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Neon To Burn

The Rosslyn Hotel sign is again looking like a million bucks

September 03, 2000|DAVID STORK

Instead of rusting in the sky, the massive "Million Dollar Hotel" signs atop the 14-story Rosslyn Hotel will once again live up to their name and illuminate the darkened streets of downtown. The signs, which face Boyle Heights, are part of the planned neon restoration of Broadway and the city's historic core.

"It's an inexpensive way to bring back the city," says neon-sign restorer Ray Neal of Standard Electrical Services, who is leading the $65,000 city project.

Brothers Dwight and George Hart, who in 1914 and 1923 opened the two buildings that compose the Rosslyn, coined it the "Million Dollar Hotel" because of the cost of construction. "They obviously had money to burn," Neal says. "The quality of the workmanship and materials was first class."

To keep down maintenance costs on the signs, the restorers switched from incandescent bulbs to neon gaslight. But the encompassing heart that surrounds the signs, a representative symbol of the George and Dwight "Hart" project, will retain its incandescent lighting. "Neon is more visible and much cheaper to run," Neal says. "Cold light versus hot light; it makes a big difference in the bill at the end of the year."

Neal repainted the drab metal signs to the original colors of red, blue, yellow and green. "We had to pull off screw heads to check the paint color underneath," says Adolfo Nodal, Los Angeles cultural affairs general manager. The Rosslyn, on 5th and Main streets, is his latest effort to restore the long-dormant historic neon signs that dot city rooftops. "It was our contribution to spruce up downtown for the Democratic National Convention," Nodal says. "We also wanted East L.A. to benefit."

Though the signs will glow with nostalgic glamour, the Rosslyn is a shadow of its former self. Now split into two hotels--the 264-room Rosslyn and the 422-room Frontier--a single costs between $14 and $27.80 per night, depending on which side of 5th you sleep on.

DNC delegates slept elsewhere.

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