September 15, 2019 #1 Local News, Information and Event Source for the Century City/Westwood areas.

Paul Revere Williams and the Kelly Music Building

A vital piece of California history in the heart of Westwood Village

By Keldine Hull 

The Kelly Music Building, most recently known as Tanino Ristorante, is a vital piece of California’s rich history. Located on the west side of Westwood Boulevard, between Weyburn Avenue and Kinross Avenue in Westwood Village, it has connections to the early development of Westwood Village. It was completed in 1930, just one year after Westwood Village officially opened in 1929. 

The Kelly Music Building was one of the earliest commercial architectural commissions by beloved architect Paul Revere Williams. In June 2019, the Los Angeles Conservancy nominated the Kelly Music Building to be designated a local Historical-Cultural Monument (HCM). On July 18, the Culture Heritage Commission (CHC) voted to take the building’s HCM nomination under consideration. After a scheduled visit to the site, CHC will hold a meeting to consider the building’s nomination. 

Paul Revere Williams was born 125 years ago on February 18, 1894, in Los Angeles. By the time Williams turned four, both of his parents had passed away. He was placed in the home of a foster mother who devoted herself to his educational and artistic development. 

As one of only 3,100 African Americans living in Los Angeles during the turn of the century, Williams was the only student of his ethnicity in his elementary school. When Williams attended Polytechnic High School, a teacher advised him against pursuing a career in architecture. He was told he would have difficulty attracting clients in the predominantly white community, and the black community wouldn’t be able to provide him with enough work. In 1915, Williams was certified as a building contractor and licensed as an architect by the State of California in 1921. He opened his own practice, becoming the first African American member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1923.

Williams became popular for designing thousands of homes in Los Angeles alone, many of which were affordable houses for new homeowners and larger homes for affluent clients in communities like Hancock Park. His practice grew to include historic buildings like the Los Angeles County Courthouse, Hillside Memorial Park, Westwood Medical Center and the First African Methodist Episcopal Church. He also designed private residences for some of the most popular entertainers in the world including Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Bill (Bojangles) Robinson, and Frank Sinatra. Throughout the course of his career, Williams designed thousands of buildings, was active in political and social organizations, and earned the respect of fellow architects. In 1957, he was elected a Fellow of the AIA, the first African American to do so.

Williams died in 1980 at the age of 85, however, his legacy continues to live on long past him. In 2017, Williams was posthumously awarded the country’s highest honor for an architect, AIA’s Gold Medal, for his indelible impact in the field of architecture. 

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