In Search of Fairfax
Through digital mapping as well as qualitative and quantitive analysis, “In Search of Fairfax” examines how Jews and non-Jews alike built communities and interacted with one another in the Fairfax neighborhood from the 1930s through the 1990s. Inter- and intra-group negotiations over the role and structure of this neighborhood generated multiple ideas about the neighborhood’s religious, social, and cultural purpose. Specifically, "In Search of Fairfax" focuses on the ways in which an array of neighborhood stakeholders operated in tension and in tandem with each other in their effort to define who and what belonged within the Fairfax “community” and what exactly made the neighborhood “Jewish.” Of particular interest is contextualizing Fairfax within a broader metropolitan setting. This entails demonstrating how large-scale trends such as suburbanization, racial integration, and gentrification transformed Fairfax as both a physical space and a conceptual landscape as well as comparing Fairfax with other heavily Jewish areas and non-Jewish "ethnic" neighborhoods in Los Angeles.
A few caveats about the methodology and the terminology employed. Throughout most of the project, I refer to the neighborhood under consideration as "Beverly-Fairfax," not the "Fairfax District." The reasons for this are historical: the sources that I came across from the 1950s through the 1980s typically refer to the area as the "Beverly-Fairfax" neighborhood. This Google N-Gram chart reinforces this point: during the latter half of the twentieth century, "Beverly-Fairfax" was used with more frequency than "Fairfax District."
It was only starting in the 1990s that the term "Fairfax District" began to appear with more frequency. When appropriate, I refer to the neighborhood as the "Fairfax District." (The name of the neighborhood continues to evolve: the Los Angeles Times' recent Mapping L.A. project divides the area under consideration into two -- Fairfax and Beverly Grove.)
Also relevant, distinct maps and descriptions provide different boundaries for the Beverly-Fairfax neighborhood. For the purposes of this study, I will use the boundaries that the Vitalize Fairfax project employed--from Wilshire Boulevard north to Santa Monica Boulevard, from La Brea Boulevard to La Cienega Boulevard.
For those interested in learning about the different ways in which various sources have defined the borders and boundaries for the Fairfax neighborhood, refer to the Fairfax Maps Resource Guide.
Much of the research for this project was conducted in local archives such as the Barbara Myerhoff papers, the Mayor Tom Bradley Administration papers, 1920-1933, and the Western States Jewish History Archive, 1800-2004; the quantitive data for the maps largely comes from the Jewish community studies conducted by Fred Massarik and Bruce Phillips as well as U.S. census. While thorough in its analysis, it does not claim to be comprehensive in its treatment of the Beverly-Fairfax neighborhood. I would love to hear comments and feedback about the project. I also encourage individuals to submit additional photographs, essays, and stories about the Fairfax neighborhood; my hope is to develop a section of the "In Search of Fairfax" project that features contributions from those who lived and experienced the Beverly-Fairfax neighborhood. For submissions, please email email@example.com.