Alcoholism Center for Women

This project celebrates fifty years of a path-breaking treatment program for women located in adaptively reused historic homes, where storytelling and community building are embedded into its preservation efforts—demonstrating the power of historic preservation to support crucial community services.

Place Details


1147 South Alvarado Street,
Los Angeles, California 90006
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Echo Park


1906, 1907


In the fall of 1974, Brenda Weathers and a cadre of lesbian activists and service providers from the Gay Community Services Center (now the LGBT Center) walked up to the sagging porch of 1147 S. Alvarado St. Within the deteriorating ten-bedroom, two and a half story Tudor Revival home in Pico Union, they founded a groundbreaking program – an alcohol rehabilitation center and community space specifically for women and lesbians. Soon, with plants hanging by macrame rope to enliven spaces, parlors and bedrooms are now offices and community rooms. Next door at 1135 S. Alvarado, staff scrubbed grease from the kitchen floor and rearranged furniture in the recovery home. 

The formation of Alcoholism Center for Women (ACW) in 1975 marked an important shift in Los Angeles’ gay liberation movement, as the rise of street-based activist groups in the 1960s gave way to an institutionalization of quasi-public spaces in the 1970s dedicated to improving LGBTQ+ peoples’ material and metaphysical wellbeing. The two houses offered women, largely lesbians, an array of programming to support sobriety as well as social events to combat social marginalization and foster community. In the 1980s ACW began a pioneering program led by and for Black and Latina women.  

In 1987, 1147 and 1135 S Alvardo St. were threatened by demolition to make way for a mini-mall. ACW initiated a grassroots campaign that drew in major political leaders like Elizabeth Snyder and Maxine Waters, as well as preservation organizations like the L.A. Conservancy, to nominate the buildings as Historic-Cultural Monuments (HCMs). The buildings were designated for their architectural significance and with support from the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (CRA/LA), ACW bought and rehabilitated the properties.  

ACW continues its mission to serve marginalized women and care for the buildings. Current clients, like those for the last fifty years, help maintain the grounds and home as part of their recovery process. Conservation is an ongoing and reciprocal relationship of care between the buildings and the women they shelter.  

Owner and Project Lead: Alcoholism Center for Women 

Architect: Thirtieth Street Architects, Inc.  

Preservation Architect: Spectra Company 

Landscape Architect: Green Art Landscaping Designs 

Masonry Consultant: DiBara Masonry 

Master Gardener: Harriet Shaham 

In 1974, ACW was founded as a path-breaking treatment program located in two adaptively reused historic homes. | Photos by Lindsay Mulcahy.
ACW's founding members, such as its first leader Brenda Weathers, participated in 1960s grassroots organizing for LGBTQ+ rights that in the early 1970s morphed into the country’s first LGBTQ+ social service agency, the Gay Community Services Center (now the LGBT Center). Photos courtesy Alcoholism Center for Women. | Photos courtesy ONE Archives.
Original Alcoholism Center for Women staff, 1974. | Photos courtesy ONE Archives.
At ACW, preservation has always been a practice of educating people about the history of the building and getting them invested in its future. | Image courtesy ONE Archives.
In 1987, the buildings were bought by a developer who sought to raze the buildings for a mini mall. ACW staff, participants, and supporters rallied to save the building. | Image courtesy ONE Archives.
The buildings were designated L.A. Historic-Cultural Monuments (HCMs) in 1987 and the CRA declared eminent domain over the homes. | Image courtesy ONE Archives.
After purchasing the homes in 1988, ACW undertook a monumental rehabilitation project to combat decades of neglect and deterioration. | Photo by Lorette Herman.
In 2014, ACW embarked on a project to repaint both buildings’ facades, replace the entire plumbing systems, and install sister foundations. | Photo by Lorette Herman.
two women and a man on a forklift
Caring for the building is also part of women’s recovery at ACW. | Photo by Lorette Herman,
In 2024, ACW celebrated 25 years of empowering women to make new choices for positive futures. | Photo courtesy Alcoholism Center for Women.