Inside Downtown Los Angeles's Iconic Feminist Hotel Makeover

Courtesy Hotel Figueroa

Once upon a time in a faraway land where women weren’t allowed to vote or wear pants or even check into hotels on their own, there was an organization (the YWCA) and a woman (Maude Bouldin, the first female hotel manager in the country) determined to change it all. You see, in order to book a room at a hotel in the 1920s, a woman needed a male counterpart to co-sign her stay. But the YWCA was determined to change that. Their goal was to create a safe haven for solo female travelers — an exclusive women’s hostel in Los Angeles — and nearly 100 years later, after a major multi-million dollar renovation by developer Bradley Hall, DTLA’s Hotel Figueroa is staying true to its feminist roots.

“Financed, built and operated by and for femininity” in 1926 according to a Los Angeles Times article, the Figueroa — walking distance from Staples Center — was the largest project owned and operated by women at the time and the loan the YWCA took out to finance the project ($1.25 million in 1926), the “largest individual financial transaction ever undertaken by a body of women in the United States.” Today, the hotel is a gathering place for creatives and the *woke* traveler, and its feminist origins carry through in all programming, including a women-led art collection featured throughout the hotel and lobby, an all-female comedy night, and a monthly series of talks led by LA-based female entrepreneurs and tastemakers, aptly named “Maude Squad.” Even the music, which is played in two of the hotel’s zones, is made up of playlists curated by local female DJs.

Common areas at Hotel Figueroa are beyond cozy. Plush, jewel-toned velvet sofa cushions create the ideal situation for lobby lounging with a cappuccino or a glass of red. Throw in the oversize potted plants, sleek leather bar stools and just the right amount of gold accents — what has this place not gotten right? And the answer is nothing. I asked the General Manager at the time of my visit about the scent in the lobby — soft, floral, familiar — and he laughed. “We don’t have a lobby scent, but thank you for the compliment. It’s probably the smell of female empowerment.” Well played.  

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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