The Historic Dunbar Hotel In Los Angeles: A Jewel Of African American History

Dunbar Hotel 4225 South Central Avenue 1920's?/2010 Los angeles
Dunbar Hotel 4225 South Central Avenue 1920's?/2010 Los angeles from


Located in the heart of Los Angeles, the Dunbar Hotel stands as a testament to the rich history and cultural significance of the African American community in the city. With its grand architecture and glamorous past, the hotel has been a center for social and political gatherings, hosting iconic figures such as Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday. In this article, we will explore the captivating story of the Dunbar Hotel, its rise to prominence, and its enduring legacy.

The Birth of a Landmark

The Dunbar Hotel was built in 1928 by John and Vada Somerville, African American entrepreneurs who aimed to provide a luxurious and dignified accommodation option for black travelers during an era of racial segregation. Named after the renowned African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, the hotel quickly became a symbol of pride and aspiration for the community.

A Cultural Hotspot

Throughout its history, the Dunbar Hotel played a vital role in fostering African American arts and culture. Its nightclub, Club Alabam, was a hub for jazz music, attracting legendary performers like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. The hotel also hosted the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) meetings, civil rights gatherings, and political rallies, solidifying its status as a significant cultural and political landmark.

Heyday and Decline

During the 1930s and 1940s, the Dunbar Hotel flourished, becoming a favorite destination for both African American and white celebrities. Its opulent ballrooms and elegant accommodations were renowned throughout the city. However, as racial segregation laws were dismantled and discrimination diminished, the hotel’s popularity waned. By the 1970s, the Dunbar Hotel fell into disrepair and was eventually closed.

Revival and Restoration

In the early 2000s, a group of passionate individuals recognized the historical and cultural significance of the Dunbar Hotel and embarked on a restoration project. The building was meticulously refurbished to its former glory, preserving its unique architectural features and original charm. Today, the Dunbar Hotel stands as a living museum, showcasing the achievements and struggles of the African American community in Los Angeles.

Visiting the Dunbar Hotel

When visiting the Dunbar Hotel, you can immerse yourself in its rich history by exploring the preserved rooms and public spaces. The hotel’s lobby is adorned with photographs and memorabilia from the past, offering a glimpse into the vibrant atmosphere of its heyday. Additionally, guided tours provide insights into the notable figures who graced the halls of the Dunbar Hotel and the significant events that unfolded within its walls.

A Legacy of Empowerment

The Dunbar Hotel represents more than just a luxurious accommodation option; it stands as a symbol of resilience, empowerment, and cultural pride. It reminds us of the struggles and triumphs of the African American community and serves as a beacon of hope for future generations. The hotel’s legacy continues to inspire and educate visitors about the importance of inclusivity and equality.

Preserving History for Future Generations

Preserving historical landmarks like the Dunbar Hotel is crucial to ensure that the stories and contributions of marginalized communities are not forgotten. By supporting initiatives that restore and maintain these sites, we can honor the past and provide educational opportunities for future generations. The Dunbar Hotel serves as a reminder of the progress made and the work that lies ahead in creating a more inclusive and equitable society.


The Dunbar Hotel stands as an enduring symbol of African American history and culture in Los Angeles. From its humble beginnings to its glamorous heyday, the hotel has witnessed and contributed to significant social and political movements. As we explore its halls and learn about its past, we are reminded of the power of resilience and the importance of preserving our shared history.


1. Smith, C. (2019). The Dunbar Hotel: A Forgotten SoCal Cultural Landmark. The Culture Trip. Retrieved from [link].

2. The Dunbar Hotel. (n.d.). Los Angeles Conservancy. Retrieved from [link].