Tomorrow, Skid Row will glow with opalescent stained glass rainbows, as the King Edward Hotel gets his awning back
In April 2018, we got word that a nonprofit had purchased two of our favorite historic Skid Row hotels, the King Edward and the Baltimore, and that their plans for the neglected buildings would be announced at a press conference.
That first morning, over croissants and orange juice served in the lovely lobby, we heard that Healthy Housing Foundation, an affiliate of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, had ambitious plans.
The hotels’ previous owners had been keeping dozens of rooms vacant, in violation of a low-income housing covenant. HHF intended to renovate and fill all of those rooms, fast. And they did!
As the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles worsens by the day, fed by the rich fertilizer of public corruption, corporate greed and civic incompetence, we fret constantly about the good, historic buildings that are sitting empty all over town. Some of them catch on fire. Others are torn down deliberately. All while Angelenos are desperate for simple, dignified housing options, and City Hall pontificates about the need to build more luxury towers.
It’s hard work to watch Los Angeles decline when solutions seem so obvious, and to beat our heads against the wall of the city’s fundamental dysfunction.
So what an unexpected pleasure it was to meet the devoted crew from AHF/HHF and discover caring, straight shooters who had the means to actually do something about the problems that keep us up night. Just like that, two huge SROs weren’t just empty husks, they were functioning, low-income residential hotels.
And since we didn’t have to worry about the rooms being rented anymore, we brought up a gnawing preservation concern.
About six years before HHF bought the King Edward, a truck or bus had nicked the exquisite stained glass awning that shaded the door of the 1906 hotel.
The metal was bent and some of the glass had cracked. We were worried the beautiful opalescent KING EDWARD / THE HOTEL sign would crash to the sidewalk and be lost.
So we asked to talk to someone in charge, and met Miki Jackson (who has become a great friend). We took Miki out on the sidewalk to see the warped armature and broken glass, and suggested that Judson Studios (since 1897) was the best company to call for a repair quote.
Miki was glad to know about the problem, and asked for an introduction. And very soon, Martin from Judson Studios was up on a ladder, carefully extracting the opalescent Kokomo Glass panels for restoration at their historic workshop on the Arroyo Seco.
Of course, Judson had sheets of antique glass in their store room that was a perfect match for the damaged sections—one of the side benefits of having been in business since the Edwardian era!
As for removing and repairing the now glass-free metal armature, that proved a job for our neon sign fabricator pal Paul Greenstein. He took the brackets to his El Sereno studio and cleaned up the bends and breaks.
After the glass came down, everyone anticipated a fairly quick turnaround. But Judson was stretched with a massive restoration project for the U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel. And then we’re sure you’ve heard things got pretty weird last spring.
But through it all, the King Edward awning has been on the minds of all of us involved in the restoration project, especially as the grand old hotel was declared a National Register landmark last November.
Which brings us to Wednesday, August 25, 2021—yes, tomorrow! The stars have aligned and from early morning through mid-afternoon, Judson’s crew will be on site installing the glass awning. Then come evening, KING EDWARD will be illuminated for the first time that anyone can recall.
If you’re anywhere near 5th & Main Street, we hope you’ll stop by to pay your respects. And stay tuned to our social media tomorrow, and we’ll share impressions from the scene on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
In a city that can feel very dark and scattered, we’re heartened by the efforts of so many good and talented folks to bring a little light and beauty back to old Skid Row, the toughest and loveliest pocket of the town we love so much.
Viva John Parkinson and the King Edward Hotel! Here’s to the next 106 years!
yours for Los Angeles,
Kim & Richard