The red brick walls of the Boyle Hotel – known to many in Boyle Heights as the Mariachi Hotel – have been shrouded under scaffolding and a black veil for several months now. Under that black screen, designed to keep down dust, construction workers are transforming the interior of the 1889 Boyle Heights landmark into 31 affordable apartments that will overlook Mariachi Plaza at First Street and Boyle Avenue.
What does the old hotel, built by George Cummings, look like under the veil? Ernesto Espinoza, Director of Real Estate Development for The East Los Angeles Community Corp., the nonprofit developer in charge of the $24.6 million project, gave The Eastsider a tour of the Victorian Italianate-style building, which is scheduled to once again house residents by May 2012.
The project, which includes the construction of a new apartment building attached to the hotel, features a new shell of reinforced concrete behind existing brick walls to help the three-story building withstand earthquakes. There is also, of course, all new electrical, plumbing and heating systems. All that work and more has to be done while protecting historic features – including decorative cast iron columns, wood stairway posts and rails and even old graffiti carved into bricks by decades of tenants.
The restoration also included the challenging job of restoring the barrel-shaped turret and cupola that jutted out from the top of the building above First and Boyle. “It’s going to be a great little room,” Espinoza said.
The semi-circular room in the turret is part of what the project teams calls “Tea Room.” Most likely used as a gathering space for hotel guests, the Tea Room was eventually transformed into an apartment, Espinoza said. As part of the restoration, workers had to rebuild a platform that tied the semi-circular room and cupola above to the main structure.
On the exterior, a portion of the decorative sheet metal that wraps around the turret had to be temporarily removed during the construction. Curved wood windows, which are being made on site, will be installed in the turret, framing views down First Street and Boyle Avenue. The cupola, which had been removed years ago, will be replaced with a replica created out of light-weight material, Espinoza said. But, unlike the original cupola shown in the vintage photo, residents won’t be able to walk to the very top to enjoy the view (sorry).
When the Boyle Hotel is reopened, The Tea room will once again serve as a communal meeting space. Espinoza said that perhaps even mariachis, who once resided in the hotel, will be able to practice in the room overlooking Mariachi Plaza, where musicians-for-hire roam the square.