When it opened in 1897, the Van Nuys was one of the finest hotels in Los Angeles. It was the first hotel to provide telephone and electric service to every room. There were thirty-two rooms on each floor with sixty private baths and ten public baths. It is the oldest hotel in continuous operation in Los Angeles.
The hotel was a commercial investment by Isaac Newton Van Nuys, one of Los Angeles’ wealthiest businessmen and landowners.
Designed by the firm of Morgan and Walls, the six-story Beaux Arts-style building with Romanesque features cost over $275,000 to build. The ground floor featured large picture windows, with art-glass transoms above the lobby windows on 4th Street. The second floor exterior is of terra cotta scored to mimic blocks of stone, while the upper stories are sheathed in cream-colored pressed brick. Pilasters with Corinthian capitals rise from the second to the sixth floor, separating banks of paired windows. The building is capped by a modest cornice, under which is a plain band ornamented only with rondelles above each pier, and the building’s name, “The Van Nuys” in the center on the Fourth Street and Main Street elevations.
The Fourth Street lobby still retains many original elements, including Sullivanesque plasterwork, ceiling decorations, columns, and arched doorways. The stained glass windows in the lobby feature old-fashioned scenes of banqueting, fine ladies, and music. One panel has a crest with the initials “V. N.” held up by sea horses.
The Barclay is currently operated as a low-income residential hotel.