With its art deco stylings and tragic history, the fictional Hotel Cortez is one of American Horror Story’s most memorable settings. But what real-world hotel inspired the Cortez’s ominous on-screen presence?

In this deep dive, we’ll explore the real-life origins of the Cortez and see how closely the TV depiction mirrors an actual existing landmark.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The Hotel Cortez portrayed in American Horror Story is primarily based on downtown LA’s Cecil Hotel, which has a dark, sordid past.

An Overview of Hotel Cortez

The Hotel Cortez, featured in the popular TV series American Horror Story, is a fictional hotel with a dark and twisted history. However, it is believed to be inspired by real-life hotels that share similar characteristics and stories. Let’s take a closer look at the Cortez and its origins.

Cortez History and Design on AHS

The Cortez is portrayed as a grand and luxurious hotel located in downtown Los Angeles. It was constructed in the 1920s by the enigmatic and sinister James Patrick March. The design of the hotel is reminiscent of the Art Deco style popular during that era, with its grand lobby, ornate chandeliers, and lavish furnishings.

On American Horror Story, the Cortez is depicted as a place where numerous heinous acts have taken place over the years. From serial killers to ghosts, the hotel is home to a variety of supernatural beings.

Its dark past and eerie atmosphere contribute to the show’s haunting and suspenseful storyline.

Notable Features and Amenities

The Hotel Cortez is known for its unique features and amenities that add to its macabre charm. One notable feature is the Hotel’s hidden tenth floor, which is inaccessible to the general public and houses the Countess’ private quarters.

Another distinctive aspect of the Cortez is its infamous “Murder House” suite, where guests are invited to experience the thrill of staying in a room where gruesome murders occurred. This concept draws inspiration from real-life hotels that capitalize on their dark histories to attract thrill-seeking guests.

The hotel also boasts an opulent bar called “The Blue Parrot Lounge,” where guests can enjoy a drink or two amidst the hotel’s eerie ambiance. The lounge acts as a gathering place for the hotel’s inhabitants, both living and dead.

While the Hotel Cortez may not be directly based on a single real-life hotel, it incorporates elements from various historic establishments known for their dark pasts and unique designs. It serves as a reminder that sometimes truth can be just as terrifying as fiction.

Connections to the Cecil Hotel

The Cortez, the iconic setting of American Horror Story: Hotel, is a haunting and eerie place that has captivated fans of the show. But did you know that it is based on a real-life hotel? The connections between the Cortez and the Cecil Hotel are intriguing and add another layer of terror to the already chilling storyline.

Shared Location, Era, and Design

The first connection between the Cortez and the Cecil Hotel is their shared location. Both hotels are situated in downtown Los Angeles, in close proximity to each other. This proximity adds an air of authenticity to the fictional Cortez, as it draws inspiration from its real-life counterpart.

Not only do the Cortez and the Cecil Hotel share a location, but they also existed during the same era. The Cecil Hotel opened its doors in 1927, while the Cortez was depicted as having been around since the 1930s.

This common timeline allows the show to incorporate elements of the Cecil’s dark past into the storyline of the Cortez.

In terms of design, the Cortez takes inspiration from the Cecil Hotel’s distinctive architecture. The grand lobby, the ornate chandeliers, and the long hallways with their eerie lighting all bear a striking resemblance to the real-life hotel.

This attention to detail adds an extra layer of authenticity to the Cortez’s portrayal.

Similar Sinister Histories

Both the Cortez and the Cecil Hotel have sordid histories that are rife with tragedy and darkness. The Cecil Hotel gained notoriety for its association with several infamous deaths, including the mysterious case of Elisa Lam.

This tragic event, along with other incidents that occurred at the Cecil, served as inspiration for the twisted stories that unfold within the walls of the Cortez.

Similarly, the Cortez is depicted as a place where countless murders and unspeakable acts have taken place. The hotel’s gruesome history is intertwined with the storylines of the show’s characters, creating a terrifying atmosphere that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.

References to Cecil Lore and Infamy

American Horror Story: Hotel doesn’t shy away from referencing the real-life infamy of the Cecil Hotel. Throughout the season, there are subtle nods to the hotel’s dark history and infamous events. These references serve as Easter eggs for fans who are familiar with the real-life stories associated with the Cecil.

For example, the character of James March, played by Evan Peters, is heavily inspired by the infamous serial killer H.H. Holmes. Holmes, who operated a murder hotel during the late 19th century, is often compared to the real-life horrors that occurred at the Cecil Hotel.

This connection adds an extra layer of creepiness to the character and further ties the Cortez to the Cecil’s sinister reputation.

Other Possible Hotel Inspirations

While the Hotel Cortez in American Horror Story may be fictional, it is believed to have drawn inspiration from a number of real-life hotels. These hotels not only share a similar eerie atmosphere but also have their own stories and histories that add to the mystery.

Here are a few other possible hotel inspirations for the Cortez:

The Roosevelt Hotel

One potential inspiration for the Hotel Cortez is The Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California. Known for its glamorous history and luxurious decor, The Roosevelt Hotel has been a popular destination for celebrities since its opening in 1927.

It is rumored to be haunted, with reports of ghostly apparitions and strange occurrences. The hotel’s grand lobby and opulent ballrooms could have served as inspiration for the lavish interiors of the Cortez.

The Kenmore Hotel

Another possible inspiration is The Kenmore Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. Built in the 1930s, this Art Deco-style hotel exudes a vintage charm that perfectly captures the time period in which American Horror Story: Hotel is set.

The Kenmore Hotel is also rumored to have its share of paranormal activity, with guests and staff reporting ghostly encounters and unexplained phenomena. The hotel’s distinctive architecture and dark hallways may have influenced the design of the Cortez.

The Rosslyn Hotel

The Rosslyn Hotel in Los Angeles, California is yet another hotel that could have inspired the creation of the Hotel Cortez. Built in 1923, this historic hotel has a rich and colorful past, with stories of famous guests and scandalous events.

The Rosslyn Hotel is known for its unique architectural style, featuring intricate details and a grand facade. Its mysterious history and atmospheric ambiance make it a prime candidate for inspiring the haunted halls of the Cortez.

While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact real-life hotel that served as the primary inspiration for the Hotel Cortez in American Horror Story, these three options offer intriguing possibilities. Whether it’s the haunted reputation of The Roosevelt Hotel, the vintage charm of The Kenmore Hotel, or the captivating history of The Rosslyn Hotel, each of these establishments could have contributed to the creation of the terrifying and captivating world of the Cortez.

Accuracy of the Cortez’s Cecil Depiction

When it comes to the iconic Hotel Cortez in American Horror Story, viewers often wonder if it is based on a real-life hotel. While the Cortez is a fictional creation, it is indeed inspired by a real hotel – the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles.

However, it’s important to note that the show takes artistic liberties with the depiction of the Cecil, incorporating fictional elements to enhance the horror and suspense.

Matching Architecture and Period Details

The Cortez’s exterior and interior design draw heavily from the Cecil Hotel’s architecture and period details. The grandeur and Gothic aesthetic of the Cortez mirror the Cecil’s original design, which was built in 1924.

Both hotels feature ornate fixtures, intricate moldings, and a dark, mysterious atmosphere that adds to their eerie charm.

It’s worth mentioning that the Cecil Hotel has undergone several renovations and rebranding over the years, so the current state of the building may not resemble the Cortez as depicted in the show. However, during its earlier years, the Cecil Hotel did capture the essence of the Cortez’s architecture.

Exaggerated Horror Elements

American Horror Story is known for its exaggerated horror elements, and the Cortez is no exception. While the Cecil Hotel has a dark history, including various deaths and infamous guests, the show amplifies these events to create a more chilling narrative.

The Cortez’s murderous past, supernatural occurrences, and the presence of supernatural beings like vampires and ghosts are fictional additions to enhance the horror aspect.

It’s important to remember that the show is a work of fiction and should be enjoyed as such. The creators took inspiration from real-life tragedies and blended them with their own imaginative storytelling to create the captivating world of the Cortez.

Homages to Real-Life Tragedies

The Cortez incorporates references and homages to real-life tragedies that have occurred in hotels throughout history. These references pay tribute to the dark history of the Cecil Hotel and other infamous establishments.

While the specific events depicted in the show may not have happened at the Cecil, they serve as a reminder of the unsettling events that have taken place in similar settings.

For those interested in exploring the true stories behind the Cortez’s inspiration, further research into the history of the Cecil Hotel and other infamous hotels can provide a deeper understanding of the show’s references and connections to real-life events.


While not an exact recreation, American Horror Story’s brooding Hotel Cortez carries the unmistakable DNA of LA’s legendary Cecil Hotel. By drawing on the Cecil’s dark history and gothic design, the fictional Cortez embodies the haunting essence of its real-life muse.

So when checking in to the Cortez, fans can expect a stay that ominously echoes the past, even if the horrors have been dialed up for dramatic effect.

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