Throwback Thursday | The Legacy of Charles Lummis

He traveled to Los Angeles by foot leaving his enduring footprints in our Arroyo Seco 

PHOTO: Pasadena Museum of History | News | Charles Lummis’ home located on the edge of Arroyo Seco

In 1884, Charles Fletcher Lummis came to Los Angeles by walking the entire distance from Ohio. After his arrival, Lummis became a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Times editor, magazine editor, writer, poet, photographer, head librarian of Los Angeles Public Library, advisor to President Roosevelt, and Indian activist.

PHOTO: Pasadena Museum of History | News | Charles Lummis shortly after his arrival in Los Angeles (1886)

Lummis built this home (named El Alisal) from the stones he found in the Arroyo Seco. He entertained local artists and writers and held elaborate parties – he called “noises.”

PHOTO: Pasadena Museum of History | News | Charles Lummis with Theodore Roosevelt at Occidental College (1911)      

In 1911, Lummis visited his old college friend Theodore Roosevelt on a trip to Los Angeles.

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PHOTO: Pasadena Museum of History | News | Southwest Museum (1956)

Perhaps Charles Lummis’ most enduring legacy is the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, which opened its doors to the public in 1914. The museum has one of the largest collections of American Indian artifacts in the world.

PHOTO: Rick Thomas | News | Southwest Museum from the adjacent bank of the Arroyo Seco (2007)

Today, the Southwest Museum appears as it did nearly over 100 years ago overlooking the Arroyo Seco and Lummis’ home, El Alisal.

Throwback Thursday is written and produced by Rick Thomas


Author Rick Thomas is the former museum curator and vice-chair of education for the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation. He served on the South Pasadena Natural Resources Commission, helping to maintain a strict policy protecting the city’s great old-growth trees. Using touchstone photographs from his own collection—one of the San Gabriel Valley’s largest accumulations of historical images and artifacts—as well as national, state, and local historical archives, Thomas provides a window to his city’s past and an understanding of why its preservation is so important.