Maravilla Handball Court and El Centro Grocery | Los Angeles Conservancy
Maravilla Handball Court and El Centro Grocery
Photo from Conservancy archives

Maravilla Handball Court and El Centro Grocery

This unique site reflects the rich layers of history common in Los Angeles.

The handball court was built brick-by-brick by East L.A. residents and completed 1928, with the El Centro Grocery and attached residence added in 1946. As the oldest remaining handball court in the Los Angeles region, the site has a rich, layered history and continues to serve as an important community space for youth and families.

From 1928 to 2007, the court was home to the men's-only Maravilla Handball Club. In the early 1940s, Michi and Tommy Nishiyama began operating the property in the 1950s following Michi's internment at a Japanese relocation camp.

The family opened a local El Centro grocery store next to the court; the store and court together became an important historic and cultural landmark to East Los Angeles residents. 

Maravilla was also the only court in East Los Angeles where players still played bola basca, also known as Basque pelota. This court sport, played with one's hand or a racket, is commonly seen in Basque communities throughout Oregon and Idaho.

In 2006, Michi passed away; Tommy followed a year later, and the court and store 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, and their work continues today.

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