Boyle Heights’ former Japanese Hospital nominated as historic landmark [updated]

BOYLE HEIGHTS – The Japanese Hospital was almost never built. The idea for the hospital was conceived during the 1920s at a time when Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans faced discrimination and sometimes were turned away at public medical facilities. After a group of Japanese doctors raised money to build a hospital at the southwest corner of E. First and Fickett streets, the California Secretary of State blocked their efforts, claiming that Japanese nationals were barred from forming corporations and leasing land. But the supporters of the Japanese Hospital fought back, waging a successful legal battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The hospital building, constructed in 1929, still stands and has now been nominated as a city historic cultural monument.

Earlier this month, the Cultural Heritage Commission voted to take the nomination of the Japanese Hospital under consideration. The application, which provided the history of the hospital described at the top of this post, also included background on Yos Hirose, the architect who designed the hospital in the Streamline Moderne style and other Boyle Heights buildings:

“Hirose was born in Nagasaki, Japan in 1882. He immigrated to the United States in 1903 at the age of twenty-one. From 1911-1915, he attended the Armor Institute of Illinois and earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture. Soon after completing his degree, Hirose migrated to Los Angeles and began working as an architect, draftsman, and engineer. Hirose lived in Boyle Heights and most of his work was completed in Boyle Heights and Little Tokyo. His work includes the Koyasan Buddhist Temple on First Street in Little Tokyo and Tenrikyo Junior Church of America on First Street in Boyle Heights. In the spring of 1942, Yos Hirose was interned with his fellow Japanese-Americans at Poston in Arizona.”

The Japanese Hospital closed in 1962 when a larger facility opened in Lincoln Heights, according to monument application filed with the city. The building, which has been heavily remodeled and expanded, remains used as a medical facility.

Update: The City Council voted on Oct. 11 to declare the building a historic landmark.

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