When 17-year-old Irving Tabor packed his bags and left his home state of Louisiana in 1910, he — like many other young African American men during the Great Migration — headed west, eventually finding his way to Los Angeles. It was here that he would, among other accomplishments, build a unique collection of lovely California-style bungalows, all of which have recently hit the market for a combined $5.8 million.
It was also here that he would meet and befriend Abbot Kinney, Venice of America’s eccentric founder, a man who left behind a sizable public legacy: a world-famous beachfront neighborhood and boardwalk, a lively shopping and dining district and street that bears his name to this day, and the six residential canals that are the last remnants of the resort he built.
His friendship with Tabor was deep and enduring, outside of its time in many ways — especially when you consider that when Tabor arrived in 1910, Venice was highly segregated.
Blacks could ride only in gondolas that were painted black, and they were not allowed to live on the canals. As a result, many new arrivals settled down just outside of Venice, in what became the historic African American community of Oakwood. Tabor moved into a cottage on Westminster Avenue there after finding work on Venice’s world-famous pleasure pier.
It was while working at the pier that he met Kinney, who was impressed by Tabor’s can-do attitude and hired him as a driver and personal assistant. It was the beginning of a friendship and working relationship that would last until Kinney’s death in 1920.
It was also around the same time that Tabor began building Westminster Place, a bungalow court that would eventually include eight homes on a 10,000-square-foot double lot.
“The minute you walk through the gate into the compound, your jaw drops,” said Mark Kanights of Coldwell Banker, one of the listing agents. “To the right is a great bungalow, to the left is the two-story house, and then you pass them and see the other six bungalows with indoor/outdoor space around the courtyard.”
Tabor embedded his deep personal connection with Venice of America directly into these homes, which contain recycled lumber from the old Venice boathouse, gondolas and amusement park. Two of the homes were even originally located on United States Island (where, in a typical Kinney-esque flourish, each bungalow was named after a state) before being sawed in half and transported to the homestead via canal in 1922.
Like the neighborhood surrounding it, which is now home to Hollywood royalty and tech titans including Snapchat, the compound has undergone a stunning transformation. A tasteful and respectful renovation has updated the property for modern living while leaving many of the original repurposed wood elements still visible alongside newly installed contemporary finishes.
As for Tabor, the creator of this collection of California bungalows moved his family from the compound in 1927: As a last gesture of friendship, Abbot Kinney had willed his home at Number One Grand Canal to his longtime friend and employee.
Restrictive racial covenants meant that Tabor had to float Kinney’s house through the canals to Oakwood before he and his family could move in. He lived there for the rest of his life, founding the first black-owned maintenance company in Venice and becoming in his later years an elder statesman and historian of the neighborhood before passing away in 1987.
Now, almost 44 years after Tabor sold the compound, and after it bounced from owner to owner as a rental property over the last few decades, it’s on the market.
“We’ve had interest from a tech executive and a film professional, among multiple other offers, for them to have a place to collaborate with their people,” Kanights said. “We always thought of it as an owner-user compound.”
The collection of eight bungalows is arrayed around a lushly landscaped courtyard, with nine bedrooms and eight full baths, and more than 5,000 square feet of interiors.
That’s plenty of space if, as the listing puts it, you want to “live lavishly with your family across all bungalows, start a commune or simply enjoy top market rents.” There are even six garages, a huge plus for potential owners or renters in this parking-starved corner of L.A.