Trinity Auditorium

855 S. Grand Ave.   | map |

Los Angeles, CA 90017

The News: Well, it's in limbo again. We were expecting a summer 2016 opening of both the Trinity and the Clark Hotel with Argentina based Fën Hotels as the operator. But the Chetrit Group, owners of the property, had a falling out with them. Stay tuned. 

It's been almost ready to open for about two years now. Presumably when a new operator is picked, they will want to do another tweak and update to the decor. At one point there was talk about 183 rooms,  a rooftop pool and bar,  a ground level restaurant with an outdoor "garden," and the re-activated theatre space (as yet unnamed) receiving new paint and seating.

The Clark Hotel on Hill St., under the same ownership, is similarly in limbo.  Brigham Yen had a story about the proposed opening under the Fën Hotels banner in November 2015.  Curbed L.A. also picked up the news with their article "Two Historic Downtown LA Hotels to Return..."

Much of the property has been ready since 2014 when it was going to be a King & Grove operation. K & G also had a falling out with the Chetrit group, thus a delay -- not the first nor the last. The final legal impediment to opening was cleared with a favorable ruling October 28, 2014 on the hotel workers' union appeal of the projects approval. The Central Area Planning Commission gave the nod to the owners. L.A. Downtown News had that story.

Opened: 1914

Architects: Thornton Fitzhugh, Frank G. Krucker and Harry C. Deckbar designed this 9 story Beaux Arts style mixed use hotel, office building and auditorium.  The 1922 edition of Architectural Digest lists Deckbar as the architect with Krucker as an associate.

The building featured a roof garden, various social halls, a ladies parlor and a library. It was owned and operated by the Los Angeles Investment Co. 

Seating: 1,600. Some estimates go as high as 2,500. Originally the main floor was sloped and had fixed theatre seating. It got leveled out at some time in the past.

The auditorium features balconies on three sides and a massive ceiling dome with a stained glass medallion at its center. 

When it was the Trinity Auditorium Building and being used as a church, three stories of the building were church offices and the hotel portion (325 rooms) was a hotel for men. The auditorium had a huge pipe organ. It was church on Sundays and the auditorium was rented to meetings, conventions, etc. during the week.

The L.A. Philharmonic played their first season here in 1919 before moving to the Temple Theatre, which they re-christened the Philharmonic Auditorium.

When the hotel became the Embassy Hotel, the auditorium was known as  the Embassy Auditorium. As the Embassy, there were various musical programs and several legit theatre runs.

Perhaps one of the stranger events to have graced the Embassy stage was a 1960 program featuring keynote speaker Adolphe Menjou plus six horses and their riders a few days prior to the Veterans' Day cross-country ride celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Pony Express.  Thanks to Roberta Tuthill for that story.

In the 80s, the building was purchased by USC and used as a dorm and residential college for several years.

Status:  in limbo. Again. See the "news" section at the top of the column.

L.A. Downtown News had a July 2014 story indicating that the building was edging closer to a certificate of occupancy. Another L.A. Downtown News story, "A Clash Over Two Downtown Hotels," about the ongoing saga appeared in August 2014.

Brigham Yen had a March 2014 story, "Mystery Unfolding."  A followup story  "First Look Inside" features many interior photos of the hotel spaces by Hunter Kerhart.

In the Fall of 2013 the hotel workers union were trying to force the project to have a union deal as a condition for allowing it to proceed. At that time King and Grove was to be the operator of both this and the much-stalled Hotel Clark on Hill St.

The New York based building owner Chetrit Group, also owners of the Clark, had let the building lie dormant for the last decade while various plans had been proposed and speculations had swirled around.  

The Trinity in the Movies:

Charlie Chaplin filmed the opening scene of
"The Bank" (Essanay, 1915) in front of the Trinity.
 larger view

Thanks to the famed silent film detective John
Bengtson for the Chaplin photo above. See his article
"How Charlie Chaplin Filmed The Bank" for more
 details and a history of the building. 

Thanks to John Bengtson for this screenshot appearing in
his article "How Charlie Chaplin Filmed The Bank." It's Harold
Lloyd in contemplation in front of the Trinity Auditorium
in "Bumping Into Broadway" (Rolin Films/Pathé, 1919).

Harold Lloyd looks up Grand Ave. with the Trinity
Auditorium as a backdrop in "Bumping Into Broadway"
 (Rolin Films/Pathé, 1919).  John Bengtson's fine article
 "How Harold Lloyd Filmed Bumping Into Broadway"  details
some of the locations for the 25 minute film that also features
Bebe Daniels.  Thanks to John for the screenshot.
larger view

The facade of the Trinity also puts in an appearance with Harold
Lloyd and his pals drunkenly carousing nearby in "High and Dizzy"
(Rolin Films/Pathé, 1919).  John has several images from that
 film in his article "How Charlie Chaplin Filmed The Bank."

Visit John's blog
 "Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)"
for accounts of his latest investigations.

More Information: See the Brigham Yen stories from December 2011 and June 2012.  The latter one discusses the building's future (as seen at that time) as the Empire Hotel.  L.A. Downtown News had a July 2012 story on the project as well.

 L.A. Curbed had reported in a November 2011 story that there was mysterious construction on the roof. Downtown Los Angeles News did a story on the current owners, the Chetrit Group: "To Have and to Hold... " by Anna Scott. Curbed LA did a 2009 article: "Quick Tour of Downtown's Trinity Auditorium" by Dakota. 

Also on Curbed see: "... A Planned Palace." In 2007 Curbed had the story on an earlier planned (and then canceled) hotel makeover for the property "No Gansevoort for Downtown LA" by J. Williams.

Brent Dickerson's Grand Avenue tour also has another early view of the facade. See the post by Mr. Ethereal Reality on SkyscraperPage's noirish Los Angeles for several Trinity Auditorium photos.

The Trinity Auditorium ceiling dome.

photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

Keep up with Hunter's explorations:
on Facebook | | on flickr

Thanks, Hunter!

The center of the auditorium's dome.

photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

The house left side of the auditorium.

photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

Across from the house right balcony.

photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

Another sidewall art glass view.

photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

Also by Hunter Kerhart:
  | facade view - 2012 |

     California State Library    

A 1987 William Reagh photo in the
 California Library collection.
full size view | data page


An early postcard view of the building offered
 on eBay for $4.77. They're saying that the building
 is "the largest of its kind in America."
full size view

A card with a 1921 postmark. The rear says "Hotel Trinity has
350 rooms and is absolutely fireproof. Hotel Trinity has the
largest lobby and sun-parlor in Los Angeles. Hotel Trinity has its
 own power, light and cooling system. Within Hotel Trinity is
Trinity Auditorium, seating 2,500 people and having one
of the largest pipe organs in the west."

Thanks to Chuckaluck for including the lower card
on his Noirish Los Angeles post #20680 about the Trinity.

     Los Angeles Relics

A postcard view of the Trinity Auditorium
from the Los Angeles Relics collection. 
full size view


A 2008 view of the auditorium by pdodog.

This set was on Flickr but has, alas, vanished.

Looking across the auditorium toward
the stage and house right.   That's a lighting
grid in front of the stage at left.

A view toward the rear of the house which is that
section on the right side of the photo.  That's the
house right side balcony at the left of the photo.

A nice proscenium detail.

     Photos of Los Angeles

An evocative early morning 2012 view by Yasmin
Elming looking east toward the Trinity building.
full size view
  | on FB/LAtheatres

A 2013 look up at the Trinity Auditorium
facade by Ken McIntyre.
 full size view | on FB/LAtheatres

An entrance detail taken in 2013 by Ken McIntyre.

     Noirish Los Angeles

A detail from a 1948 aerial view showing the
Trinity Auditorium building from the south. It's on
the first page of the Noirish Los Angeles forum of this
website. The photo is from the USC Archives. 
full size view

     Sterling Davis Photo

A lovely view of the Trinity Auditorium
in 2010 from Sterling Davis Photo.
On Flickr: full size view

Thanks to Michelle Gerdes for locating this one! 

West on 9th toward Grand.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012

A view of the Trinity Auditorium
Building looking south on Grand.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

[ click any of these to enlarge ]

The Trinity in its Embassy Auditorium days.

photo: Gianpiero F. Leone Photo Archive.

The photo also appears as a post on our
Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.

Thanks, Gianpiero!

A view of the entrance to the auditorium.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

The lobby looking north.

photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

The lobby from the 2nd floor.

photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

Art glass in the inner lobby windows from the rear.

photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

Art glass in the auditorium at balcony level.

photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

The view toward the stage.

photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

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     Architectural Digest    

1922 edition -- on Google Books

A look at the building in the magazine's 1922 survey
issue of noteworthy southern California buildings. 
It's from the Stanford Library and on Google Books.
 full size view

The issue notes a few of the suppliers for the building:
fans -- B.F. Sturtevant & Co.
reinforced composition roofing - Pioneer Paper Co.
Venetian screens - Western Blind & Screen Co.
metal doors - California Fire-Proof Door Co.
floors covered by - Barker Bros.

     L.A. Public Library Collection

A view of the stage and pipe organ. 
full size view

| closer stage view  | 

Looking toward the rear of the auditorium
 in an undated Ralph Morris photo. Note that the
main floor was sloped at the time of the photo.
 full size view

Exterior views in the Library's collection:
| from Broadway - 1914  |
9th & Olive 1927 - Trinity in background |
1931 entrance view - looking south   |
9th & Grand - 1931  |
  |  from across the street - 1980 - William Reagh  |
 | north side of the building - undated - Hotel Embassy  |
 | facade - undated - Herald Examiner - Embassy Auditorium  |
| from Olive and Olympic - 1984  |
  |  entrance 1987 -  "Embassy Hotel Theatre" |
entrance - 80s - Anne Knudsen  |

     Brigham Yen

A 2014 peek into the lobby.

The plywood on the doors and windows is down
 and it's getting closer to reopening as a hotel but still
 all under wraps. Brigham Yen's March 2014 story
 that included additional photos.

A June 2012 story discussed the building's
future as the Empire Hotel.

We're on stage looking at the back of the house
 from in a view from Brigham Yen's 2011 article.
full size view

These interior photos come from Brigham Yen's
December 2011 story: "Trinity Auditorium
May Become Second King & Grove Hotel in Downtown L.A.

The story discusses the possibility of the long
delayed hotel conversion getting closer.

Looking toward the stage.
full size view

A look at the art glass in the dome.
full size view

The dome on the exterior.
full size view

The auditorium's lobby fronting on Grand Ave.
full size view

A view of the lobby's windows onto Grand.
full size view

A look at the art glass in the lobby.
full size view

The 2011 photos are credited to Historic
Consultants, Inc. and Ratszh Architects.

Many thanks to Jason Burns for
sending the story our way in 2011!

     USC Archives

A lovely c. 1914-1920 view of the Trinity Auditorium
Building from the USC Archives. The photo is from
the California Historical Society. 
full size view

A c.1938 look west on 9th toward the
building in its Hotel Embassy days. It's
a Dick Whittington Studio photo.
 full size view

Also in the USC Archives:
 | another early facade view - from slightly north  |
| aerial view looking north - 1970  |

     Ian Wood on Vimeo

A flyover of the Trinity Auditorium's dome
from Ian Wood's "Downtown Los Angeles."

 He spent several months in 2014 shooting downtown
theatres and other historic buildings from a drone that
resembled "a mutant chicken." It's four minutes and
forty five seconds of wonder that's not to be missed.
The footage also appears with stories by
 Brigham Yen and LA Observed's Kevin Roderick.