a closed and abandoned Elegant Manor
This large estate, now the Church of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, was built in 1912
photos by Brian W. Carter
The West Adams area was once an elite African-American and one of Los Angeles’ most diverse communities.
In Los Angeles, there are historical places filled with grandeur, luxury and history. Most wouldn’t think driving down Adams Blvd, you were driving down one of those places—but you are! Adams Blvd. was once a plush and luxurious neighborhood for the rich, wealthy and elite African Americans known as “Sugar Hill.”
In the early 1900s, the West Adams area became home to wealthy and successful entrepreneurs, businessmen and magnates. Many of these residents built large mansions and homes with elaborate designs and structures.
During the depression in the 1930’s, many homeowners moved or sold their grand estates to tenants. This change would be followed by an influx of African-American entertainers and become known as Sugar Hill. Even though there was opposition to Blacks moving in the area, many still came to call West Adams home.
Many Black actors and entertainers at the time either worked or lived in Sugar Hill including Hattie McDaniel, first African-American actress to win an Oscar, singer and actress Lena Horne, musician Ray Charles, jazz organist Earl Grant and actress Louise Beavers among others. In 1948, racial restrictions on housing were found unconstitutional which opened the door to Sugar Hill even wider. The West Adams area became home to many influential and wealthy African-Americans.
In the early 1960s the Santa Monica Freeway cut through Sugar Hill and divided the prominent West Adams area. Many historical homes, as a result of the new freeway, were lost. The Sugar Hill area would see another boom in well-to-do African-Americans in the 1980s, as many were attracted to the stylized homes and neighborhood.
Many of the mansions in the area such as Victorian homes and American crafted bungalows have been preserved and still stand to this day. Elegant Manor, although closed and condemned, has a rich history. Built in 1906 for a music mogul and served as a music store and later rest home for actors. The manor would also come to belong to other entertainers for a time.
It wasn’t until the late 1970s when Elegant Manor would become more associated with African-Americans. Arlillian Moody, a sharecropper’s daughter from Louisiana, purchased the abandoned monument. Moody utilized the manor in a variety of ways some of which included a community center, catering, weddings and a halfway house. One of the most notable uses of the manor was its catering services for the cast of Soul Train. Many of the homes still stand in their grandeur and have become apartments, frat and sorority houses for USC students and churches.
The next time you’re driving down Adams Blvd. headed towards Western… take a look around. At Sugar Hill…. African-Americans enjoyed success, life and family in-style and still do. The West Adams area is a significant part of the Los Angeles African-American history and stands as an example of how far we’ve come as a people and what we have accomplished.