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October 30, 2014

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Berkley Square neighborhood on National Historic Register

Neighborhood was built in mid 1950s by and for Las Vegas’ African-Americans

A historic African-American community in west Las Vegas is getting national recognition.

The Berkley Square Neighborhood, the first subdivision in Nevada built by and for African-American residents in west Las Vegas, has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The designation was revealed this week by Ron James, state historic preservation officer, following the neighborhood's nomination by the city's planning and development department.

"The designation of the Berkley Square Neighborhood is a positive step in our efforts to promote African-American history in the state," James said in making the announcement.

According to the city, Berkley Square contributed to improving living conditions for the city's African-American community. It also represented the advances that were being made as a result of local activism in the community in the locate 1940s and early 1950s.

The neighborhood was also part of a massive building boom that took place in Las Vegas and across the country after World War II and has retained its integrity as a residential suburb of that time.

"I am thrilled that the National Park Service has recognized this important and historic neighborhood," said Ward 4 Councilman Ricki Y. Barlow. "This is truly an incredible honor for our community."

The neighborhood is about 1.5 miles from downtown Las Vegas near Owens Avenue and D Street.

Bounded by Byrnes Avenue on the north, Leonard Avenues on the south, G Street on the west and D streets on the east, it includes 148 ranch-style homes constructed in 1954 and 1955, with two models that varied by roof type, porch overhand and façade finishes and fenstration.

The neighborhood was designed according to Federal Housing Administration standards of its day, showing concern for traffic and pedestrian safety with limited access points and sidewalks separated from the streets by a grass strip.

Paul R. Williams, an internationally known African-American architect from Los Angeles, designed Berkley Square in 1949.

The developers and builders included prominent African-American community activists and civic leaders, such sas financier Thomas L. Berkley, an attorney, media owner, developer and civil rights advote from Oakland, Calif.

Edward A. Freeman and J.J. Byrnes of Los Angeles financed the project. The developer was Leonard A. Wilson of Las Vegas. Construction was supervised by Harry L. Wyatt of the Las Vegas firm Burke and Wyatt. Massie L. Kennard, a Las Vegas civil rights leader, was the real estate agent.

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