The Bella Union was Los Angeles’ first hotel when it opened in 1849 on Main Street. In its early years the hotel, pictured here in 1871, was the center of civic life, doubling as the county courthouse.
Its saloon — the scene of occasional gunfights — earned a reputation for its rowdy crowd. The patrons were “the most bandit, cut-throat looking set that the writer ever sat his youthful eyes upon,” one observer wrote. “The grim, desperado looking bartender…looked as though he hadn’t smiled since his father was hung.”
After decades of decline, the hotel was demolished in 1940 to make way for a parking lot.
Discover more of the Bella Union’s history in L.A. as Subject’s latest KCET.org contribution.