Watts City Hall and Engine Company No. 65 | Los Angeles Conservancy
Watts City Hall and Engine Company No. 65, view northeast. Photo by Architectural Resources Group, 2021.

Watts City Hall and Engine Company No. 65

UPDATE: On November 17, 2022, the Cultural Heritage Commission voted to recommend the Watts City Hall and Engine Company No. 65 for Historic-Cultural Monument listing.  The nomination now heads to the City's Planning and Land Use Management Committee. Meeting details will be posted when they become available.


The Watts City Hall and Engine Company No. 65 building is one of the only remaining pre-World War II institutional buildings constructed in the Watts neighborhood. Originally serving as the branch city hall for the City of Los Angeles, the property also housed health department offices, a police station, and Engine Company No. 65 fire station from 1936 to 2006. It was one of the first institutional buildings constructed after the annexation of Watts to the City of Los Angeles in 1926. The building is an excellent example of a Beaux-Arts style municipal building. Designed and constructed by Los Angeles city architects and contractors, the property was identified as a potential historic resource by SurveyLA.

The Conservancy submitted a Historic-Cultural Monument nomination for the building in 2022. On September 15, 2022, the nomination for Watts City Hall and Engine Company No. 65 was taken under consideration by the Cultural Heritage Commission.  

In 2012, SurveyLA identified the property as an early example of institutional development in Watts. It is also an excellent and rare example of a Beaux-Arts style municipal building in Southeast Los Angeles.

Between 1920 and 1926, Watts more than tripled in size, from 4,529 inhabitants to an estimated 16,000. To address the influx in population, the Watts Fire Department began operating at the city hall building at 1645 E. 103rd Street in 1924. However, the city ultimately lacked sufficient funding to provide adequate services to its residents, and a vote was made to annex Watts to the City of Los Angeles on May 29, 1926. At this time, the station became part of the Los Angeles Fire Department and was renamed Engine Company No. 65. In 1933, the Long Beach earthquake destroyed buildings throughout the region, including many located in Watts. The municipal building at 1645 E. 103rd Street suffered irreparable damage, leading to the construction of a new branch municipal building and fire station in Watts.

In July 1936, the new municipal building and fire station opened at 1513-1525 E. 103rd Street. Engine Company No. 65 occupied the eastern half of the building and the Watts branch of Los Angeles City Hall, including the police and health departments, occupied the western portion. 

In the 1950s and 60s, the building was one of the only municipal facilities serving the Watts community. During this time, discriminatory treatment of African Americans by police grew, while public services available to the community decreased. Tensions mounted and ultimately led to the Watts Uprising in August 1965, which lasted for several days and resulted in more than forty million dollars worth of property damage. Following the uprising, the City of Los Angeles introduced a redevelopment plan intended to bring a range of new and expanded services to the Watts community, including a new civic center. It was not until decades later that a new civic center was realized through funding provided by the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and Community Development Department. 

The building housed other city services, including a youth training center and alcoholism help center in the 1970s and 80s, and the Watts office of the CRA in the 1990s. Over time, many of these city services would vacate the property, though Engine Company No. 65 continued to occupy the building until 2006.

Completed in 1997, the new civic center building was constructed just east of the subject propery and would become the primary municipal services facility in the community. In 2019, the CRA sold the new civic center and all city departments vacated the building. The building at 1513-1525 E. 103rd Street continues to hold municipal facilities and currently operates as the Watts Civic Center Office Building.

In May 2022, the Conservancy submitted the Historic-Cultural Monument nomination for the Watts City Hall and Engine Company No. 65. This property was identified by SurveyLA as an early example of institutional development in Watts. Constructed in 1936, it serves as a rare and intact institutional example of the Beaux-Arts style in the city, rarely found outside of the Downtown Historic Core. 

 

UPDATE: On November 17, 2022, the Historic-Cultural Monument nomination for the Watts City Hall and Engine Company No. 65 was heard by the Cultural Heritage Commission. The Commission voted to recommend the nomination and now it heads to the City's Planning and Land Use Management Committee. Meeting details will be posted here when they become available. Thank you for your continued support!