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Garden of Allah Hotel History and Photos

Garden of Allah Hotel History & Photos

The Garden of Allah Hotel on Sunset Blvd. at Crescent Heights Ave. was, not only famous, but also infamous for the publicity it received as one of Hollywood’s hotels. 

Built in a Spanish-Moorish style of architecture, it derived its name not from Islam but from stage and screen actress Alla Nazimova, its original owner. Originally known as The Garden of Alla, it was a mansion at 8080 Sunset Boulevard, built in 1919. It became notorious for the wild parties allegedly held there by the openly lesbian Nazimova. As her acting career declined, Nazimova built a complex of 25 villas around the main building in 1927 and was located at 8152 Sunset Boulevard. Apparently, the cost of construction overran the original estimate that it put Nazimova in th poorhouse By the time she had completed remodeling the house and adding the bungalow complex in 1928 she was bankrupt and forced to sell out. Eventually she was reduced to renting a flat in one corner of her former home.

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Once completed, the Garden of Allah soon soared into popularity. Stars would spend their days by the pool or at the bar, enjoying the strolling troubadours providing musical entertainment. Many would set up a more permanent residence in one of the bungalows, particularly if they were part of a clandestine duo embarking on an affair.

The Garden of Allah Hotel became home to many celebrities and literary figures. F. Scott Fitzgerald lived there for several months.  Humorist/actor Robert Benchley was a frequent resident. Fitzgerald's biographer and lover Sheilah Graham later wrote a book about the place called The Garden of Allah). Many other celebrities, including John Barrymore, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Errol Flynn, Francis X Bushman and Clark Gable occasionally stayed at the Garden of Allah Hotel.

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Some of the celebrities who visited The Garden of Allah were in town for films they were working on, some lived there long-term. Some were between marriages or homes; some were there for the parties going on from sunset until dawn. But whatever the reason for the visit, the Garden of Allah was an escape from reality for those whose job it was to provide that escape for everyone else.

Not everybody who went to the Garden of Allah wanted to be seen there. Somehow, among the tangle of phony marriages, the fist-fights, the volume of liquor especially all through Prohibition, high-powered and insecure and spoiled celebrities, tons of recreational sex, other tons of drugs, robberies, drunken rages, cross-gender liaisons, the black frustrations of writers (and others) having their souls eaten by the Hollywood system, orgies, more robberies, simmering feuds, money problems and sudden changes of plan, the Garden of Allah acquired an infamous reputation. One of the unique features of the hotel was that it was across the street from the famous Schwab’s Pharmacy.

And while Nazimova returned to her modest on-site apartment in 1941, living there until her death in 1945, the Garden of Allah soon began to lose its charm. One reason for this is that Hollywood became less transient in the 30s and 40s, as the post-silent film era proved to be something worth pursuing, and sticking around for. Stars made the move to Los Angeles permanent, and luxurious new neighborhoods and cities, like Beverly Hills, saw the construction of mansions the stars could call their own.  Also, the hotel’s reputation was so scandalous that many celebrities didn’t want to stay there for fear of the stigma.

In spite of the fact that it was among the landmark buildings of the west side of Los Angeles, it was torn down in June 1959 and replaced by Lynton Savings and Loan. Actor Francis X. Bushman and his wife, who had been at the opening party, attended the closing party as well.

The hollywoodphotographs.com website has many photos of the Garden of Allah Hotel and all are available for purchase. More photos are,also, on the Hollywood Photographs Google+ page and Hollywood Photographs Facebook page.

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