564 (left) and 560 (right) N. Virgil Ave. (Photo by Lindsay Mulcahy)

The Los Angeles Conservancy has made the following announcement regarding the Ozawa Boarding House/Obayashi Employment Agency and Joyce Boarding House/Ozawa Residence sites:

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The Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) nominations will be heard by the (City Council’s) Planning and Land Use Management Committee Tuesday, May 17, 2022 at 2 p.m. Here’s what you can do to support:

Call in to the virtual meeting on Tuesday, May 17, at 2 p.m. to make comment in support of the Historic-Cultural Monument designation. Meeting will be live-streamed here: https://clerk.lacity.org/calendar

Submit public comment in writing under Council File 21-1278 by Monday, May 16.

Email PLUM Committee members using the “Act Now” button or individually by Monday, May 16:

Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson (councilmember.harris-dawson@lacity.org)

John Lee (Councilmember.Lee@lacity.org)

Gil Cedillo (Councilmember.Cedillo@lacity.org)

Bob Blumenfield (councilmember.Blumenfield@lacity.org)

Monica Rodriguez (Councilmember.Rodriguez@lacity.org)

PLUM Clerk (clerk.plumcommittee@lacity.org)

CD 13 Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell (councilmember.ofarrell@lacity.org)

Planning Director Craig Bullock (craig.bullock@lacity.org)

Background

In 1914, Tsyua and Sukesaka Ozawa purchased a recently built home at 564 N. Virgil Ave. 564 Virgil, and the next-door property at 560 Virgil, were part of a nascent Japanese community known as the Madison/J Flats neighborhood in East Hollywood. Sukesaka and Tsuya Ozawa were part of the first waves of migration of Issei, first-generation Japanese immigrants, to arrive in Los Angeles. First congregating in Little Tokyo in the late 19th century, by the 1910s Japanese immigrants began to form residential enclaves throughout the city. 

As migration to the Madison/J Flats neighborhood swelled in the 1920s, the Ozawas and their next-door neighbor at 560 Virgil Ave. converted their homes into a boarding house. Boarding houses were popular as affordable residences for Japanese immigrants and often doubled as employment agencies. They served as places of community connection and cultural expression in an era where Japanese Americans were excluded from many parts of white Los Angeles. 

By 1942, the Ozawa family ran both 564 and 560 N. Virgil. Boarders, mainly single men working as gardeners in private residences, enlivened the homes and patronized Japanese shops along the Virgil corridor. This community fabric was violently severed at the onset of World War II when Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes, businesses, and communities. The Ozawas were incarcerated at a camp in Heart Mountain, Wyo. Their homes were stewarded by neighbors for the duration of the war. 

In the post-war period, 564 N. Virgil Ave. became an anchor to reunite family members and help their community rebuild. The Ozawas, who owned the properties through 1980, had a lasting influence on the neighborhood. The family developed four additional properties in the neighborhood and were actively involved in institution-building in the neighborhood.

Today, single Japanese American men continue to call 564 Virgil Ave. home. These residents continue an almost 100-year legacy in the building known for provided community and security for Japanese and Japanese Americans in East Hollywood.

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  1. One of the women at our Buddhist Temple was a resident. She said she was probably the only woman there, so they set her up near the rear of the building. Small world, I grew up only a vacant lot away.:-)