AKA: Nadeau Block, Los Angeles, CA; Hotel Nadeau, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings; built works - dwellings -public accommodations - hotels

Designers: Morgan and Walls, Architects (firm); Octavius Morgan (architect); John A. Walls (architect)

Dates: constructed 1881-1882, demolished 1932

4 stories, total floor area: 67,200 sq. ft.

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1st Street and Spring Street
Downtown, Los Angeles, CA 90012

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The Hotel Nadeau occupied the southwestern corner of the intersection at 1st and Spring Streets.

Overview

Opened by a retired freighter, Remi Nadeau, this hotel stood out as one of top two hotels (the other being the Hollenbeck House opened in 1889 by Andrew Bilicke) in the city from 1882 until about 1900. The two rival establishments displaced the three-story Pico House (1870) as the city's most important luxury hotels. They stood only one block away from each other, the Nadeau at 1st and Spring and the Hollenbeck at 2nd and Spring. Their guest rooms, bars and restaurants became important meeting places for businessmen and political leaders, as well as visiting celebrities. Originally located outside the core of old Mexican El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles near Plaza and 1st Street, the growing Anglo city developed to the south and its financial district grew up around the Nadeau and Hollenbeck during the 1880s and 1890s. From his freighting and hotel operations, Nadeau became a wealthy man, acquiring significant amounts of real estate, including a large ranch farming sugar beets and later wine. The Los Angeles Times stated in his obituary, "At the time of his death his vineyard covered 2400 acres, and was probably the largest in the world." (See "Remi Nadeau A Prominent and Old-Time Citizen Passes Away," Los Angeles Times, 01/16.1887, also reprinted by Find A Grace.com.) Regarding his real estate holdings, mostly accumulated between 1875 and his death, the West Adams Heritage Association has observed: "Nadeau owned most of the block between Fourth and Fifth Streets in downtown Los Angeles and what is now Broadway and Hill Street." The supremacy of the Nadeau and Hollenbeck Hotels reigned unchallenged until the construction of a few other prominent hotels, most notably the Van Nuys (1897) the Angelus (1901), and the Alexandria Hotel (1906). By 1910, their heydays were over. The Nadeau The Nadeau and Hollenbeck were torn down within a few months of each other in 1932.

Building History

Quebec-born immigrant Remi Nadeau (born 1821 in Kamouraska, QC-d. 1887) opened the second important luxury hotel in Los Angeles in 1882, the eponymous Nadeau House. Prior to this, Nadeau gained fame in Southern CA as the inventor of the 20 mule team as a means of hauling freight through arid terrain. Nadeau developed a network of routes emanating out of Los Angeles during the 1860s and 1870s, including a key circuit connecting Los Angeles with Salt Lake City and places in between, a trip requiring 35 days one way. Los Angeles Times columnist Lee Shippey wrote of Nadeau's fame running mule teams in 1932: "At first his mule teams brought supplies from the harbor to Los Angeles, but his service spread until it reached almost to San Francisco. It was from his teams that Borax Smith got the idea for his transportation service, although it is asserted that Smith usually used only ten or twelve mules." (See "The Lee Side o' L-A," Los Angeles Times, 09/15/1932, p. A4.) Nadeau grew particularly wealthy from his shipping lines hauling silver ingots from the Cerro Gordo and Coso (Darwin) mines in Inyo County to Los Angeles in the early-to-mid 1870s. Along with mine owners, Nadeau established the Cerro Gordo Freighting Company, that standardized the transport of silver between the two locations by creating a series of regular stops along the way. His mule trains carried provisions brought in from the Port of Los Angeles and agricultural products, such as barley, back to the Mojave Desert mining camps. When these mines began to fail, Nadeau turned to hauling borax to and from mines in Columbus, NV, during the later 1870s. The arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in Los Angeles in 1876, made the use of Nadeau's mule teams passé. The Cerro Gordo Freighting Company disbanded by 1882. (See West Adams Heritage Association, "Remi Nadeau," accessed 08/27/2015.) Gradually, he discontinued this service and moved his attention to acquiring real estate and the construction of a technologically-advanced hotel, the Nadeau House.

The large Nadeau block, the first four-floor building in Los Angeles, was a masonry-supported block permeated by a first-floor row of glass doors and shop windows, a second floor line of arched windows and two upper floor tiers of Italianate windows. Each upper floor was separated by multiple courses, underscroing the building's heavy horizontality. The 1st Street and Spring Street facades each possessed central bays capped by pediments engaged into an elaborate cornice. The 1st Street pediment was topped by another pediment bearing an inscription, "Nadeau 1883." The Nadeau's busy first floor, supported by cast-iron columns, housed many small businesses over the years, from drug stores to hat shops. In total, the hotel contained approximately 67,200 gross square feet of space.

Costing $165,000 to build, the hotel boasted the first electric elevator in the city, necessary for transporting guests and their luggage to the sky-scraping fourth floor. In 1897, it implemented a state-of-the-art Steel Dome Hot-Air Furnace manufactured by F.E. Brown. (Inventors spent the nineteenth century producing innumerable patents improving on hot-air furnace designs first produced in Derby, England, in the late 18th century.) A sign on the exterior of the hotel in 1897 stated, "...that it is heated by F.E. Brown's hot air furnace, and testimonials are available." In 1905, a Los Angeles Herald article surveying the city's hotels, described the Nadeau: "The Hotel Nadeau is situated at the corner of First and Spring Streets, having the advantages of the pleasant surroundings and convenience to the business center, the postoffice, the amusements and various resorts in the city. The hotel is a substantial, neat-appearing four-story structure, covering 120x140 feet, constructed with iron fronts and containing 150 sleeping rooms. An elegant and well-fitted bar, stocked with the best of wines, liquors and cigars, a spacious, neatly furnished cafe, where appetizing and well cooked food, including all the delicacies of the market, are properly served; a handsomely furnished parlo and comfortable, nicely furnished and well ventilated sleeping rooms, provided with every needed convenience, are the main points of the establishment. The house is equipped with all the modern conveniences, the rooms are large, with high ceilings, airy and cheerful, while wide halls divide the apartments, making this one of the most desirable places for rest and refreshment in the city." (See "Hotel Accommodations The Very Best," Los Angeles Herald, vol. 32, no. 337, 09/03/1905, p. 2.)

A note in the magazine Hotel World in 1892 reported: "H.W. Chase has renewed his lease on the Hotel Nadeau, Los Angeles, for a term of five years at a rental of $240,000." (See "Twenty Five Years Ago," Hotel World, vol. LXXXV, no. 9, 09/01/1917, p. 18.) This would indicate that Chase managed hotel operations from at least 1887 until perhaps 1897.

Building Notes

Remi Nadeau petitioned the City Council for a stairway on 1st Street to the basement of the Nadeau Block. This petition was granted. (See "Council Proceedings," Los Angeles Times, 10/28/1883, p. 6.)

The Hotel Nadeau was one of the leading hotels of the last quarter of the 19th century in Los Angeles, CA, housing various celebrities. George Custer's wife, Elizabeth Bacon Custer (1842-1933), referred to in a Los Angeles Tribune article as "Mrs. General Custer," lodged there in 03/1887. In fashionable hotels of the period, businesses operated in single rooms or suites; a San Francisco-based photographer, Isiah West Taber, opened a branch shop in the Hotel Nadeau in 03/1887. Ownership of the establishment changed in 1929, with the expectation that the hotel would suspend operations soon; it closed in 1931, its contents auctioned in late October of that year.

The Nadeau Block was in operation c. 1885. The hotel employed at least three African-American waiters c. 1887; L. Bryan, the Head Waiter, and Charles Banks, both lived, according to Maxwell's Los Angeles City/County Directory for 1887-1888, at 29 North Los Angeles Street. Another Nadeau waiter, Eugene Burris, lived at 326 Aliso Street. The number of residences available for black Los Angelenos would have been severely restricted at that time.

In 1889, Siegel the Hatter operated a store under the Nadeau House Hotel. (See "Siegel the Hatter Ad," Los Angeles Times, 10/28/1889, p. 5.)

In its obituary on Remi Nadeau, the Los Angeles Times said of the Nadeau House: "Eight years ago he purchased the property at the southwest corner of Spring and First streets; and in 1882 he began thereon the construction of the huge block now known as the Nadeau House. This building cost $165,000; and the land upon which it stands is worth at present prices fully as much more." (See "Remi Nadeau," Los Angeles Times, 01/16/1887.)

Alteration

Repairs and alterations occurred at the Hotel Nadeau between 1891-1895.

Demolition

Its owners demolished the Hotel Nadeau in 1932, arousing some lamentation among older Los Angelenos, who patronized its shoe shine stands, barber shop, Laurel Palace Saloon. The Times-Mirror Company's Los Angeles Times Building #4 replaced the Hotel Nadeau by 1935.

PCAD id: 9499