Earlier I wrote about the LA Conservancy’s campaign on African-American architect Paul Revere Williams, Paul Revere Was Here, and the variety of panels they are offering to celebrate the amazing work of Williams. One of the offerings is a virtual tour of places that were a part of Williams’ life in and around LA. The virtual tour also includes a guidebook for those in or visiting Southern California to follow Williams’ trail which weaves in and out of Los Angeles and the nearby areas. Recently Patrick and I set out to find some of the locations in the guide and marvel at the incredible and versatile work of Paul Revere Williams.
First Home – 1271 W 35th Street, Los Angeles
This humble home is not one of Williams’ creations, but in fact the home he purchased with his wife, Della. Near South Central Avenue, it is located in what was a predominately Black neighborhood, as the homes were free from the racist covenants of the period. Williams called this place home for 30 years before designing and constructing his family a new home.
28th Street Apartments, formerly YMCA – 1006 E 28th Street, Los Angeles
Designed during the early part of Williams’ career in 1926, this YMCA was nicknamed the “Colored Y” as it catered to the Black community of Los Angeles, and included a pool, which proved vital to the community, as LA’s municipal pools were segregated until 1931. Despite segregation, funding came from Black and white Angelenos alike. In addition to designing the property, Williams was also a member. In 2012 it underwent a renovation and was converted into apartments with units for low income and those transitioning from homelessness.
A prime example of creative repurpose, it is a LA Historic-Cultural Monument, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2013 it received the Conservation Preservation Award.
Beverly Hills Hotel – 9641 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles
While the Beverly Hills Hotel has been part of the Southern California landscape since 1912, it received a glamorous renovation in 1941 thanks to Williams, becoming the landmark we know today. The iconic pink and green color scheme and trademark script is the work of Williams, and when it comes to that script, it is in fact Williams’ own handwriting!
The darker side to this elite hot spot is that while Williams was hired to revamp the hotel, he was not allowed to stay or dine there, and wasn’t even waited on unless with the white owners. Recently Williams’ work was honored at the hotel, with a suite named after him.
Legacy Plaza, formerly Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company Building – 1999 W Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles
Founded in 1922, and one of the first west coast life insurance companies to offer life insurance to the Black community, Golden State Mutual expanded and by the late 1940s they were in need of a new office. Williams designed this for the 300 employees of the company, and it also featured a 150 person cafeteria and 400 seat auditorium.
The location is also a LA Historic-Cultural Monument as well as on the National Register of Historic Places, serving as a prime example of the late-Moderne period.
Second Home – 1690 S Victoria Avenue, Los Angeles
In 1948 the unfair covenants that kept people of color and Jews out of certain areas were deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, and in 1951 Williams moved his family into a home of his own design in the luxurious Lafayette Square neighborhood. Williams also designed the furniture.
A Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, it went on the market in 2017, and, as you can clearly see, it is currently undergoing a restoration. This is perhaps my favorite building on the tour.
Founder’s Church of Religious Science – 328 W 6th Street, Los Angeles
Williams designed various churches, regardless of denomination, including this domed mid-century modern church for the Founder’s Church of Religious Science. Growing in numbers to over 100,000 members, the Church of Religious Science asked Williams to design a church to house their flock, and he created his unique piece with breeze blocks featuring crosses, and unique partitions and railings in 1960.
The church is both a LA Historic-Cultural Monument and on the National Register of Historic Places.
First African Methodist Episcopal Church – 2270 S Harvard Boulevard, Los Angeles
Williams had been involved with the First African Methodist Episcopal Church for sometime and served on the Board of Trustees when he was asked to design a new church, coming up with this mid-century modern gem in 1965. It seats 5,000 and features a community youth center. Both the cornerstone and Board of Trustees plaque on site feature his name.
I absolutely love the zig-zag roof with the contrasting turquoise painted underneath. In 1980 Williams passed away, and his funeral was held here.
As mentioned we didn’t make it to all of the places on the list, which also include places from Williams’ childhood, as well as works by architects he influenced, showcasing his legacy and impact. The LA Conservancy has two more dates available for this unique virtual tour, tomorrow and May 26, then the driving tour can be done at your convenience! The tour serves as a nice, safe outing, we barely walked by anyone when snapping these photos, but if you’re just driving by to take a look at the buildings there isn’t even a need to get out of your car. To learn more, including purchasing tickets, click here!
Los Angeles Conservancy & National Organization of Minority Architects – Southern California Chapter. Paul Revere was Here: On the Trail of L.A.’s Legendary Architect Paul R. Williams.
Plaques on site at various locations.