Have You Ever Wondered… Why An Empty Spanish Colonial Storefront is Part of the W Hotel’s Façade?
May 15, 2014
Have you ever walked south on Vine from Hollywood Boulevard and noticed an ornate but empty Spanish Colonial-style storefront built into the façade of the über modern W Hotel? Well, there’s a story behind that, as there is with almost everything in Hollywood.
In this column, we’ll explain all the wonderful little oddities you see dotting Hollywood’s landscape every day. Many are left-over vestiges of Hollywood’s glamorous history that don’t necessarily make sense if you don’t know the backstory.
The storefront to the right of the Taft Building, built into the front of the W Hotel, is all that’s left of the Herman Building, a 1928 structure with a distinctive past. The Herman Building was part of a complex of Spanish Colonial Revival buildings designed by architect Carl Jules Weyl that included the now-destroyed Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant next door.
Weyl’s other credits included the Hollywood Playhouse further up Vine Street (now home to Avalon nightclub), several other Brown Derbys, the Gaylord Apartments on Wilshire, and many other distinctive homes of the era. He later became a noted art director and went on to win an Academy Award for art direction on the classic 1938 Errol Flynn-Olivia de Havilland film, “The Adventures of Robin Hood.”
Over the years, the Herman Building was home to many businesses, most notably a restaurant in the 1940s-1950s called the Ham & Egger. Johnny Grant, who went on to become the Honorary Mayor of Hollywood, broadcast a live radio show from the restaurant where he interviewed such famous celebrities of the day as Bob Hope, Jimmy Durante and Alan Young.
The building has been owned by the Blue Family since the 1970’s. Their business, Bernard Luggage Co., was originally located at the corner of Hollywood & Vine where 33 Taps is today. They moved into the Herman Building in the 1950’s and bought it 20 years later.
When the city sought to develop the area for the W Hotel & Residences project, son Bob Blue refused to sell the property and the city attempted to take it by eminent domain. After a contentious battle, Blue eventually won his case, and the W Hotel was built around the property which was reconstructed and restored to its original look.
Over the years, it’s been reported that Blue has been looking at various tenants for the space, including a restaurant, but future plans for this remarkable piece of history remain uncertain.
Kim Sudhalter is the President of Urban Legend PR, a full-service public relations, branding and marketing company. She consulted with the Hollywood Entertainment District in its early years, helping to attract investment and revitalize the area. Originally from Europe and New York, she is an architecture and history buff who has a deep and abiding love for Hollywood and its past.