Santa Monica, California Landmarks Commission Recognizes Historic Events at Hotel Shangri-la at The Ocean

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At Monday's meeting of the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission, Hotel Shangri-la's historic role in the events of the early 1940's were approved and recognized

Hotel Shangri-la at The Ocean in Santa Monica

Prior to and during the years of the Second World War, the Hotel Shangri-la had a strong association with events that were of national importance relative to the United States’ involvement in this conflict

Following a six month review, the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission approved supplemental language this week that acknowledged the historic role Hotel Shangri-la played in 1940 when local dentist Dr. Jack H. Taylor and Lt. Col. William H. Donovan held meetings there which led to the eventual formation of key elements of the Office of Security Services (OSS), precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency.

According to the Landmarks Commission, “Prior to and during the years of the Second World War, the Hotel Shangri-la had a strong association with events that were of national importance relative to the United States’ involvement in this conflict.”

Following a 1940 mission to England by Donovan for President Roosevelt to assess that nation’s defense capabilities, he met Taylor at the Hotel Shangri-la. They discussed America’s lack of military preparedness to enter World War II and how the United States’ military posture must quickly change. Donovan’s concern for the country’s physical well-being resonated deeply with Taylor and he invited him to the beach by the Hotel Shangri-la for a demonstration of his watermen/lifeguard/swimmers’ nautical diving skills in the Pacific Ocean.

Relying on oral history interviews conducted by Santa Monica historian Erick Simmel with members of the OSS Maritime Unit (which became the U.S. Navy Seals program in 1962), the Landmarks Commission recognized the “covert meetings” at the Hotel Shangri-la between Donovan, the first chief of the OSS and Jack Taylor, widely recognized as the first Navy Seal.

Simmel’s research revealed that Donovan first met Taylor when he escorted his aspiring actress daughter Patricia to the dentist’s office on Second Street in late 1939, and he and Taylor remained in contact.

Deeply impressed, Donovan returned to Washington D.C. and eventually incorporated what he saw as part of America’s soon-to-be covert military toolbox. In addition to serving as a launching platform for the OSS Maritime Unit, the Shangrila Apartment Hotel (as it was known then), along with five other hotels in Santa Monica, was taken over by the U.S. military during the later stages of World War II to host soldiers returning home from the Pacific theatre.

On May 1st, Hotel Shangri-la will celebrate the 75th anniversary of its inaugural opening. The property will host a series of events during the year to honor its rich history and Diamond Jubilee anniversary.

About Hotel Shangri-la

The original and urbane Hotel Shangri-la at The Ocean in Santa Monica is anything but ordinary and a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Overlooking the Pacific since 1939, the hotel is a striking beacon of Art Deco elegance, a chronicle of the golden era of Hollywood and a quintessential nexus of culture. Hidden away on a high Santa Monica bluff overlooking the ocean and historic Santa Monica Pier, this timeless luxury boutique hotel promises guests their own personal Shangrila. Guests enjoy brilliant views of the Pacific Ocean, a celebrated history and a cultural connection during their stay. In the U.S., for toll-free room reservations only, please call (800) 345-STAY (7829) or for more information, visit http://www.Shangrila-Hotel.com.

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Agnes Huff, PhD
@hotelshangrila
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