April 21, 2024 #1 Local News, Forum, Information and Event Source for Venice Beach, California.

Venice Shorts: How a Local Entrepreneur Restored Venice’s Historic Waldorf Hotel

Upcoming Hearing Will Determine if the Restaurant Can Serve Alcohol

By Nick Antonicello

The Waldorf hotel on Ocean Front Walk and Westminster was completed as a 55-room facility in 1915, nearly 110 years ago.

The silent film-star legend Charlie Chaplin immediately moved in, and the Los Angeles Times called the Waldorf Hotel, the ”crown jewel of Venice“.

It had modern features such as electric lights, telephones, and steam heat in every unit!

It was for 1915, a modern marvel.

Sadly, what was at the time state-of-the-art, the steam heat, telephone wires and electrical wiring we’re not holding up. Even the elevator with its original switchgear would trap people regularly several times a month and the wiring had trouble keeping up with more than one hair dryer at a time!

The Waldorf Hotel needed a complete overhaul of all of its infrastructure, so local entrepreneur and businessman Carl Lambert decided to tackle the restoration of the building.

It was a labor of love over seven years and at a cost of $15 million, the elevator was completely modernized while keeping an old world charm.

An entire new electrical and plumbing system was installed as well as energy efficient air-conditioning and heating to replace the steam boiler that was considered state-of-the-art back in 1915.

When Lambert grew up in Washington DC, his family helped to preserve the historic Willard hotel that President Abraham Lincoln used to conduct official business, complete his Cabinet appointments, and make adjustments to the First Inaugural Address which he had written in Illinois. By the time the inauguration rolled around, the hotel overflowed with visitors, squeezing as many as 10 people into a room.

At noon on March 4, 1861 Lincoln left the Willard hotel with outgoing President James Buchanan to ride down Pennsylvania Avenue enroute the US Capitol. According to hotel records, President Lincoln returned to the hotel after the inaugural ceremonies to watch the parade and enjoy his inaugural luncheon.

“It gave me a sense of history and love for old buildings,” noted Lambert.  

“There’s something about walking down the halls of an old building, and seeing the nuances of how they built it and how the character can be preserved, and yet modernized for current fire and safety standards.”

“It takes an incredible amount of work and creativity to take a building, an old building, where nothing is square, straight, or level, yet retain the old world charm and character that makes this old Hotel special,”
said Lambert.

“The hotel is brick so we could not move any windows or exterior doors. It took a lot of thought and creativity to make each room work with a bathroom with modern conveniences that we all expect, and yet retain the charm of the old. Venice has changed so much over the years with so many different eras that we wanted to pay homage. There was the beatnik era so we did an artist room, a little more dark and brooding. Then skateboard culture which, of course, started in Venice and Santa Monica and we did many of the rooms with skateboard themes including one room with a graffiti mural by a local who is a photographer and artist who grew up here in the 70s. Behind the check-in desk is a 12‘ x 12‘ tall mural depicting Abbot Kinney, the American developer and conservationist who founded Venice back in 1905.”

Venice of America was founded some 119 years ago as a beach resort by the tobacco millionaire and before 1900 Venice was nothing but marshland. Kinney had the vision of turning this desolate parcel into a renaissance resort and amusement park unlike nothing else.

For this particular property is one of the few and true landmarks of historic Venice that still remains.

The third style room is called the boy BOHO room, which is a lighter style with Bohemian touches, including hand-carved headboards using sustainable teak.

Each of the seven penthouses has its own theme.

“The Charlie Chaplin room has an ocean view, and a view of the Hollywood sign while standing in the shower. The Boho Clara Bow room has a shower with a full view of the ocean, yet offers privacy. Actor Sylvester Stallone filmed Cobra in one of the penthouses, and you can see the view from his desk while lying in bed. Another penthouse is completely refurbished in a Moroccan theme which is a favorite for many guests. Penthouse #4 was created out of reclaimed scaffolding planks that were repurposed as flooring, vanity, headboard, and furniture, which makes for a truly unique stay,” noted Lambert.

The Waldorf hotel was also home to the Lafayette Café on the ground floor along the boardwalk. Plans are approved to remodel the Lafayette space into a new restaurant with a permit for alcohol.

This will make for a meeting place for locals and visitors alike.

Additionally, there was a theater in the 1960s & 1970s that has been restored as well.

The hotel has applied for approval to serve alcohol to allow guests to relax while listening to music or watching a film. 

The Venice V applied for a liquor license over four years ago. The Venice Neighborhood Council (www.venicenc.org) and its corresponding Standing Committee LUPC (Land Use & Planning arm) have approved and recommended approval of this license.

The Zoning Administrator at Planning has also okayed approval. However, there remains a pending appeal that will be heard by the Area Planning Commission or APC this Wednesday March 6th at 4:30 PM. 

Those interested in supporting the application are urged to contact the Venice V or Lambert via e-mail at Carl@LambertInc.com.

In-person support will have the most significant impact on ensuring the successful support of this proposal to ensure Venice climbs out of the depths of COVID-19 and prepares for the upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2028 Summer Olympics, as Los Angeles will host for the first time since 1984.

Venice will serve as a preferred tourist destination during that 17-day international event that will be a boon to LA and the local Venice beachfront economy.

Here is the Zoom link: https://planning-lacity-org.zoom.us/j/86384932445 

Nick Antonicello is a thirty-one year resident of Venice and covers the community, cultural and business happenings here in the neighborhood. Have a take or a tip for all things Venice? Contact him via e-mail at nantoni@mindspring.com

in Hard, News
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