Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Marcell Inn - Altadena's Famous Speakeasy Club, 2900 Lincoln Avenue

The Marcell Inn opened in 1922 on Lincoln Avenue and was very popular with the Hollywood crowd, bootleg alcohol being served along with fine French food, and all that was necessary to find the out-of-the-way location was to look for the searchlight beacon mounted on a tower on the roof of the Inn. Altadena Drive back then was called North Foothill Boulevard, and was used as a major east-west thoroughfare, so most folks could see the beacon coming from either direction without too much trouble.
The story was, during Prohibition, that if you needed to find the Altadena Sheriff, just look for his car in the parking lot of the Marcell Inn first, as usually he hung out there as his unofficial office. Apparently, he was good pals with the owner, Joe Marcell Annechini. However, the local cops weren't able to help Joe on November 12, 1923, when the Feds busted him and nine others, after showing up unexpectedly and a full house of 300 headed for the hills. The L.A. Times story doesn't say if the Altadena Sheriff got hauled in, too, but back in those days law enforcement usually gave other law enforcement a free pass. Joe posted $2000 bond and could go home.
The Marcell Inn was written up at the time in the 1930's as a great place to go and get excellent cuisine. It was also popular with the Santa Anita horse racing set when California allowed horse racing again in 1933 at the same time Prohibition was ended.
However, the Marcell Inn was just too out of the way as the Depression dragged on and it was out of business and sold in 1937. For a number of years the Mt. Lowe Military Academy used the buildings and grounds for their school, and now the grounds, the buildings being long since demolished, are the location of a community garden, with only the front gate stone columns and ornamental ironwork still surviving to be seen on West Palm Street just east of Lincoln Avenue.