View Park Historic District National Register Nomination
2017 Preservation Award Recipient
About View Park
Nestled in the Baldwin Hills area of unincorporated L.A. County is the View Park Historic District. Comprising nearly 1,800 properties, View Park is one of the largest National Register historic districts in California, the largest district in the U.S. designated for its association with African American history, and home to the County’s first local landmark.
Like many neighborhoods throughout the country, View Park was created with racially restrictive covenants in place. These covenants, which were legally enforceable and integrated into the deed of a property, prohibited an owner from selling or leasing to people of color, with the notable exception of servants hired by white residents.
By 1940, the use of restrictive racial covenants was commonplace, and eighty percent of Los Angeles’ property barred black families. As a result, for its first few decades, View Park was a quiet suburb for white, white-collar families.
Composed mainly of single-family homes, View Park attracted businessmen, lawyers, professors, and physicians. The houses were designed in various revival styles and had large front yards, servants’ quarters, and swimming pools.
In 1948, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled racially restrictive covenants unconstitutional (Shelley v. Kraemer), and black families began to move into View Park by the late 1950s. Despite backlash from some white residents in the form of open hostility, vandalism, and violence, middle- and upper-class African Americans continued to relocate there, drawn by the same features that had attracted original buyers.
By the 1960s, View Park had become a predominantly black neighborhood, retaining its prestige as home to the elite. Some of the enclave’s most well-known homeowners included Ray Charles, Ike and Tina Turner, and Bebe Moore Campbell, among many others. Its status earned View Park the nickname “Black Beverly Hills.”
In 2013, the newly formed View Park Conservancy (comprising residents) began researching the possibility of applying for designation as a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ). After learning that View Park did not qualify because it’s not a part of the City of Los Angeles, they considered alternatives, such as the California and National Registers.
Meanwhile, graduate students at the University of Southern California’s Heritage Conservation Program used View Park in their studies. The students researched and drafted a historic context statement for the area—an important first step in identifying and protecting significant places, providing a framework for their evaluation.
Students also identified the district’s boundaries and evaluated View Park against National Register criteria. While the architectural significance of the neighborhood was obvious from the start, the research revealed View Park’s dark history of racially restrictive housing practices and violence toward new black residents.
The students presented their findings to around a hundred View Park residents. Impressed with the history of their neighborhood, the residents decided to pursue listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
Over the next fifteen months, the View Park Conservancy led a major community outreach and fundraising campaign to finance the nomination. They raised $10,000 in the first week of the campaign, and View Park residents ultimately donated more than $100,000.
They hosted numerous community meetings and sent hundreds of mailers to spread the news of the area’s significance and educate their neighbors about the benefits of listing in the National Register.
Several View Park residents initially opposed the nomination, citing recent changes in the neighborhood. However, through their community outreach, the View Park Conservancy eventually earned the support of the majority.
The residents hired a professional firm to write the nomination, building on the students’ work. The nomination itself was a major undertaking that required the documentation of nearly 1,800 properties.
The firm completed the National Register nomination in August 2015, and the View Park Historic District was officially listed in the National Register on July 12, 2016. The residents’ grassroots effort earned a Los Angeles Conservancy Preservation Award in 2017.
The View Park Historic District serves as a reminder of a painful yet important time in our nation’s history. Its listing in the National Register will let it continue to tell the story of how black Angelenos overcame racial adversity to form one of the most prosperous African American communities in the country.