Leimert Park subject of Images of America book

| November 2, 2012 | 0 Comments

Using more than 200 vintage images, authors Cynthia Exum and Maty Guiza-Leimert weave the tale of the area’s humble beginnings in the late 1920s to its rise in the 1940s in the book “Leimert Park.”

The boundaries were Santa Barbara (now Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.) on the north, Arlington on the east, Vernon to the south and Angeles Mesa (now Crenshaw Blvd.) on the West.

Many of the photos are from the private collection of Walter H. Leimert, who purchased the land for $2 million from Clara Baldwin Stocker in 1927.

The wealthy real estate developer from Northern California commissioned Olmsted and Olmsted, the master planner of New York’s Central Park, to assist with the development of one of L.A.’s first planned communities.

His grandson, Walter III, who wrote the book’s foreward, is active in Leimert Companies, which has been in the real estate business in California for more than 100 years. His office is on Larchmont Blvd., where he manages four office buildings.

According to Walter III’s wife, author Guiza-Leimert, Walter Sr. pioneered development of many prestigious communities in L.A.

Paving the WayThe book’s first chapter shows the underdeveloped land; chapter two tells of Leimert’s purchase. In “Paving the Way,” photographs feature the faces of the builders, architects and contractors, while chapter four illustrates a community unfolding with transportation, recreation, churches and schools.
Subsequent chapters cover 1932 when the Olympics were in town, post-World War II development in the 1940s and 50s, and historical and cultural landmarks.

“People, Places and Celebrations” depicts how Leimert Park became a place to rally change—political or otherwise—and celebrate life events. The final chapter focuses on the reality of the financial constraints affecting parts of the city.

New Deal legislation

Photographs and captions tell of how President Roosevelt’s New Deal National Housing Act of 1934 created the Federal House Administration (FHA) to insure bank mortgages affected the area.

Homes in Leimert Park were insured by the FHA, but contained racial restrictions written into property deeds that excluded minorities and ethnic groups.

“Leimert Park was restricted to white residents until the convenants were struck down by the Supreme Court in 1947,” write Exum and Guiza-Leimert in the book’s introduction.

“Nevertheless, homeownership in Leimert Park and areas like it was very difficult, so real estate intermediaries would purchase property or lots on behalf of African Americans or other ethnic groups.”


Another milestone in the area’s history was the 1965 Watts Riots, that scared residents to migrate, which created housing and business opportunities for minorities. Gradually, the area became an oasis of African American art, music and culture, and Leimert Park Village became the primary Afrocentric shopping district in Los Angeles. The village is located on a one square block bordered by Crenshaw and Leimert boulevards and 43rd Place.

Celebrity residents

It’s modern style and affordability and proximity to Hollywood and downtown made Leimert Park an attractive community, and Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Mayor Tom Bradley and other notables made it their home.

AMONG NEW RESTAURANTS in area is Post and Beam in the Crenshaw
Baldwin Hills Shopping Center.

“The history is so rich as it walks the reader through the roaring 20s, the crash of 1929, the New Deal, the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s up to where we are today,” said Guiza-Leimert.


In the book’s forward, Walter Leimert III writes, “Through all of these changes and challenges of the past, we continue to see the uniqueness of this small town and remain enthusiastic for the modern-day history that continues.”

The Images of America series, by Arcadia Publishing, celebrates the history of neighborhoods. For more information, go to www.arcadiapublishing.com.


PHOTO from 1950s shows the trolley that extended through Santa Barbara and Leimert boulevards to Crenshaw.


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Category: Real Estate

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