West Adams, located in the center of Los Angeles, in an area stretching roughly from Figueroa Street (to the East) to Fairfax Avenue (to the West), and Santa Monica Freeway (to the North) to Exposition Boulevard (to the South). Exits off the Santa Monica freeway include La Brea, Crenshaw, Arlington, Western, Normandie, Vermont, or Hoover. West Adams is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, home to historic grand mansions, Craftsman and Victorian homes, and historic black communities. Today, it is an area immersed in mixed culture’s, offering a variety of businesses and cuisine.
Black History in West Adams
Golden State Mutual Life Insurance building (designed by black architect Paul Williams) was cutting edge for 1949, and still rises tall on the corner of Adams Blvd and Western Ave. Known as a “very modern building that would rival any other building in Los Angeles” at its inception, it was seen as a symbol of aspiration of the black community in L.A. By 1945, Golden State Mutual Life Insurance was the largest black-owned company west of the Mississippi River.
Sugar Hill, a homage to the legendary neighborhood in Harlem, sits atop a hill in West Adams; sitting above Adams Blvd and below the Santa Monica Freeway. Sugar Hill became an icon of black Hollywood in the late 1930’s, home to numerous movie stars including Hattie McDaniel, best supporting actress Oscar award winner for her role in Gone With the Wind, and Louise Beavers, known for her roles as the cheerful dutiful servant in movies Imitation of Life, She Done Him Wrong, and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. The area was famous for the massive Hollywood soirees thrown by McDaniel, which brought black and white celebrities to Sugar Hill. Middle and upper class black elite from L.A. and other American cities began making their homes in Sugar Hill. In 1963, Sugar Hill was bisected by the construction of new Santa Monica Freeway, destroying dozens of mansions owned by African Americans in the process. By 1964, almost all the old families who had called Sugar Hill home had moved away. Today, what is left of Sugar Hill is dominated by the Paul Williams’ designed First AME Church and few remaining historic mansions, including McDaniel’s on S. Harvard Street. The area stands in various states of restoration.
Other black history situated in West Adams includes the Marvin Gaye house, Ray Charles Museum/Library/Studio, and Fatburger restaurants original location (founded by Lovie Yancey in 1952).
Black Worship in West Adams
West Adams is home to many large and historic black church congregations. First AME Church is the oldest church founded by African Americans in Los Angeles, established in 1872, and currently having over 19,000 members. Trinity Baptist Church grew out of a Sunday School and later organized as a church in 1917. West Angeles Church of God in Christ was founded in 1943 and current Pastor is the Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ denomination. The church is known for its influential pastor, dynamic city ministries and for its celebrity members. Holman United Methodist Church was founded in 1945. Holy Name of Jesus Catholic is a Roman Catholic church, community rooted in a rich tradition of African American spirituality.
Black Eats & Drinks in West Adams
West Adams offers a variety of food options. Cooking at home? Stop by Pete’s Sausage, selling freshly made sausage since 1949, home of the original Louisiana Style Hot Link and Papa Pete’s Gourmet Sausages.
Looking for take-out? Follow the scent of savory smoke coming from Phillips BBQ, serving barbeque take-out options like ribs, brisket & other Southern fare. Or if you’re craving soul food, visit Chef Marilyn’s, serving take-out comfort food including menu favorites like Macaroni & Cheese, Potato Salad, Baked Catfish, Ox-Tails, and Smothered Chicken Wings. If you’re seeking some island cuisine, head over to Who’s Hungry Caribbean and Catering and take-out a plate of island inspired meat and vegan dishes.
In the mood for seafood? Mel’s Fish Shack, established in 1982, serves up delicious traditional Louisiana favorites such as red snapper, shrimp, po-boy sandwiches; fried to order with their private cornmeal batter mixed with their secret blended seasoning.
Possibly looking for eat-in option for date night or dinner with friends? West Adams offers an array of choices. Harold and Belles, family owned since 1969, serves up creole cuisine, cooked with homestyle love and offering many traditional southern menu choices. Chef Keith Corbin, executive Chef and partner at Alta West Adams, brings a modern soul food menu for your selection. Delicious Pizza West Adams is a hip-hop inspired pizza shop, co-founded by founders of hip hop record label Delicious Vinyl. The restaurant offers high-quality pizza pies with seating amongst golden-era hip-hop memorabilia.
Craving wine? Pop in Adams Wine Shop and ask Certified Sommelier Ruben Morancy for a recommendation. Ruben can show you wines produced by women and BIPOC vineyards, including black-owned Theopolis Vineyards, located in California’s prestigious Yorkville Highlands of the Anderson Valley
Black Leisure & Culture in West Adams
Amazing Grace Conservatory, co-founded by Wendy Raquel Robinson, offers classes in acting, singing, dance, and producing (amazinggraceconservatory.org)
Radha Yoga offers a variety of classes, accessible to everyone, regardless of flexibility, size, or level of fitness (radhayogala.com)
High Fidelity L.A., a vinyl record shop, offers a variety of popular music, and features a selection of new & used records, hi-fi audio equipment & memorabilia (highfidelityla.com)
Black Next in West Adams
Atlanta based, The Happening Spot, has chosen West Adams as the future home for their first location in Los Angeles. Coming soon in 2021!