Three years ago, on the occasion of the announcement of its sale, I wrote a post entitled "A Conjurer's Guide to Lost Los Angeles" about the derelict Bank of Italy building (above), and how I'd had to rely on vintage photographs, stray glances through dirty windows and my imagination to use it as a setting in The Kept Girl.
Since that time, the Downtown landmark where Raymond Chandler worked as an oil executive has been lovingly restored and creatively reimagined for its new life, not as a bank and office building, but as a high-end NoMad hotel, with several restaurants and bars within.
Last week, I had the opportunity to finally set foot inside the building that holds such a particular place in my heart, as Carolyn Schneider, NoMad's Director of Guest Experience, graciously gave a tour of the public and private spaces.
My first reaction on stepping into the ornate lobby was to stop dead and make a joke about experiencing Stendhal Syndrome. But I wasn't entirely joking: it was startling to see in full, glorious color the elaborate ceiling that I know so well from the black and white images from opening day 1923. Time travel should be disorienting.
But there was more to see and no time for swooning. Come with me on a walk through a landmark brought back from the dead, through the subtle restoration work of Killefer Flammang Architects and the stylistic flair of interior designer Jacques Garcia.
As I explored, the burning question on my mind was: does Raymond Chandler's spirit still linger within? Answer: could be! Read on to see for yourself.
|The historic basement vault is repurposed as public restrooms.
|Locking wheels on the back of the vault door.
|Emerald curtains hang in the mezzanine (originally the ladies banking department).
|Looking down from the mezzanine to the 7th Street doors.
Jewel tones and fine finishes show great respect to the building's elegant bones.
|While writing The Kept Girl, I agonized over the location and appearance of these elevators.
|A ship detail on the elevator door evokes the golden age of Italian exploration .
|The view of 7th & Olive Streets from a corner room.
|Looking north from the rooftop at James Oviatt's Art Deco penthouse and elevator tower.
|The once utilitarian roof now has a pool with a weird
fireplace inspired by the Italian Mannerist Gardens of Bomarzo.
|Windows gaping, for years the building was home only to pigeons.
It seems they still think of it as home.
|Spotted on the mezzanine: a framed copy of a 1970s motion picture tie-in edition of
Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. (Bob Mitchum is Philip Marlowe.)
|The author, mid-swoon, looks forward to returning.