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LA Athletic Club offers glimpse into a historic Downtown social scene

By Hayley Fox
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012, at 09:17AM
Hayley Fox

The Los Angeles Athletic Club was founded in 1880 and existed in this same building on 7th since 1912. It celebrates its 100th birthday this year.

The nearly 100-year-old L.A. Athletic club and hotel is located on 7th street in the heart of Downtown, and it offers a lesson in L.A. history that most museums, architectural structures or walking tours can't provide.

In a vein that's much more New York than Los Angeles, the 12-floor, old-school club includes 3-stories of hotel, a grand ballroom, a snack bar, sports bar and sit-down restaurant. The hotel is clean and comfortable but not lavish or luxurious; chairs are often leather while the walls are made of dark wood and adorned with nostalgic photos of turn-of-the-century sports and athletes.

Founded in 1880, the club's Downtown location opened in 1912. Historically, it consisted mostly of men, and although the crowd seems to be slowly diversifying to encompass families and young professionals, there is still a palpable presence of the club's male-oriented heyday (you can almost smell the cognac and cigars).

On St. Patrick's Day in the bar, a choir of older gentlemen sang Irish tunes while bartenders doled out generous samples of whiskey while children ran around playing with sparkly green four-leaf clovers. There is a real sense of familiarity among the staff and the club members -- and hotel guests seem to be afforded this same relationship.

The entire building smells like popcorn -- emanating from the snack bar where the free salty snack is served all day, and where one can sip a cold Corona and talk about their squash game.

The top three floors of the club is the hotel: The rooms received almost a complete makeover in 2009 when the bedrooms "went down to the bare walls" and received new carpets and furniture custom-made for the club, explained Teri Onorato of the hotel.

Prices for a room start at $159 and suites begin at $299 -- but rates vary depending on the time of year and what's going on Downtown.

Onorato said during the week they host a lot of corporate stays, while on the weekend they mostly accommodate parties.

This hotel may not be suited for the burgeoning hip, young party crowds of DTLA (this is not The Standard by an means) -- but the L.A. Athletic Club is a completely unique experience. It's also relatively quiet for being in the middle of Downtown (besides the occasional squeal from a child in the pool or passing police siren outside.)

The biggest bonus to booking a hotel room is the access to the workout facilities -- a lap pool, basketball court and elliptical trainers with personal TVs. The locker rooms include hot tubs, steam rooms, and for the ladies -- a beauty salon.

Many of the sports club's younger members seem to be either 30-something professionals who work in or near Downtown, or couples with small children who take advantage of the family friendly amenities, which include $2 babysitting and a designated kiddie pool.

The Los Angeles Athletic Club is located at 431 West 7th Street near the intersection of 7th and Olive


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