Ozawa Boarding House/ Obayashi Employment Agency and Joyce Boarding House/ Ozawa Residence
Built in 1912, and subsequently altered 1921 and 1924, these rare remaining Japanese American boarding houses have provided affordable housing and a community for over 100 years.
Preservationists, tenants, and neighborhood advocates worked together to designate these buildings as Historic-Cultural Monuments in 2021.
About This Place
About This Place
In 1914, Tsyua and Sukesaka Ozawa purchased a recently-built home at 564 N Virgil Avenue in the nascent J Flats community. The Ozawas were part of the first waves of migration of Issei, first generation Japanese immigrants, to arrive in Los Angeles. First congregating in Little Tokyo in the late nineteenth century, Japanese immigrants began to form residential enclaves throughout the city to start families.
As migration to the J Flats neighborhood swelled in the 1920s, the Ozawas and their next-door neighbor at 560 Virgil Ave converted their homes into a boarding house. Boarding houses were popular as affordable residences for Japanese immigrants and often doubled as employment agencies. They served as places of community connection and cultural expression in an era where Japanese Americans were excluded from many parts of white Los Angeles.
By 1942, the Ozawa family ran both 564 and 560 N Virgil. Boarders, mainly single men working as gardeners in private residences, enlivened the homes and patronized Japanese shops along the Virgil corridor. This community fabric was violently severed at the onset of World War II when Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes, businesses, and communities. The Ozawas were incarcerated at a camp in Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Their homes were stewarded by neighbors for the duration of the war.
In the post-war period, 564 N. Virgil Ave became an anchor to reunite family members and help their community rebuild. The Ozawas, who owned the properties through 1980, had a lasting influence on the neighborhood. The family developed four additional properties in the neighborhood and were actively involved in institution building in the neighborhood.
Today, single Japanese American men continue to call 564 Virgil Ave home. These residents continue an almost one-hundred-year legacy in the building known for provided community and security for Japanese and Japanese Americans in East Hollywood.
The Conservancy was a strong supporter of the Ozawa boarding houses throughout the designation process.
The Ozawa boarding houses brought together Japanese American community members, tenants rights advocates, and preservationists to illuminate the lives of ordinary and extraordinary Japanese American Angelinos, and to protect crucial affordable housing units for elderly tenants. These houses show why preservation matters for places with deep cultural and social meaning that may not be architecturally significant. It serves as an example for other efforts to preserve older and affordable housing in L.A.