View Park, a neighborhood that has come to be known as the “black Beverly Hills,” has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
With about 1,800 homes near the stretch of La Brea Avenue to Crenshaw Boulevard in unincorporated Los Angeles County, View Park is the largest National Historic District in the United States based on African American history.
That distinction is particularly significant, considering the developer who built View Park starting in the 1920’s intended its architecturally distinctive homes with sweeping views of downtown LA for sale to white homeowners only. According to the 1930 Census, View Park had only one Japanese and two black residents, and all three were servants.
It took a U.S. Supreme Court battle to lift the racist restrictions on home ownership and open doors for minorities. In a landmark ruling in 1948, Justices held racial covenants on real estate to be unconstitutional. Prominent members of the African American community, mostly business owners, doctors, lawyers, entertainers, athletes and civil rights activists, began moving into View Park in 1950’s.
“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,” National Register historian Paul Lusignan wrote in his evaluation of View Park.
“Often facing intimidation and violence, View Parks’ 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,’” he added.
Among View Park’s most famous residents were the legendary Ray Charles and Ike and Tina Turner. It remains one of the wealthiest African American neighborhoods in the country, an enduring symbol of African American success.
In 2014, residents Andre Gaines and Ben Kahle co-founded View Park Conservancy, the volunteer nonprofit neighborhood organization that led the initiative to nominate View Park for the National Register. Along with seven other longtime and new residents, they hosted more than 25 community meetings to build awareness and raise funds to preserve the history and legacy of their neighborhood. About 670 View Park residents made a donation to pay for the complicated process of seeking a Historic designation.
“Listing View Park on the National Register is the culmination of over two and half years of hard work and dedication to our mission,” Gaines said. “It was truly a community effort and, without the overwhelming support from our neighbors, this day would have never been possible.”
Kahle lives in the Doumakes House in View Park, the County’s first historic landmark. He said the National Register designation “will create additional community pride and awareness for what makes View Park such a prestigious and special neighborhood.”
“Several studies have also proven that property values in Historic neighborhoods are 10 to 30 percent higher than in non-historic neighborhoods,” Kahle added.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes View Park, also celebrated the National Register designation. He authored the motion that enabled residents of the 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,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “This designation helps in preserving the community’s noteworthy legacy, while at the same time, charting its path forward.”