The Scandalous History Of Hollywood's Hacienda Arms Apartments

The Hacienda Arms Apartments in West Hollywood, which were originally called the Hacienda Park Apartments, have a rich and sordid history, which includes arson, robbery, murder, and rumors about a brothel. Although some of the more lurid rumors are clearly false, others have been well documented and have helped maintain the hotel's historical charm and allure.

As reported by WEHOville, the parcel of land, on what would become the Sunset Strip, was purchased by Alexander R. Gallos in 1926. Less than one year later, the building, which was designed by architect Charles Sherman Cobb, was complete and ready to make its debut. The Hacienda Arms Apartments, which cost $392,000 to build, offered residents a full-service experience. In addition to housekeeping and laundry services, the building had its own switchboard. The apartments had either four or six rooms, and came furnished or unfurnished, depending on the residents' needs.

Between the late 1920s and the mid 1930s, the Hacienda Arms Apartments thrived, boasting dozens of famous tenants, including a number of celebrities. However, the building gained a great deal of negative attention in 1935, when one of the residents was killed on the premises. On the evening of April 25, 1935, dress designer Paul Ivar Wharton was shot and killed inside his Hacienda Arms apartment, sparking a media frenzy. As reported by WEHOville, rumors of homosexual relationships, theft, and excessive debt only fueled the sensationalism surrounding Wharton's death. 

Despite the controversies, the Hacienda Arms Apartments continued to thrive

As reported by WEHOville, the apartment building was purchased by Phil Goldstone and renamed the Coronet Apartments in late 1939. Four months later, the former Hacienda Arms Apartments was thrust back into the spotlight when Lee Francis, who was a resident, was arrested and charged with running a number of brothels throughout the region.

As reported by J.H. Graham, Francis did not deny that she was previously involved in the sex work industry. However, she said she had retired and "was simply living a quiet life." Francis' arrest sparked a number of rumors, including persistent claims that she was running a brothel out of the former Hacienda Arms Apartments. However, none of the rumors were ever substantiated.

The Coronet Apartments changed hands numerous times between 1939 and the mid 1970s, but it maintained its name and popularity. However, by the late 1970s, then-owner Frank Sennes decided the apartments needed a makeover. Sennes evicted all of the remaining tenants, and had already begun the arduous task of renovating the building, when he received a particularly generous offer from an unexpected source. As reported by WEHOville, British musician Rod Stewart and his partner Joseph Monzzio offered Sennes $1 million for the former Hacienda Arms Apartments. After spending another $1 million on renovations, Stewart, Monizzio, and their partners had a disagreement over finances and decided to sell the property. 

The former Hacienda Arms Apartments becomes the Piazza del Sol

Unfortunately, the asking price, which was $4.2 million, did not attract any buyers. As reported by WEHOville, the vacant apartment building was eventually boarded up. However, it became a hotbed of criminal activity, reportedly taken over by drug dealers and sex workers. Stewart, who still lived in the area, stopped by the apartment building in 1982. While on the premises, the musician was robbed at gunpoint. In addition to an undisclosed amount of cash, the thieves stole Rod's 1977 Porsche Carrera, which they used to flee the scene. WEHOville reports the incident convinced him to leave the United States and move his family back to the United Kingdom.

Although several offers were eventually made to purchase the building, the Los Angeles Conservancy wanted to prevent any future owners from demolishing the historic building. In an effort to preserve the famous site, the former Hacienda Arms Apartments was added to the national Register of Historic Places.

In 1983, the Coronet Apartments were severely damaged in a fire that was later determined to be caused by arson. However, Westcap Financial Group still purchased the building and made the necessary repairs and renovations. The former Hacienda Arms Apartments reopened as the Piazza del Sol in November 1985. Although it was converted from apartments to an office building and a restaurant, it remains a vital part of the neighborhood and the history of the Sunset Strip.