Hollywood Melrose Hotel

Los Angeles, California | C.1927

Photo Credit: Meri Mak

While some dream of being in the movies, others dream of designing them — well, the movie theaters that is — and the Hollywood Melrose Hotel provides little bit of both. The historic Los Angeles hotel was designed by architect S. Charles Lee, one of the most prolific movie theater designers of his time.

When Lee embarked on his architectural ambitions in the early 1920s, Los Angeles was a boomtown for motion pictures. Silent films ruled the silver screen and studios like Paramount Pictures churned out star-studded films and beloved cartoons like Betty Boop and Popeye. Lee launched his career with the conception of L.A.’s Tower Theater, and six years later the Hollywood Melrose Hotel was born.

Just down the block from Paramount’s studios, the Hotel proudly opened its doors to both celebrity guests and curious visitors. Its upscale luxury was garnished with photo-album-worthy views of the iconic Hollywood sign, and the Los Angeles Times lauded it as “One more beauty from architect S. Charles Lee.”

After his architectural triumph, Lee continued his conception of sparkling marquees and ticket-filled box offices, design more than 400 theaters in California and Mexico, alone! In that time, the Hotel was bought and sold, eventually landing in the design skilled hands of another man.

Edmon Simonian, an Armenian woodworker who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s, purchased the Hotel in 1998 after successfully running a local furniture design business. With help from his family, the Hotel was restored to its original, old Hollywood exuberance. Thanks to Simonian and Lee — two skilled craftsmen who never crossed paths — the Melrose Hotel has remained a timeless classic brimming with Hollywood charm.

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