Biltmore South Galleria (2014)

The South Galleria at the Los Angeles (Millennium) Biltmore Hotel leads from the main Galleria to an entrance on Grand Avenue. Its vaulted ceiling is decorated with Giovanni Smeraldi’s frescoes which, unlike the dazzling artwork in the main Galleria, seem to be poorly maintained. You can see some of the peeling paint in the upper right corner of the picture.

I took this picture from about halfway through the South Galleria, looking toward the main Galleria, in front of an ornate locked iron fence. Behind the fence is a large staircase leading down to the Biltmore Bowl (the 1073 m2 venue for eight Academy Award ceremonies in the 1930s), and the even larger (1560 m2) Regency Room, added in 1950 during the rebuilding after a fire.

My friend Tim is standing across the Galleria, pondering what might lie behind the locked gate. Tim is a professional test pilot, so he’s naturally more adventurous than I am. He quickly found a working unlocked elevator, and invited me to join him in exploring the Biltmore’s mysterious bowels. The door opened on the “Regency” level to total darkness. The LED flashlight on my antique cellphone revealed (dimly) a cavernous empty room. We then went up a level to the Biltmore Bowl, also totally dark, before returning to the South Galleria.

It thus appears that the current demand for these large spaces is much less than for the rooms along the main Galleria. When they’re not in use, the hotel management sensibly turns off the lights and air conditioning to save energy (and money). The put up a fence to keep curious visitors from going down the stairs and stumbling around in the dark. The lack of use may also explain (but not excuse) the condition of the South Galleria’s Smeraldi ceiling.

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