Charles Fletcher Lummis
Imagine, if you will, the craziness of walking from Cincinnati to Los Angeles. In winter. All 2,200 miles. You’d need a sturdy pair of shoes, right? And a good map. Now imagine doing it in 1884.
This is how journalist, poet, adventurer, Indian rights activist, photographer, preservationist and founder of the Southwest Museum, Charles Lummis first came to LA. He was an extraordinary man, full of goodwill and curiosity who lived a big life punctuated with many hardships and high times. However, it is through his prolific collection of Native American and pueblo art—and his vision for the populace to study, preserve, view and enjoy that art—through which his legacy continues.
As the first museum in Los Angeles, and the pet project of Charles Fletcher Lummis, a prominent Los Angeles City leader, anthropologist, journalist, historian, creative genius, eccentric, and culturally sensitive individual, the Southwest Museum building at 234 Museum Drive, and its accompanying Casa, are wonderfully unique, historically important buildings. They housed a world-class indigenous American collection and a significant holding of pre-Hispanic, Spanish colonial, Hispanic and Western American art and artifacts. The SWM opened in 1907, and the current building on Mt. Washington, designed by Sumner P. Hunt and Silas Reese Burns in the Mission Revival style, was ready for occupancy in 1914. Three years later, the Casa was constructed on a nearby site. Of note, the silent film industry was a vibrant part of the development of the Arroyo Seco region and growth.