If you enjoy exploring the historic homes of famous, and not-so-famous people, there are a number of historic residences in Southern California that are open to the public as museums. Most of them are City, State and National Historic Landmarks There is some overlap with LA Local History Museums. They are listed here in alphabetical order.
Historic LA Missions and Ranchos
The Missions and Ranchos are a special designation of historic homes that have such a unique position in telling the history of southern California that they deserve a separate page.
Adamson House in Malibu
23200 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90265
Phone: (310) 456-8432
The Adamson House at Malibu Lagoon was built in 1930 for Rhoda Rindge Adamson and her husband, Merritt Huntley Adamson. The Spanish colonial Revival house can be seen on docent-led tours. The adjacent Malibu Lagoon Museum interprets Malibu history from the early Chumash Indians through Spanish California.
The Banning Museum
401 East M Street
Wilmington, CA 90744
The Banning Residence, built in 1864, was the home of Phinneas Banning, a stage and freight entrepreneur who was instrumental in building the Port of Los Angeles. The 23-room Greek-Revival Victorian home has been restored with influences from the 60 years that the family lived in the home. 18 rooms and the Stage Barn are open to the public.
953 Park Circle Drive
Long Beach, Ca
Bembridge House is a 1906 Queen Anne Victorian house in the Drake Park, Willmore City Historic District west of Downtown Long Beach. The 18-room house has been preserved with its original high ceilings, hand-carved woodwork, and many original furnishings. The Bembridge House is operated by Long Beach Heritage and is open for tours on Tuesday afternoons and one Saturday a month with special holiday programs.
Boddy House at Descanso Gardens
1418 Descanso Drive
La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011
Boddy House is a 22-room Hollywood Regency mansion perched on a north-facing hillside above Descanso Gardens. It was built in 1937 by E. Manchester Boddy, publisher and owner of the former Los Angeles Daily News and includes many features that were state-of-the-art for the time. Visits and tours are included in Descanso Gardens admission, but the house is often closed for private events, so check before visiting.
The Doctors House Museum in Glendale
1601 West Mountain Ave
Glendale, CA, 91201
The Doctors House Museum, owned by four doctors in succession before being acquired by silent screen actress, Nell Shipman, was relocated from central Glendale to its current home in Brand Park. The Queen Anne-Eastlake style home, built around 1888, is operated by the Glendale Historical Society, which was formed in 1979 specifically to save this historic house.
10 Chester Place
Los Angeles, CA 90007
The Romantic Revival Doheny Mansion was built in 1898 by architects Theodore Eisen and Sumner Hunt. It was purchased by oil baron Edward L. Doheny in 1901 and remained the family home for 60 years. Its architecture includes Gothic, Chateauesque, Moorish and California Mission styles. The mansion is part of the downtown campus of Mount St. Mary's College. Public tours are offered several days a year. Group tours can be organized for 10 to 40 people.
203 Chautauqua Blvd.
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
The Eames House was designed by Charles and Ray Eames as Case Study House #8 as part of The Case Study House Program from Arts and Architecture magazine. The Mid-Century Modern modular home, designed for the two architects after their children had already left the home, is now operated by the Eames House Foundation. The house can be visited on a person tour for up to 4 people for a hefty fee with at least a week's advance reservation reservation only. Group tours for up to 25 people can only visit the grounds, with a view into the house through the windows. Reservations are also required for these exterior group tours.
Visitors have to park on Corona Del Mar and walk up the drive so they get the full effect of the house's natural setting.
Exhibits about the Charles and Ray Eames and the house are on display at the Eames Office in Santa Monica.
Foursquare Heritage Center - McPherson Parsonage
1801 Park Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90026
The home and Parsonage of Aimee Semple McPherson, founder of the Foursquare Church, is open to the public. The house is adjacent to the Angelus Cathedral in Echo Park. I haven't been inside, but it's an interesting-looking curved house.
The Gamble House
4 Westmoreland Place
Pasadena, CA 91103
The Gamble House in Pasadena was designed by architects Charles and Henry Greene in 1908 for David and Mary Gamble of the Procter and Gamble Company. It is an one of the best examples of American Arts and Crafts style architecture and interior decoration, with the interior furnishings also designed by the architects. The house can only be visited on docent-led public tours.
905 Loma Vista Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
I'm including Greystone Mansion because a lot of people have heard of it, but you can't actually visit the house except during special events. The gardens, however are open to the public during the day unless there's a private event scheduled.
Grier Musser Museum
403 South Bonnie Brae Street
Los Angeles, CA 90057
The Grier Musser Museum is a historic Queen Anne Victorian house in Downtown LA that is open to the public by reservation. The museum features period furnishings and holiday-themed exhibits for Valentine's Day, Halloween and Christmas.
Hargitt House in Norwalk
Hargitt House is an 1891 Victorian Eastlake house built by the D. D. Johnston family in the middle of what was once an orchard. Open to the public 2 Saturdays a month.
Heritage Museum of Orange County
3010 W. Harvard Street
Santa Ana, CA 92704
The Heritage Museum of Orange County includes the restored 1989 Kellogg House, the Maag House (under restoration), a water tower/pump house, carriage barn and blacksmith shop. In addition to providing hands-on living history experiences for school groups, the museum has rotating exhibits from their collection on Orange County history. It is open to the public two days a week on Fridays and Sundays.
Heritage Square Museum
3800 Homer Street
Los Angeles, CA 90031
Phone: (323) 225-2700
Heritage Square Museum is a collection of five historic Victorian Era houses, a church, a train depot, a carriage barn, and a pharmacy, all saved from demolition in different parts of LA and relocated to the museum site in Lincoln Heights. They are used to educate the public about Southern California's history with emphasis on the turn of the last century with artifacts and living history presentation.
4800 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Hollyhock House, also known as the Aline Barnsdall Residence at Barnsdall Art Park, was built between 1919 and 1923. It was Frank Lloyd Wright's first Los Angeles architectural project. It is a National Historic Landmark administered by the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Affairs. Barnsdall did not stay long in the residence, handing it over to the City of Los Angeles in 1927 to be used as a public art park in memory of her father. Barnsdall and Wright's original plans for building a theater, dormitory, actors studio and cinema were scrapped for lack of funds, but a modern theatre and gallery were later added and currently in operation.
Homestead Cottage - Chatsworth
The Homestead Acre
10385 Shadow Oak Drive
Chatsworth, CA 91311
The Hill-Palmer Cottage, built around 1886, was the first cottage built in the area under President Lincoln's Homestead Act of 1862, and is the only one left in the San Fernando Valley. It is in Chatsworth, in the northernmost part of Los Angeles. It is open to the public the first Sunday of the month.
4420 Encinas Drive
La Cañada Flintridge
The Lanterman House designed in 1915 by architect A. L. Haley as a fireproof bungalow is an arts and crafts showplace over reinforced concrete. The house has all its original details and furnishings and includes a second floor ballroom. Tours are available Tuesday, Thursday, and the first and third Sundays of the month, with no tours in August.
Lummis Home - El Alisal
200 E. Avenue 43
Los Angeles, CA 90031
The stone house on the bank of the Arroyo Seco called El Alisal was built by Charles Fletcher Lummis between 1896 and 1910 using stones from the arroyo.
The Mentzer House - Burbank
115 N. Lomita Street
Burbank, CA 91506
The Mentzer House is an 1887 Victorian home that is part of the Gordon R. Howard Museum operated by the Burbank Historical Society. In addition to the house, furnished in the period, the museum includes a vintage vehicle building, a Lockheed exhibit and tributes to the early movie industry.
Muller House Museum
1542 S. Beacon Street
San Pedro, CA
Muller House Museum is the former home of ship-builder William Muller and his family. It was relocated from Front Street to its current bluff-top location and is operated by the San Pedro Bay Historical Society as a museum, open on Sunday afternoons.
The Neutra VDL Studio and Residences
2300 Silver Lake Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Famed Viennese-American architect Richard Neutra built an experimental glass house and studio in Silverlake, called the VDL Research house after the Dutch industrialist Cornelius H. Van der Leeuw who loaned him the money. Neutra ran his architectural from the original house from 1932 until a fire destroyed most of the main building in 1963. The Research House was rebuilt with the most modern materials and design adaptations by Neutra and his son Dion in 1966. There is also a Garden House on the property that was occupied by Dion Neutra and his family. Tours of the VDL House are conducted on Saturdays by architecture students from Cal Poly Pomona.
Newland House Museum
19820 Beach Blvd
Huntington Beach, CA
The Newland House Museum, built in 1898 by Huntington Beach pioneers William and Mary Newland, is the oldest residence in the city of Huntington Beach. It is maintained by the Huntington Beach Historical Society as a history museum. The museum is only open a couple weekends a month.
Nixon Birthplace at the Nixon Library and Museum
18001 Yorba Linda Blvd
Yorba Linda, CA 92886
Richard Nixon's birthplace, built in 1912, is part of the larger Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda. It can be visited on docent-led tours during regular museum hours.
Pasadena Museum of History in the Feynes Mansion
470 West Walnut Street
Pasadena, CA 91103
Located in the 1906 Fenyes Mansion, which also served as the Finnish Consulate in the 1950s and 60s, the Pasadena Museum of History includes original furnishings and artifacts from the family as well as exhibits that educate the public about the history of Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley. Other museum buildings include the 1915 Curtin House and the Finnish Folk Art Museum in the former guest house.
Richardson House and Lizzie's Trail Inn
167 E Mira Monte Ave
Sierra Madre, CA 91024
The Richardson House and Lizzie's Trail Inn are two historic buildings at the foot of the Mt. Wilson Trail in Sierra Madre operated by the Sierra Madre Preservation Society.
Rubel Castle AKA Rubelia in Glendora
844 N Live Oak Ave
Glendora, CA 91741
Rubel Castle, The Tin Palace and The Bottle House are together a massive functional sculpture of recycled materials in Glendora, completed between 1968 and 1986 by Michael Clarke Rubel and his friends. The buildings are constructed on the foundation of a 1,000,000 gallon concrete reservoir using concrete with scrap steel, rocks, bedsprings, coat hangers, bottles, and other found objects. Rubel Pharm is the original citrus packing house that was on the property when Rubel acquired it, where he lived, and where his mother threw lavish parties. His construction project began as a way to escape the noisy parties.
The Schindler House - MAK Center for Art and Architecture
835 North Kings Road
West Hollywood, CA 90069
The Schindler House in West Hollywood was designed by Viennese architect Rudolph M Schindler and was where he established his practice in Los Angeles in 1922 after moving to LA to supervise construction of the Hollyhock House for Aline Barnsdall. The home studio was designed as living quarters for two couples with a shared kitchen and a guest apartment. It now houses the MAK Center for Art and Architecture and is open to the public Wednesday to Sunday. The Bookstore is open seven days a week.
The MAK Center also operates the Schindler-designed Fitzpatrick-Leland House, which is only open once a month by reservation. Combination tickets are available.
More on the MAK Center from the Fine Art Guide on About.com
12 W. Olvera St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Sepulveda House is part of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Site and acts as the official Visitors Center. The two-story Eastlake Victorian style business and residential block was built by Eloisa Martinez de SepulvedaIn 1887 between Main and Olvera Street. Its architecture blends old Mexican and European Victorian styles.
More on El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Site
Sproul House in Norwalk
12237 Sproul Street
In 1874, the first house in the newly designated town of Norwalk was built by Gilbert and Anna Sproul. Open the first Sunday of the month.
Taylor House West Covina
3510 Cameron Avenue
West Covina, CA
Taylor House is a Craftsman house in West Covina that was restored under supervision of Mount San Antonio College to become the current home of the West Covina Rose Float Foundation. It is open to the public one Saturday per month.
Virginia Robinson Estate and Gardens
1008 Elden Way Beverly Hills,
A visit to the first luxury estate in Beverly Hills, owned by the Robinsons of Robinsons Department Stores, is more about the gardens than the house, but the guided tour, available by appointment only, includes a walk through the mansion.
Will Rogers' Home in Will Rogers State Historic Park
1501 Will Rogers Park Road
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
The 186-acre ranch that actor, columnist and radio personality Will Rogers built above the Pacific Ocean in the Pacific Palisades is now a State park. The 31-room house can only be visited on scheduled tours, but the grounds are available for hiking and exploring. Guided horseback trail rides are also available.