If Monrovia’s Aztec Hotel reopens in 2015, it will have to overcome its shoddy history


Owning the Aztec Hotel has never been an easy thing to do.

My article in today’s Pasadena Star-News covers the troubles that have kept the hotel closed for more than two years, but the Aztec has survived through a downtrodden existence since it opened in 1925.

A little history, provided by Jim Wigton of the Monrovia Historic Preservation: When the hotel was built, it was sitting along historic Route 66, making it an easy place for travelers to stop just outside of Los Angeles. Its distinguished architecture and swanky service also made it an attraction for Hollywood insiders.

But Route 66 was rerouted in the early 1930s, removing the northern jog up Shamrock Avenue, meaning the route stayed on what is now Huntington Drive rather than going up to Foothill Boulevard.

That led to the Aztec Hotel’s first closure. It was sold for pennies on the dollar at auction and reopened in 1938, but the lack of Route 66 traffic kept the hotel from ever seeing any real success.

“It has just never been real viable,” Wigton said.

In the 1980s, the Brass Elephant restaurant opened, giving the Aztec new life as a local watering hole.

By 2011, there were more financial troubles, which I covered in the Star-News at the time: Owner Kathie Reece-McNeill was disputing foreclosure by her bank, and a court-appointed receiver hired to take over management had placed 20-something relatives in charge, which gave Reece-McNeill reason to try to regain control of daily operations.

The young managers were later booted out by the court, and the hotel was sold in a foreclosure auction in 2012 to current owner Qinhan Chen.

So all that history begs the question: even if the Aztec Hotel reopens in early 2015 as planned, can it be a success?

The manager, Peter Kertenian, only gave me the early 2015 timeframe after I pressured him for it, and he quickly noted that delays are likely with a hotel this old.

“Every time we touch one area, a problem arises that we were unaware of,” he said.

Kertenian did offer to give me a tour, but has been less forthcoming after I told him I was also writing about the lawsuit against the hotel.

Instead, I’ll point you to a video that came out in September by a blogger who covers hauntings. A few shots of the Aztec’s interior start at the 3:36 mark.


35 thoughts on If Monrovia’s Aztec Hotel reopens in 2015, it will have to overcome its shoddy history

  1. Hi James, Interesting articles on the Aztec Hotel in Monrovia…I am in the process of remodeling the unit next to Joe and Edwards barber shop.
    My name is Christopher my wife Carole and I own 4 High end salons called the Scizzor Group Ltd in Pasadena, Sierra Madre and now Monrovia…our salons are beautifully designed and the stylists that will manage this location are the very best and offer the highest level of hair services to their already established clientele…so we have that advantage of an existing and more importantly Local customer base.
    I had never been inside the Aztec, like most people I was to afraid…I have since met Peter the project controller, he has an outstanding background with major hotels and I truly believe that he’s the person to bring the hotel back to its former glory, he not only knows how, he truly wants it… I have been privileged to take the “tour” it’s fascinating, there are several completed rooms that will become the models for the remaining rooms, I have seen the plans, and have discussed many former and future issues at the hotel…we have a long lease and are committed to helping this incredible building have the life it deserves.
    To get from its present reputation to the next “heyday” has to start some how, we are willing to take that risk and are really excited to be a part of such a landmark.

    1. Thanks, Christopher. Allycin Cappello contacted me and I updated the other post about the former Route 66 shop, though I called her co-owner and maybe that’s not correct.
      Others have also told me Peter is doing a good job, and he was great when I interviewed him, but careful about the publicity. Everything indicates that 2015 will be a reality, and as I told Peter, a lot of people in Monrovia want to see the Aztec succeed.

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