Aerial Photo of View Park, Circa 1937.
(Doumakes House Pictured Far Right)
From developers, residents, culture and architecture, View Park is a remarkable neighborhood with a storied past. In 2015, View Park was nominated to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On July 12th 2016, View Park was listed on the National Register of Historic places, making the neighborhood 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.
There are 1,752 single-family residences in the View Park Historic District. Due to the District’s incremental development over a period of about 40 years, concentrations of several architectural styles appear in View Park. Residences constructed in the pre-World War II era were designed predominantly in Period Revival styles, such as Spanish Colonial Revival, American Colonial Revival, Monterey Revival, Mediterranean Revival, and French Revival. A number of Minimal Traditional residences dating to the 1930s are located throughout this area. Postwar residences are predominantly one iteration or another of the Ranch style, such as Oriental, Traditional, and Contemporary Ranch. The District also has a small number of residences in other styles, including Storybook, Streamline Moderne, and International Style. All residences have a high degree of workmanship and quality in materials and construction.
View Park architecture features the work of many notable architects, such as the Los Angeles Investment Company, Postle & Postle, R. F. Ruck, Paul Haynes, Leopold Fischer, H. Roy Kelley, Raphael Soriano, Charles W. Wong, Robert Earl, M.C. Drebbin, Vincent Palmer, Theodore Pletsch and Homer C. Valentine. It is also rumored that renown African American architect, Paul Williams built several homes in View Park.
In 1912, the Los Angeles Investment Company purchased 3,600 acres of Elias “Lucky” Baldwin’s holdings in the Baldwin Hills for $2,400,000, on which they planned to develop 30,000 lots, many to be higher-end residences. The Los Angeles Investment Company would develop approximately 2,300 parcels in View Park over a period of four decades. With the rise of the automobile, Los Angeles’ hilly regions were ripe for residential development and beginning in the 1920s, developers began to use elevation as a status symbol, whereby homes constructed in higher elevations were associated with wealth, privacy, and separation from those below. The Los Angeles Investment Company, then, reserved View Park’s hillside tracts for more affluent buyers believing that the sloping land with panoramic views would provide an ideal setting for luxury residences.
In its early years, View Park’s homeowners were exclusively white. According to the 1930 census records, there were just two black residents and one Japanese resident in the neighborhood, and all three were servants. The neighborhood was marketed and sold to white buyers exclusively. Because of racial covenants and redlining, Los Angeles’ African American population, meanwhile, was restricted from View Park and neighborhoods like it.
After decades of fighting to end housing discrimination, in 1948, the United States Supreme Court finally ruled that restrictive real estate covenants were unconstitutional, opening the door for minorities to migrate to previously restricted neighborhoods. Though it is unknown who View Park’s first African American homeowner was or when they moved in, a number of blacks began purchasing homes in the neighborhood in the 1950s. They were largely professionals and prominent members of Los Angeles’ African American community, including business people, doctors, lawyers, athletes, entertainers, and civil rights activists. The earliest known instance of racial harassment and violence occurred in 1957, when sisters and school teachers Evangeline Woods Johnson and Ella Redmond purchased a home at 4025 Olympiad Drive and a group of white neighbors repeatedly threatened them, including setting their lawn on fire and burning a cross on their property.
Starting in the early 1960s, with the Civil Rights Movement advancing and attitudes in the U.S. shifting, a greater number of African Americans were able to acquire property in View Park, including celebrities Ike and Tina Turner and Ray Charles, who are credited with enhancing View Park’s reputation and appeal to African Americans. By 1970, View Park’s African American residents outnumbered Caucasians nearly three to one and by 1980, this ratio had increased to nine to one. Though white flight was fueled by the belief that View Park would depreciate in value and lose its prestige, this did not happen. As a nearly all-black community, View Park’s median annual family income and median property values remained well above the city average, and the neighborhood retained its status and desirability, eventually earning View Park the nickname, “the black Beverly Hills.”
Today, View Park is a wonderful mix of long time residents, new families with young children and breathtaking architecture.. The community bonds together regularly with annual summer jazz concerts and movie nights at the neighborhood park (Monteith Park). View Park is also well known for it's summertime home garden tours and historic home tours.