Six Black Pioneers Who Shaped Venice Beach

Six Black Pioneers Who Shaped Venice Beach

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February 15, 2024
Venice Beach History
Since the beginning, Black Americans have been a driving force behind Venice, California. Beneath the city’s iconic destinations and diverse personality are the challenges and successes of Black Americans who gave Venice its soul. These are the stories of the local legends who paved the way for progress, artists who excelled in their craft in spaces where they weren't allowed, and citizens who dared to push back. As a Black-owned business in Venice Beach, we are proud to highlight some of the figures - past and present - who have helped shape the city we know and love today. Stories you get to explore when you stay at The Redline.

Nick Gabaldón

Born in Los Angeles in 1927, Nick Gabaldón was the first documented surfer of African-American and Mexican-American descent in California’s Santa Monica Bay. 

In the 1940s, amidst Jim Crow-era segregation, white and black beachgoers were separated on the sand in Santa Monica. It was here, in this demarcated portion of the Santa Monica Beach referred to as “Inkwell Beach, '' that Galbadon taught himself to surf. However, inclusive waters for surfing were 12 miles North, and he didn’t own a vehicle. Galbadon would paddle 12 miles up the coast to Malibu, the West Coast’s epicenter of surf, and a place where he was accepted by other surfers. Gabaldón made the first waves for racially diverse surfing and remains an inspiration for Black surfers today. 

We celebrate Gabaldón’s legacy and the surf culture of Venice in our Escape 1-bedroom suite

Arthur Reese

Meet the pioneer who helped build Venice Beach: Arthur Reese. In the early 1900s, founder of Venice, Abbot Kinney recognized the importance of diversity and innovation. He enlisted the expertise of a visionary from New Orleans’ —a multifaceted inventor, entrepreneur, and designer—to collaborate on the ambitious project to transform a stretch of marshy land into a haven for artists, performers, and people seeking an alternative way of life. Reese became the head decorator of the Abbot Kinney Co where he designed masks, floats and gondolas. This role nicknamed him “The Wizard of Venice.” 

During this time, Reese built a friendly business relationship with Abbot Kinney. His creativity and entrepreneurial spirit brought him success, as he became head of the first African-American family to live and work in Venice, California.

Our 12 Miles West 2-bedroom, 1-bath suite is dedicated to Reese’s legacy. A stay in this space will transport you to the imagination of our town’s earliest visionaries. 

Irving Tabor 

Cousin of Arthur Reese, Irving Tabor got his start at the age of 17 as the driver for Abbot Kinney. Over time, he became a close friend and trusted confidant to Kinney. When Kinney passed away, he left his home at the tip of the Grand Canal to Tabor. However, because of racist housing covenants that prevented blacks from owning property in certain areas, Tabor had to relocate the home, moving it piece by piece to a neighborhood where he was allowed to live.

Despite the challenges they faced, the Reese and Tabor family's commitment to black excellence endured. Today, descendants of the family persist in their efforts to ensure that Venice Beach remains an inclusive place for all.

Horace Tapscott 

In the rich world of jazz history, few names shine as brightly as Horace Tapscott. The visionary pianist, composer, and bandleader moved to Los Angeles as a young child and immersed himself in the vibrant jazz scene, quickly making a name for himself as a remarkable pianist. He shaped culture and proved the transformative power of music when he created the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra in 1961. Through this ensemble, he created avenues for musicians to uplift communities affected by racism. Using music as his tool, he confronted injustice, igniting movements that aimed for unity and social progress.

Tapscott was part of a movement that you can explore in our Beat By The Sea Studio Suite. In this space, we honor the young, dissatisfied men and women who were seeking a space to express themselves. They found it in Venice.

Fred Eversley

Beyond a hub for trailblazing musicians, Venice is also a refuge for unconventional artists like Fred Eversley.

He's a former engineering physicist who transitioned into an artist, blending science with art to push new boundaries in contemporary art. His revolutionary sculptures, crafted mainly from plastics and resins, play with light and provoke the imagination of viewers. His work serves as a source of inspiration for modern artists, encouraging them to explore the boundless opportunities that emerge when art and science work together.

Eversley opened one of the first art studios in Venice Beach in the 1960s and gained recognition for his innovative work in sculpture. 

We give a nod to Eversley’s art in our Escape 1-bedroom suite

Jataun Valentine

The First Baptist Church served as a cornerstone of life and community for the earliest African American families in Venice. However, in 2017, the building was sold to media mogul, Jay Penske, who planned to build his family residence on the property Great grandniece of Irving Tabor,  Jataun Valentine joined the effort to preserve the historic building. She aimed to safeguard and pay tribute to the church's heritage, recognizing it as a symbol of the African American community's strength and resilience.

In 2021, City Council unanimously voted to designate the First Baptist Church of Venice as a Historic-Cultural Monument. Valentine's dedication to preserving history ensures that future generations can learn from and celebrate the contributions of the African American community in Venice Beach.

Come Explore Their Stories

We pay tribute to these remarkable individuals who helped craft the cultural tapestry of Venice Beach, celebrating their fortitude, resilience, and ingenuity. Our mission is to preserve their legacies.

At The Redline Venice Hotel, each of our one of a kind suites invites you to delve into the rich history and extraordinary individuals who have played a part in the success of Venice. We’re not just a place to drop your bags on the way to the beach. Come stay with us and fully immerse yourself in these untold stories.

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