One of the objectives of the Alla Nazimova Society is to identify and locate artifacts related to the legacy of Madame Nazimova. Among the items at the top of this list is a scale model of the Garden of Allah Hotel, which was once displayed in the bank building that now occupies the property where Nazimova’s home, which was later converted into the the hotel, once stood.
Thanks to the diligence of Society co-founder, Martin Turnbull, we have located and examined this model, which is in a private home in West Hollywood. The good news is that the model, now 53-year-old, appears to be in excellent shape. The original airtight case is long gone but the current owner has built a new glass case joined with brackets.
Martin published photos and an article about the find here: “One Man’s Search for the Garden of Allah Scale Model.”
Here, briefly, is what we know so far about the history and provenance of the model.
The scale model of the Garden of Allah Hotel was commissioned by savings-and-loan owner Bart Lytton who purchased the hotel in the spring of 1959. The model depicts the hotel as it looked in its final days, including a 1956 extension of the hotel bar at the back of the main house facing the pool, as well as modern signage at the corner of Sunset and Havenhurst. The model was likely commissioned prior to the hotel’s demolition in the fall of 1959 and was completed by June 1960, when it was installed and on display in time for the S&L’s grand opening.
The model remained in the bank lobby for many years, even after Lytton Savings changed hands in 1959. In 1970, a photo of it appeared on the dust jacket of Sheilah Graham’s history of the hotel, The Garden of Allah.
In 1981, I happened upon the model myself during a visit from the East Coast to Los Angeles, when it caught my eye as I strolled down the Strip. I remember going into the bank and having a look, but I had no idea what it was, really. If I’d heard of the Garden of Allah then, it was only a vague memory. It’s funny how the mind plays tricks. I’d remembered the model as being quite a bit larger than it is.
At some point in the 1990s, the bank changed hands again, and the new owners had the model removed from the lobby and placed in storage on the property. Someone in authority at the shopping center later gave the model to its current owner, who says he has had it for about 15 years.
One significant piece of information missing from this history is the identity of the model’s creator(s). If you know who built the model in 1959-1960 or have additional information about the model, please let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments section of this article.
Jon Ponder | Oct 18, 2013