L.A. Neighborhood View Park Added to National Register of Historic Places

Doumakes House in View Park | Photo courtesy of L.A. County Historical Landmark and Records Commission

On July 12, 2016, Los Angeles' View Park neighborhood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Located near the stretch of La Brea Avenue to Crenshaw Boulevard in unincorporated Los Angeles County, View Park is the largest Federal Historic District in the country based on African American history, and one of the largest National Register districts in California in terms of property owners.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes View Park, celebrated the National Register designation. He authored the motion that enables residents of L.A. County’s unincorporated areas to benefit from the Mills Act, a 1972 state law that provides tax incentives to preserve historic homes and property. “View Park’s inclusion into the National Register of Historic Places underscores its historic, social, cultural and architectural significance, not only locally but across the country,” said Ridley-Thomas. “This designation helps in preserving the community’s noteworthy legacy, while at the same time, charting its path forward.”

The National Register designation culminates an extraordinary journey from View Park's origins in the 1920s, when the neighborhood's developer intended its architecturally distinctive homes, with their sweeping views of Downtown L.A., to be for sale to white homeowners only. According to the 1930 Census, View Park had only one Japanese and two black residents - all three were servants.

A landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1948 ruled that restrictive real estate covenants were unconstitutional. Prominent members of the African American community - business owners, doctors, lawyers, entertainers, athletes and civil rights activists, began moving into View Park in the 1950s.

In his evaluation of View Park, National Register historian, Paul Lusignan wrote, “The cohesive View Park neighborhood would eventually begin a fairly rapid, if sometimes uncertain, transition into an affluent African American neighborhood in the postwar period.”

Lusignan added, “Often facing intimidation and violence, View Park's new African American homeowners broke down significant barriers and paved the way for the creation of a vibrant integrated neighborhood that would earn it the nickname ‘the black Beverly Hills.’” Legendary View Park residents include Ray Charles (at 4863 Southridge Ave.) and Ike and Tina Turner.

Current View Park residents, Andre Gaines and Ben Kahle, co-founded the View Park Conservancy in 2014. The nonprofit neighborhood organization was instrumental in View Park being nominated for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.

Kahle lives in the Doumakes House, the first historic landmark in Los Angeles County. He said the National Register designation “will create additional community pride and awareness for what makes View Park such a prestigious and special neighborhood.”

Along with several of their fellow View Park residents, Gaines and Kahle hosted more than two dozen community meetings to build awareness and raise funds to preserve the history and legacy of their neighborhood. Hundreds of View Park residents donated to help pay for the complicated process of seeking a Historic designation. “Listing View Park on the National Register is the culmination of over two and a half years of hard work and dedication to our mission,” said Gaines. “It was truly a community effort and, without the overwhelming support from our neighbors, this day would have never been possible.”

According to the Doumakes House website, pre-World War II houses in View Park were designed in Period Revival styles, such as Spanish Colonial Revival, American Colonial Revival, Monterey Revival, Mediterranean Revival, and French Revival. The site also notes that Postwar residences are predominantly one iteration or another of the Ranch style, with a small number of residences in other styles, including Storybook, Streamline Moderne, and International Style.

Today, View Park is the epitome of multicultural Los Angeles - a mix of long time residents, new families, and historic architecture. The community gathers regularly for summer jazz concerts and movie nights at Monteith Park. View Park is also a renowned destination for its summertime home garden tours and historic home tours.