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LOS ANGELES CITYWIDE HISTORIC CONTEXT STATEMENT Context: Filipino Americans in Los Angeles, 1903-1980
Prepared for: City of Los Angeles Department of City Planning Office of Historic Resources August 2018

National Park Service, Department of the Interior Grant Disclaimer
This material is based upon work assisted by a grant from the Historic Preservation Fund, National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Interior.

SurveyLA Citywide Historic Context Statement Filipino Americans in Los Angeles, 1903-1980












Terms and Definitions


Beginnings, 1898-1903


Early Filipino Immigration to Southern California, 1903-1923


Filipino Settlement in Los Angeles: Establishing a Community, 1924-1945


Post-World War II and Maturing of the Community, 1946-1964


Filipino American Los Angeles, 1965-1980







Appendix A: Filipino American Known and Designated Resources

Appendix B: SurveyLA’s Asian American Historic Context Statement Advisory Committee

SurveyLA Citywide Historic Context Statement Filipino Americans in Los Angeles, 1903-1980
In 2016, the City of Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources (OHR) received an Underrepresented Communities grant from the National Park Service to develop a National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form (MPDF) and associated historic contexts for five Asian American communities in Los Angeles: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, and Filipino. This “Thai Americans in Los Angeles” context was developed as part of the grant project and to contribute to the Citywide Historic Context Statement developed for SurveyLA.
While this context provides a framework for identifying and evaluating properties relating to Thai American history in Los Angeles, it is not intended to be a comprehensive history of the Thai American community. Rather this context provides a chronological approach to this history and focuses on themes and geographic areas associated with important extant resources.1 The context narrative is followed by a section that identifies the relevant property types associated with themes presented, and includes a discussion of their significance and eligibility standards (Appendix A). This context has been used to complete the MPDF form, which is similar in content. However, while the MPDF focuses on resources that meet eligibility standards for listing in the National Register, this context also addresses resources that meet eligibility standards for listing in the California Register of Historic Places and designation under the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Ordinance (Historic-Cultural Monuments) and Historic Preservation Overlay Zone Ordinance (HPOZs).2
Consultant Team
The Filipinos in Los Angeles historic context statement was prepared by architectural historian M. Rosalind Sagara. With expertise in the history of Asian Americans and the urban built environment, Rosalind brings a deep understanding of the contributions of Asian Americans to the city of Los Angeles. She holds a Master’s degree in Heritage Conservation from the University of Southern California. Research assistance was also provided by David Castro, Getty Undergraduate Intern to the OHR.
Project Advisory Committee and Community Outreach
As part of the scope of work for the NPS grant referenced above, the OHR organized a project Advisory Committee (Committee) to work with the grant consultant team. Participants included key leaders in the Asian American community representing a wide range of interests, organizations, and institutions as well as professors, lecturers, scholars, and writers of Asian American history. A full list of participants is attached as Appendix B. The Committee played a critical role in identifying important places associated
1 The end date for SurveyLA is 1980 and may be extended over time. The National Register of Historic Places has a 50-year end date for properties to be listed unless they are of exceptional importance. 2 For the National Register MPDF the term “Registration Requirements” is used in place of “Eligibility Standards.”
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SurveyLA Citywide Historic Context Statement Filipino Americans in Los Angeles, 1903-1980
with each context and also advised on pertinent sources of research information. The Committee members also served as subject matter experts to review and comment on context drafts.
Following the first meeting of the Committee in November of 2016, the OHR organized a series of five community meetings in locations throughout Los Angeles. These working meetings (one for each associated context) also gave the community the opportunity to provide input on significant places to inform the contexts. In some cases, the outreach meetings led to one-on-one meetings with community members.
This Filipino American context has been greatly enhanced by the contributions of various individuals and organizations active within Los Angeles’ Filipino American community. Notable among them are Joseph Bernardo, Ph.D.; Jean-Paul R. deGuzman, Ph.D.; Lorna Ignacio Dumapias; Gerald Gubatan; Carlene Sobrino Bonnivier; Florante Ibanez; Dulce Capadocia.
In the 1960s, the United States underwent significant social and cultural upheaval as many communities of color and other marginalized groups fought for civil rights and were involved in national and international movements for liberation. Grassroots organizing and landmark legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965, and Immigration Act of 1965 reshaped the collective consciousness of communities of color. During this era, the Watts Riots in 1965 and the East Los Angeles Walkout (or Chicano Blowouts) in 1968 helped empower communities of color in Los Angeles, and across the nation.
By the late 1960s, Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino Americans formed a movement of their own—an Asian American movement. It was with the Black Liberation Movement, the Anti-War Movement against the Vietnam War, and Third World Liberation Front movement that the concept of Asian American was formed as a political identity. Young Asian Americans mobilized in their communities across the nation and in Los Angeles to fight U.S. imperialism and the unequal treatment of Asian Americans. In 1968, students of color across California organized and held strikes as part of the Third World Liberation Front. This movement was instrumental in creating and establishing Ethnic Studies as an academic discipline— and subsequent Asian American, African American, Chicano American, and Native American Studies—on college and university campuses. It was as part of this larger movement that the Asian American Studies Center at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) was established in 19693 and Asian American community-based organizations were developed and strengthened to serve the community.
As community leaders, scholars, and leaders reflect on the past, it is fitting that the City of Los Angeles honor the historic and cultural contributions of Asian Americans. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have long and dynamic histories in shaping and continuing to shape the city. From the 1880s pioneering
3 Steve Louie and Glenn Omatsu, eds., Asian Americans: The Movement and the Moment (Los Angeles: University of California Los Angeles Asian American Studies Center Press, 2001).
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SurveyLA Citywide Historic Context Statement Filipino Americans in Los Angeles, 1903-1980
Chinese American settlements, to more recent recognitions of historic and cultural ethnic neighborhoods like Historic Filipinotown and Thai Town, tourists and residents alike often pose questions about these places, their signs, and the importance of Asian Americans in the building of Los Angeles.
Asian Americans in Los Angeles Multiple Property Documentation Form
This Asian Americans in Los Angeles Multiple Property Documentation Form (MPDF) establishes a framework to guide the identification and designation of places significant to Los Angeles’ Asian American communities. Geographically, the contexts cover the history and development of five Los Angeles neighborhoods that have been designated as Preserve America communities— Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Koreatown, Historic Filipinotown, and Thai Town—and also focus on other areas of the city in which these groups settled over time.
Topics covered by the contexts focus on extant resources associated with important individuals, organizations, businesses, industries, and movements. Themes addressed include commerce, religion and spirituality, health and medicine, deed restriction and segregation, community organizations, military history, media, cultural landscape, architecture.
While these five Asian American groups were the focus on this project, it is important to recognize the diversity within Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI). There are many other AAPI ethnic groups that have contributed and continue to contribute to the rich diversity of Los Angeles, including Pacific Islanders, South Asians, and Southeast Asians. This MPDF provides an opportunity to engage with City officials, community leaders, preservationists, scholars, and others to continue identifying and designating places that are important in telling both AAPI stories and all of the city’s stories.
Asian Americans in Los Angeles
Each of the MPDF’s five contexts discusses the dynamic waves of immigration and settlement patterns of Asian Americans in Los Angeles. Within each group, the power of place resonates as Asian Americans find places of residence, work, and community as Angelenos. With a long history of discrimination, displacement, and associated demolition of property, Asian Americans resisted and struggled to maintain a sense of identity, as well as their homes, businesses, and cultural institutions. Ethnic neighborhoods in Los Angeles like Old Chinatown and Little Tokyo were established in the early twentieth century while others including Koreatown, Historic Filipinotown, and Thai Town were formed as subsequent waves of immigrants and their families settled and laid roots in the city.
These settlements were never formed in isolation. Many Asian American settlements were shaped alongside other Asian Americans and communities of color, often due to discriminatory policies and practices that limited where they lived, worked, and sought a sense of community. Places important to Asian Americans in Los Angeles were often rendered in the margins to other Angelenos, and were nonetheless significant for finding a place to call home, be it a single-room occupancy hotel in Little
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SurveyLA Citywide Historic Context Statement Filipino Americans in Los Angeles, 1903-1980
Manila or Little Tokyo, an employment agency in Chinatown, or a church in Koreatown. As Asian immigrants or seasonal migrants came to Los Angeles, they sought out familiar places for economic opportunities, a place to stay, and places that reminded them of their homelands.
As subsequent generations of Asian Americans in Los Angeles grew in size, alongside continuous waves of new immigrants, the landscape of Los Angeles also evolved. The power of place for these groups in the city helped forge a growing sense of identity as Asian Americans. By the 1960s, the population of Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino Americans in the city grew beyond the early ethnic neighborhoods and into the suburbs. During this pivotal time, cultural and community institutions began to broaden their focus of serving new immigrants to include services for families, older adults, and youth. Other immigrants from across Asia and the Pacific followed in significant waves, reuniting families and drawing in new immigrants, carving out their own sense of place in this booming and diverse city.

Dispersion of Asian Americans in Los Angeles, 1960 (Philip Ethington, USC, 2005)

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SurveyLA Citywide Historic Context Statement Filipino Americans in Los Angeles, 1903-1980
The Legacy of the Asian American Movement in Los Angeles
The term Asian American is a political construct born in the 1960s as Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino Americans (and other Asian ethnic groups) fought collectively for civil rights. In 1969, the Asian American Studies Center was established at UCLA in Campbell Hall. Community members, students, staff, and faculty sought to develop a center to bridge campus and community around the theme of liberative education and social justice. The Asian American Studies Center worked alongside three other ethnic studies research centers: the American Indian Studies Center, the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies (formerly Center for Afro-American Studies), and the Chicano Studies Research Center.
UCLA served as an active site for the development of Asian American Studies as a field of study. Amerasia Journal (established at Yale by Don Nakanishi and Lowell Chun-Hoon, moved to UCLA shortly after its start in 1971) became a leading journal for the field. The Center also saw the importance of fostering student projects like Gidra, founded in 1969 and “created alongside the rise of radical third world grassroots student coalitions, in addition to the Black Power movement and Civil Rights Movement. After being denied official recognition by the university, the students started publishing Gidra independently, using the university’s Asian American Studies Center as its headquarters.”4 Following its inception as a student newspaper, it moved to the Crenshaw area to be housed closer to L.A.’s Asian American community.5 One of the first Asian American Studies conferences was held in Los Angeles in 1971 with opening remarks by Congresswoman Patsy Mink, the first woman of color elected to Congress.6
The Center was also created to work closely with Asian American community organizations in Los Angeles. East West Players was founded in 1965 by Asian American artists Mako, Rae Creevey, Beulah Quo, Soon-Tek Oh, James Hong, Pat Li, June Kim, Guy Lee, and Yet Lock in the Pilgrim Church in Silver Lake. It was supported in its early stages at UCLA. East West Players is the nation’s longest-running professional theater of color and the largest producing organization of Asian American artistic work. Visual Communications is another Asian American cultural institution. Visual Communications was founded in 1970 by UCLA students Duane Kubo, Robert Nakamura, Alan Ohashi, and Eddie Wong to support Asian American film and media.7 It was initially housed and supported by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center. Both Visual Communications and East West Players have since moved to Little Tokyo in the historic Union Center for the Arts (formerly Japanese Union Church of Los Angeles).
4 Haivan V. Hoang, Writing Against Racial Injury: The Politics of Asian American Student Rhetoric (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015), 56–76. 5 Mike Murase, “Toward Barefoot Journalism,” Gidra, 6 (April 1974):1, 34–46. 6 Conference Proceedings of the First National Conference on Asian American Studies, Los Angeles, CA, April 1971. 7 Karen L. Ishizuka, Serve the People: Making Asian America in the Long Sixties (Verso Books, 2016), 159-160.
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SurveyLA Citywide Historic Context Statement Filipino Americans in Los Angeles, 1903-1980
Chinese Americans in Los Angeles
Chinese Americans first settled in Los Angeles in the 1850s with its first permanent settlement centered near Los Angeles Plaza (El Pueblo de Los Angeles) and later referred to as Old Chinatown due to a series of subsequent settlements developed near or around downtown Los Angeles. The Chinese Americans in Los Angeles context discusses the settlement patterns of Chinese Americans while noting key contributions to the city’s built environment and burgeoning economy. Chinatown, as it is known, has been studied as being shaped by economic and social dynamics of race, space, and power.8
One site of historic and cultural significance for Chinese Americans in Los Angeles is the Castelar Street School. Since 1969, the Asian Education Project (AEP), later known as the Asian American Tutorial Project (AATP)—with Asian American college students from UCLA, University of Southern California (USC), and Occidental College—has served Castellar Street School in Chinatown by tutoring low-income, immigrant, limited English proficiency elementary school students. Castelar Street School was the first school in the Los Angeles Unified School District to provide tri-lingual instruction in English, Spanish, and Chinese. It also housed the Chinatown branch library of the Los Angeles Public Library from 1977 to 2003.
Japanese Americans in Los Angeles
The history of Japanese Americans in Los Angeles dates back to 1869. Since then, shifting migratory, settlement, and development patterns have continued to be shaped by outside forces including discriminatory policies, redevelopment, and displacement as well as forces within, through cultural institutions, and small businesses. Little Tokyo is one of three remaining historic Japantowns (Nihonmachis) in California that survived the forced evacuation and incarceration of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II and the demolition that occurred during urban renewal in the 1950s and 1960s. Japanese American institutions and services including community halls, language schools, Buddhist temples, Christian churches, markets, nurseries, and other nonprofit/cultural institutions have shaped Little Tokyo and other Japanese American settlements in Los Angeles.
The Union Center for the Arts, formerly known as the Japanese Union Church of Los Angeles, was established in 1918 as it merged three congregations: the Los Angeles Presbyterian Church (established in 1905), the Los Angeles Congregational Church (established in 1908), and the Japanese Bethlehem Congregational Church of Los Angeles (established by 1911). During World War II, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, just a little more than two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Shortly after, a series of Civilian Exclusion Orders were publicly posted all along the West Coast of the United States, notifying persons of Japanese ancestry of their impending forced removal. “Instructions to All Persons of Japanese Ancestry” were the infamous words seen at the top of the posters. The Union Church was listed as a designated reporting location for Japanese Americans in 1942; many were able to store their belongings in the building during their incarceration.
8 Jan Lin, “Los Angeles Chinatown: Tourism, Gentrification, and the Rise of an Ethnic Growth Machine,” Amerasia Journal 34, no. 3, (2008): 110-125, doi:10.17953/amer.34.3.v545v63lpj1535p7.
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SurveyLA Citywide Historic Context Statement Filipino Americans in Los Angeles, 1903-1980
Union Church has evolved from a place of worship to a center for Asian Americans arts and culture as home to East West Players and Visual Communications (established in 1970). The Union Center for the Arts is listed as part of the Little Tokyo Historic District, a National Historic Landmark.
Korean Americans in Los Angeles
Los Angeles has one of the largest Korean populations outside of the Korean peninsula with a notable Koreatown, home to hundreds of Korean- and Korean American-owned small businesses, churches, and community institutions. Although large-scale migration and settlement occurred in the aftermath of the 1965 Immigration Act, a historic and important Korean American community dates to the turn of the twentieth century when laborers arrived in Hawai’i in 1903. Soon after, migration continued to the continental United States, especially to California where Korean Americans worked as migrant farm labor and some became small business owners.9
The greater Los Angeles area has served as one of the hubs of Korean America for over a century. Koreatown experienced notable growth after World War II and the years that followed 1965. The 1992 Civil Unrest/Uprising/Riots marks a turbulent coming of age experience for the Korean American community. Layered beneath the contemporary and continually expanding borders of Koreatown are historic sites that have played a significant role in community life. One such site, located near USC, houses both the Korean Presbyterian Church of Los Angeles and the Korean National Association (KNA) building that share the same campus. The church dates to 1906, and is among the oldest Korean American congregations in the nation. The KNA building dedicated in 1938 serves as a testament to the independence movement that animated the struggles and hopes of the early Korean American community.
Filipino Americans in Los Angeles
The Filipino Americans in Los Angeles context traces the history of Filipino immigrants and subsequent generations in the city from 1903 to 1980. It spans from the arrival of the first known Filipino Americans in Los Angeles to subsequent movement of Filipino Americans in the city as shaped by immigration policies and discriminatory policies as well as community institutions. The context focuses on historical themes based on residential settlement patterns, economic activity, and the growth of cultural institutions including cultural centers, small businesses, service agencies, and churches.
What is known as Historic Filipinotown is influenced by earlier settlements of Filipino Americans in the Downtown area.10 From Little Manila to Bunker Hill to Temple-Beaudry, these were places that immigrants and seasonal migrants knew to go to for services, culture, and a sense of community. Royal “Uncle Roy” Morales can trace his family’s roots to the Filipino Christian Church as his father immigrated to Los Angeles from the Philippines as a pensionado (scholar) and Christian missionary. Uncle Roy’s
9 Bong Youn Choy, Koreans in America (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1979). For general background on Korean American history. 10 Michelle G. Magalong, “The Search for Filipino American Place(s) in Los Angeles,” UCLA Critical Planning Journal 10 (2003):13–23.
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