The Hermoyne Apartments, 569 N. Rossmore Ave., directly across from the Ravenswood Apartments, via Google Street View.
Still as gorgeous and stately as when it opened in 1929, the Hermoyne Apartments at 569 N.Rossmore Ave. demonstrates the best in high-class apartment hotels built around Los Angeles in the late 1920s. Offering a touch of class in amenities as well as looks, the residence seems as luxurious as any movie pied a terre, located on a graceful curve of Rossmore Avenue.
H. B. (Herbert) Squires, owner of his self-named company, which served as one of the largest purveyors of electric equipment to the motion picture and other large industries in the 1920s, looked for a safe investment to grow his wealth. Beginning as a town assessor in 1907, by the early 1920s Squires ran a large company in San Francisco. Within a few years, he opened branches in Seattle and in Los Angeles at 229 Boyd St.
Mary Mallory’s “Living With Grace” is now on sale.
A postcard view of the Hermoyne Apartments, via the Los Angeles Public Library.
Though he lived in Pasadena, Squires realized that the best return on his investment was probably in Los Angeles. He acquired property at 569 N. Rossmore Ave., pulling a permit February 9, 1929, to construct a Class A, 156 room, 54-unit apartment hotel. The Los Angeles Times article that Squires would spend $425,000 to construct the seven-story building. Architect Leonard Jones estimated that 190,000 tons of steel would be needed to build the swanky address, which received its certificate of occupancy January 2, 1930.
From its beginnings, the building was called the Hermoyne Apartments,, but no stories report on the history of the name. Squires’ first name was Herbert, so possibly the beginning is in honor of him, but I find no links to anything with the word “moyne.” His wife’s name was Mary and none of his companies’ offices were located on a street using the name.
The Hermoyne offered certain amenities very rare at the time, for both permanent as well as temporary residents. Not only did the apartment hotel feature subterranean parking, it also contained a large indoor heated pool and its own private gymnasium with sun-bath booths on the roof. Sports minded guests could play on the property’s tennis court or take advantage of privileges at the nearby Los Angeles Tennis Club. A commissary provided meals as well as catering for residents, who could entertain guests in a private dining room or special club rooms. All residences included daily maid service, and a cook, butler and chauffeur were always available on call.
Suites of various sizes served the needs of any resident or guest. Apartments ranged from one bedroom to four, and could be rented daily for short stays, or by the month. Day rates ranged from $3 to $5, and monthly rates started at $50, with bachelor apartments costing $60 to $80 a month, singles $90 to $125, doubles $150 to $225 and triples $225 to $350. Four and five-room suites cost $350 to $450.
A circa 1934 advertising brochure extolled the swanky building. “The Hermoyne is a truly distinctive residential apartment of unusual charm. Its luxurious appointments and exceptional service facilities are thoroughly attuned to present day requirements for gracious living, yet every detail is consonant with the spirit of home…
The Hermoyne was planned and built with the same thoughtful care one would exercise in the construction of a fine mansion. Its location was chosen to afford the quiet seclusion of a residential section, away from the noisy din of overcrowded streets and boulevards, and yet it is just a few minutes from everywhere.”
Interior features were just as sleek as exteriors, with “a spacious lobby, beautiful new French Room, elegantly appointed private dining and club rooms.” The spacious, furnished apartments contained high end linens, fixtures, and furnishings, along with “generous closet space and wide windows which afford perfect ventilation.” Some even offered “private screened and glass enclosed porches.”
Thanks to its swanky living and location near motion picture studios, the Hermoyne attracted celebrity clientele as well as society folk. The Los Angeles Times and New York Daily News reported actress Estelle Taylor lived there during her separation from boxer Jack Dempsey in 1930 and 1931. Spanish actress Conchita Montenegro resided in the building during the early 1930s as she shot Spanish-language films for MGM. Singer Ruth Etting stayed for a short time in 1938 while in Hollywood.
The French consul threw an elaborate party for guests attending the 1932 Olympics in one of its special rooms, while director Alexander Markey hosted the New Zealand Olympic team in its dining room. Society folk also resided in the building, hosting everything from teas to luncheons to private receptions.
While the Hermoyne always maintained an air of respectable gentility, it also witnessed various changes in ownership and financial status through its history. Squires perhaps experienced financial difficulties in the early 1930s, because 1932 alteration permits list Pacific State Savings and Loan Association as owner. The company did offer mortgages and appeared to manage many properties during this time. By 1936, permits show Allied Properties, owner of such luxurious properties as Santa Barbara’s Biltmore Hotel, San Francisco’s Clift Hotel, and the West Hollywood Sunset Towers, as the registered owner. Newspaper stories reported an affiliation of the two.
In 1939, Robert S. Odell, President of Pacific States Saving and Loan, and Gerald D. White, Vice President of the same company were both charged with violating the Bankruptcy Act, as they contacted other company executives asking that certain records be sent to the Hermoyne, where they were destroyed before they could be turned over to federal authorities.
As the case with Odell dragged on into the mid-1940s, State Building and Loan Commissioner Frank C. Mortimer demanded that the Hermoyne be sold for lack of maintenance. Jacob L. Vitz from Chicago purchased the building for $435,000 in 1945, and soon fell into trouble himself. Judge Peirson M. Hall sentenced him to six months in jail for willfully violating his probation on an earlier charge for breaking rent control laws. Not only did he charge residents above what the city allowed, Vitz also illegally received lucrative bonuses to allow others to move in
In 1953, scandal fell on the property when Dr. Bernhart Schwartz physically confronted his wife, who lived in the building with their children during the couple’s separation. Pulling a gun out of his pocket, he shot Mrs. Schwartz three times as their children watched. Son Barry tried to protect his mother, running towards her as he yelled, “Daddy is trying to kill mama,” which brought the neighbors
Trying to stay up to date, the Hermoyne added an outdoor pool in 1950 along with other refurbishments. Since that time, it has been updated to move into the modern age. The building has passed through multiple hands since 1959, but still operates as a high-class apartment, though without the elaborate furnished rooms. It stands as classy and elegant as ever, on the graceful stretch of Rossmore Avenue.