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Wilshire Grand Hotel closes doors after 59 years

December 23, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Walking through the Wilshire Grand, you can imagine the history.

When it opened in 1952 it was a place where you came to be seen, when locals and tourists would come just to hang out at the bar.

"Hotels were like the social center of society down here. If you look at our rooms, they're very small, but we have three lobby levels, and that's because people didn't go to a hotel to luxuriate in the room, they went to mingle and meet people," said the Wilshire Grand's Marc Loge.

The hotel was hoping to refurbish the building, but officials discovered it was too expensive. The 60-year-old design was just not energy efficient.

It will be replaced with a new 45 story hotel and a 65 story office building, the tallest building west of the Mississippi.

Richard Macias was the last guest to check out Friday. He has come to the Wilshire Grand for business many times.

"It's a sad to see it leave, but almost all great buildings had something else in their space before they were built, and there will be a great new part of Downtown when the new hotel opens," Macias said.

The kitchen is nearly empty now, but it has served many fancy meals. Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy stayed at the hotel, as well as Pope John Paul II.

Head Chef Daniel Fenessy remembers the Miss Universe pageant when the contestants stayed at the Wilshire Grand for a month.

"You would think they didn't eat a lot, with these ladies trying to keep their figures and whatnot, but they ate like horses. They got a lot of exercising and a lot of workouts. I was amazed, I think they ate more than I usually eat, which is hard to do," Fenessy said.

"I started working here in 1965, October of 1965," said hotel employee Ramiro Moguel, who was just 22 years old when he first went to work at the Wilshire Grand.

Friday was also his last day. Although he is retiring, leaving the Wilshire Grand is like saying goodbye to his second family.

"I feel very sad because as a family, I've got people working with me for 35 years, we know each other. But things have to happen like that, there's nothing we can do about it to change it," Moguel said.

Some people at the Wilshire Grand say it will never be the same. The new hotel is expected to open in the year 2015.


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