...sign the petition to help save the Museum...

important links:

> Promises Broken: see the crucial original 2003 letter
which shows what Autry originally committed to do
in order to secure the support of the Coalition...

> download the City of Los Angeles' 2003 motion
—passed unasimously— the preserve Southwest Museum...

> download the complete Rehabilitation Study
regarding the Southwest Museum...

> read the Friends' commissioned ConsultEcon, Inc.
economic feasibility study...

present day panorama: Museum (center), Mt. Washington (right), Highland Park (left). Click to enlarge... photo: Constance Saxe

excerpt from the
Southwest Museum
Rehabilitation Study
commissioned by the Autry National Center
by Historic Resources Group, llc

Founded in 1903 by Charles Fletcher Lummis and legally incorporated in 1907, the Southwest Museum was created to preserve knowledge and artifacts of the native people of the American Southwest. The first museum established in Los Angeles and one of the first in the nation to be privately endowed for the study of Native American culture, the Museum continues today to reflect its architectural origins and purpose. The Southwest Museum building, constructed 1912- 1914, is also considered to be one of the first major examples in Los Angeles of the transition from Mission Revival to Spanish Colonial Revival architecture.

The mission and architecture of the Museum were both largely conceived by Lummis, while the museum has been led throughout its history by directors knowledgeable in Museum studies as well as in anthropology and archaeology. Many made a significant impact on the types of artifacts collected by the Museum as well as how they were displayed to the public.

The architectural firm of Sumner P. Hunt and Silas R. Burns was responsible for creating the design of the Southwest Museum, collaborating with Lummis on every detail. Both Lummis and Hunt were knowledgeable on Spanish architecture as well as how to incorporate this older tradition into a native Southern California architecture. The result is that the Southwest Museum is a monumental public building that incorporates themes Lummis and architects Hunt and Burns found in Andalusian Spanish, Pre-Columbian Revival, and Spanish Colonial Revival architecture.

pencil drawing of The Caroline Boeing Poole Memorial Wing

Another influential Los Angeles architect, Gordon B. Kaufmann, designed The Caroline Boeing Poole Memorial Wing, a later addition to the Museum, between 1940 and 1941. The Poole Wing was designed with elements depicting the artifacts stored within, allowing this complimentary addition to reflect the Museum’s mission of preserving and sharing Southwestern artifacts.

The overall historic significance of the Southwest Museum, which includes both physical materials and historic associations, has been evaluated using several pertinent sets of criteria. First, the criteria established for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places and for the California Register of Historic Resources (California Register) were studied. The period of significance and its major phases of development were established during research into the Museum’s archival collection, building permit information, and other sources. The significance of individual character-defining, architectural features and spaces that comprise the Southwest Museum was determined through an extensive survey of the physical spaces and of the features, and what alterations, if any, they may have sustained.

The period of significance of an historic resource is defined as the length of time when a property was associated with important events, activities, or persons, and attained the physical characteristics that convey its historic significance. That period of significance for the Southwest Museum has been determined to be 1912 - 1941, which encompasses the following major phases of construction:

1912 - 14
Architects Hunt & Burns finalized the design for Scheme II in 1912. Groundbreaking for the Main Museum Building took place that same year. In 1913, construction commenced and Lummis expanded the project to include mezzanines on each of the top three floors of the Caracol Tower as well as a second mezzanine in the Torrance Tower. The Main Museum Building, which includes the main east-west galleries, two-story Entrance Hall, and the Caracol and Torrance Towers, was completed in 1914.

The entrance tunnel and elevator, which bring visitors to the Lower Lobby of the Entrance Hall, was added.

1938 - 41
Preliminary designs for the Caroline Boeing Poole Wing of Basketry were produced in 1938. The building and interior design were by architect Gordon B. Kaufmann. Construction commenced in 1940 and the Wing was completed in 1941.
Between 1919 and the construction of the Poole Wing, no major construction occurred within the Main Museum Building. Changes continued to be made to the landscape of the Museum site and to the Museum’s artifact collection and display processes. After the Poole Wing was completed, the construction that occurred at the Museum largely entailed alteration of window and door materials throughout the building; maintenance of the building, including painting the walls and floors, waterproofing of the building’s exterior, and replacement of display cases.

In 1979, the Braun Research Library was designed by Glen E. Cook. It houses the premier library in the world on the Indians of the American Southwest but is not a historically significant structure, and therefore is not included in this report.



Ground Breaking Ceremony, Dr. Norman Bridge hands spade to Charles Lummis

LATL #562, W Line, on special run by Southwest Museun,
early 1950s (Mike Juliette Sarchewsky collection)


January 1914 Arroyo Seco Flood with new Southwest Museum on Hill
(Mike Juliette Sarchewsky Collection)



site design by Jack Marquette, Theoretical Places