The Vurpillat was built and owned by William P. Vurpillat and completed in June of 1923.  The building has not changed much over the last 100 years.  It was originally a combination of apartments and hotel rooms, but was apparently almost always rented furnished, with linens and kitchenware provided. The original postcard for the building is shown below and the same photo was used on the building’s official letterhead, as in the next sample shown.

In 1923 Hermosa Beach had many more open spaces and empty lots than it does today.  There were many producing oil wells sprinkled around town, with oil derricks towering high above the small frame victorian and craftsman structures, most of which were just one story tall.  The Vurpillat was a prominent structure on The Strand with smaller buildings all around and oil derricks in the background.

The pier in the early 20th Century was a complex structure with commercial buildings at the base of the pier housing the Library and Chamber of Commerce, and covered pergolas on the pier as it stretched out over the water.

People from all over southern California flocked to the beach in the summertime to escape the heat inland because air conditioning was almost nonexistent.

Large umbrellas were a huge part of a beach experience.  The beach was packed with them and the hotels would provide them for guests.  According to one elderly man who once worked for The Vurpillat back in the 1930s when he was just a kid, The Hotel Breakers, Surf and Sand Club, Biltmore Hotel, and The Vurpillat would have young adults set set the umbrellas out on the beach in the morning and bring them back in at the end of the day.  Notice all of the different designs of umbrellas in the photographs.  It was very popular to have patterns of radial and/or concentric stripes.

Many people visited the beach and sand in formal long dresses or slacks. Hats and suits and ties were popular as well.

In August, 1923, only a couple months after the building was completed, William Vurpillat apparently was trying to sell the building, as evidenced by a newspaper listing that advertised the sale.  The total price was $100,000, which could be paid by putting $45,000 down and making payments on the balance of $55,000.

On April 8, 1925, William Vurpillat was sent to prison at Leavenworth Penitentiary for mail fraud associated with an oil stock sale.  

William ran the building from prison, sending Western Union telegrams back and forth with a woman named Verna Sheppleman, who managed the building.  See below for a letter from Verna in which she assures him that his mother is well and everything is rented for the 4th of July (1925) at the Vurpillat Apartment building. 

William was released on parole from prison on December 19, 1925, and returned to Hermosa Beach.  He subsequently opened and operated dance clubs, cocktail lounges, etc.