photo by: Autry Museum of the American West

Saving America's Historic Sites

Southwest Museum Site

  • Constructed: 1914
  • Architect: Sumner P. Hunt & Silas Burns
  • Location: Los Angeles, California

Designed by noted architect Sumner P. Hunt and his partner Silas Burns, the 1914 Mission Revival-style Southwest Museum building represents both regional California heritage and the emergence of modern Los Angeles. The site embodies the interests and remarkable legacy of ethnographer, journalist, and early California preservationist Charles Lummis, who held a deep appreciation for southwestern and Southern California cultures and sought to cultivate that appreciation and understanding in others.

Prominently sited in Mt. Washington, the Museum was envisioned as a “cultural acropolis” dedicated to the preservation of Southern California’s native cultural heritage. It quickly became a major factor in the cultural and artistic landscape of a youngLos Angeles. For nearly a century, the site’s historic, architectural, and cultural values made it an iconic landmark in the neighborhoods of northeast LA.

Despite the site’s rich history and visibility, it has been underutilized for several years. The National Trust announced the Southwest Museum Site as a National Treasure in 2015. With this designation, we and our partners—including The City of Los Angeles, Autry Museum of the American West, and other northeast Los Angles community and neighborhood organizations—kicked off a complex, multi-phased planning process that included intensive stakeholder interviews; an online public survey of over 1,600 people; a year-long event series intended to test different uses and draw new audiences and communities to experience the site in new ways; the formation of a broad-based Steering Committee to advise our work; a detailed market assessment; a feasibility study for the Casa de Adobe; and the development and promotion of a detailed Request for Interest with the Autry and our Steering Committee.

The goal of the campaign is to identify appropriate, financially sustainable, long-term uses for the Southwest Museum site that will reactive the buildings and grounds and respond to community needs.


Define a bright and sustainable future for the Southwest Museum site in Los Angeles that respects and celebrates the history of this iconic site so that it can remain an important part of the community for its next 100 years.

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