Museum Companion to Los Angeles




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Museum Companion to Los Angeles





The J. Paul Getty Museum is the richest museum in the world. The J. Paul Getty Trust Endowment is at present valued at $4.1 billion. (page 13).

·         The Getty Villa is a reproduction and adaptation of the ancient Roman Villa dei Papiri, buried in a catastrophic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79.

·         The museum’s collection of Greek and Roman antiquities is the third most important of its kind in the US.

·         The museum’s collection of photographs is the finest in this country.

·         The Villa grounds include five gardens featuring plants that probably grew in Roman gardens two millennia ago. Some seeds and bulbs were even imported from Italy.

Fourteen paintings by Rembrandt can be found in four Los Angeles museums (Hammer Museum, The J. Paul Getty Museum, LACMA and Norton Simon Museum of Art). This is the largest holding of Rembrandt’s masterpieces in any US city outside New York.

Douglas World Cruiser New Orleans, one of two original airplanes that made the first around-the-world flight in 1924, is displayed at Museum of Flying. The museum also features the smallest jet-powered aircraft in the world, Bede BD-5J Micro (1973), which appeared in the James Bond movie Octopussy. (page 25).

Hammer Museum features one of the most important private collections of drawings and watercolors in America. The museum also has the largest collection of works by Honoré Daumier and his contemporaries in the US. (page 31).


Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts at UCLA is one of the finest university collections of graphic arts in the country. Its holdings consist of more than 45,000 prints, drawings, photographs and artists’ books dating from the 13th century to the present. (page 33).


Fowler Museum at UCLA is one of the nation’s four leading university-based anthropology museums. It houses a collection of over 750,000 objects that represent contemporary, historic and pre-historic cultures. The African art collection is one of the largest in the world. (page 35).

Virginia Robinson Gardens contain the largest stand of king palms (60-foot tall) outside Australia. Over 50 varieties of Mrs. Robinson’s favorite flower, the camellia, grow in the garden, including the Camellia japonica cv. Virginia Robinson, named for her by Nuccio’s Nursery in 1957. (page 45).

The 55-room Greystone Mansion was used as a movie location for more than 40 productions, including Murder, She Wrote; The Witches of Eastwick; The Winds of War and Ghostbusters II. (page 48).


The Paley Center for Media’s collection of 75,000 items interprets almost 100 years of radio and television history. (page 50). 


Museum of Tolerance was founded to increase awareness of bigotry and racism in American life and to present the Holocaust in its historic and cultural context. (page 51).


The Petersen Automotive Museum is the largest and most innovative automotive museum in the world. Among the more than 200 vehicles on display are bizarre and eccentric cars seen on the streets of Los Angeles, as well as “cars-of-the-stars,” including a 1925 Lincoln originally owned by Greta Garbo, and “cars-as-stars,” such as a 1963 Aston Martin DB5 Prototype, the original James Bond car. (page 53).


The La Brea Tar Pits is one of the world’s richest Ice Age fossil sites. The fossils found at La Brea and displayed in Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits are possibly the most well-preserved in the world. (page 57).


Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is one of the largest art museums in the US. Its remarkable holdings of 150,000 works cover the entire range of the history of art. Its collection of Indian and Southeast Asian art is considered the finest in the Western world. (page 60).


American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) features antique cameras and related items, including a 1891 Edison kinetoscope, the first motion picture machine to use 35 mm film. (page 72).

Madame Tussauds Hollywood displays over 100 wax replicas, including celebrities from the entertainment and sports world such as Marlon Brando, Michael Jackson, Tom Hanks, Kobe Bryant, Halle Berry, Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe. (page 73).

The structure that houses Hollywood Heritage Museum was originally a horse barn, used by Cecil B. De Mille, Jesse Lasky and Samuel Goldwyn as a set, office and dressing room for The Squaw Man (1914). This was the first feature-length motion picture made by a major company in Hollywood. (page 74).

Three of the most outstanding architectural landmarks in Los Angeles are the Freeman House, the Hollyhock House and the Ennis House. These remarkable structures by Frank Lloyd Wright were built using his textile block construction method. (page 75, 90, 92). 

Ripley’s Believe Or Not! houses over 300 wonders and curiosities from around the world, including the Quarter-Million-Dollar Marilyn sculpture made from over $264,000 worn-out dollar bills that the government had thrown in the garbage. (page 79).


Guinness World of Records Museum features the greatest facts, the wildest feats and the most outstanding achievements of all time. It contains over 5 million pieces of information displayed through photographs, life-size replicas, videos and interactive exhibits. (page 80).


The Liberty Museum features Birth of Liberty, the world’s largest historical mosaic, composed of 25 scenes that depict the most important events in American history from 1619 to 1787. It is 162 feet long by 28 feet high and contains more than 10 million pieces of Venetian glass. (page 81).


The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is one of the 10 largest zoos in the US. The zoo houses approximately 1,200 animals. Of the more than 250 species, 29 are endangered, including orangutans, Jentink’s duikers (the most endangered antelope) and the nearly extinct Sumatran rhino. (page 87).


Autry National Center celebrates the people, cultures and events that have shaped the rich history of the West. Highlights include a Frank James’ Remington revolver, a Smith & Wesson revolver presented to Gen. George Armstrong Custer and a Colt used by Emmett Dalton. (page 83).


Museum of Jurassic Technology, one of the most unusual cultural institutions in California, displays strange exhibits inspired by folk beliefs and superstitions, such as a pair of mice on a slice of toast, used as a remedy for bed-wetting. (page 94).


LA 84 Foundation is the only facility of its kind in the US. It houses the nations largest sports library and sports art and artifacts collection. Among the famous pieces are Joe Louis’s gloves, Babe Ruth’s bats, Jesse Owens’ shoes and Bill Tilden’s tennis rackets. (page 96).


California Science Center is the most visited of all museums in Los Angeles, attracting more than 2 million visitors annually. (page 99).


Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is the 3rd largest natural history museum in the US. It boasts one of the finest Tyrannosaurus rex skulls on view anywhere; the skeleton of a Mamenchisaurus — one of the largest dinosaurs ever discovered; the 2nd largest collection of marine mammals in the world; and North America’s largest collection of ants. (page 103).


Exposition Park Rose Garden is one of the largest and most significant public rose gardens in California, with over 19,000 rose bushes. (page 108).


Redondo Beach Historical Museum’s photo exhibits illustrate the life of George Freeth (1883-1919), the man credited with reviving the lost Polynesian art of surfing. Advertised as “the man who can walk on water,” he used a solid-wood, 8-foot, 200-lb. surfboard. (page 115).


Los Angeles Maritime Museum is the largest museum of this kind in the West Coast. It displays an 18-foot scale model of the Titanic, featuring the only known cutaway of the ship’s interior; the 22-foot ship model used in The Poseidon Adventure (1972); and the real-life Bounty from the original Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), starring Clark Gable. (page 125).

SS Lane Victory is the only Victory ship on display in the world (of 534 built during World War II). (page 126).

Spanning more than 1,000 feet in length, Queen Mary is the largest, fastest and most luxurious ocean liner ever built. It set a standing record for the most passengers carried in one crossing — over 16,000! After completing 1,001 Atlantic crossings, it was converted into a major tourist attraction and luxury hotel. (page 132).

Constructed in 1914 to guard the new Los Angeles Harbor facilities, Battery Osgood at the Fort MacArthur Military Museum is the best-preserved example of post-1890 coastal defense and the only Taft-era gun emplacement in the continental US. (page 124). 

Drum Barracks Civil War Museum is housed in the only intact army building located in southern California from the Civil War period and one of the few remaining in the western US. A 2-story, 16-room structure served as the junior officers’ headquarters. The collection highlight is a 34-star Union flag that Private William G. Stephens found on the Vicksburg battlefield on May 22, 1863. Stephens won a Congressional Medal of Honor at Vicksburg, one of only 1,504 medals awarded during the war. (page 127).


Rancho Los Alamitos — built in 1806 as a shelter for vaqueros (predecessors of the US cowboys), it is considered the oldest domestic structure in California. (page 137).


The Nethercutt Collection contains one of the world’s most impressive exhibits of antique, classic and sports automobiles, including all Rolls-Royce models of the Phantom series and Rudolph Valentino’s 1923 Avions Voisin. On display is one of the world’s largest collection of hood ornaments, (more than 1,000 items). Also on exhibit is the world’s largest and finest collection of restored mechanical musical instruments. (page 149).


Campo de Cahuenga is the site where the Treaty of Cahuenga was signed on January 13, 1847 by Lt. Col. John C. Fremont and Gen. Andres Pico. The treaty ended the war between the United States and Mexico and signified the American acquisition of California and the vast territory now comprising Nevada, Utah, Arizona and parts of New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. (page 153).

Forest Lawn Museum — Glendale houses the two largest oil paintings in the world: The Crucifixion (195 by 45 feet) by Jan Stuka and The Resurrection (70 by 51 feet) by Robert Clark. (page 155).

Offering 100,000 bushes of more than 600 varieties, Descanso Gardens boasts the largest outdoor planting of camellias in North America. (page 157). 

Wildlife Waystation is a safe heaven for both native and exotic wildlife, dedicated to their rescue, rehabilitation and relocation. This is the only licensed facility of its kind in the country. (page 160).


Heritage Junction Historic Park’s star exhibit is a re-creation of the setting of “Wild Bill” Hickok’s last poker game, consisting of the cards, table and chairs. “The Prince of the Pistoleers” was shot in the back while playing cards in Deadwood, South Dakota, in 1876. He fell holding two black eights and a pair of black aces, known ever since as “the Dead Man’s Hand.” (page 163).

Placerita Canyon was the site of the first discovery of gold in California. Legend has it that in 1842 Francisco Lopez, a local herdsman, was pulling up wild onions beneath an old oak tree when he saw small particles of gold clinging to the roots. The site, named Oak of the Golden Dream, is a California Historical Landmark. (page 164).


Milestones of Flight Air Museum displays a Pratt & Whitney 4,300 hp, 28-cylinder aircraft engine, developed for Howard Hughes’s Flying Boat. This is the largest piston engine ever built. (page 165). 

On exhibit at the Air Force Flight Test Center Museum is the XLR-99 rocket engine. With its thrust rating of 57,850 pounds (equal to 600,000 hp), it is the most powerful aircraft engine ever used. (page 167).

El Molino Viejo (The Old Mill) was built in 1816 by converted Gabrielino Indians as the first water-powered gristmill in southern California. (page 170).

Norton Simon Museum of Art houses an outstanding collection of European art from the Renaissance to the 20th century. It is one of America’s most remarkable art collections and one of the largest in the world amassed by an individual. (page 173).

·         The museum has the complete graphic oeuvres of Goya, Picasso and Rembrandt. Its set of Goya’s Disasters of War is one of 12 printed during the master’s lifetime.

·         The museum’s permanent display of the paintings, sculptures, pastels and prints of the French Impressionist Edgar Degas is the largest in the world.


Pacific Asia Museum is the only museum in southern California specializing in the arts of Asia and the Pacific Rim. The museum contains a Chinese courtyard garden, one of only two authentic Chinese courtyard gardens in the US (the other is at the Metropolitan Museum in New York). (page 181).

On the grounds of Sunny Slope Water Co. stands the historic San Gabriel Mission dam, La Presa, built in 1821. It is the oldest surviving dam in the southwestern US. (page 185).

Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. This splendid estate is one of the greatest attractions in California and one of the nation’s foremost cultural, research and educational centers, attracting 500,000 visitors annually. (page 186).

·         It houses one of the world’s finest collections of rare books and manuscripts, containing 4 million objects. It is one of the largest and most complete collections in the US of British and American history and architecture, including the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (ca. 1410) and Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography.

·         It displays the finest group of full-length British portraits anywhere in the world, including Blue Boy (ca. 1770) by Thomas Gainsborough.

·         Its collection of 18th-century French furniture and decorative arts is one of the finest of its kind in the US.

·         Huntington’s Desert Garden has one of the largest research and display collections of cacti and succulents in the world. It includes over 2,500 species of desert plants.


Wells Fargo History Museum displays a 2-pound gold nugget unearthed in 1975 by a child during a casual attempt at panning. (page 199).


Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is the only museum in Los Angeles devoted exclusively to collecting and presenting art from 1940 to the present. It is also the only major museum in the US established with this charter in the last few decades. (page 200).

·         In 1991 the American Institute of Architects named the museum’s building at California Plaza one of the ten best works of American architecture completed since 1980.

·         The museum’s purchase of the Panza Collection, valued in excess of $10 million, represents the largest and most significant single acquisition of Post-World War II art.


Museum of Neon Art (MONA) exhibits fine art in electric and kinetic media and preserves outstanding examples of neon signs, billboards and marquees. It is the only permanent institution of its kind in the world. (page 204).


El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument is the oldest section of the city. This is the site where 44 pobladores (settlers), by order of King Carlos III of Spain,  founded the city of Los Angeles on September 4, 1781. (page 208).


Avila Adobe is the oldest existing residence in Los Angeles, constructed in 1818 as a town house for the Avila ranching family. (page 208).


Heritage Square Museum is actually a recreated Victorian village consisting of 8 structures built in the late 19th century. (page 211).


Southwest Museum is the oldest museum in Los Angeles, founded in 1907 by Charles F. Lummis. It houses one of the most important collections of Native American artworks and artifacts in the US (250,000 objects) and the world’s most extensive collection of Native American textiles. (page 213).


County of Los Angeles Fire Museum displays a fully operational 1903 American Fire Engine Co. Metropolitan steamer, used in 1939 movie Gone With the Wind. (page 222).


Pageant of Roses Garden was designated the most outstanding public rose garden in the country by the All-America Rose Selections in 1984. It has one of the largest collections of climbing roses in the world. (page 228).


American Military Museum has the largest collection of interservice military equipment on the West Coast. Highlights include the experimental M1 combat car (1934-38), the only one in existence, and guns from the USS Missouri. (page 240).


Santa Fe Trail Historical Park commemorates the first settlement established in southern California by US citizens. (page 241).


Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden has one of the largest displays of orchids in the country, with over 1,500 species and varieties. It also contains the largest collection of eucalyptus outside Australia, consisting of more than half of the 500 known species and varieties. (page 243).


Hsi Lai, the largest Buddhist temple in the western hemisphere, displays a fine collection of Buddhist art. (page 250).


The Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center has one of the world’s largest photographic archives of manuscripts of and related to the New and Old Testaments, including the largest single collection of Dead Sea Scrolls images. (page 260).


Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is the largest botanical garden devoted exclusively to California native plants. With over 6,000 kinds of native flora, California has the richest native plant heritage in the continental US. The garden’s herbarium with 1 million specimens is currently ranked 13th in the US. (page 261).


Raymond M. Alf Museum contains the largest and most diverse display of animal footprints in the US. (page 264).







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