Historic Context

Los Angeles' citywide historic context statement (HCS) provides the framework for identifying and evlauating the city's historic resources. The Office of Historic Resources is guiding development of the HCS as part of SurveyLA. 

What is a Historic Context Statement?

Historic contexts differ from other types of narrative histories in that they are meant to identify important themes in history and then relate those themes to extant historic resources or associated property types. Themes may relate to development patterns and trends, such as Post WWII Suburbanization, as well as social, cultural, and historical topics such as the Civil Rights Movement. Historic contexts establish the significance of themes and topics and then provide specific guidance to field surveyors regarding the characteristics a particular property must have to be a good example of a type. In short, the Los Angeles context statement distills much of what we know about the city's evolution and development, and then helps establish why a particular place may be considered historically or architecturally significant within one or more of these themes. While the HCS was primarily developed as a resource for professional field surveyors, it is a tremendously useful source of information for researchers and the general public.  

Organization of the Historic Context Statement

The HCS is organized into nine broad contexts (listed below) which cover the period from about 1780 to 1980 and are specific to Los Angeles. Each of the contexts is comprised of a number of themes, with more than 200 themes and sub-themes overall, reflecting the richness of Los Angeles' heritage. Ethnic and cultural contexts have also been developed as “stand alone” documents, but with themes included within the overall citywide framework. The HCS structure is designed to avoid repetition and be expandable over time. It focuses on extant resources, rather than attempting to document Los Angeles' "lost" historic places. 

The HCS follows the Multipe Property Documentation (MPD) format and complies with the standards and guidelines set forth by the National Park Service (NPS) and the California Office of Historic Preservation (OHP). Publication of the HCS is ongoing as the context and theme narratives are completed. 


Developing a comprehensive HCS for a city as large and complex as Los Angeles has been an enormous undertaking. Since 2006, the OHR has worked with consultants to develop the structure and format for the HCS and more than 40 historic preservation professionals, interns, and volunteers have played a role in its completion. The Office of Historic Resources is indebted to all individuals, organizations, and programs that contributed to developing the HCS.

  • Writing Team
    The context statement is completed by consultants meeting professional qualification standards in historic preservation as well as a long list of SurveyLA volunteers and interns. Each context/theme includes a section to acknowledge contributors.
  • Funding Sources
    Funding sources for the context statement include the Getty Conservation Institute, California Office of Historic Preservation (Certified Local Government Grant Program), National Park Service, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


Los Angeles Historic Context Statement

Context Outline

Guide For Professionals Using The Historic Context Statement


The Contexts

Spanish Colonial and Mexican Era Settlement of Los Angeles, 1781-1849

Pre-Consolidation Communities of Los Angeles, 1862-1932

Architecture and Engineering, 1850-1980

Commercial Development, 1850-1980

Cultural Landscapes, 1875-1980

Entertainment Industry, 1908-1980

Industrial Development, 1850-1980

Public and Private Institutional Development, 1850-1980

Residential Development and Suburbanization, 1880-1980

Other Context, 1850-1980

Ethnic-Cultural Themes



Spanish Colonial and Mexican Era Settlement, 1781-1849

Spanish Colonial and Mexican Era Settlement, 1781-1849


Pre-Consolidation Communities of Los Angeles, 1862-1932

Pre-Consolidation Communities of Los Angeles, 1862-1932
(Includes the following themes: Wilmington, San Pedro, Hollywood, Sawtelle,
Eagle Rock, Hyde Park, Venice, Watts, Barnes City, and Tujunga) 


Residential Development and Suburbanization, 1880-1980

Post World War II Suburbanization, 1938-1975

Suburban Planning and Development, 1938-1975

Tract Housing in California, 1945-1973 (Caltrans Context for National Register Evaluation)

Trailer Parks and Mobile Home Parks, 1920-1969

Multi-Family Residential Development, 1910-1980

Multi-Family Residential, 1910-1980

Garden Apartments of Los Angeles (Los Angeles Conservancy)

Public Housing in the United States, 1933-1949 (National Register Multiple Property Documentation Form)

Context Summary Tables


Commercial Development, 1850-1980 

Commercial Identity, 1880-1980

Hotels, 1870-1980

Commercial Signs, 1906-1980

Commercial Development and the Automobile, 1910-1970

U.S. Highway 66 in California (National Register Multiple Property Documentation Form)

Neighborhood Commercial Development, 1880-1980

Context Summary Tables


Public and Private Institutional Development, 1850-1980

Religion and Spirituality

Social Clubs and Organizations

Private Recreational Facilities


Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Historic Context, 1870-1969

Government Infrastructure and Services, 1850-1980

Federal Infrastructure and Services, 1880-1980

U.S. Postal Services and Post Office Construction, 1880-1980

U.S. Post Offices in California, 1900-1941 (National Register Thematic Nomination Form)

USPS Nationwide Historic Context Study: Postal Facilities Constructed or Occupied Between 1940 and 1971

Libraries, 1930-1980

Los Angeles Branch Library System, 1913-1930 (National Register Thematic Nomination Form)

Public Works

Street Lights and the Bureau of Street Lighting, 1900-1980

Transportation Infrastructure, 1880-1980

Historic Highway Bridges of California (National Multiple Property Documentation Form)

Communications, 1870-1980

New Deal Programs

WPA, 1935-1943

Public and Private Health and Medicine, 1850-1980

Military Institutions and Activities, 1850-1989

Civil Rights - Ethnic and Gender Equality, 1920-1980

Cultural Development and Institutions, 1850-1980

Folk Art, 1920-1980

Twentieth Century Folk Art Environments in California (National Register Thematic Nomination Form)

Context Summary Tables 


Architecture and Engineering, 1850-1980

Architecture After Statehood, 1850-1884

Late 19th and Early 20th Century Architecture, 1865-195

Arts and Crafts Movement, 1895-1930

Mediterranean and Indigenous Revival, 1887-1952

American Colonial Revival, 1895-1960

Period Revival, 1919-1950

Exotic Revival, 1900-1980

The Ranch House, 1930-1975

Post-Modernism, 1965-1980

L.A. Modernism, 1919-1980

The Case Study House Program: 1945-1966 (National Register Multiple Property Documentation Form)

Residential Architecture of John Lautner in Southern California, 1940-1994 (National Register Multiple Property Documentation Form)

Engineering, 1900-1985

Technological Developments in Construction, 1900-1985

Hill Houses, 1920-1985

The Quonset Hut, 1941-1965

Context Summary Tables


Entertainment Industry, 1908-1980

Context Summary Tables


Cultural Landscapes, 1875-1980

Context Summary Tables


Industrial Development, 1850-1980

Context Summary Tables


Other Context, 1850-1980 

Other Context, 1850-1980


Ethnic/Cultural Contexts

Jewish History Context Statement
Latino Los Angeles Historic Context Statement 
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Context Statement