Kennedys, preservationists, and the Ambassador Hotel

In today’s L.A. Times there’s a story on the front page of the local news section which reports that RFK’s children are so opposed to saving any of the Ambassador Hotel, that they say they will withhold support for having the new school named in honor of RFK if that happens. They object on the grounds that it would take money away from providing more actual classrooms. My own feeling is that preserving some of the history of the place has educational value on its own merit, and, moreover, that a family at home on the northeastern coast of the U.S. may not be in a position to appreciate how precious L.A.'s few surviving monuments from the past are–at least, the ones that earthquakes and redevelopers have missed.

A number of U.S. presidents stayed there, including every single one from Hoover to Nixon. However, the sleeping places of earlier presidential visitors have faired even more poorly. A few examples will throw this into sharp relief: Benjamin Harrison included Los Angeles in his Western tour; I can’t even find the name of the hotel where he stayed. Undoubtedly it either no longer exists, or has sunk into decrepitude. The Hotel Alexandria, which now sags tiredly near Skid Row, was host to Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Woodrow Wilson in its day. Very little from that era, and before, survives in L.A.; and today’s run down relics are like old cars that were impressively beautifully when new, but now are sagging rustbuckets put up on blocks.

IMHO it would be worthwhile to preserve the Ambassador. AT some point we should say no to erasing history.

We should preserve every single place a President ever laid his head? Sorry no, there has to be some room for the people of today.

Now if you want to attempt to make a case that these buildings should be saved due to some historical, cultural, or aesthetic aspects that are more compelling than that, feel free - I’ll listen. But I’ll warn you - I do not find the ‘save it just because it’s old’ argument to be particularly compelling.

Having been to the Ambassador several times before it was closed to the public, I fail to see the appeal of keeping it open. Aside from being a historical footnote, there’s nothing about the place that warrants special attention, admiration, or preservation.

I mean, hell, even Angel’s Flight has a novelty value to it…

I meant to put this in GD. Can a moderator help me out?


It’s not a question of ‘saving everything that’s old, because it’s old’. In this town, it’s more a question of saving some of what little we still have, that hasn’t already been bulldozed. The Ambassador has some historic value not only because it was the hostelry of choice for all those Presidents, but also because of the place it held in Southern California popular culture for so many decades. It’s a question of remembering where we came from. Hypothetically, if there were an ordinary warehouse of similar antiquity next door to it, I wouldn’t carp at the idea of knocking that down. Nor do I object to the fact that even under the preservationists’ proposal, most of the actual hotel would be razed, and only certain bits of it preserved. But I would like to see downtown L.A. retain some of its character that makes it different from West L.A., Van Nuys, or Culver City, and part of that character is the sprinkling of older structures.