Former Hotel Cecil named historic-cultural monument in unanimous vote

The former Hotel Cecil in downtown Los Angeles -- the site of murders, suicides and macabre mystery -- was named a historic-cultural monument Tuesday by the City Council in a unanimous 10-0 vote.

The council agreed with the recommendations of the Planning and Land Use Management Committee and Cultural Heritage Commission, which both found that it is a representative example of the early 20th century American hotel industry and that its designer, Loy L. Smith, was an important architect of his time.

The building at 640 S. Main St. was called the Hotel Cecil for most of its existence since it was built in 1924, but was recently rebranded the Stay on Main.

The hotel -- which served as the inspiration for the 2015 season of the FX show "American Horror Story'' -- is not just known for its architecture.

When the hotel and the neighborhood near Skid Row hit hard times beginning with the Great Depression, it became known to long-term residents and locals as "The Suicide'' due to the high number of people who killed themselves there, some by jumping out windows.

Adding to its macabre legacy is that it was the temporary home of serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger during their murder sprees in Southern California, and it has a long history of murders committed in its rooms.

The hotel made headlines in 2013 when a 21-year-old Canadian national disappeared after checking in. Elevator surveillance video showed Elisa Lam acting disoriented and as if she was trying to hide from someone while the elevator appeared to be malfunctioning.

Lam was found dead a few weeks later in the building's rooftop water tank, naked with her clothes floating in the water. Guests had complained about low water pressure and the water tasting funny, which led maintenance workers to investigate the water tank.

The coroner ultimately ruled her death as accidental.

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