After Foreclosure, The Aztec Hotel Faces Uncertain Future

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May 102011

The historic building, which has long been the subject of “haunted” tales, will go up for sale on May 16.

The Aztec Hotel, one of only three properties in town listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is in the process of foreclosure and will go up for sale later this month at an asking price of more $2.4 million. The fate of the landmark building after it changes hands remains to be seen.

The hotel is currently being run by HTL Hotel Management and a sale by the appointed trustee, Stewart Default Services, is set to be held at the Pomona Superior Courts Building on May 16 at 10:30 a.m.

Chester Reed and Chris Ott of HTL are managing the building until a new buyer purchases the property. Currently, about half of the 44 rooms are either rented to tenants or available to overnight guests.

“We do pretty much everything we can to maintain the building and clean up what’s here,” Ott said. “We’re trying to rebuild the reputation of the hotel.”

“We’re here to do whatever we can to make the place the way it used to be,” Reed added. “Just try to bring back the luster of the place.”

Reed, a chef with 22 years of experience, has revised the menu in the Brass Elephant, the Aztec Hotel’s restaurant. To attract patrons, Ott and Reed are also trying to bring more musical acts to the hotel.

“We’re going to be adding more entertainment on Thursdays and Sundays,” Ott said.

HTL has been managing the Aztec Hotel as a third party ever since the owner defaulted on mortgage payments, leading to foreclosure, according to Reed.

The Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office lists the current owner of the hotel as Kathryn Reece.

The current managers have been on the premises since January 28, after the Los Angeles County District Court appointed HTL to manage the hotel.

The hotel features live music on Fridays and Saturdays. One well-known group is the Billy Haarbauer Band, which has been playing at the venue for about 10 years. Indie rock bands have also filmed music videos at the hotel, Reed said.

Monrovia historian Steve Baker explained more about the building’s significance last month during a MOHPG presentation in the Aztec’s Mayan Room and lobby.

The hotel was constructed along the route of the original Route 66 in the 1920s, and opened in 1925 to much fanfare, Baker said. It was designed by architect Robert Stacy-Judd, who was primarily inspired by the geometric designs and artwork of the Mayan culture. Although it is often cited as an example of Stacy-Judd’s “Mayan Revival” style, the building was named the Aztec Hotel because it was thought the public would not be as familiar with the Mayan civilization.

A novelty attraction frequented by celebrities, the Aztec Hotel nevertheless suffered financial difficulties. A few years after Route 66 was rerouted, the hotel closed in 1935. After reopening in 1938 and undergoing numerous changes, it was finally listed on the National Register of Places in 1978.

Several features, such as the floor tiles, stained glass windows and top light fixtures in the lobby, date back from the 1920s, Baker said. When the Brass Elephant was created in 1983, the right wing of the lobby had been partitioned off. In the last several years, the partition was torn down so the lobby is closer to its original state, and the front doors were restored.

Many of the murals were painted over, but some of them have been restored almost to their original state. One on the east wall, called “The God of Joy” by Stacy-Judd, is still in its original state.

“Interestingly enough, next to the women’s room, the design is called ‘The God of Lust,’” Baker told an amused audience.

Guests have also reported that the ladies room in the main lobby is the location of “psychic phenomemon,” one of several stories of ghostly activity at the hotel. One story involved a pair of newlyweds who purportedly stayed in the famously haunted Room 120 on their wedding night.

“Supposedly their nuptial activities were a little rambunctious,” Baker said. “The bride fell out of bed, struck her head on the radiator, and died from the blow.”

There is another story about the haunted room, with a slightly different yet strangely similar ending.

“A young woman who had the interesting name of Razzle Dazzle allegedly also functioned as an ‘independent contractor’ in the Aztec bar, and one of her clients she went up with, either an argument came up over the monetary proposition, or who was going to do what to whom, and she was shoved and fell and hit her head,” Baker said.

Guests have told Reed and Ott of strange noises and banging coming from Room 129, which is also rumored to be haunted, although it is not as famous as Room 120.

“I think everyone’s familiar with Room 120. People call and ask,” said Reed.

“Specifically for that room,” Ott added.

Not surprisingly, the accounts of ghostly happenings means that the Aztec Hotel has also attracted its share of ghost hunters.

“I’ve got a paranormal group coming out at the end of the month to check up on some stuff,” Reed said.