Landmark Hermosa: Lighthouse Cafe

If you guessed the Lighthouse Cafe for this morning's trivia, you were right.

The in Hermosa Beach has been a part of the community since the 1940s, during a time when racial segregation was a part of the South Bay as well as much of the country.

But at the Lighthouse, black musicians were invited to perform, such as Buddy Guy and Miles Davis, according to the company's website.

"It was very progressive. It tore down the fences between the artists and who could play," Bill Sweeney of the told Patch last week about the Lighthouse. "A lot of famous black jazz players came through town."

In the Los Angeles area in the early 1940s and 50s, the only place where black jazz players could "jam" was Central Avenue, according to Jazz on the West Coast: The Lighthouse, a documentary that screened at the historical society museum.

"Los Angeles was a very segregated place, this was where black musicians would go," said musicologist Robert Hughes in the documentary.

Following the second World War, Central Avenue eventually declined and the venues where black musicians could perform were limited—until John Levine, owner of the Lighthouse, hired Howard Rumsey who introduced jazz jam sessions to the restaurant on Sundays.

Rumsey brought Charlie Parker and Teddy Edwards to town. Even though they were invited to perform at the time, the musicians still felt unwelcome in Hermosa Beach due to racial tensions, according to the documentary.

"Hermosa Beach was a very white enclave," said jazz journalist Kirk Silsbee in the documentary. "I've heard stories about black musicians being escorted by police to their shows."

In years following, the shows became more and more popular. Now jazz still plays at the Lighthouse on weekends, but Sweeney points to the restaurant's early years as paving the way for diversity.

"Music was the great glue that brought them all together," Sweeney said.

Do you know more about the Lighthouse Cafe's history? Share with us—tell us in the comments.

Congratulations to for correctly guessing today's Landmark Hermosa. We'll have a new trivia next week.

Mary Beth Robinson February 11, 2012 at 08:52 PM
I was so happy that the Lighthouse had a "green glass" section where teens could go to hear jazz...what a musiic education! We were lucky!
Keith February 13, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Hey, Join the Jazz Alumni page on Facebook! It is dedicated to keeping Jazz alive at the Lighthouse for another 60 years.


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