Aztec Hotel, Monrovia, California, USA
When it opened in 1925, the Aztec Hotel was not only the most ornate hotel in Monrovia, it was also the first attempt to apply the principles of Mayan art and architecture to modern American buildings. Located along an early alignment of Route 66, the hotel quickly became Monrovia’s premier hostelry and an architectural curiosity in the area. Today, it is the most highly visible landmark in the city, the first of a very few remaining Mayan-styled buildings in the United States, and one of the more unique lodging establishments on Route 66.
Inspired by John L. Stephen’s book, Incidents of Travel in Central America: Chiapas and Yucatan, architect Robert B. Stacy-Judd designed the building, which he named the ‘Aztec’ because he believed that the general public was better acquainted with that tribe than with the Maya. Mr. Stacy-Judd constructed the building on a modest budget concentrating most of the ornamentation along the rooflines, on the building corners, and around the entrance structure to the lobby. Stepped projections, square spires, and geometric designs are reminiscent of Mayan pyramids and art in Mexico. Mr. Stacy-Judd also included Mayan mosaics, murals, and reliefs in the interior to continue the theme inside. The lobby furniture completed the effect with Aztec, Toltec, and Inca designs, and even the electrical fixtures exhibited a Mayan motif.
The publicity associated with the hotel’s completion spurred an almost immediate response, influencing the design of buildings across the country including the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles, the Beach and Yacht Club in La Jolla, and the Mayan Hotel in Kansas City. New companies sprung up manufacturing furniture, tile, fixtures, and other items of Mayan design. The Mayan style proved to be a short-lived phenomenon, however, and effectively died out by the end of the 1920s.
In 1931, the realignment of Route 66 bypassed the Aztec Hotel. Although its lifespan on a commissioned Route 66 alignment was brief, the hotel remains a popular icon on the route. It is now one of only a few remaining Mayan styled buildings in the country.
The Aztec Hotel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. With grant assistance from the National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, the hotel’s owners began restoration in 2000, by removing the façade’s stucco using water pressure to reveal the original Mayan glyphs. Work on the building has focused on preserving as much of the original ornamentation as possible.
The Aztec Hotel is located at 311 West Foothill Blvd. in Monrovia, CA. The hotel has 44 rooms and the complex includes the Mayan Room Restaurant, banquet facilities, and a courtyard. Contact the hotel at 626-358-3231.
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