New Group Forms to Save the Southwest Museum and Lummis House

2019 Arts & Culture Editions March Updates

The Lummis Legacy League, a grassroots organization to preserve the legacy of Charles Fletcher Lummis, will hold a kick-off reception and presentation on March 17 at the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens in Cypress Park. Suzanne Lummis, the granddaughter of Charles Lummis, will be a guest of honor.

The group hopes to draw more public awareness to the deteriorated condition of two cultural landmarks in Northeast Los Angeles: the Southwest Museum in Mount Washington and the Lummis House on the edge of the Arroyo Seco.

It is the latest in a series of efforts over the years to ensure that the structures are rehabilitated.

Charles Lummis – a leader, scholar, adventurer and celebrity in Los Angeles in the late 19th century and early 20th century — founded the Southwest Museum in 1907 to house native American artifacts from various collections, including his own. Around the same time, he built his home — now called the Lummis House — entirely out of river rock from the Arroyo Seco. The parties he hosted there – called “noises” – made the house a favorite gathering spot for Hollywood types and political figures.

The Southwest Museum was bought by the Autry Museum of the American West in 2003. Since then, the Autry has succeeded in preserving the collection by moving it to a modern storage facility in Burbank. But to date, it has been unsuccessful in finding a deep-pocketed partner to help renovate the Southwest Museum. The lack of progress has angered and frustrated community activists. Among them is Ann Walnum, a founding member of the Friends of the Southwest Museum that was a precursor to the new Lummis League. Walnum says that while the Autry has admirably preserved the collection, it has failed to live up to pledges it made to maintain the Southwest Museum site.

As for the Lummis House, Occidental College made an agreement in 2014 with the Department of Parks and Recreation to take charge of the landmark. But the deal requires Occidental to raise millions of dollars to complete the necessary repairs, and the money has not yet been raised. When the Boulevard Sentinel asked recently if fundraising efforts would continue, Jim Tranquada, the communications director for Occidental said, “We’re still not in a position to give a definitive reply one way or the other.”

So, that is the state of play as the Lummis League steps up to try to save the Southwest Museum and the Lummis House. It is a fight, in effect, for NELA’s cultural heritage.

The chairperson of the Lummis League is Mari Pritchard-Parker. She is joined by Hollace Davids, a former executive for special projects at Universal Pictures who lives in Highland Park, and Yvonne Sarceda, a dedicated community activist in NELA.

You can learn more at the kick-off event / L.A. River Center / 570 W. Avenue 26 / Sunday, Mar. 17 / 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. / RSVP by calling 323-222-8327 or emailing

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