1686 East 103rd Street – map
This single-story, clapboard structure, now more than a century old, has seen better days, that’s for sure.
Built in 1904, Watts Station later became a main stop on the Red Car line. When the Red Cars stopped running in 1961, the station boarded the train to Deteriorationville. Oddly enough, according to a 1989 Los Angeles Times article, “the train station was the only structure that remained intact when stores along 103rd Street burned during the Watts riots.” That was in 1965.
Man, you gotta smack a building pretty hard to get the kind of damage you see on the corner above.
Well, if a major civil disturbance that resulted in $35 million in damages and 34 deaths couldn’t do in Watts Station, the 1970s were sure going to try. However, thanks in part to a two-decades long campaign led by Watts resident Freita Shaw Johnson, March, 1989, saw the re-opening of the station as what was to be a city Department of Water and Power customer service office and a Watts history mini-museum. The restoration to the building's original exterior design was paid for by a $700,000 grant from the Community Redevelopment Agency.
Today the building's part of the Metro Blue Line and is, once again, a train station. Now, it’s easy to complain and shake your head about the shape it’s in, but, on the other hand, I think it's more satisfying that not only is the building being used, but it’s actually in service per the original design of more than a century ago.
Watts Station was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 15, 1974.
Paul Feldman. “Watts New? Reopening of Historic Red Car Station as Museum and DWP Office Seen as Symbol of Hope, Renewal” Los Angeles Times; March 17, 1989, Metro; 2
Up next: Fire Station No. 23