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.
Of the Figueroa’s 268 rooms, no two are the same. Steeped in the hotel’s original history, Classic Suites have an old Spanish feel with a modern flair, eclectic furniture and high ceilings. Arches frame the sleeping area and the luxurious, fluffy King-sized bed is a focal point, but not an eyesore. A highlight (amongst many) is the spacious bathroom, with Spanish Revival-tiled walls, a double-basin vanity and a glass enclosed shower and toilet. Brujita, the holistic skincare line found in the washrooms is Latina-owned and handmade in DTLA, with all natural ingredients (supergreens and bright citrus) sourced straight from Mexican mercados.
You don’t have to go far for a bite, either. Figueroa’s restaurant, Breva, is a Basque-inspired and Mediterranean brasserie by The Tasting Kitchen’s Casey Lane, with a dinner menu consisting of pintxos (yellowtail crudo, pan con tomate, fried oysters, clams) and small bites (fried lollipop kale, bone marrow, squid a la plancha and more). Any cocktail you order here will be special with layered flavors, but I suggest going with something from the restaurant’s lengthy list of gintonicos, each named for the type of gin used (Ford’s, Bombay, Tanqueray 10, etc.) in its individual recipe. Do not skimp on the paella; it’s tiny, but mighty, and will allow you to save room for coffee and dessert.
The curiously coffin-shaped pool out back remains the same since inception, while Veranda, the casual terrace cafe now serves up a Mexican menu, including tequila and Mezcal drinks, al fresco. Tangier, the Moroccan-themed basement venue, still feels like Figueroa pre-renovation, and hosts most events, including a burlesque show that’s running now through June.
Plain and simple, there’s just no way to explore this place in a day and why would you want to? It took us a long time to get our rights and the ongoing struggle is anything but a fairytale. Powerful, feminist energy permeates the property, and in case you forget for one second what started it all, a massive, might I add tasteful, portrait of Maude, painted by LA-based artist, Alison van Pelt (and commissioned specifically for the hotel’s rehabilitation), exists at check-in to remind you that — while few and far between — in a place like California, happy endings do exist.