Long Beach’s Sky Room Home To Generations Of Memories

(Left) The Gertrude Patchett (second from left) family talk at the Sky Room on top of the Long Beach Breakers at her 90th birthday party.
(Right) Gertrude Patchett and her younger brother Bob dance at the Sky Room on top of the Long Beach Breakers at her 90th birthday party.

It’s long been said that pretty much everyone in Long Beach has a Sky Room story. We’re here to put proof to the claim.

When Conrad Hilton purchased the Breakers Hotel in 1938, one of the first changes he decided on was turning the 14th floor penthouse into a destination restaurant. One of the tallest buildings on the coast at the time, the Sky Room was renowned for its views as well as its high-end cuisine.

Hilton used the Sky Room to lure his Hollywood friends south, and stars including Cary Grant, Errol Flynn, Rita Hayworth, John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor (who married Conrad’s son, Nicky) and Clark Gable frequented the restaurant and its long bar.

But it takes more than celebrities to make a hotspot hot. And the Sky Room has been a go-to memory maker both in its 1930s and 1940s heyday and in its reincarnation beginning in 1997 under the ownership of Bernard Rosenson.

Locals Recall

A single request to share some of those memories on the social media platform Facebook prompted more than 30 responses. Allow us to share a few.

“Well, they’re both gone now, but my Mom said her first date with my Dad back around 1937 (or 1938) was at the Sky Room at the top of the Breakers!” John Kunkle said.

“My parents got married in 1945 and used to go dancing at the Sky Room,” Mary Alice McLoughlin said. “My dad told a story of my mom slipping and falling on the dance floor, but instead of being embarrassed, she popped right back up and smoothly continued her dancing – much to the delight of those around her!”

When World War II began, the Breakers and the Sky Room were pressed into service, with pill boxes and anti-aircraft guns installed on the restaurant’s roof, around the cupola.

“Dad told us kids that he was sent to the Sky Room after Pearl Harbor was bombed,” Colleen Bentley said. “He and others from Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, where he was stationed, were there.

“My dad said that the best part about being in the Sky Room’s cupola was that after their tour of duty, he’d go down to the lounge and dance with the gals listening to the band music. Of course, that handsome guy in a uniform was an attraction…”

Hilton sold the Long Beach hotel in 1947 as the country recovered from the war. It and the Sky Room stayed open as the Wilton, then Breakers International, until 1964, when it closed.

“I’ve been on top of the Sky Room when I was a kid when it was part of the Breakers Senior Retirement Home before it became a restaurant again,” Beto Romero said. “Breath-taking views of the whole Long Beach skyline – you can see to the north side of Long Beach and downtown LA.

Next Generation

The hotel reopened a few years later as a retirement community, but the restaurant stayed closed until 1997, when Bernard Rosenson, an experienced restaurateur, bought the building.

He retained the senior focus for residents, including adding assisted living. But he refurbished and reopened the Sky Room, with an entrance on Linden Avenue and a dedicated elevator to the restaurant. And it’s that period that holds the bulk of the memories for current Long Beach residents.

“My future wife Pat Mills and I celebrated New Year’s Eve 2005 at the Sky Room. By the end of the evening, we were engaged,” James Goodin said. “When my parents lived in the Breakers’ Senior Living, we celebrated birthdays and anniversaries in the Sky Room. The views were the best. And my mother’s Wilson High School prom was held in the Sky Room around 1940!”

“We held my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday party for 50 guests there! She and her younger brother, both dressed to the nines, cut a rug to the tunes of the orchestra. It was a great end to an elegant and fun evening,” Jane Galloway said.

“I used to go there for cocktails during Grand Prix weekend,” Sindy Verdugo said. “I remember a famous driver walking in surrounded by his groupies. It was a thrill!”

From The Inside

Guests weren’t the only ones making memories.

“I worked there from New Year’s Eve 1999 through Valentine’s Day 2004,” Kevyn Bacon said. “I wound up being the head bar manager and bartender. An amazing experience and many memories.”

Menus changed over the years, but never failed to impress.

“Best raspberry lemon drop and crab cakes with lemon caper sauce ever. Yummy. Miss that place so much. Last danced there to the Jennifer Keith Sextet,” Mary Lisa Allen-Bolton said.

“I was sad when the Sky Room closed. Loved the souffle!” Kymberly Wong said.

There were plenty of proposals along with the weddings and anniversaries – Rosenson once said there wasn’t a night without something special.

Here’s one from Randy Gordon, Chamber of Commerce president emeritus.

“I met Nancy Becker in December 1999 just after I separated from my first wife. It was our third date on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 2000. It was at that time the most expensive dinner I had ever paid for. Nancy was very impressed with the food and the view, and I was madly in love with her, so it was so worth it. It was the start of our wonderful 24 years together.

“I have taken her out every Valentine’s Day since, but the Sky Room still remains my all-time favorite Valentine’s Day.”

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