Alondra Park, El Camino College replaced a planned upscale black neighborhood called ‘Gordon Manor’ – Blackboardlists

Bruce’s Beach isn’t the only South Bay park created at the expense of black entrepreneurs and communities.

The land that now houses El Camino College, Alondra Park and a public golf course has a similar legacy. And it’s the area’s legacy that local historian Alison Rose Jefferson, who helped shed light on the history of Bruce’s Beach, detailed recently during a lecture at El Camino College.

That area – from Crenshaw Boulevard to Prairie Avenue and from Manhattan Beach Boulevard to Redondo Beach Boulevard in the Lawndale and Torrance areas – has a long and multi-ethnic history.

The first peoples to settle there were the nation of Gabrielino Tongva. The land then became Mexican ranchos.

And then, in the 1920s, it almost became an upper middle class subsection for black residents called Gordon Manor.

It’s that part of the country’s history that Jefferson told recently during a presentation at El Camino College.

Jefferson is the author of “Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era,” which includes a chapter on Bruce’s Beach and details the racism faced by black people in the state as they sought to live a prosperous life. to create.

Her research has also looked at the history of Gordon Manor, its genesis and abrupt end by the government. Jefferson’s talk on Gordon Manor was a prelude to El Camino’s library exhibition, “The History We Stand On: A Chronicle of the Land that El Camino Occupies,” which opens May 12 in the library lobby.

“Like many white Americans, black Americans were lured to California because of the opportunities and the good imagery promoting migration into the state,” Jefferson said. “The stories and images of African Americans who took part in various phases of Western migration and settlement remain largely absent from the dominant mythologies and history surrounding that migration and settlement.

  • Photo of dr. Wilbur C. Gordon, circa 1918. Gordon led...

    Photo of dr. Wilbur C. Gordon, circa 1918. Gordon planned in the 1920s for an upper-middle-class black residential area called Gordon Manor, but Los Angeles County took over the land to create Alondra Park before his vision was realized. (Screenshot of “The Negro trail blazers of California” by Delilah Beasley)

  • Historian Alison Rose Jefferson will give a...

    Historian Alison Rose Jefferson gives a presentation at El Camino College in Torrance on Thursday, April 21 about Gordon Manor, a black South Bay residential area that never flourished during the Jim Crow era because Los Angeles County condemned the land it now sits on El Camino College, Alondra Park and adjacent golf course. (Photo by Tyler Evains, Blackboardlists/SCNG)

  • The land below El Camino College, Alondra Park and the...

    The land beneath El Camino College, Alondra Park, and the adjacent golf course was a site planned for an upper-middle-class black subdivision in the 1920s. This aerial view shows Alondra Park and golf course on Monday, April 25, 2022. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

In 1925, Dr. Wilbur C. Gordon, along with fellow real estate developer and partner Journee W. White — who were both black — are planning a residential subdivision for the black middle and upper class, Jefferson said. Black contractor James Garrott was brought in to draw the architectural plans.

Gordon ran a medical practice in Ohio, where he was from, after graduating from Howard University Medical School in 1904. He moved to California in 1912.

Gordon, White and Garrott wanted to create their own neighborhood, Jefferson said. They essentially wanted to build a safe haven for black people, just as white people did in cities all around them, Jefferson said.

The real estate project, like all Gordon’s business ventures, was his way of pushing for civil rights and for black people to develop wealth and participate in the consumer culture of the era through group ownership, Jefferson wrote in her 2015 dissertation for her doctorate in philosophy. in history at UC Santa Barbara. Her dissertation eventually became ‘Living the California Dream’.

The mansion’s proposed site was adjacent to major arterial roads leading to beaches, buses and streetcars, Jefferson wrote, making it an ideal development site; the location would also increase property values.

Plans for the neighborhood were chic, Jefferson wrote in her dissertation, with luxury homes and modest residences on what was then a 213-acre farm and uncultivated land. The houses would have a Moorish-Spanish architectural style, Jefferson said during her lecture.

The Gordon Manor project cost developers an estimated $7 million, Jefferson wrote. That price tag included the land, 1,000 homes, street improvements, landscaping, lighting, public infrastructure and financing.

People could buy lots in Gordon Manor for $700 and more, Jefferson wrote, with a down payment of at least 3%.

Gordon placed an ad for the lots in a December 1925 issue of the California Eagle newspaper, Jefferson wrote, and in March 1926 he had announced in the paper that he had sold more than $200,000 worth of real estate in the forthcoming development.

Gordon envisioned the subdivision becoming “Los Angeles’s most select residential area,” he had said in a California Eagle article. The newspaper itself described buying lots in Gordon Manor as “a step forward in the march of progress,” Jefferson said.

But for some whites, Jefferson said, it wasn’t enough for black people to have a segregated section to live in the South Bay.

Just a year after Gordon, White and Garrott settled the residential area and began basic infrastructure work, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors took over land through eminent domain, thwarting their dream.

In 1926, Jefferson wrote, a group of wealthy white people living in Palos Verdes Estates had convinced the Board of Trustees to condemn the land of the subdivision and create a park. It was, Jefferson wrote, an attempt to “invade” African Americans from the South Bay.

This occurred three miles east of where the Manhattan Beach city council in 1924 condemned the Black-owned, Black-serving beach resort—Bruce’s Beach Lodge—by eminent domain to create a park in that city. That land only became a park in the 1960s.

Gordon Manor’s land similarly remained vacant for years, with officials, Jefferson said, “in no rush to create a park.”

Dairy cattle grazed for twenty years and Japanese truck farmers—people who sold their produce from the back of their trucks—used the land until Alondra Park opened in 1946; El Camino College opened the following year, and the public golf course opened to the public in 1950.

Gordon, Journee and their other partners received about $700,000 for the sentencing, Jefferson wrote, barely covering the group’s spending on the land and the infrastructure improvements they’d already made.

Journee White had said in an issue of the California Eagle, Jefferson wrote, that using eminent domain procedures was a way for white people “to exterminate … groups (in any territory) when and as often as they (could) prove a public necessity, by condemning your entire property for park purposes.”

Jefferson’s history lesson, on Thursday, April 21, gave the people at El Camino College much food for thought.

Brenda Thames, the college’s superintendent and president, said after the lecture that there is a difference between hearing that there is a history about a space and actually learning that history. She had heard about Gordon Manor during her stay in El Camino, Thames said, but hearing the historical story of what actually happened taught her more.

Hearing Jefferson talk about things like leisure was fascinating, Thames said, because “as African Americans, we don’t think about those (kind of quality of life) terms.”

“It got me thinking about things in ways I’ve never thought about them before, like race, identity and even gender intersect” with leisure, commerce, residence, identity, presence and place, Thames said. “We have to tell that story especially for this space.”

El Camino student Valerie Varnado, who introduced Jefferson’s presentation, reiterated the importance of integrating omitted stories like this into the wider American history narrative.

“Because you’re black, for something you start out with, it’s expected to be taken from you,” Varnado said. “Ancestors (who have experienced racial terror) cannot speak, so their voices flow through me – 100 years later, we have to dig deeper and deeper to find out who we are.”

The “History We Stand On” exhibit will explore a chronological history of the land occupied by El Camino College. It opens May 12 in the library lobby of El Camino, 16007 Crenshaw Blvd.

Sign up for The Localist, our daily email newsletter featuring hand-picked stories relevant to where you live. Subscribe here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.