Little Tokyo in 1905 was stated to be surrounded by First Street, San Pedro Street and Requena Street as well as Central Avenue. It originally had a population of 3500 Japanese with a mixture of Jewish, Russians and some Americans and over 10,000 Japanese who make this area their rendezvous point.
The area was a huge magnet for immigrating Japanese until 1924 when the Exclusion Act was signed and it stopped any more migrating. Shops that were along the First Street while Vegetable markets were up and down Central Avenue. Japanese Americans were a big part of the ethnic group for vegetable trade but because of the number of Japanese truck farms that were quite successful located in Southern California. During 1941 there were over 30,000 Japanese Americans who were living in Little Tokyo.
But because of internment camps of Japanese Americans during World War II, little Tokyo became similar to a ghost town. For a short period of time it became Bronzeville because of Latinos, African Americans, and Native Americans moving into vacated properties and began to open up businesses such as restaurants and night clubs as well as other ventures. Starting in 1942 when the Japanese population was asked to evacuate and sent to concentration camps, many African Americans moved into Los Angeles to find work in a labor starved industry. Part of the great migration tripled the pre-war population with over 80,000 new arrivals taking up residence. Because of the restrictive covenants stating that non-white were not allowed to rent or buy property for most of the city, Little Tokyo became severely overcrowded.
Often times a single bathroom would be shared by up to 40 or more people and a single room would house about 16 people. People would share hot beds and sleep in shifts. The poor housing conditions ended up helping the spread of disease such as venereal disease and tuberculosis. Crimes such as hit and run accidents, rapes and robberies increased. During 1943, residents were attacked in the Zoot Suit Race Riots. Eventually officials would bow to pressure from residents of Bronzeville and proposed to have temporary housing in Willowbrook, but the majority of residents resisted the plans. In 1944, buildings were condemned as unfit for habitation and over 120 were ordered to be renovated or repaired. Some of the evicted were sent to Jordan Downs housing. In 1945, the industry jobs were disappearing and the workers would then be moved on to other places for employment. Many other Bronzeville residents were pushed out of their homes when the Japanese Americans finally returned home and white landlords refused to renew leases with the tenants.
As of now the current site of Parker Center was were the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple originally stood. The southern edge where the Parker Center was part of the First Street shops and the new condos and warehouses were once the residential part of the district. In 1986, Community activists managed to establish first street as a historic district.