They called it the “house of Francis” in the 1930’s. A luxurious Mediterranean style hotel owned by the Hollywood studios to house temperamental Hollywood artists and their decadent lifestyles. The Hacienda Arms Hotel (aka Coronet apartments) was located on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles. That parcel of land was bought in 1926 by Alexander R. Gallos and within a year the Hacienda Arms was finished. It cost e parcel of land, on what would become the Sunset Strip, was purchased by Alexander R. Gallos in 1926. Less than one year later, the building, which was designed by architect Charles Sherman Cobb, was complete and ready to make its debut. By 1927 it opened its doors to the Hollywood elite, a few mobsters and the artists who lived there. It originally resembled an Italian villa, but The Hacienda arms featured luxury living with all the amenities.
The Hacienda offered clients/residents the experience of being among the nouveau riche of Hollywood. The apartments had either four or six rooms which according to the needs of the residents were furnished or unfurnished. It also had housekeeping and laundry services. It housed celebrities like Loretta Young, Jeannette McDonald, and Marie Dressler. Marie Dressler won an academy award for best actress in 1931 for her role in Min and Bill. `
In 1935 there was a murder in the building. On April 25, 1935, Paul Wharton, a dress designer who lived with his mother was murdered, shot in their apartment. The media coverage created a scintillating tale about sex and deceit. Billy Williams shot Paul Ivar Wharton, and Henry Bolte. Then he turned the gun on himself. It was determined by the police that the motive was monies owed by both Bolte and Wharton. The story became more sensationalized because of the tale underneath. The stranger men blog will come out later this week. Paul was a gay person at a time where it was not accepted nor permitted in society. This tale seems to have as much to do with Paul’s sexuality as his financial issues.
In the next four years another scandal would break out. Not only did the building cater to the stars of Hollywood, but also their appetites. In 1939 Lee Francis was arrested for running brothels around the L.A. area. Francis insisted that she had been involved in the “industry” but had retired and left the business behind. Francis was accused of running the classiest brothel on the Sunset Strip at the Hacienda Arms Hotel. She allegedly catered to the likes of Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy (who was once almost banned from the brothel), and Errol Flynn. The same allegations revealed women used her services. The “House of Francis” had the prettiest women in town. Women like Barbara Stanwyck, Marlene Dietrich and Jean Harlow spent time with the women. Harlow would take the women home with her and was accused of having a rough sexual appetite. MGM was said to have an account with “House of Francis” under an alias of course. Francis had a good relationship with the police and politicians at the time with bribes of up to 40% of her take.
The building was also sold that year to Phil Goldstone and changed its name to the Coronet Apartments. Within the next year Ciro’s club opened close by and during the 1940s and 1950’s it was a hotspot for celebrities and like Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart. If you were photographed there, Hedda Hopper or some other Hollywood columnist would provide the free gossip/publicity.
The apartments were sold many times between 1940 and the 1970’s. In the late 1970s Rod Stewart bought the Coronet apartments with a partner to renovate the entire building. The partnership split up and the build went empty for a time, home to squatters and derelicts. 1983 Rod Stewart was robbed at gunpoint and his Porsche Carrera stolen. The building then mysteriously burned down in 1983. Before the fire, Westcap Financial Group had agreed to purchase the building for $4.2 million dollars (Citron, 1983). They went on with the sale and renovated the property. The name was changed to Piazza Del Sol. It is rebuilt and today it is full of offices. Several movie production companies rent space there. Tori Spelling and Ryan Seacrest have a hip Japanese restaurant called Katana on premises. The area that was a full of celebrities from the 1930s until the 1960’s went downhill, but today construction is going on and the area again is making a comeback. Stay tuned for the “Stranger men” story next about the murder at Hacienda Arms.
Website at www.angelicvisions-healing.com
Deutschmann, Jennifer, (2021), The scandalous history of Hollywood’s Hacienda Arms Hotel, grunge.com, https://www.grunge.com/472778/the-scandalous-history-of-hollywoods-hacienda-arms-apartments/
Alan Citron (August 21, 1983). "Facade Survived Fire: Historic Site Status Sought for Coronet". Los Angeles Times.
William A. Gordon (2006). The Ultimate Hollywood Tour Book. pp. 124-125. North Ridge Books.
E.J. Fleming (2005). The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling, and the MGM Publicity Machine. McFarland.
Turner, Gustavo, (2019), The Sunset Strip: Story of an L.A. Icon, discoverlosangeles.com, https://www.discoverlosangeles.com/things-to-do/the-sunset-strip-the-story-of-an-la-icon
Photo one- Pinterest-https://www.pinterest.com/pin/358036239133861795/
Photo three- https://aventurasnahistoria.uol.com.br/noticias/reportagem/o-historico-hacienda-arms-o-mais-famoso-bordel-que-ja-existiu-na-california.phtml