Connect with us

News

An L.A. Neighborhood That Has It All—And You Probably Haven’t Visited

This is the latest for our series on underrated destinations, It’s Still a Big World. There is something so very raw and idiosyncratic about Los Angeles. It’s the food (fusion). The people (fusion). The architecture (Spanish Mission Revival, Mid Century Modern, Art Deco, Craftsman… AKA fusion). It’s the sunsets and the way the sky bends to meet the deep, deep blue-green ocean as if they were one and the same. The vibrant, larger-than-life murals…

Published

on

It’s Still a Big World, our series on under-appreciated destinations, has just released its latest installment.

Los Angeles has a very raw and individual feel to it. It’s the food that’s the problem (fusion). The general public (fusion). Modern, Art Deco and Craftsman style architecture (Spanish Mission Revival and Mid-Century Modern mixed together). When the sun sets, it’s as if the sky and ocean are one and the same thing, a deep blue-green hue merging into the horizon. Chicano and Mexican American artists’ vibrant, larger-than-life murals on Cesar Chavez Ave. and all over the city. I could go on and on about how much I adore Los Angeles. Those who know me, or have even spoken to me for a few minutes, are well aware of this fact

Thus, imagine my surprise–after so many years of visiting and then living in Los Angeles and all those weeks that turned into months of driving aimlessly, wasting gasoline, and filing away little polaroids in my mind of crooked homes on hills and palm trees curling toward the heavens and green parrots flying home every evening near Griffith Park–when I learned that West Adams is L.A.’s oldest suburb with a thrall to the Spanish missionary community of West Adams.

It was in the late 19th century that the development of what is now known as West Adams began, with Baldwin Hills to the south, a major freeway to the north and Jefferson Park to the east. For decades, the most affluent neighborhood in Los Angeles was located in the city’s oldest suburb, which was developed by railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington and real estate investor and Pasadena Millionaires’ Row resident Hulett C. Meritt.

Advertisement

There was a shift in West Adams’ Victorian mansions and Craftsman-style bungalows as white residents fled the 1.5-square-mile neighborhood during Compton’s white flight. West Adams Heights, or Sugar Hill, was home to a number of household names, including Louise Beavers, Hattie McDaniel, Johnny Otis, Pearl Bailey, and Ethel Waters. In addition, the area is well-known for its role in L.A.’s Civil Rights movement. During the LA Riots of 1992, the First AME church provided a safe haven for people displaced or victimized by violence, looting, and fires in the area.

It’s been under a lot of strain since the 1960s, when the Santa Monica Freeway was built, dividing West Adams in two. Following that, houses were demolished. According to the West Adams Heritage Association (WAHA), in the 1970s, the city paved over West Adams’ ornate street lighting and red brick streets. There are still a large number of Latinos and African-Americans living in the neighborhood, which has remained culturally diverse. Young people have been drawn to the area by its affordability and central location over the last decade (just 15 minutes from LAX and 12 from DTLA). Before a few years ago, a home in this area could be purchased for under $500,000.

City of Los Angeles designation as a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone for its early 20th century architecture and social and cultural heritage was made in 2003. Two of the city’s oldest Black churches can be found in the neighborhood, which is also home to a variety of ethnic eateries, including Chinese (MIAN), Israeli (Mizlala), Salvadoran (Es Con Sabor), Cali-soul (Alta), a wine shop (Adams Wine Shop) that focuses on women’s and BIPOC-produced wines, as well as a gallery featuring work by up-and-coming, established, and established Black artists. South Los Angeles is a cultural melting pot that is constantly changing.

Alsace LA, a 48-room boutique hotel on Alsace Ave. set to open at the end of 2021, is one of the newest additions to the area and the reason I first came here. Not like the Four Seasons, Proper Hotel, or even the Ace Hotels. Rooms with private garden patios at Alsace have a “homey” apartment-style feel, thanks to the open, breezy courtyard, a fitness center and a swimming pool on-site, and complimentary Wi-Fi. The emphasis is on design. For an authentic feel, all mosaic tiles on this property were created by local artists. It blends in with the surroundings, remaining unobtrusive and understated while still conveying a sense of opulence and sophistication. During the night, the front gates are locked and a guard is stationed outside the entrance for additional security. The only noise you’ll hear is the sound of a dog barking or the rumble of a muffler.

Advertisement

During Black History Month in 1993, the LA Times reported on a tour of West Adams that had previously taken place. There was a monument to the former slave Bridget “Biddy” Mason, who founded the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles in the 1850s, as well as the home of UN mediator Ralph Bunche, the first African-American and person of color to win the Nobel Peace Prize. There were also buildings designed by Paul R. Williams, the Dunbar Hotel, and other noteworthy landmarks that had been damaged or destroyed by the fire. Alsace also collaborates with Adopt-a-Bike x West Adams Bike Tour, a local real estate company, to offer monthly tours. As part of Jose Prats’ monthly tradition, which he resumes in the fall after a summer hiatus, he takes eager visitors out on two wheels to show them around his beloved neighborhood and share with them its rich history and natural beauty. There are maps for self-guided tours and free bike rentals at the hotel if you can’t make it or prefer to explore on your own.

If you join the tour, you’ll get to see the following locations: The house that Marvin Gaye lived in, and where he also died. Introducing High Fidelity, a new and vintage record store based on the 2000 film of the same name. We also have classes and workshops every week on topics like spiritual growth, practicality, and more at the Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens.

In West Adams and Los Angeles as a whole, I find myself drawn to the culture, the diversity, and the deep-rooted sense of community that can be found in an area where people look like me, talk like me, and speak the language I grew up hearing as well as other languages I’ve learned to recognize over time. In order to preserve and protect its appeal, I hope that it will continue to grow, as it currently feels like the perfect balance.

Visit The Daily Beast for more information on this topic.

Advertisement
Advertisement