In Los Angeles, a metropolis that stretches a shade under the entire square mileage of the island of kaua‘i, the myriad of neighborhoods are as varied as the people and landmarks that give the City of Angels its illustrious reputation. Set flush in L.A.’s downtown district, the Los Angeles Athletic Club is one of the city’s most historic and prestigious establishments, thriving for more than 125 years and only getting better with age.
One of the most upscale athletic clubs found nationwide, Los Angeles Athletic Club was L.A.’s first private club. Opening its doors in 1880, when horse-drawn stagecoach was the finest ride in town—and the club’s peak highlights were a trapeze, flying rings and dumbbells. It is now a 12-story, time-honored fitness, wellness and relaxation experience, tied together by its historic architecture, layout and upscale amenities, including the club’s own 72-room boutique hotel located on the top three floors.
Founded by 40 prominent Angelenos, or sons of Los Angeles’ original pioneers, Los Angeles Athletic Club was designed as a place—originally located between early L.A.’s saloons and shooting galleries—for “the best young men” of the community to test their strength and fellowship, as men did best in that day.
A sleepy town lined by lemon and orange groves, Los Angeles quickly grew from its humble beginnings to a rising industrial, agricultural and entertainment empire. As the “boosters” and business giants innovatively created financial gain for the city, the founders and early members of the club were, in their own respect, pioneers in areas of fitness and athletic training. “Health, Recreation, Grace and Vigor” was the motto of the club for decades, and its reputation and notoriety grew swiftly along with the city.
As Los Angeles is a city of many firsts, so is Los Angeles Athletic Club. L.A.’s first athletic club, it was also the first location in Southern California to incorporate a swimming pool on an upper floor. Then a resident of L.A., Hawai‘i’s own Duke Kahanamoku made the debut plunge into the pool stories above downtown’s busy foot traffic. Very much involved with Los Angeles Athletic Club, Kahanamoku would lifeguard at the pool and set many of his own record swimming times racing on the club’s swim team.
Today, the downtown district of L.A. is in the midst of a rich diversification movement, branching from a locale that was once very suit-and-tie business-oriented to a more colorful, residential neighborhood with city blocks that blend boutique shops, start-up business ventures, an abundance of world-class cuisine, fashion and art galleries, and many vintage-meets-modern bars and lounges.
Adapting gracefully and intelligently, Los Angeles Athletic Club has evolved with progressive fitness strategies and technological advancements, while staying true to its roots as a place of socialization, conversation and tradition.
“Since we’ve been around so long, we really have a diverse membership. Right now we’re seeing a lot of people joining who are part of the new downtown movement: living in lofts and starting their own businesses. These members use the club not only to work out, but also as an extended work and meeting space,” says assistant general manager Cory Hathaway, who points out the older generation of members welcomes the new crowd.
From a fitness aspect, Los Angeles Athletic Club boasts everything a member could think of with specific intentions laid out for each floor. The ninth floor alone is dedicated to class sessions, such as cycling, yoga, kickboxing and Pilates. If you fancy racquet sports, the eighth floor provides courts for hand-ball, racquetball and squash, along with Fresh 8 cafe offering socially light fare like wraps, sandwiches and freshly pressed juices. Heading down to the seventh floor, members will find more traditional cardio and free-weight equipment, as well as a stretching and physical therapy center. With an open space layout, the seventh floor overlooks the pool, basketball courts and cycling center a floor below.
Constantly seeking to improve its value in the community, Los Angeles Athletic Club is in the midst of a major renovation (estimated completion: summer 2016). The remodeling will unveil pro-style locker rooms for men and women, a revamped spa facility with state-of-the-art sauna, Jacuzzi, hydrotherapy room and salt cave. The renovations also will divulge a classic barbershop and salon—and even a Prohibition-style speakeasy.
Certainly well beyond fitness and exercise, Los Angeles Athletic Club provides copious amenities that take its club experience to a higher level. The ballroom, accented by fine woodwork and elegant chandeliers, and private rooftop patio offer a distinct experience and city views for private events or weddings. Of the five bars and restaurants at the club, which includes an elegant Trophy Room, where guests can not only dine lavishly but also store their own wine collection, the Los Angeles Athletic Club features the Blue Room: an impressively stylish and welcoming reliquary dedicated to the mysteries of the club’s past.
Relaunched in early 2015—after interior renovations were orchestrated by world-renowned design craftsman Timothy Oulton—the Blue Room is the “club within the club,” honoring the founders and past members. With access through a hidden staircase, the Blue Room sweeps guests and members back in time to an authentic early 20th-century retreat, and features a signature whiskey program arranged by Macallan, one of Scotland’s original distilleries.
From relatives of its early members to a prestigious celebrity assemblage and the new millennial crowd, Los Angeles Athletic Club blends a collective community representation of L.A. under its traditional-meets-contemporary atmosphere and design.