National Trust for Historic Preservation Names the Southwest Museum Site in Los Angeles a National Treasure
The National Trust for Historic Preservation today named the Southwest Museum site in northeast Los Angeles as its newest National Treasure. The Trust selected the 100-year-old property for its historic and cultural significance, and its importance as an iconic community landmark in the Highland Park and Mt. Washington neighborhoods of Los Angeles. As part of its National Treasures campaign, the Trust will employ its expertise in historic sites to engage a broad, diverse group of local community groups and Los Angeles-area stakeholders to identify viable options and sustainable future uses for this beloved historic landmark.
The Southwest Museum site is home to Los Angeles’s first museum. Originally constructed in 1914 by Charles Fletcher Lummis, a historian, ethnographer, and early preservation activist with a deep appreciation for southwestern and Southern California cultures, the Southwest Museum of the American Indian welcomed visitors from around the world and remained an important part of Los Angeles’ cultural landscape for much of the 20th century. As a result of financial challenges and declining attendance, however, the Southwest Museum merged with the Autry National Center of the American West in 2003. While the Autry carried out a conservation program to save and preserve the historic collections and stabilize the aging building, the site is still in need of additional investment and a sustainable operating plan so that it can best serve the needs of the community and city of Los Angeles.
The National Trust is a recognized national leader in reimagining historic places. In naming the Southwest Museum site a National Treasure, the National Trust will draw on its considerable experience with historic sites throughout the country to lead and facilitate a broad and inclusive process to define a sustainable use for the site. In partnership with the Autry National Center of the American West, the City of Los Angeles, and with the close collaboration of individuals, organizations and stakeholders in the community and throughout the area, the Trust will lead a process to explore sustainable operating and funding models for the Southwest Museum site.
“This is an exciting day for all of us who care about this nationally important historic place,” said Barbara Pahl, Western Regional Vice President for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “By naming this site a National Treasure, the National Trust is recognizing the historic, architectural, and cultural values that have made the Southwest Museum site a beloved fixture in Los Angeles for the past century. With the collaboration and enthusiasm of the Autry, the City of Los Angeles, and individuals and organizations both in the neighborhood and throughout Los Angeles, we look forward to identifying a sustainable use that ensures that the Southwest Museum site actively contributes to the thriving urban fabric of Los Angeles for the next 100 years.”
“We are honored to partner with the National Trust to identify a proud and viable future for the site that will respect its important legacy and bring value to the community and Los Angeles area,” said W. Richard West, Jr., the Autry’s President and CEO. “Working with the National Trust, our country’s leading voice for preservation, strengthens the momentum we have been building with Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo and a growing group of civic leaders and community members who have taken an active interest in working with the Autry and the City on the site’s direction.”
Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo said, “I thank the National Trust for Historic Preservation for its recognition of this iconic Los Angeles landmark and commitment to helping us pursue a plan for a sustainable and promising future.” The Councilmember continued, “I have been working with the Autry and engaging with a broad range of local stakeholders to focus on realistic uses that will respect the site’s historic presence in this vibrant part of Los Angeles and will bring important benefits to the community and the broader L.A. region. The National Trust’s designation and involvement are vital to our collective and collaborative efforts.”
At a press event held today, the National Trust also unveiled plans for an inclusive planning process meant to gather input on the future of the Southwest Museum site. In addition to stakeholder interviews, e-surveys, and community meetings, the Trust’s process will also include launching a new independent website, www.TreasureSWM.org that will function as an easily accessible forum for the public to share suggestions and ideas
About the Autry National Center of the American West
The Autry is a museum dedicated to exploring and sharing the stories, experiences, and perceptions of the diverse peoples of the American West, connecting the past to the present to inspire our shared future. The museum presents a wide range of exhibitions and public programs—including lectures, film, theatre, festivals, family events, and music—and performs scholarship, research, and educational outreach. The Autry’s collection of more than 500,000 pieces of art and artifacts includes the Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, one of the largest and most significant of Native American materials in the United States. To learn more, visit TheAutry.org.