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With its clean streets, well-kept homes, good schools and central location, Leimert Park is an island of stability in the sea of upheaval that is too often found in Los Angeles. Called a spiritual and cultural haven for the city’s African American community, the three-sq.-mile area is largely populated by professional, middle-class inhabitants looking for a safe and quiet place to call home. “I just love Leimert Park. The place isn’t just beautiful, but it’s close to everywhere, has good schools, and our house was a very good deal,” says longtime resident Deborah Hill.
Created by Walter H. Leimert Co. in 1927 and designed by Fredrick Olmsted, the architect of New York City’s Central Park, Leimert Park was one of Los Angeles’ first planned communities. Restricted to white residents until the 1960s, the=area began its present black renaissance with the arrival of art impresario Alonzo Davis shortly after the Watts riots.
Founded in 1967, Davis’ Brockman Gallery (no longer in operation) nurtured the early careers of respected artists like David Hammons, John Outterbridge, Elizabeth Catlett and Romare Bearden. “I’ve watched the area change from white to Oriental to predominantly black,” says Brian Breye, owner of Museum in Black (4331 Degnan Blvd.; 213-292-9528). “This part of the city is one of the only areas in the U.S. with such a high concentration of educated blacks and black businesses. It’s on the move and rising, and there’s a lot of pride in the community,” he says.
The success that the Brockman Gallery enjoyed during the ’70s and early ’80s planted the seeds for the bustling commercial district of today. The four- block commercial area, called Leimert Park Village, is home to galleries, museums, studios, a film and video center, and Afrocentric fashion and merchandise shops.
Leimert Village also has a number of notable dining options, such as the Pacific World of Cobblers (3415 W. 43rd St.; 213-295-2059), where you can be treated to peach and apple cobblers and other delectables. Visitors can also be spotted feasting on delicious salmon croquettes from the soul food eatery Dulans (4859 S. Crenshaw Blvd.; 213-296-3034) or Jamaican cuisine from Coley’s Kitchen Jamaican Restaurant (4335 Crenshaw Blvd.; 213-290-4010).
Walk down the Village’s main street, Degnan Boulevard, on a busy weekend and you’ll see customers strolling and fingering wares on display outside shops. You may also find visitors trying to catch one of the big name jazz musicians who regularly give clinics inside a cozy place with a big name, World Stage (4344 Degnan Blvd.; 213-293-2451).
With its diverse cultural offerings, Leimert Park has increasingly become a popular destination for tourists seeking a slice of black L.A. life. Laura Hendrix, owner of the art shop, Gallery Plus (4333 Degnan Blvd.; 213-296-2398), says that Leimert Park’s growing tourism has been a godsend for many of the area’s businesses. “The growing visibility that we’re getting is really translating into dollars and cents. In my case, I’ve seen my receipts go up by 30%.”
To encourage tourism, a number of sponsored events, such as Kwanzaa, the La