Nestled between the busy intersection of La Brea Avenue and Stocker Street, you’ll find the Norman O. Houston Park (originally La Brea Park), a cozy community space that has a short history but a large impact on the Baldwin Hills neighborhood.
The City of Recreation and Parks Commission envisioned this park in 1975, planning to spend at least $1.85 million to build it for the betterment of the Baldwin Hills community. LA City built the park around 1981, and then-City Councilwoman Pat Russell championed naming the park after Norman O. Houston, who then-LA Mayor Tom Brandley deemed as “a Pioneer of Black Industry.”
Houston is known for many business ventures in Black Los Angeles, but he’s likely most known as the co-founder and president of Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company— one of the largest black-owned businesses in South LA. In fact, the original mission-revival-style Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company building, which was built in 1928, still stands today on Central Avenue as a Los Angeles Cultural-Historic Monument (No. 580), roughly a block from the Dunbar Hotel. Today, you’ll find the building occupied by the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation.
Houston died in October of 1981, the year the park was built. In recognition of his legacy, the City of Recreation and Parks Commission renamed the La Brea Park the Norman O. Houston Park in 1982.
Today, the park spans just under 10 acres, with a looping trail that measures just under one mile. The park, however, is packed with several amenities, picnic tables, towering trees, a sprawling field, and a basketball court.
I visited this park early on a Saturday morning and the parking lot was pretty full. I saw so many people taking advantage of the exercise equipment and the easy-going, looping walking path. There were also quite a few young families enjoying a Saturday morning strolls, too.
Many visitors park here to cross the street and take advantage of the Stocker Corridor Trail that wraps around Stocker Street from La Brea Avenue to Presidio Drive. The nearby Stocker Corridor Trail, like this park, is part of the larger 13-mile Park-to-Playa Trail Network.
This park is an absolute gem in the Baldwin Hills neighborhood, and is also a great reminder of the fantastic green space available to South LA residents.