Photo above by Brian Addison. Videos courtesy of Ulises Roman.
For Long Beach realtor Joshua Garcia, living in the Sovereign in DTLB—located at 360 W Ocean, it is one of the oldest historic buildings in DTLB, having finished construction in 1923—was an honor.
Old but refined, historic, and representative of a time that no longer exists architecturally, Garcia felt like the privilege of living in such a building should be shared and, partnering with Long Beach videographer Ulises Roman, decided to take on a passion project that is focused on showing off some of the city’s most spectacularly historic structures.
“So many people drive, walk, and bike past these buildings from the outside almost everyday, not really knowing the uniqueness on the inside or viewing the building from all possible angles,” Garcia said. “It’s about the celebration of our past, our culture—and stepping inside the buildings that have helped create that culture. I mean, for me, I was astonished at what was inside my own building: the caged elevator, the lobby, the solarium, rooftop… Felt very New York-ish in a Long Beach sense.”
With these nuances, Roman tackled the Sovereign first, complete with a flapper-gone-happy soundtrack and sound editing that harkens to precisely what Garcia felt was so unique about the place he lived.
“The Villa Riviera is a perfect example of what the Sovereign was: this incredible building that that oozes with class and everyone in Long Beach loves—yet I don’t know a single person who had ever been in there or knew someone who lived in there,” Roman said. “So it became essential at that point to just showcase the architectural history of Long Beach.”
The Villa Riviera at 800 Ocean Blvd. is arguably Long Beach’s most distinct and appreciated building. Standing at 16 stories, this French new-Gothic masterpiece by architect Richard D. King was completed in 1929 at a cost of $2.75M. King dubbed the building “Tudor Gothic” with its steep, verdigris roofing and gargoyles watching over its residents.
It quickly became a playground for the cinema elite and wealthy alike, with tales of the likes of Charlie Chaplin hosting elaborate if not outright decadent parties.
“A few years ago a neighbor of mine was remodeling their unit when they found a false wall in the bedroom closet containing champagne and alcohol from the 1930s and invitations for a secret prohibition-era parties that were held in the building,” said Villa Riviera resident Baktaash Sorkhabi. “If these walls could talk!”
Long before it became the first building on the West Coast to be converted into condos, the Lafayette Building in DTLB was one of the city’s premiere hotels. Completed in 1928 at a cost of $700K, its signature Spanish Baroque-style facade was a typical approach before Art Deco took over other parts of major buildings in Long Beach. (The terra cotta details on its façade that soon became harder and harder to find are nothing short of breathtaking.)
By 1956, famed architectural group Killingsworth, Brady, and Smith created the $400K addition that sits just north and east of the building’s front and boasted of 51 “deluxe lanai” rooms, a palm garden, and a heated swimming pool. Erected in the parking lot behind the hotel, it is now known as the Inn of Long Beach.
“We want to take the project further by interviewing residents, docents, local historians, and so on so that we can share these stories as they are attached to the structures and history,” Garcia said. “I feel that’s the best way to capture the buildings essence and also provide depth. Basically create a mini documentary series that shows of the pride that residents, let alone the city, have in these buildings; that pride is deeply rooted and I feel that needs to be shared with others to inspire, to appreciate, and to celebrate Long Beach’s roots.”