L.A.’s oldest neon sign will finally shine again

Phillip Dane

If you made your way through Westlake in 1927, you would have seen the glamorous Hotel Californian topped with two glowing, 40-foot neon signs. It was a pretty special sight back then, and, tonight, 90 years later, one of them will shine again after being restored and relit at its original location.

Neon signs were still a new invention when Hotel Californian erected theirs on the rooftop at Sixth Street and Bonnie Brae. With time, the novelty wore off and the neighborhood changed around the hotel. Eventually, a 1995 fire left the building demolished and the remains of the neon were packed away in storage for the next 20 years.

That was when neon restoration expert Paul Greenstein rescued one of the historic signs and decided to go to work.

“It’s one of the earliest—if not the earliest—remaining signs in Los Angeles, which in and of itself gives it a cachet that not many other things have,” Greenstein told Curbed L.A.

Painstakingly restored, the sign has at last been returned to the top of a new building built on the site of the old Hotel Californian. Now known as the Paseo at Californian, the complex opened on Thursday, offering affordable apartments for 53 lower-income families, with a bit of L.A. history to go along with it.   

So, whatever happened to the other Hotel Californian sign? It isn’t known for sure, but rumor has it that actress Diane Keaton bought it and has it in her backyard, serving as some pretty unique lawn art.  

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