Historic Southwest Museum Mount Washington Campus

234 Museum Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90065


About the Historic Southwest Museum Mt. Washington Campus

The historic Southwest Museum Mt. Washington Campus was founded as the Southwest Museum of the American Indian in 1907 by Charles F. Lummis and the Southwest Society (formed in 1903), the western branch of the Archaeological Institute of America. The Southwest Museum building was constructed between 1912 and 1914. Lummis worked with architects Sumner P. Hunt and Silas R. Burns to design the main museum building and the Caracol and Torrance towers. Lummis wanted the building to reflect Spanish culture and the Alhambra in Spain. The tunnel and elevator were added in 1919–1920 to provide easier access to the museum. In 1977 the Braun Research Library was constructed to house the ever-growing research collection, which had outgrown its space in the Torrance Tower.

For much of the 20th century, the museum welcomed visitors from around the world and remained an important part of the city’s cultural landscape. However, many years of financial challenges and declining attendance led the Southwest Museum to merge with the Autry Museum in 2003. Following the merger, the Autry embarked on a comprehensive conservation program to save, preserve, and protect the important collections and identify a long-term, sustainable future for the historic site.

The Southwest Museum building is on the National Register of Historical Places and the California Register of Historic Places. Both the Southwest Museum building and the Braun Library are listed as City of Los Angeles Historical Cultural Monuments.

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