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.