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Southern California Architecture

A guide to Southern California architecture, landscape and design materials at The Huntington Library.

Collection Highlights

Survey map of south Bunker Hill area of Los AngelesBelow are some of The Huntington Library's larger and frequently-used collections for research related to the built and landscaped environment.  Please see the Collections by Architect page of this guide for a list of collections describing architectural drawings and professional archives specifically.

Arthur M. Ellis Photographic Negative Collection, 1849-1923
This collection provides a comprehensive picture of the growth and development of Los Angeles at the turn of the 20th century. It is particularly strong in images of Central Los Angeles from the 1880s to the 1910s and Los Angeles County beach communities in the 1900s and 1910s. In addition, the collection includes images of Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley, and Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino and San Diego Counties. Also included are photographs of missions and churches; commercial, municipal and residential buildings, including historic adobes; schools and parks; railroads, emigration and stagecoach routes; Campo de Cahuenga; Busch Gardens in Pasadena; the Modjeska home in Santa Ana; the Lake Vineyard, Sunnyslope and the Rowland properties in the San Gabriel Valley.
Call number: photCL 188

J. Allen Hawkins Studio Collection of Negatives, 1924-1972
The J. Allen Hawkins Studio Collection of Negatives consists of 3,027 negatives and 3,607 prints from 1924 to 1972 that depict commercial sites, residences and other subjects in and around Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. The images provide a look at the commercial, residential, social and cultural development of Pasadena and surrounding areas during the middle years of the 20th century. The collection also provides, through its breadth and depth of subject matter, an example of the career activities of a commercial photographer in Southern California in the early years of the 20th century. Some of the early photographs may be attributable to Harold A. Parker.
Call number: photCL 330

Harold A. Parker Studio Collection of Negatives, 1889-1949
The Harold A. Parker Studio Collection of Negatives consists of 5,157 glass plate negatives, film negatives and panoramic negatives from 1889 to 1949 that depict commercial, residential and landscape sites in and around Pasadena and Southern California. The images provide a look at the commercial, residential and social development of Pasadena and surrounding areas during the early years of the 20th century. The collection is especially rich in images of residential architecture in Pasadena, Altadena and San Marino; images of Lake Tahoe; depictions of, and activities at, the Raymond, Maryland and Huntington Hotels in Pasadena; and the commercial, social and cultural landscapes of Pasadena. The collection also provides, through its breadth and depth of subject matter, an example of the career activities of a commercial photographer in Southern California in the early years of the 20th century.
Call number: photCL 40

P.J. Walker Construction Company Photographs, 1923-1987
This collection contains photographic prints, film negatives, photo albums, company records, ephemera and promotional material depicting construction jobs of the P.J. Walker Company, chiefly commercial buildings in the Los Angeles region from the early 1920s to the 1960s. Building types include office buildings, department stores, public utilities, industrial plants, university buildings, banks, hotels and residences. Many of the construction projects are documented as black-and-white progress photographs by local commercial photographers and show the building process from the ground up over a period of months or years. Several important architects represented in the collection include Morgan, Walls & Clements, John and Donald Parkinson, Edward Durell Stone, Walker & Eisen, George Kelham and Gordon Kaufmann. Identified photographers represented in the collection include the "Dick" Whittington Studio, Dwyer Studios L.A., Green & Tillisch and Mushet Photography. While the bulk of the collection consists of construction site photographs, there are also manuscripts and ephemera, which chiefly consist of cost reports, business correspondence and miscellaneous ephemera related to the opening of the building. There is a small group of additional company records including job indexes, promotional booklets and some photographs, film negatives, photo albums, company records, ephemera and promotional material.
Call number: photCL 454

Palmer Conner Collection of color slides of Los Angeles, 1950-1970
collection of 35mm Kodachrome slides taken by amateur photographer Palmer Conner documents the physical and social changes of downtown Los Angeles during the earliest stages of redevelopment. The collection is particularly strong in its depiction of the Bunker Hill neighborhood during redevelopment in the 1950s. Images chiefly consist of views of commercial and residential building exteriors taken from the street, including images of both new construction and older buildings in the process of being demolished. 
Call number: 
photCL 486 

Maynard L. Parker negatives, photographs and other material, 1930-1974
Created primarily by Maynard Parker, the archive documents the residential and non-residential work of architects, interior designers, landscape architects, artists, builders, real estate developers and clients associated with these fields, foremost among them the magazine "House Beautiful." Also included in the collection are photographs taken by other individuals, such as architect Cliff May and Parker's assistant, Charles Yerkes.  The archive is organized by photographic assignment (identified as “project”) and is searchable by keyword and across multiple fields in the finding aid.
Call number: photCL MLP

C.C. Pierce Collection of Photographs, approximately 1840-approximately 1930 (bulk 1880-1920) ‚Äč
The C.C. Pierce collection constitutes one of the most important extant collections of historical photographs of early California and Los Angeles. The collection of 10,100 prints was assembled by Charles C. Pierce, a photographer and long-time operator of a thriving Los Angeles photographic business. The collection is divided into nine topical headings devised by Pierce: Los Angeles Historical; Indians; Missions; California cities, counties, etc.; Industries and Agriculture; Transportation; Natural History; Art and Architecture; and Miscellaneous Scenery. Within these large sections are smaller categories that focus on the history, landscape, people, civic and cultural events, built environment and development of Southern California and the Southwest from approximately 1845 to 1930. Of particular interest are photographs of Native Americans and all 21 of the California Missions.
Call number: photCL Pierce

Southern California Edison Collection of Negatives and Photographs, approximately 1883-1989
The Southern California Edison (SCE) collection of negatives and photographs consists of approximately 80,000 images created and acquired by the company from approximately 1883 to 1989, with the bulk of the collection covering 1910 to 1960. Most of the images were produced by Edison staff and contract photographers to document Edison facilities, products, operations, activities and employees and for the purposes of education, advertising, training and liability. The SCE collection offers a range of subjects far broader than the company's original intent. In addition to infrastructural images of transmission lines, steam plants, substations, equipment, vehicles and hydroelectric plants, the company captured the uses of light and electricity in its myriad capacities, including night lighting of streets, billboards, storefronts and gas stations; electric kitchens and appliances in domestic and industrial settings such as restaurants and cafes; agricultural innovations in the dairy and poultry industries; lighting for recreational uses such as swimming pools, bathhouses and tennis courts; golf courses; office work; and accident scenes and disasters, particularly the St. Francis Dam disaster of 1928.  The construction of Big Creek hydroelectric project in the High Sierras is documented in the collection in-depth, through three phases of development: 1911-1914, 1917-1929 and 1948-1960. Other historic milestones in the collection include the 1902 survey of the Colorado River; construction and 1924 opening of Long Beach Steam Plant No. 2, the first modern steam plant on the west coast; the passage of The Boulder Canyon Act of 1928, designating SCE's operation of some Hoover Dam generators; completion in 1930 of SCE's Art Deco headquarters at Fifth and Grand Streets in Los Angeles; construction of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) in 1963, with units 2 and 3 added in 1972; acquisition of California Electric Company (Cal-Electric) in 1964; and the opening of Solar One in 1982, the nation's first large-scale solar generation site.  The entire collection is viewable on the Huntington Digital Library. 
Call number: photCL SCE

"Dick" Whittington Studio Collection of Negatives and Photographs, 1924-1948
The "Dick" Whittington Studio was the largest photography studio in the Los Angeles area from 1924 to 1987. Founded by Wayne Whittington, the Studio specialized in commercial photography, taking photographs for nearly every major business and organization in Los Angeles; in so doing, they documented the growth and commercial development of Los Angeles. The Studio’s clients included department stores, oil companies, real estate developers, food service companies, television and radio broadcast companies, automobile manufacturers and related industries, aircraft manufacturers, construction firms and the entertainment industry.
Call number: photCL Whitt

Southern California Regional Planning Collection, 1909-2003
The Southern California Regional Planning Collection is organized into two series: Published Planning Reports Series (organized by individual item numbers) and Internal Documents Series (organized by box and folder numbers). The Published Planning Reports Series contains 1,913 individual items that were generated by the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission, Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning and other planning agencies and organizations in Southern California. Types of reports include annual reports, area study, comprehensive planning reports, census, conference papers, general plans, guides to zoning and subdivision, planning proposals, traffic and environmental surveys and zoning ordinances. The date range of this series is from 1909 to 2003. Similar to the Published Planning Reports Series, the majority of the documents were generated by the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission and Department of Regional Planning, followed by the Los Angeles Department of City Planning. Types of documents include census reports, conference papers, maps, memorandums, minutes, photos, plans, reports, speeches and summaries. 
Call number: RB 605982

Image credit: South Bunker Hill Association, Survey map of south Bunker Hill area of Los Angeles, 1956. Frederick Nelson Scrapbook vol. 34, p. 41. Frederick Nelson Scrapbook Collection.