The Cummings Block, northwest corner of Boyle Avenue and First Street, 1976-2012

1976-2012

Built in 1889, the Cummings Block is a rare surviving example of Victorian commercial architecture in Los Angeles, and one of the city’s most recent preservation victories. Developed as a hotel by George Cummings, one of Boyle Heights’ earliest boosters, it was an important center of elite social life in the early years of East Los Angeles’ suburban growth. Designed by architect W. R. Norton, the four-story brick building featured a blend of distinct Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival flourishes, including decorative brickwork, arched windows, two parapets, and a corner turret.

The upper stories of the Cummings Block operated as a residential hotel for over a century, and in recent decades became famous as a lodge for mariachis. The commercial spaces on the ground floor went through a number of tenants, including dental offices, drugstores, and a music school. The battered building lost the top of its turret and its curved parapet at some point, and it had fallen into serious disrepair by the time it was declared a city Historic-Cultural Monument in 2007.

That same year, the Cummings Block was purchased by the non-profit East Los Angeles Community Corporation, which began a $2.4 million restoration of the building. Completed this summer, the largely rebuilt interior now houses 31 apartments, with an additional 20 in new buildings along First Street. The lost exterior details have been faithfully rebuilt, and the ground floor now houses a Mariachi Cultural Center along with retail space. Located across the street from Mariachi Plaza and its Gold Line station, the restored Cummings Block is arguably the most prominently visible new development in Boyle Heights.

Sources:
1. Bermudez, Esmeralda. “Hotel renovation strikes sour note with some L.A. mariachis.” Los Angeles Times. 17 Jan. 2011. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/17/local/la-me-mariachi-20110117.
2. Perez, Jessica. “Tenant wait list for Historic Boyle Hotel to open soon.” Boyle Heights Beat. 18 Jan. 2012. http://www.boyleheightsbeat.com/tenant-wait-list-for-historic-boyle-hotel-to-open-soon-509.
3. Ybarra, Diana. “Historic-Cultural Monument Application for the Boyle Hotel-Cummings Block.” 2007. Cultural Heritage Commission. Los Angeles Department of City Planning. http://cityplanning.lacity.org/staffrpt/CHC/3-15-07/CHC-2007-671.pdf.
Original photo:  Reagh, William. “Boyle Avenue and First Street.” Los Angeles Public Library – 00011189.” Los Angeles Public Library. http://photos.lapl.org/carlweb/jsp/FullRecord?databaseID=968&record=6&controlNumber=13261.

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