530 E. 6th St.
Green Book Editions: 1952-1955
The Norbo was jumping 24 hours on the weekends. In 1954, the Norbo launched “Jam At Dawn” which started at 6am with drummers Rudy Pitts, Ray Derickson, Dave Phillips on tenor sax and Clyde Washington. The cocktail lounge also called, considered “Downtown’s Musical Bar.” Hotel Norbo hosted nightly jam sessions with recording artists, Louis Spiginer and his Orchestra, Cee Pee Johnson a sensational bongo drummer and blues singer, and Perri Lee Trio dubbed, “the swingest gal organist in the country.”
In the 1970s Hotel Norbo devolved into a low-income residence and rooms cost about $14 a week. By the 1980s, the policies enacted by the Regan administration created a staggering level of poverty that the area had never seen and has since recovered from. The Norbo became a makeshift hotel for the people who had lost everything. The homeless who qualified for welfare were temporarily housed here and could stay for two weeks while their applications were processed. After they received their benefits, they could not afford the room so they were ejected onto the streets.
In 1984 the Los Angeles county was sued over the filthy conditions of the hotel. Kathleen Paris, a 42- year-old homeless woman said she preferred to stay outside rather than live in the Norbo, “It was frightening. You can’t get any sleep because the bugs are biting you and rats are running all over. The windows were broken and there’s no heat. It’s just so disgusting.”
Today Hotel Nobro has 57 Low Income Units and this area of downtown Los Angeles is a horrific display of abject poverty, drug abuse and mental illness. It's so extreme, it’s reminiscent of ‘Hamsterdam,” a fictional neighborhood featured in David Simon’s HBO television show, The Wire.