Remembering Pasadena's First Black-Owned Hotel

L.A. as Subject

Pasadena, California, has a reputation as a largely white center of suburban affluence[1], but the city also boasts a strong community of Black residents. One of the hubs for the Pasadena African-American community in the mid-twentieth century was the Hotel Carver, located at 107 South Fair Oaks Ave.

Dating to the 1880s, the building was originally a showroom for a stagecoach company. In 1940, Percy Carter and his family purchased the building and opened Pasadena’s first Black-owned hotel, which they named the Hotel Carver after George Washington Carver. In addition to the Blue Room dining hall on the second floor, the hotel basement hosted a nightclub, once called the Onyx Club and later the Club Cobra, which featured up-and-coming jazz musicians such as trumpeter Clora Bryant and bassist George Morrow.[2]

In 1970, the descendants of Percy Carter sold the hotel to Duane Waddell, who converted the ground floor to The Pasadena Repertory Theater[3] and created art studios on the upper floors. Artists such as Paul McCarthy, Gill Dennis, Betty Dore, and Herbie Lewis rented studios until mid-April of 1985, when all of the tenants found thirty-day eviction notices nailed to their front doors. The tenants organized an art exhibit titled “The End of Hotel Carver”—represented by this commemorative collage depicting the building and its notable murals and acknowledging its artists-in-residence.

After sustaining damage in the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake, the Carver Hotel building was remodeled and retrofitted. In 1996, a group of artists from the Carver held a reunion art show on the sidewalk in front of the building called “A Brief Re-birth of the Hotel Carver” as part of a festival sponsored by Newtown Pasadena[4]. Today, the building is mixed-use retail and office space.

This collage is part of the Pasadena Museum of History's Black History Collection, which documents Black community life in Pasadena in the 1900s. Thanks to a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor, the USC Libraries are digitizing a selection of materials from the Black History Collection for public access. Browse this collection and many more from other L.A. as Subject partners in the USC Digital Library at http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/digital.


[1] American Community Survey Demographic and Housing Estimates, 2010, United States Census Bureau, https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?q=Pasadena%20city,%20California&hidePreview=false&tid=ACSDP1Y2018.DP05, accessed May 21, 2020.

[2] Clora Bryant, Central Avenue Sounds: Jazz in Los Angeles, ed. Clora Bryant, Buddy Collette, William Green, Steven Isoardi, Jack Kelson, Horace Tapscott, Gerald Wilson, and Marl Young (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998), 361.

[3] Kevin Brechner, “Interview with Kevin Brechner,” Audio-Visual Collection, Research Library and Archives, Pasadena Museum of History, 13:45, https://archive.org/details/cphi_00006.

[4] Jennifer Burry, “Opening new windows into Old Pasadena: Artists reclaim trendy enclave,” Pasadena Star-News, 111 (229), p. A1, August 16, 1996.