
     "Slate, a personable inventor and adventurer, got several Glendale businessmen, including the younger Ingledue, to invest in his proposal to build a dozen fast-moving aluminum dirigibles, and use a 1,000-foot elevator to ferry passengers to and from the rooftop.
     "But alas, the aluminum cracked as soon as the gas was pumped in and the Slate Aircraft Corp. went bankrupt. All that remains today of the episode are several four-inch hooks on the roof of the hotel.
     "By 1929, the bondholders foreclosed and sold the hotel for $25,000, less than it had cost to furnish it four years before.
     "The older Ingledue lost everything and didn't live to see the economic recovery in the 1940s.  But his son gained some experience from his Hotel Glendale days. He started the "Hotel Index," a reference book for the trade which he published for the next four decades. A few years ago, he decided to try his once-singed hands at running a hotel again.
     "He now operates the Pacific Plaza Motel in Glendale - with notable better success than his first venture. 
     "The next three decades were a time of humiliation for the Hotel Glendale.  It was too solidly built to be torn down at a reasonable cost, and too poorly designed and situated to be worth fixing into a thriving hotel.  It had no choice but to endure. "

Read more about Hot Glendale Mysteries and Rumors!
Read more about the Great Dirigible Venture! 
Read more about the Hotel Glendale's Founders-with-Dreams!
Read more about the Hotel Glendale and its Speakeasy Rumors!
See the corner of Broadway and Glendale circa 1926!
See the corner of Broadway and Glendale circa 1940 -1950!
One guest had a terrible time while staying at the Hotel Glendale!