LA Survey Spurs Designation of Seven African American Sites


Photographs by Carlos Figueroa, Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles

It's a perfect 10. Last month, the city of Los Angeles announced that seven of its historic African American buildings have secured a listing on the National Register of Historic Places as a result of an extensive survey sponsored by the city's Community Redevelopment Agency. Prior to these sites being listed on Mar. 17, only three of the city's African American sites were registered.

"Properties associated with ethnic minorities are grossly underrepresented in the National Register, at least in California," Teresa Grimes, a consultant who worked on the survey, said in an e-mail.

Grimes says that the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles funded the survey in 2007 to encourage the preservation of historically significant buildings on Central Avenue by making them eligible for grants that require National Register listing: federal and state historic tax credits, for example.

"It means an awful lot [to be registered] because we have worked hard to preserve the history and experiences of the African American firefighters," says Akosua Hobert, secretary of the board of directors of the African American Firefighter Museum, one of the seven sites listed. "The station used to be segregated, and we've made a lot of progress since then. There's a lot of history that people need to be aware of."

The Community Redevelopment Agency sponsored the study to spur the redevelopment of the Central Avenue area, according to Jenny Scanlin, the agency's project manager in the Downtown Region, While the study identified many buildings in the neigborhood worthy of National Register status, only those in the redevelopment plan area were nominated, according to Grimes.

The seven buildings are "not directly threatened from demolition, but from neglect," Grimes says. She says several potential buyers plan to modify or develop some of the buildings, such as the YMCA, Lincoln Theater, and the Angelus Funeral Home. However, the city will require that future owners meet certain standards to preserve the unique elements of the properties, says Scanlin.

This spring, the city nominated two districts containing about 50 buildings; the National Park Service will consider designating those districts later this summer.

"The homes of a number of prominent African Americans are also eligible, and I hope that they are nominated in the future," Grimes says. They include the homes of musician Nat King Cole and architect Paul R. Williams.

The newly registered buildings are:

  • 28th Street YMCA, designed by Williams, was built in 1926 and was the Los Angeles' first for "colored boys and young men."
  • Second Baptist Church, also designed by Williams, located at 1100 East 24th St. opened in 1926. It was called the "most elaborate" Baptist church on the West Coast. It is also home to one of the oldest and most renowned African American congregations in Los Angeles.
  • Fire Station #14 is located at 3401 South Central Ave. Built in 1949, it was one of two all-black firefighter stations in Los Angeles.
  • Fire Station #30 located at 1401 South Central Ave., is home to the African American Firefighter Museum, which opened on Dec. 13, 1997.
  • Lincoln Theater at 2300 South Central Ave. was built in 1926 and was nicknamed the "West Coast Apollo" because it featured many of the same acts as the Apollo Theater in New York. It is currently being used as a church.
  • Angelus Funeral Home at 1010 E. Jefferson Blvd., which was built in 1934 and designed by Paul Williams. It is currently closed, but in the midst of establishing an rehabilitation plan.
  • Prince Hall Masonic Temple at 1050 E. 50th St. was built in 1926 and is one of the two remaining club buildings established for and by African Americans in Los Angeles.


For more photos, stories, and tips, subscribe to the print edition of Preservation magazine.

Subscribe to the Today's News RSS feed