For a brief moment back in the late 1920s, Chevy Chase Drive connected the Biltmore resort hotel in Flintridge with the elegant Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. The connection? A bus, a De Luxe Parlor Car Bus.
The hilltop resort, first called the Flintridge Hotel, was the brainchild of Frank P. Flint, a retired senator, landowner and real estate magnate, and was designed by noted Southern California architect Myron Hunt, who also designed the Ambassador Hotel.
Known as the father of Flintridge, Flint had opened some 1,500 of his acres for development in 1917. Then he came up with a new idea — a luxury hotel — and by 1926, construction was underway.
Overlooking the San Gabriel Valley and the Rose Bowl — and designed to hold 150 guests — the hotel was estimated to cost $750,000, according to the Nov. 20, 1926, edition of the Glendale Evening News.
It was situated on St. Katherine Drive, in the highest part of Flintridge, and the bungalows, gardens, guest rooms, lounges, dining rooms, swimming pool, miniature golf course and tennis court took up 30 of Flint's acres.
Much of his remaining property went up for sale at the same time through Flintridge Co., at Berkshire and Commonwealth avenues.
During construction, several old olive trees were relocated from the valley below. The hotel — with miles of bridle trails and a riding academy — opened to great acclaim.
Then, suddenly, while on board a steamship on a world tour, Flint died. An impressive memorial service for the former senator took place in the rotunda of Los Angeles City Hall. After a private funeral in the Flint family home, he was buried at Forest Lawn.
The hotel never had more than 10 guests and only lasted two seasons, according to the July 19, 1978, edition of the Glendale News-Press. Its remote location, coupled with Flint's sudden death in February, 1929, and the faltering economy, caused the hotel to fail and his heirs sold it to the Biltmore Hotel group.
During this time, Bart Farrar, developer of the recently subdivided Chevy Chase estates, came up with a plan to provide a shuttle bus between the downtown Biltmore at Fifth and Olive streets and the hilltop Biltmore in Flintridge, "exclusively for hotel guests and Chevy Chase residents," according to a brochure from the time.
But, the Biltmore hoteliers also found the hilltop resort too expensive to maintain and soon closed it, just as the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose were planning a convent and girls' school on land they had purchased in Sierra Madre.
Hearing about the closure, the head of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles contacted the Sisters and suggested that the abandoned hotel might suit their needs. Following his advice, the Sisters purchased the entire resort — including the nine original buildings, hotel furnishings and surrounding land — at auction for $150,000.
The school, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, was founded in August 1931, when three Dominican Sisters traveled up the hill to take possession, carrying with them a single $5 bill and a statue of the Blessed Mother, according to the school's website.
The academy opened with 200 students enrolled in first through 12th grades. Now a high school, it draws both local and international students.
Sean Bersell, executive director of the Glendale Historical Society, is wondering what happened to a globe lamp with an eagle on top that stood at the northwest corner of Brand Boulevard and Broadway from 1930 to 1980.
"An April 1980 item in the News-Press indicated that the globe, which capped a ventilation shaft for underground restrooms, was removed as part of the redevelopment of the block," Bersell wrote in an email. "The article noted that the globe was crated and taken to the city yard on Airway for 'safekeeping.' A recent inquiry to the city revealed that the city no longer has the globe and doesn't know what happened to it."
Anyone with information on what became of the globe can contact Bersell at email@example.com.
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