“Almira Hershey – Hollywood Hotel”
THE LADY IN THE SHADOWS.
Edited by Marilyn Slater
July 30, 2015
Ensconced straight away at the Melrose Hotel, a grand affair planted on chi-chi
During a visit to her hometown she felt moved to finance the construction of a badly needed hospital. In a snit upon learning of her charity, on January 14, 1901 The Los Angeles Times published a snotty editorial disdainful of her choice to build a hospital where she no longer lived, when her new home city was ever so kindly enriching her and had many crucial needs of its own, most specifically a library. It was in response to this attack that Almira Hershey slipped into near invisibility. She also deleted
One morning in 1903, whilst reading the newspaper, her attention was caught by an ad for the new Hollywood Hotel and dining room. By late afternoon she had checked in and was almost as quickly a shareholder. Within a couple of years she was launched on a whole new career path as the hotel’s sole owner. Whipping out her sketchpad, she celebrated by planning an expansion enthusiastically embellishing it with cupolas, balconies, arches and awnings inventing as she went a style one might call “Victorian-Mission.” The new wings allowed for her own personal quarters, a ballroom, a chapel and a really swell music room, the whole of it surrounded by green lawns and gorgeous gardens.
In her natal years as a hotelier,
By 1910 film folk began moving in and it became the favorite caravansary for moviemakers, including Mabel Normand, Alla Nazamova and Rudolph Valentino, above whose customary dining tables glittered stars emblazoned with their names. The hotel was sometimes turned into a movie set. One of those occasions came in 1914 for the first feature-length comedy film, Tillie’s Punctured Romance, starring Mabel, Marie Dressler and Charlie Chaplin.
While the wide veranda was fancied most especially by more mature residents for their congenial gossip and brag fests, younger guests were attracted to the hotel’s Thursday afternoon tea dances at which Valentino sometimes thrilled with the tango. No Irene Castle, Almira Hershey was nevertheless keen about dancing; what she lacked in rhythm she made up in zeal. In judicious response to duty, all the young men lined up to twirl her about the dance floor from the first tune to the last, cranked out by a three-piece ensemble.
Around the turn of the twentieth century, leaking out from the city’s core on it’s 16-mile swoop to the sea,
Outside, the Hershey Arms was an English Renaissance glory with semi-tropical gardens; inside it was airy and exotically furnished, a package that proved popular with winter visitors and society women. Miss Hershey never actually operated the hotel. Rather it was leased out to another commanding woman: vociferous animal activist Helen Mathewson, fresh from her gig managing
Hershey’s third hoteling venture was in some ways the most intriguing. On the outskirts of
On its face, the Napoli Hotel bore a resemblance to its Hollywood Hotel sister: a pale-toned stucco edifice capped by a roof of red tiles. It was distinguished by fine woodworking details and beneath its twin cupolas reclined a large loggia from which perch the expansive vista might be enjoyed. The interior was an orgy of swanky 1909 elegance. But the hotel never took in paying guests!
Always as peppy as the Energizer Bunny, Almira Hershey not only managed her considerable assets and ran a busy hotel; she was endowed with a sharp sense of civic obligation and sturdily burnished her adopted community through activities with various organizations. One of them was reform-minded Caroline Severance’s Friday Morning Club, the special interests of which were women’s education and suffrage.
She also held lifetime memberships in Charles Lummis’ groups: the Landmarks Club was concerned with the repair and conservation of the California missions, the Sequoya League provided food rations to Indian people, and the Southwest Society (which segued into the
She created housing for Normal School students, the first being her own
Miss Hershey played a significant role in the genesis of the Hollywood Bowl. Her hotel functioned as headquarters for the Hollywood Bowl Association, and during the Bowl’s formative days was the scene of a good deal of verbal action. Hershey made fifty acres known as Daisy Dell, which enfolded the natural amphitheatre, available to the association for just $20,000.00. It took $27,000.00 to obtain from others the remaining nine acres needed for the project. Here, again, she kept a low profile and some histories of the Hollywood Bowl’s formation make little or no mention of her, or else she is referred to as “anonymous.”
Philanthropic and formidable, Hershey’s tireless respectability was balanced by a certain disheveled klutziness, evidenced by broach disguised gravy spots on her dresses, the sheer number of which lent her an air of a lavishly war-medaled general. The monthly misplacement of her Ohio Electric car when visiting her downtown attorney was another example of doddering dignity. When her business with the lawyer was nearly complete, his secretary would simply put out a call for the police to go find the missing vehicle.
On March 6, 1930 Almira Hershey died at her beloved Hollywood Hotel. Her benevolence towards
It wasn’t discovered till after her death that some five years earlier Hershey had been the financial founder of an affiliate of
Usually identified as Mira or
 His year at Keystone culminated with the first feature-length comedy film, “TILLIE’S PUNCTURED ROMANCE” starring Marie Dressler with Charlie Chaplin and Mabel Normand ).
 1952, Hopper, Hedda, FROM UNDER MY HAT “The Thursday night dances at the hotel were almost as famous as those at the old Sixty Club in
The hotel was owned by a maiden lady named Hershey, a member of the chocolate family. She ran things in a haphazard manner, and it was years before she caught onto the fact that actors sometimes will enter actresses’ rooms.”
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photos of the Hollywood Bowl site are from, Kirsten Anderberg & Bruce Terrence website