The State Historical Resources Commission late last week voted in favor of declaring the Maravilla Handball Court and El Centro Grocery as a state historic landmark, a significant step toward preserving one of the region’s oldest handball courts and a longtime hangout for Latino players. Placing the Mednik Avenue handball court, which has been closed for several years, on the California List of Historic Resources will help protect the site from changes that could altar its historic significance, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy, the historic preservation group that teamed up with the Maravilla Historical Society to win landmark status for the handball court.
“Since the property is located in unincorporated East Los Angeles, which does not have a preservation ordinance, state-level designation currently offers the strongest protection,” said conservancy spokeswoman Cindy Olnick.
In the 1940s, the handball court and the former the El Centro market were purchased by the Nishiyama family, Japanese Americans who developed close ties to the primarily Mexican-American neighborhood. The store and handball court have been closed for more than five years following the deaths of Michi and Tommy Nishiyama. But The Maravilla Historical Society has spearheaded an effort to preserve and reopen the store and handball court as a community center focused on neighborhood history and recreation.
The historical society has held fundraiser as it attempts to purchase and renovate the handball court and store.
- Old homies play tribute to history, handball and a woman named Michi. The Eastsider