LAist offers a fantastic look back at 100 years of the Santa Monica Hippodrome.
Such a beautiful, storied building. I loved reading the stories and memories of this iconic, waterfront landmark.
In the 60s, the building had a very famous visitor, though many who encountered her were probably oblivious.
"Towards the end of her life, Marilyn Monroe was living in Brentwood and hung out at the Santa Monica Beach a lot," Harris says, noting that many of the iconic photos George Barris took of the actress were shot here.
She would come to the Hippodrome to find solace. She'd sit on a bench and watch the horses go round and round. Being sensitive to who she was, she would come in disguise wearing a scarf and overcoat and sunglasses. One day, the gentleman who was operating the carousel walked up to her and said something along the lines of, 'Why do you come here every day? You're young and you should get a job.' She then revealed [her identity] and said, 'I do have a job, I'm Marilyn Monroe.'
On the second floor of the building, you'll currently find office spaces, including the office where Harris works. However, in the 60s and 70s, the second floor contained apartments. Author William Saroyan and musician Jimmy Henderson used one of the units to work, while actor Paul Sand and his then-girlfriend Joan Roan lived in another. Perhaps the most interesting person to live there was an outspoken activist named Colleen Creedon.
"[Creedon] was a prominent women's activist," Harris says. "She would protest the Vietnam War, she held fundraisers for Cesar Chavez and Daniel Ellsberg."
She was also close friends with musician Joan Baez, who often crashed at Creedon's place. In 1974, two young men lit the trash cans outside of Creedon's apartment ablaze. The flames licked up the side of the building to Creedon's unit. Creedon managed to escape the fire, but long believed that the arson was more calculated than two wayward youths causing trouble. She told Harris herself that she believed she was targeted because of her beliefs.
"Until the day she died, she insisted that the fire was set deliberately to shut her up," Harris said. "And, she might not be far off with that reasoning."
Creedon, who passed away a few years ago, long claimed that two other women activists in the area were also victims of arson. Whatever the cause, the fire permanently disrupted residential life above the carousel. The building was condemned and everyone was evicted. The upper floor would remain vacant until 1983, at which point it became office space.