Robert B. Stacy-Judd’s Aztec Hotel

The Aztec Hotel, on Foothill Boulevard in Monrovia, opened on September 1, 1925. The building’s architect was Robert B. Stacy-Judd.

Photo taken in 2019.

Stacy-Judd was bigger than life. He wrote books, explored the jungles of Mexico and Central America, designed outlandish buildings and married three times. In the 1920s and 1930s he was like the fictional character Indiana Jones but when Stacy-Judd’s life was drawing to a close he lived alone, was broke and almost blind.

When the Aztec originally opened it was also known as the Monrovia Community Hotel.

According to David Gebhard’s book on the architect — Stacy-Judd was born in London on June 21, 1884. His father, Benjamin Stacy-Judd, was a victualer (a person licensed to sell liquor or someone who sells goods to sea going vessels) which, according to Stacy-Judd, meant his father spent a great deal of time away from home peddling goods. Stacy-Judd stated in an unpublished biography that his parents were very strict disciplinarians and adhered to a time-table for the fundamental aspects of life including waking up, meals and bedtime. What Stacy-Judd remembered most about his father was that he enjoyed strolling around London and his father often took him along.

Gebhard’s book states that Stacy-Judd’s education involved a stint at St. Paul’s School in Knightsbridge, London followed by three years at Campsil Glen boarding School in Scotland. He left Campsil Glen and enrolled at Acton College in London when he was about fourteen which would be in 1895. Gebhard states that despite his father’s disapproval Stacy-Judd responded to an advertisement for an architect’s assistant. The architect was James Thompson whose office was located in West-Cliff-on-the-Sea in Sussex. That was in 1901. Stacy-Judd studied under Thompson’s tutelage for four years and finished in 1905 or 1906. After leaving Thompson’s office Stacy-Judd worked for the Great Northern Railroad Company through 1907 then he held various positions before moving to Canada in 1911 and eventually Los Angeles in the winter of 1921/1922.*

Robert B. Stacy-Judd in 1932. Used with permission: Robert Stacy-Judd papers, Architecture and Design Collection. Art, Design & Architecture Museum; University of California, Santa Barbara.

A 1920s article that caught my eye had the sub-heading, “Stacy-Judd and Bride to Explore Mayan Ruins in Yucatan with Dirigible.” The article announced that Stacy-Judd would marry Miss Betty Schofield who was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George L. Schofield of Almont Drive in Beverly Hills. The wedding ceremony would take place at the Stacy-Judd designed and Maya inspired First Baptist Church in Ventura (which can be seen on the cover of Gebhard’s book). At the ceremony, the bride wore a navy blue outfit and a corsage of pink camellias and lilies of the valley. She also wore a 2000 year old obsidian and jade pendant “taken from the famous Chicken Itza well in Yucatan, a gift of the bridegroom.”

This was obviously during that transitional archaeological period when explorers still looted some of the riches they found.

The story said after the wedding the two would venture to the Yucatan (for their honeymoon) and search for more treasures and hidden archaeological sites. Their Yucatan honeymoon entourage was scheduled to include a string of motor trucks, a small group of archaeologists, some motion picture cameramen and a small dirigible that could travel above the jungle’s forest.

One of the books Stacy-Judd wrote.

This copy was autographed by him.

The Aztec Hotel. The image is from Pacific Coast Architect.

In an article in Pacific Coast Architect, Stacy-Judd wrote about the design of the building, “As it is not entirely clear what the exact reason was for the peculiar medley of carved pieces, cubes, and the many quaint shapes forming some of the Maya panels, I did not duplicate any particular original panel of the temples, but assembled the curious units to my own fancy.”

He went on to say about the exterior, “The grouping of decorative ornament on the exterior was designed under difficulty. Cost, being a great factor, necessitated curtailment. Yet, there was a large surface to treat. To avoid spottiness, and yet form a continuity, created an aggravating problem. Balance was entirely discarded, as my theory was that the diversification of line would provide a mental link with the next group of ornament.”

Another photo from Pacific Coast Architect. Notice that the building is listed as the Monrovia Community Hotel.

The funding for the building was obtained through subscription. In a newspaper article titled High Budget Marks Set was this sentence, “The Aztec Hotel which is financed by the Community Hotel Corporation a company of citizens who raised the money by popular subscription…”

The hotel opened with a viewing (inspection), which was open to the general public, followed by a dinner-dance in the café which was by invitation only. The hotel was originally constructed with eight apartments and thirty-six rooms. It took almost a year to build and cost approximately $250,000.

Regarding the furnishings in the photographs below — it was reported that Barker Brothers craftsmen, “delved into the history of the ancient tribes of Yucatan and the lower Mexican peninsula and designed each piece of furniture specially to conform with some fancy of the Aztecs, Incas or Toltecs.”

Below are interior images of the lobby

The check-in desk or registration desk is that curved half-wall behind the trestle table.

The hotel is closed but I held my phone up to the front door and took this photograph. In the Pacific Coast Architect article Stacy-Judd said, “The three pendent electric fixtures in the ceilings are original conceptions of mine representing carved stone.”

Stacy-Judd along with Roy Seldon Price and S. Charles Lee, designed many of the homes in Beverly Ridge Estates which is located “above the home of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks and is less than a mile from the Beverly Hills Hotel.”

Stacy-Judd also designed a notable Masonic Temple at 5124 N. Tujunga Avenue in North Hollywood and the Philosophical Research Center in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles.

In 1972 a reporter found Stacy-Judd living in his crumbling San Fernando Valley home — a home Stacy-Judd had designed forty years earlier. An apartment building sat on what used to be the front yard of the home so Stacy-Judd lived in the shadow of the apartment building. According to the reporter the interior was cluttered and stuffed with books, mementos and everything else someone would save over a lifetime. Stacy-Judd was 88 years old at this point and lived on Social Security and welfare aid for the blind. A couple, who had dealt with Stacy-Judd when he was younger and in better financial condition, felt sympathy for him and paid the taxes on his house and helped him with food purchases and his utilities.

The reporter asked Stacy-Judd about his loneliness and his life. This was Stacy-Judd’s response,

“I’ve often tried to figure out what happened…my wife…it was so long ago, I really don’t know. I wanted a family but it seems nature was against me, or the world was. I’ve always loved children and I’m very fond of women; I think they have more sympathy, their hearts are softer…

Now that I can’t see anything, it makes it a little difficult, but it doesn’t bother me. I’ve had some rough times, but I don’t regret anything. It’s been a wonderful life.”

Stacy-Judd died three years later on February 10, 1975.

He’s buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California.

I’m not sure what that quote means. There’s a Star Trek episode from 1967 titled “Tomorrow is Yesterday” but I don’t think that’s it. Anything is possible but I’m not seeing Stacy-Judd as a Trekkie.

For more information on Robert Stacy-Judd purchase David Gebhard’s book. That’s the cover above. Gebhard, who was one of the great architectural writers of Los Angeles, details Stacy-Judd’s life and work thoroughly even though his book is a mere 166 pages. Gebhard writes about Stacy-Judd’s fascination with Atlantis and how Stacy-Judd tried to link that mythical continent with the Maya culture. Strange but true. Gebhard also writes about Stacy-Judd’s obsession with creating an American architecture that was based on Maya architecture and looked like Maya architecture. An odd choice for an American architecture but that was what he championed. Stacy-Judd was a showman, like Frank Lloyd Wright, but unlike Wright, Stacy-Judd didn’t know when to cut his losses and move onto a new architectural style.

Stacy-Judd did leave us the Aztec Hotel, though, and for that strange little block in Monrovia we should all be grateful.

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Architect takes bride in Ventura. (1932, February 13). Los Angeles Times, p. A3.

Beverly sites on the market. (1927, November 20). Los Angeles Times, p. E4.

Gebhard, D. Robert Stacy-Judd; Maya architecture and the creation of a new style. Santa Barbara: Capra Press. 1993.

High building marks set throughout district. (1924, November 9). Los Angeles Times, p. E1.

New hotel has opening in Monrovia. (1925, September 6). Los Angeles Times, p. F2.

Robert Stacy-Judd services scheduled. (1975, February 13). Los Angeles Times, p. E18.

Seiler, M. (1972, November 30). Reflections on a life of action. Los Angeles Times, p. E1-E5.

Stacy-Judd, R. (1926, November). Maya Architecture. Pacific Coast Architect, 30 (5), 26-31, 53, 57.

Stacy-Judd, R. B. The Ancient Mayas. Los Angeles: Murray & Gee. 1934.

Student of Aztec history will wed. (1932, February 8). Los Angeles Times, p. A1.

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*A great deal happened during these eleven years according to Gebhard. Stacy-Judd designed numerous buildings in Canada including the Empire Theater in Edmonton, lived in Minnesota and North Dakota where he also designed buildings and was married to a woman named Anna Veronica in Minneapolis in 1917 that he later divorced in 1922.

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My book from The History Press, Architects Who Built Southern California, was released on March 11, 2019. It’s 10 chapters with each chapter devoted to a different architect (or architectural firm) including: Harrison Albright, John Austin, Claud Beelman, Elmer Grey, Hudson & Munsell, A. C. Martin, Meyer & Holler, Julia Morgan, Morgan Walls & Clements and Alfred F. Rosenheim.