A trifecta of African American culture in South LA

Photos by Lisa Rau
Mural photo by Adrian Scott Fine

imageWhen Golden State Mutual Life Insurance went bankrupt in 2009, the historic building that had housed the West Adams firm since 1949 was seized by state regulators and slated for liquidation of all assets.

This week, the Los Angeles City Council named the building, on the corner of Adam Boulevard and Western Avenue, an official historic monument, ensuring the preservation of a trio of cultural legacies: the first and largest African American-owned insurance company in California; building design by the first African American certified architect in California, Paul Revere Williams; and scores of murals illustrating African American history in California.

“There are few places around—not only in California but across the country—where you can point to all those things happening in one place,” said Adrian Fine, director of advocacy for the Los Angeles Conservancy. “It has extreme significance of that level of telling the story of African-American heritage.”

The building has since been sold to Community Impact Development, Inc., which has encountered legal challenges regarding ownership of the building’s murals. State regulators wish to sell the building’s assets—including the murals—to repay company shareholders. Art that once sat in display cases inside the building has already been sold.image

Community Impact Development plans to lease the property to Friends of South Central Los Angeles Regional Center, which is underway with plans to restore the aging building and erect a new one in the adjacent parking lot to house the center’s existing 250 employees. They plan to fill the renovated structure with community organizations and small businesses to encourage commerce in the West Adams district.

“We’re going to stimulate development in an area that has rarely seen development in quite a few years,” said Dexter Henderson, executive director of Friends of South Central Los Angeles Regional Center. “We would like to maintain the historic legacy of that building and really help transform that corridor and that area with commerce and development.”

Funding for the project will come from the New Markets Tax Credit Program, which provides federal funds to economic development ventures. The group plans to have both the renovation and construction project underway by late 2011 or early 2012.

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