The West Coast is home to historic sites celebrating Black history.
Yup, you read that right! The South isn’t the only place with cultural sites to honor the accomplishments and lives of people within the Black community. Whether you prefer learning more about Black history near the beaches of California, the sunny deserts of Arizona, or the rainy pockets of Washington—there are several incredible sites worth visiting to celebrate Black history any time of the year. Keep reading to find incredible historic sites to explore on the West Coast.
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Buffalo Soldiers Museum
WHERE: Tacoma, Washington
Starting in the state of Washington, discover the charming Buffalo Soldiers Museum, which celebrates the lives and service of Black soldiers. Honoring the Buffalo Soldiers who fought between 1866 and 1944, and the life of the former soldier William Jones, this museum is Tacoma’s best-kept cultural secret. It’s run by a non-profit group and helps educate the community about this overlooked historical period. Inside there are numerous books, artifacts, and much more.
Believe it or not, this is the second museum dedicated to the Buffalo soldiers in the U.S. The other museum in Houston, Texas, is called the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum.
The Ralph Bunche House
WHERE: Los Angeles, California
Show of hands: Do you know who the first Black person was to win a Nobel Peace Prize? If you guessed Ralph Bunche, then you’re correct! He was awarded this prize for moderating a cease-fire in 1948 between Palestine and Israel. Because of his work, his childhood home, a 1918 Victorian duplex in South Los Angeles, became a historic site. In 1976 the Ralph Bunche House was dedicated as a Historic-Cultural Monument in Los Angeles. Then, in 1978, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Take a trip to this property to delve deeper into what it was like growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood as a young Black boy in the late 1910s and 1920s.
Tanner Chapel AME Church
WHERE: Phoenix, Arizona
Tanner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church is the oldest Black church in Arizona. Built during the pioneer days in 1897, this property was first owned by the African Methodist Episcopal Mission when several community members and reverend Reverend H. H. Hawkins came together. As the church grew, it acquired more property in Phoenix, Arizona. After the expansion, the church was renamed in 1899 to the Tanner Chapel AME Church in remembrance of Benjamin T. Tanner, the late Bishop. This historic church is still being used today as a place dedicated to supporting a healthy family home and serving the community.
WHERE: Pinecliffe, Colorado
During 1925-1965, Wink’s Lodge was a popular destination for Black travelers seeking a getaway in the secluded mountains of Colorado. According to the National Parks Service, the lodge was constructed in 1925 by Obrey Wendall “Winks” Hamlet to serve as a dignified retreat for Black travelers wanting a safe place to relax away from discrimination and segregation.
In its heyday, tourists, artists, and jazz greats came from all over the country to stay at this highly regarded establishment. Legend has it that Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, and Zora Neale Hurston were among the notable vacationing guests. These legends could not find accommodations near their gigs, so Wink’s Lodge became a safe haven and, in return, a hub for impromptu readings, gatherings, and mini-concerts.
As segregation ended, Wink’s Lodge began a slow decline. It’s now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Samuel Lewis House
WHERE: Bozeman, Montana
One of the most colorful and unique houses to visit in Bozeman, Montana, is the Samuel Lewis House. This home was constructed by Samuel Lewis, who relocated to Montana to join the growing Black community who migrated to Bozeman after the Civil War in 1868. Lewis came from a highly artistic family. He was a skilled craftsman who developed and built several properties in the area, while his sister, in the nineteenth century, was declared one of the best sculptors of the time.
Years later, after settling in Bozeman, Lewis transformed his property into a beautiful piece of sophisticated artwork. Imagine bright red brick veneer and colorful stained glass windows with stunning architecture in the Queen Anne style. It was completed in 1890, and in 1999 it was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
WHERE: Denver, Colorado
If you’re a fan of jazz music, the Rossonian Hotel is a historic site you’ll want to add to your Colorado road trip bucket list. Located in Denver, Colorado, this hotel was one of the most popping jazz clubs of its time. From the late 1930s to the early 1960s, well-known musicians flocked to this hotel for a comfortable night’s rest and to dine and entertain in the Rossonian Lounge. This hotel was a safe space for Black musicians, tourists, and mixed clientele, welcoming many notable jazz performers like Dinah Washington, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and more.
Its rhythmic and welcoming atmosphere spread like wildfire from Los Angeles to St. Louis. This ushered in Rossonian Lounge’s claim to fame for jazz lovers, and in 1995 it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Harrison Guest House
WHERE: Las Vegas, Nevada
Since 2016, the Harrison Guest House has been one of the handful of Green Book Properties that also finds itself on the National Register of Historic Places. Like many properties in the Green Book, this boarding house was a safe space for Blacks. It accommodated Black celebrities performing on the Las Vegas Strip, like Sammy David Jr. and Nat King Cole.
Genevieve Harrison built this property after migrating to Las Vegas, Nevada, in the 1940s at the start of World War II. Currently, it’s the only standing boarding house in Las Vegas to this day, according to the National Park Service, and possibly Nevada. If you’re visiting Las Vegas, book a tour to learn even more about this cultural center and tour the property.
WHERE: Pueblo, Colorado
The Coronado Lodge is a historic motel based in Pueblo, Colorado. The National Park Service shares that the Coronado Lodge became the second hotel to earn a spot in the Green Book in 1957. In fact, out of the three Colorado motels listed in the Green Book, the Coronado Lodge was listed the longest in this document until 1967. It’s also well-known for its influence on the local tourism industry, and in 2020, this motel won a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
WHERE: Los Angeles, California
Another hotel recognized for its jazz scene was the Dunbar Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Formerly known as the Hotel Somerville and named after its creator, Dr. John Somerville, this property quickly gained steam since it served as a first-class Black hotel during the era of segregation. It opened in 1928 for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) West Coast Convention. Soon after its debut, this refined property became an influential landmark for highly esteemed community leaders and artists, and became the rhythmic center for jazz. Some likely names you’d find on the guest list included Langston Hughes, W. E. B. Du Bois, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Louis Armstrong, and Bessie Smith.
Swindall Tourist Inn
WHERE: Phoenix, Arizona
The story of this house dates back to 1913, when it was first a private residence in Phoenix, Arizona. Later this property turned into a boarding house, welcoming Black travelers and giving them a place to rest their heads at night. In the 1940s, the property was purchased by new owners (Golden and Elvira Swindall), and this home became known as the Swindall Tourist Inn, or the Swindall House, explains ABC 15 Arizona. During its heyday, it housed Black tourists, intellectuals, and word on the street says Jackie Robinson may have even stayed there. This Black boarding house was listed in the Green Book, and it’s also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Legacy of the Black Pioneer
WHERE: Mill Creek, Utah
James Beckwourth was the first Black man to live in Utah, arriving between 1824 and 1826. Two decades after his arrival, other Black men who were enslaved also found themselves living in Utah due to their pioneer enslavers who were journeying West. Because Utah was a slave state, this pioneer trend continued, giving rise to the growing Black population in the state. Once the Emancipation Proclamation was passed, the white pioneers helped the Black pioneers get land to build homes and raise a family. To honor the contribution of these Black pioneers, a historical marker called the Legacy of the Black Pioneer was placed in Mill Creek, Utah. This area, also known as “The Hill,” was the center of the thriving Black community in the Salt Lake Valley.
Idaho Black History Museum
WHERE: Boise, Idaho
If you’re a fan of museums, consider checking out the Idaho Black History Museum in Boise, Idaho. Before this establishment became a museum, it was a former church building called St. Paul Baptist Church. It was built in 1921 and remains one the oldest buildings in Idaho that was constructed by Black people, explains the Idaho Architecture Project. In 1982, this historic church found itself on the National Register of Historic Places. Shortly after that, in 1994, the church congregation relocated to a bigger building and graciously donated the church to the Idaho Black History Museum.