Know Your Streets: Crenshaw Boulevard

The street is very long, and so is its history

Stretching 23 miles from Wilshire Boulevard in Mid City to Palos Verdes, Crenshaw Boulevard was named in 1904 after developer and fruit importer George Lafayette Crenshaw (aka the “Banana King”). He built several housing tracts along the thoroughfare, including Lafayette Square, that allowed in only whites before racially restrictive covenants were outlawed in 1948.

The stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard as it appears south of Stocker Street. Various office and commercial buildings, as well as various signs and billboards, are seen on both sides of the boulevard. Photograph dated May 13, 1947.

Photo from Los Angeles Photographers Collection/ Blackstock Negative Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

The 1950’s and ’60s saw a huge influx of black and Japanese residents, and South L.A. along Crenshaw transformed into a center of multicultural music and nightlife. Acts like Tina Turner and the Supremes played to packed clubs, and the beloved coffee shop at the Holiday Bowl (which closed in 2000) served everything from udon to grits. In the ’80s and ’90s, when rap became the music du jour, Crenshaw emerged as a nexus for black and Latino car lovers, who cruised in lowrider parades every Sunday until the LAPD cracked down on them in the late ’90s. Today the “’Shaw” awaits its next big transformation—the completion of Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX Line.

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