See the historic party-house of Charles Lummis, museum founder

stone built Lummis House
The Lummis House is built entirely of river stones Lummis collected from the Arroyo Seco nearby. It took 13 years to build.

While he is best-known today as the man who built a stone house by hand in Los Angeles between 1897 and 1910, Charles Lummis had, overall, an amazing life.  Someone must have whispered in his ear when he was young: ‘Do great things.  Do astonishing things.’  You can read details of his life on Wikipedia, but here are some of the highlights.  He dropped out of Harvard–what is it about Harvard drop-outs like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and Lummis and ‘doing great things’? He loved women–many women–including his 3 wives. He loved giving parties and smoking, too. Instead of taking a train he walked across America, filing news reports along the way with the Los Angeles Times, his new employer.

Charles Lummis treking across America
A photograph of Charles Lummis during his tramp across America. He could have taken a train, but he decided to walk and see America first.

He headed the Los Angeles Public Library. He was the editor of ‘Out West’ magazine, publishing works by authors such as John Muir. He founded the Southwest Museum and amassed the museum’s enormous collection of Native American artworks which is now owned by the Autry Museum of the American West. He traveled to South America and wrote at length about the role of Spain in the New World.  For that effort he was knighted by the King of Spain.  And keep in mind that this was all long, long after the pioneer days.

I had some trouble finding the Lummis House — because it is smack-dab beside the 110 Freeway exit 43.  It looked like a vacant lot overgrown with trees.

Another view of the front of the house facing a large garden, now rather overgrown,
Another view of the front of the house facing a large garden, now rather overgrown,

As it turned out, I was at the back of the two city lots that make up the entire property.  When he bought the land, it was simply two lots in a neighborhood, Highland Park, that was being developed. His neighbors were building California Craftsman bungalows; he built El-Alisal, using stones he collected from the nearby Arroyo Seco. The house is set up beautifully for entertaining, including a small low stage in the rear courtyard.

The home is only open on Sundays.  There is a very informative docent on the site who will tell you a great deal about Lummis, the house and its history.

Living room Lummis home
One view of the main room in the house. A piano and guitar are ready for a party!


The living room Lummis House
The living room in the Lummis House. All furnishings are the originals.
Etched windons Lummis House
The windows in the living room contain images from his travels in Mexico and South America.
Native American faces
These small carvings are in one of the bedrooms usually closed off to the public. Formerly these rooms were headquarters for the Historic Society.  Throughout the house there are other carvings and graphic elements inspired by Lummis’s travels through Mexico and South America.
rear of Lummis House
I parked on Avenue 43 and made my way into the property from the back. This side of the house has smooth stucco exterior, as do the guest bedrooms.
rear courtyard Lummis House
In the courtyard behind the home is a small low stage, a round pool/fountain and a low building which appeared to contain several guest bedrooms.
Kumquat tree Lummis House
A Kumquat tree in the rear courtyard was ladened with these tiny tasty fruits in February.
Garden at Lummis house
The garden has been planted with low-water usage plants, but it is definitely overgrown. I liked it that way. It suits the rustic quality of the house.




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