A nice write-up of Wellington Square in the most recent edition of the Neighborhood News…
Category: Our History
Published on Friday, 02 August 2013 17:27
Written by Dawn Kirkpatrick
In 1913 a Los Angeles Times display ad claimed “Undoubtedly, considering location and openings per se, Wellington Square is the choicest offering along Washington and West Adams today.” A little over 100 years later, Wellington Square is still considered one of Los Angeles’ prime neighborhoods.
Bordered by West Blvd. on the west, Crenshaw Blvd. on the east, Washington Blvd. on the north and the Santa Monica Freeway on the south it was originally developed just before the start of World War I through the efforts of developer George L. Crenshaw, the Union Escrow and Realty Company, a syndicate led by Michael J. Nolan, the W.I. Hollingsworth Co. and realtor John A. Vaughan.
Today, Buckingham Road, Virginia Road, Wellington Road and Victoria Avenue comprise the Square. These four streets are filled with 209 gracious homes of various architectural styles, Spanish Colonial, Tudor and French Norman.
Some of the homes date back prior to World War I. Because Wellington Square was so popular back then “homeowners, and developers…literally picked up their graceful pre-War era homes from their original West Adams and Wilshire District plots and moved them to new plots in Wellington Square,” writes Laura Meyers, a founding member of the West Adams Historical Association (WAHA).
Wellington Square has gone through a number of changes since then, of course. With the help of the City Council in 1927, for example, the Wellington Square Improvement Association successfully arranged to keep heavy trucks out of the neighborhood. Later, “neighbors successfully petitioned to gate egress at West Boulevard and 23rd Street, slowing down traffic and bringing a quiet ambiance back to Wellington Square,” Meyers writes.
In the early 1960s, the California Department of Transportation (Caltran) built the Santa Monica Freeway and ran part of the it through Wellington Square. Today the Freeway makes up the neighborhood’s south border.
Wellington Square is an ethnically and culturally diverse neighborhood. Politicians, artists, actors and business people are and have been among its many residents. Once it was home to such notable residents as Dr. Vada Watson-Sommerville and her husband Dr. John A. Sommerville, for example. Among other notable accomplishments, Dr. Watson-Sommerville was the first African-American woman as well as the first woman in general to graduate from the USC School of Dentistry. Despite tremendous racial discrimination, Dr. John A. Sommerville became the first black or Jamaican-American to graduate from the dental school.
In addition to these professional accomplishments, the couple founded the Los Angeles Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, built a 26-unit apartment building for African Americans, which they named La Vada, and built a state-of-the art hotel called the Hotel Sommerville. The Hotel later became the Dunbar Hotel and subsequently hosted the first NAACP national convention on the West coast. It was also “the most popular Jazz and Blues scene in Los Angeles…frequented by guests such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie…Langston Hughes and W.B. Dubois,” according to WAHA’s A Stroll Through Wellington Square brochure.
Actress Dorothy Dandridge and her mother Ruby both once lived in Wellington Square as did Nick Stewart who played “Lightnin” on the Amos and Andy TV series and wasthe founder of the Ebony Showcase. The Showcase was later replaced by the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, current home of the Ebony Repertory Theatre.
Another notable current feature of Wellington Square is the Wellington Square Farmers Market. Established in 2010 and held every Sunday from 1-4 p.m., the popular Sunday Market provides a welcome addition to Wellington Square’s overall history. And the history of Wellington Square adds a welcome chapter to the history of Mid-City L.A.