The Rise and Fall of Pico House: A Tale of Wealth, Luxury, and Loss

The Pico House in downtown Los Angeles is one of the city’s most iconic buildings. This historic hotel was once the most luxurious place to stay in the city, and its elegant Italianate Victorian design is still awe-inspiring today.

LA’s first luxury hotel

The Pico House was built in 1870 by Pio Pico, a wealthy man who had been the governor of Alta California. Pico spent $80,000 on the hotel, which was an enormous sum of money in those days – in fact, it would be equivalent to over $2 million today! The hotel was designed by American architect Ezra Kysor, who was clearly inspired by early Victorian era architecture.

Italianate Victorian design

The Pico House was LA’s first luxury hotel, and it was a real showstopper. The hotel had 80 bedrooms, each with running water and gas lighting, as well as 21 parlors for entertaining and socializing. The hotel also had a French restaurant in the courtyard, which was a popular destination for the city’s elite.

Despite its grandeur, the Pico House’s history is not all glamorous. Pio Pico lost his fortune due to scams and gambling, and he was eventually forced to sell the hotel for just $16,000. This is equivalent to around $323,513 in today’s money – still a lot of money, but a fraction of what the hotel had originally cost to build.

Transfer of ownership

The Pico House changed hands several times over the years, and it was eventually acquired by the state of California in 1953. Today, the hotel is a historic landmark that attracts visitors from all over the world.

A San Francisco bank got rich

The San Francisco Savings & Loan Company became the owner of the Hotel in 1876 because of all the debts Pico accumulated. If you didn’t know, at the time San Francisco was the 8th largest city in the United States. Entrepreneurs opened banks because of the gold rush, so the bigger banks in California were in San Francisco

The United States had its centennial in 1876 and the transcontinental train arrives Los Angeles for the first time from San Francisco. Los Angeles was no longer a small outpost. In 1885, Santa Fe Railroad arrives for the first time and people filled into Los Angeles. In 1880 the population was 5,000 and 1890, the population grew 50,000. By 1900, the population rose to 100,000. If Pio Pico still had his hotel, who knows how Los Angeles will be today?

In addition to its fascinating history, the Pico House is also notable for its stunning architecture. The Italianate Victorian design is truly breathtaking, and it is one of the few remaining examples of this style in the United States. The hotel occupies an entire city block, and its ornate facade and grand interior spaces are a testament to the opulence of the late 19th century.

All in all, the Pico House is a fascinating piece of Los Angeles history that is well worth exploring. Whether you’re interested in architecture, history, or just want to soak up the ambiance of a bygone era, this stunning hotel is sure to impress.

All images above are shot by me and copyrighted.