Francisco Martinez captures the front of Pete’s Cabinets on West Slauson Avenue (Photo: @southlabuildings)

Instagram Spotlight: New South LA resident gets to know his neighborhood through its architecture

When Francisco Martinez moved to Leimert Park he was inspired by the rich history and unique architectural styles that he did not know existed in South Los Angeles.

He quickly integrated into the community, joining the local church, subscribing to the Los Angeles Times and even venturing to local sporting events.

His admiration and curiosity soon turned into the @SouthLABuildings Instagram account that has helped Martinez connect with South L.A. residents who have shared personal stories and history of their community.

“As someone new to the area, this has been a great way for me to get to know South L.A.,” Martinez said. “It’s a way to explore. I usually take a short morning walk, although when I go out looking for buildings to feature I almost always ride my bike.”

Martinez features buildings that stand out to him, including restaurants, office buildings, businesses, stores, churches, and most of all homes. He strives to post buildings that strike him as different or extra colorful.

To Martinez, seeing a new building posted each day doesn’t have to be an extravagant sight on someone’s feed. He hopes it will paint a general picture of the community for his followers.

Learn more about Francisco Martinez, the man behind the buildings:

What was your inspiration for the account?

I think it’s important for everyone to get to know where they live, so it’s important for me to get out there into different neighborhoods and learn about new parts of town. I’ve gone down streets and stumbled into stores and restaurants that I don’t think I would have seen otherwise.

My goal for others is simple: show them the different, beautiful and unique buildings in South Los Angeles. I take simple photos, usually straight on. I don’t offer much commentary other than the location or what the building is if it’s not a house. I just let the home or store or library or whatever it is speak for itself. When I visited Los Angeles before living here, I mostly saw places like downtown or Venice, but I’m loving the unique and beautiful architecture here in South L.A. I wanted to showcase that, both for longtime locals and for people who might not know much about this part of L.A.

I created the account for two main reasons.

One, the range of buildings in South L.A. is so incredible I thought it was worth a closer look, or even a daily look. I’ve spent most of my life in the Midwest and on the East Coast, so I’m just not used to the style of buildings here. All the homes seem more casually beautiful. The colors are great. Some buildings have hints of modernism or art deco. The stores have some great signs. People take great care of their homes. And the rows of palm trees look really cool in the background everywhere.

Two, as someone new to the area, this has been a great way for me to get to know South L.A. I just moved to Los Angeles a few months ago and I’ve been living in Leimert Park so far. It’s a way to explore. I usually take a short morning walk, although when I go out looking for buildings to feature I almost always ride my bike.

Why did you find this history and South L.A. architecture important?

The warm weather, the West coast mentality, the old Spanish missions, the Hollywood frame of mind, all of that influences the buildings here in South LA. It’s common to see homes with Spanish tiles or bright colors, or maybe a modernist style. Commercial buildings often have big colorful signs that stand out when you drive by — a Las Vegas and Los Angeles style that gained fame in the ’60s and ’70s. Since Los Angeles developed later and as a car-focused city, the neighborhoods are mostly single family homes. In New York or Philadelphia row houses and office buildings are on top of each other, but in South L.A. each building gets to literally stand alone.

The account highlights buildings that are longtime landmarks in the community. For example, Maverick’s Flat on Crenshaw Boulevard is a cool looking building. More importantly it was an influential music venue, especially for the black community, with a history going back to the ’60s. They’ve been closed for a few years now but you hope places like that get reopened so that local history can live on. When we posted a photo of Maverick’s Flat, someone commented: “Bring it back.”

What kind of reaction have you received from followers?

The people most interested in the account are people from South LA and people focused on architecture. The reaction has been great. People from here, in South LA, are most likely to chime in when they recognize a building or have a personal connection to it. I love hearing people’s personal connections to these places all over South L.A. For example, our very first post was the Crenshaw Medical Arts Centre on Santa Rosalia Drive, and someone commented on how she used to work as a dental assistant in that building.

*Disclosure: Answers have been edited for brevity.

Intersections South LA

News and views from South Los Angeles.

Chandra Ingram

Written by

Journalism Student, University of Southern California

Intersections South LA

News and views from South Los Angeles.