For decades, the Biltmore Hotel was a landmark in Hermosa Beach as one of the tallest buildings in the South Bay when it first opened as the Surf and Sand Club in 1926.
The Biltmore was razed more than five decades ago, but its history will be celebrated with the 10th and final mural from the Hermosa Beach Murals Project this fall.
At its last meeting, the Hermosa Beach City Council approved the project, which will cover the west wall at 1223 Hermosa Ave. Chase Bank is now a tenant, but that was the site of the Bijou Theater, which opened as the Metropolitan Theatre in 1923. It is now considered a historic building so the project had to be approved by the city.
Steve Izant, president of the Mural Project's board, said the Biltmore Hotel mural is by far the largest the Murals Project has done. The mural will be 3,300 square feet, covering the 40-foot high building that stretches 70-feet on the upper level and 90-feet wide at the building's base.
Izant added that cost of the first nine murals averaged $25,000 to $35,000 each, while the Biltmore mural is estimated to cost $125,000.
“The challenge is that all of our murals have always been privately funded,” Izant said. “We've never taken any city or county or state or federal or art grant money. This is money that we're going to have to raise from the citizens of the South Bay. And of course, we have a great group of supporters.”
The Murals Project has tackled the city’s eclectic history, from punk rock to volleyball, through art including the work by John Pugh, whose “Hermosa Beach West Coast Jazz” was the project’s third mural. That mural is an example of Trompe l'oeil, French for "deceive the eye.” It is a style of still life painting that appears three dimensional and has a photographic-like quality.
Pugh was chosen as the artist for the Biltmore mural, which will be painted in the same style. In a phone interview, Pugh said he will be working on most of the mural in his studio near Lake Tahoe and will be coming to Hermosa Beach early November to start the project. The upper part of the mural is a thin fabric that will be applied like wallpaper.
Once the project is completed, a durable product will be used to protect the mural from the coastal elements.
“There's no reason at all that this mural can’t be out there for a 100 years,” Pugh said.
Founded by former Hermosa Beach councilmember Chuck Sheldon and five friends in 2009, the project’s goal was to fund 10 murals in 10 years.
The former Biltmore Hotel, which officially opened 1926 as the private Surf and Sand Club, became the Biltmore in the 1930s. It was later taken over by the National Youth Administration and later a ministry while it was fallen in disrepair, according to Daily Breeze columnist San Gnerre.
After its destruction in 1969, according to Gnerre, numerous uses were debated for years for the land until Joe and Betty Noble donated $90,000 to cover some construction costs for a park. Noble Park, located at 1400 The Strand, opened in 1995.
For more information or to donate to the project, visit hermosamurals.org.