Quite a few years ago – ten or twelve, maybe – while researching the Garden of Allah Hotel for my series of novels, I happened upon a photo of one of the hotel’s original neon signs.
This sign that had spent 30+ years drenched in golden California sunshine ended up living out its days buried in the snowy wilds of Detroit. So many questions hung in the air: How did it get there? Who owned it? Why was it left outside? How long did it last before it disintegrated under the rigors of Michigan’s often hostile climate?
The photo was taken in 1960, so it was already more than 50 years old by the time it pinged my radar. Still, I figured, someone must know something, and must have written about it somewhere. Yes, well, Google can only get you so far. In this case, it got me no place, and all those questions went unanswered.
Fast forward to October 2020
A comment was added to a post I’d made in 2014 about a photo of a door handle that might possibly have been from the Garden of Allah. (Click HERE to see that post)
The comment was from Mark Santamaria who wrote to say “Martin, If you are wondering where the Garden of Allah neon sign is, I have it.” As you might imagine, I sat there and thought “Wait. What? Is he talking about the sign? The one that’s in Detroit? He has it? What on earth…?” So of course I responded and the next day he sent me this photo:
It was now sitting in his garage in Oakland, California having acquired it from the family in Michigan. He planned to restore it as he had done with other vintage neon signs that had once glowed from landmark buildings around Hollywood and Los Angeles. He even had the original neon tubing.
It no longer worked, but it would make restoration much easier, so that it would end up looking like it did in this 1951 photo, when it was still in situ.
What a stunning find! And from completely out of left field, too. Who’d have thought it still existed? Let alone in half-way decent shape! It just goes to show that you never know what’s out there, right?
Fast forward to February 2021
Although Mark had every intention of fully restoring the sign, his circumstances have recently changed and he is now looking at selling it. For someone with the right skills, finances, and location, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a unique slice of Los Angeles history.
If you would like to buy it – or know someone who would – please contact him directly.
His email address is: msm195812 at aol dot com
Thanks for your on-going interest and let’s hope we can find this treasure a new home!
The Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels
by Martin Turnbull
Book 1 – The Garden on Sunset
Book 2 – The Trouble with Scarlett
Book 3 – Citizen Hollywood
Book 4 – Searchlights and Shadows
Book 5 – Reds in the Beds
Book 6 – Twisted Boulevard
Book 7 – Tinseltown Confidential
Book 8 – City of Myths
Book 9 – Closing Credits
Connect with Martin Turnbull: