View Park, an area of town affectionately called “The Black Beverly Hills,” was added this week to the National Register of Historic Places.
The distinction is significant because the community has become an enclave for upscale African Americans but was originally built in the 1920s for White residents only. It took a U.S. Supreme Court battle to lift the housing restrictions and open the doors for minorities. The homes architecturally distinctive, offer sweeping views of Downtown Los Angeles, and according to the 1930 Census, the only minorities there were two African Americans and one Japanese American—all three were servants.
In a landmark 1948 ruling (Shelley v. Kraemer), the Supreme Court ruled that racial covenants on real estate were unconstitutional, thereby allowing prominent members of the African American community—mostly professional persons—to begin arriving in the 1950s.
Among View Park’s most famous residents was musician Ray Charles and the duo Ike and Tina Turner. It remains one of the nation’s wealthiest African American neighborhoods and in succeeding years has attracted a new generation of upper-middle class Black families.
In 2014 residents Andre Gaines and Ben Kahle co-founded View Park Conservancy, a volunteer non-profit neighborhood organization that led the initiative to nominate the community to the National Register. Over time, about 670 View Park residents made donations to pay for the process of seeking an historic designation.
“Listing View Park on the National Register is the culmination of over two and one-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 never have been possible.”
Kahle resides in the Doumakes House in View Park, the county’s first historic residential landmark. He said inclusion in the National Register will create additional community pride and awareness.
“Several studies have also proven that property values in historic neighborhoods are 10- to 30-percent higher than in non-historic neighborhoods,” Kahle said.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has a special interest in recognizing the history of View Park. He helped author 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,” Ridley-Thomas said. “This designation helps in preserving the community’s noteworthy legacy, while at the same time, charting its path forward.”