Maravilla Handball Court and El Centro Grocery Store
After many months of effort by the Conservancy and the Maravilla Historical Society, in 2012 the State Historical Resources Commission voted to list the Maravilla Handball Court and El Centro Grocery in the California Register of Historical Resources.
The Maravilla Historical Society, which currently rents the property as its headquarters, is raising funds in an effort to purchase it for use as a community center to promote local history and recreation.
In early 2017, the Maravilla Historical Society and Conservancy learned that the new property owner had begun removing interior features from El Centro Grocery. We will continue to monitor the buildings to ensure that the historic fabric remains intact.
In 2006 and 2007, longtime owners Michi and Tommy Nishiyama passed away and the Maravilla Handball Court and El Centro Grocery were closed.
The site was boarded up for a year, until Amanda Perez and the Maravilla Historical Society began efforts in 2008 to restore the court and store for community residents to appreciate, use, and learn about an important part of their neighborhood’s history.
Residents and handball veterans who remembered the legacy of the court took up the cause to save the building. “It is my passion to save the legacy of my people, my community, and our Chicano culture,” says MHS President Amanda Perez, who grew up in the Maravilla neighborhood and has garnered broad support on this preservation issue. “We want this place to be a beacon for all to come and step into the past, present, and future.”
In December 2009, the MHS organized the court’s first-ever co-ed youth handball tournament. Attended by over twenty-five local boys and girls, the event helped introduce the sport and the historic court to a new generation of players. Veteran players attended to mentor participants, including young girls eager to learn the sport.
The effort to preserve the Maravilla Handball Court is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s This Place Matters campaign, spearheaded locally by the Conservancy, which identifies important historic sites that merit national attention. The Maravilla Handball Court was profiled in the Spring 2010 edition of the National Trust's Forum Journal.
The Maravilla Handball Court and El Centro Grocery was successfully nominated for listing in the California Register of Historical Resources by the Conservancy in partnership with the Maravilla Historical Society. The nomination had the formal support of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Listing in the California Register offers preservation protection for the building by making certain changes to it subject to public review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Since the building is located in unincorporated East Los Angeles, which did not have a preservation ordinance at the time of the nomination, state-level designation offered the strongest protection. Los Angeles County has since adopted a preservation ordinance for the unincorporated areas.