Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

Arts and Entertainment

The Infamous Cecil Hotel Is Getting A Chic Makeover From An NYC Hotelier

LAist relies on your reader support.
Your tax-deductible gift today powers our reporters and keeps us independent. We rely on you, our reader, not paywalls to stay funded because we believe important news and information should be freely accessible to all.


Downtown's infamous Cecil Hotel has rebranded once already, but it's still known as a horror hotel, haunted by a strange, tragic death and the previous residency of two treacherous serial killers. Now, a New York hotel mogul has plans to turn the hotel into something hip. The Cecil Hotel—now called the Stay on Main, though much of the original signage remains—has been through a lot. Serial killer Richard Ramirez once lived there, as well as Austrian serial killer Jack Unteweger. Canadian tourist Elisa Lam, who went missing in 2013, turned up dead in the water tank on the roof of the hotel. Though her death was ultimately ruled an accident, numerous conspiracy theorists say otherwise, and to this day, no one's entirely certain how it happened. American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy indicated the hotel inspired this current season of the FX horror anthology series, and mentioned watching a surveillance footage tape of Lam in the Cecil's elevator from the night she died.

Richard Born, however, is hoping to change that. He bought the Cecil Hotel in 2014 for $30 million, according to Details. He has several properties in New York, including the Mercer, the Bowery Hotel, the Ludlow and The Jane. The Jane, located at the corner of Jane and West street in Greenwich Village, opened in 1908 as the American Seaman's Friend Society Sailors' Home and Institute. As the name might suggest, sailors coming through the Port of New York frequented the hotel and notably, Titanic survivors stayed at the hotel in 1912 during the investigation into the ship's sinking. According to the New York Times, the hotel fell into disrepair in the '80s and much like the Cecil, was something of a residence hotel, housing the poor and drug addicts. Now it's a hip, nautical-themed hotel that offers pod-style rooms for $99/night.

The Cecil Hotel fell from glory soon after it opened in 1924. The Great Depression came along, and soon it was transients and drug addicts staying in the rooms instead of traveling professionals, according to Curbed LA. There were some plans to convert the hotel into SRO housing in 2014, but they was rejected after neighbors complained that a concentration of services would only make Skid Row worse.

Born told Details that his team has "taken over some pretty spooky buildings in New York," referencing the The Bowery Hotel's proximity to a methadone clinic when they took over the property.

Support for LAist comes from

"People today say, 'Oh, the Bowery Hotel—what a chichi neighborhood.' Well, it wasn't that way a dozen years ago." The Bowery Hotel now apparently has a penthouse you can rent for $30,000/month.

Born thinks that his rebranding of the Cecil in two years is far enough away that American Horror Story's current season will have faded from memory by then. There will be new restaurants and bars inside, and he even intends to put a wading pool on the roof. There are currently numerous signs warning guests not to try to get up onto the roof, something a lot of morbidly curious sorts might like to do. Prior to Lam's death, access to the roof was only available via fire escapes and a door that sounded an alarm if a key card—one only employees should have possessed—wasn't used. In a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Lam's parents, the Cecil's attorneys have defended the hotel, saying that it would have been unreasonable to think that any guest would get up onto the roof, onto the platform where the four water tanks were located, climb up the tank and get inside. It's weird to think of people casually coming to this place to soak up some rays and dip their feet.

Born said that when the Cecil's new identity is complete, it won't be like the Ritz-Carlton, but "it's going to be a place where you can stay for $150 a night and be proud. Everyone in downtown L.A. is going to want to charge $300 to $400 a night. When everyone zigs, I want to zag."