Videos of Interest


Monday, May 24, 2010

The Biltmore Hotel Ballrooms, Los Angeles. Opened: 1923 Interior frescos: Giovanni Battista Smeraldi

The magnificent interiors of the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel are a prime example of the Renaissance style popular during the Beaux Arts period of architecture in the United States (1880-1920).  Designed by the architectural firm of Schultz & Weaver, it was associate architect Earl Heitschmidt who commissioned Giovanni Battista Smeraldi (known in the U.S. as John B. Smeraldi) to create many of the lavishly detailed interior ceilings.  Smeraldi's work can be seen in many historic public buildings in the United States, mainly on the ceilings, and he considered the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel to be his finest work in this country.  The current hotel restaurant off the old lobby is named after him.  Below are photographs I took recently of his incredible work during one of the wonderful walking tours given weekly by the Los Angeles Conservancy.  I highly encourage taking one!
Crystal Ballroom, Los Angeles Bitlmore Hotel. (November 2009)
This is the main ballroom.  This magnificent space was home to the first Academy Awards in 1927, and is the largest of the hotels ballrooms able to accommodate 700 people at tables.  The domed ceiling is a single canvas and the most detailed of Smeraldi's magnificent frescos.

Crystal Ballroom opposite wall, Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel. (November 2009)
The balconies visible in this photograph and the previous one extend from three of its walls.

Entryway to the Crystal Ballroom, Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel. (November 2009)
Photograph of a famous socialite in her specially designed gown representing the Crystal Ballroom and it's signature balconies (extending from the hip line of the gown).  She had this gown created for the grand opening gala in 1923.  This photograph hangs at the entry to the Crystal Ballroom.  For many years the actual gown stood in a glass case in the Galeria.

Emerald Room ceiling detail, Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel. (November 2009)
A golden retriever face stares down at guests from one of the many murals painted by Smeraldi on the beams of the Emerald Room depicting scenes of the hunt.  Once known as the Renaissance Room, it was the hotel's main dining room seating up to 400 guests.


  1. The first Academy Awards were not held at the Biltmore in 1927. They were held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in 1929.

    The Biltmore hosted the Academy Awards in 1931, 1935–39, and 1941-42.

    What happened in 1927 was that Hollywood bigwigs (such as Louis B. Mayer) had a luncheon at the Biltmore, where they discussed the idea of an Academy, basically founding the new organization. Legend has it that someone sketched a drawing of the Oscar statuette on a napkin at the same luncheon.

  2. Thanks for the great info! I stand corrected.

  3. It may have been yet informal in 1927, but it was first held at the hotel - take a tour, they've got the pictures of it in one of the ballrooms on the 1st level.

  4. It is my understanding that my father sang with one of the big bands that regularly played the Crystal Ballroom in the late 1920's (probably 1925-27 period)and the bandleader's name was Curly (not sure of the last name). I have searched and searched the internet for that band and some reference to its presence in the Crystal Ballroom and found nothing. Today it occurred to me to google Crystal Ballroom and I found you site. Can you tell me how I might go about verifying this piece of oral history? My father's name was William "Bill" James

    1. Sounds like you've done a good job scouring the internet! You might try contacting the Los Angeles Conservancy ( and see if they might be able to put you in contact with historians familiar with the Biltmore. Good luck with your search!