Historic Context

Los Angeles' citywide historic context statement (HCS) provides the framework for identifying and evaluating the city's historic resources. The Office of Historic Resources has been the lead in the 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 Multiple 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 under development 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 (Underrepresented Community Grant), 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

San Pedro, 1881-1909
Hollywood, 1887-1910
Sawtelle, 1896-1918
Wilmington, 1862-1909
Watts, 1902-1926
Barnes City, 1919-1926
Tujunga, 1888-1932
Hyde Park, 1887-1923
Eagle Rock, 1886-1923
Venice, 1901-1925


Residential Development and Suburbanization, 1880-1980

Early Residential Development, 1880-1930

Streetcar Suburbanization, 1888-1933*

Automobile Suburbanization, 1908-1937*

Post World War II Suburbanization, 1938-1975*

Developers and the Development Process, 1888-1975*

Deed Restriction and Segregation, 1915-1970 (see individual ethnic/cultural contexts)

Ethnic Enclaves, 1880-1980 (see individual ethnic/cultural contexts)

Trailer Parks and Mobile Home Parks, 1920-1969

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

- Historic Residential Suburbs in the United States, 1830-1960 (National Register Multiple Property Documentation Form)

Multi-Family Residential Development, 1910-1980

Multi-Family Residential, 1910-1980*

The Bungalow Court, 1910-1939
Courtyard Apartments, 1910-1980
Apartment Houses, 1910-1980
The Stucco Box/Dingbat. 1954-1968
Multi-Family Residential Districts, 1910-1980

- Garden Apartments of Los Angeles (Los Angeles Conservancy)

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


Commercial Development, 1850-1980 

Commercial Merchants, Builders, and Leaders, 1850-1980

Commercial Identity, 1880-1980

Hotels, 1870-1980

Post WWII Commercial Recreation, 1940-1975

Bowling Centers and Skating Rinks, 1949-1970

The Rise of Corporations and Corporate Types

High-Rise Corporate Office Buildings, 1945-1975

Mortuaries and Funeral Homes, 1920-1980*

Commercial Signs, 1906-1980

Commercial Development and the Automobile, 1910-1970

The Car and Car Services, 1920-1970
Motels, 1920-1965
Commercial Drive-in/Drive-Thru, 1920-1970
Programmatic/Mimetic, 1918-1950

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

Neighborhood Commercial Development, 1880-1980

Streetcar Commercial Development, 1875-1980
Arterial Commercial Development, 1880-1950
Neighborhood Downtowns and Villages, 1909-1960
Post WWII Neighborhood Shopping Centers, 1936-1965
Markets, 1880-1980
Restaurants, 1880-1980
Variety Stores, 1905-1988
Banks, 1870-1980
Neighborhood Theaters, 1915-1942


Public and Private Institutional Development, 1850-1980

Religion and Spirituality, 1850-1980* (also see individual ethnic/cultural contexts)

Social Clubs and Organizations, 1850-1980* (also see individual ethnic/cultural contexts)

Private Recreational Facilities, 1880-1980* (also see individual ethnic/cultural contexts)

Education, 1876-1980* (also see individual ethnic/cultural contexts)

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

Government Infrastructure and Services, 1850-1980

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

- U.S.P.S. Nationwide Historic Context Study: Postal Facilities Constructed or Occupied Between 1940 and 1971

Municipal Water and Power, 1902-1980

Municipal Fire Stations, 1884-1963

Post WWII Fire Stations, 1947-1963

Libraries, 1930-1980

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

Transportation Infrastructure, 1880-1980*

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

Municipal Parks, Recreation, Recreation, and Leisure, 1886-1978

Public Works

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

Communications, 1870-1980

Telephone History and Development, 1881-1974

New Deal Programs

WPA, 1935-1943

Public and Private Health and Medicine, 1850-1980*

Healthcare and Medicine and Ethnic/Cultural Associations (see individual ethnic/cultural contexts)
Important Persons in L.A.'s Medical History, 1850-1980
Medical Building Types, 1850-1980
Public Healthcare/Social Medicine, 1850-1980

Military Institutions and Activities, 1850-1989* (also see individual ethnic/cultural contexts)

Los Angeles Harbor and Coastal Defense Fortifications, 1914-1945
World War II and the American Homefront, 1939-1945
Defense Industry, 1914-1989
Recruitment Stations and Military/Veteran Services, 1914-1989
Los Angeles and the Cold War, 1946-1989
Air Raid Sirens and Civil Defense, 1939-1960

Civil Rights - Ethnic and Gender Equality, 1920-1980

African American Civil Rights Movement, 1955-1968 (see African American context)
Chicano Civil Rights Movement, 1920-1980 (see Latino context)
The Gay Liberation Movement, 1948-1980 (see LGBT context)

Women's Rights Movements*

Cultural Development and Institutions, 1850-1980* (also see individual ethnic/cultural contexts)

Performing Arts, 1870-1980
Visual Arts, 1888-1980
Literature, 1850-1980
Literature, Music and Art, 1920-1970
Public Art, 1900-1980
Folk Art, 1920-1980

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


Architecture and Engineering, 1850-1980

Architecture After Statehood, 1850-1884

Beaux Arts Classicism, Neoclassical, and Italian Renaissance Revival Architecure, 1895-1940

Late 19th and Early 20th Century Residential Architecture, 1885-1950*

-The Shotgun House, 1898-1929 

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

Postmodernism, 1965-1991

L.A. Modernism, 1919-1980*

Prewar Modernism, 1919-1945
Related Responses to Modernism, 1926-1970
Postwar Modernism, 1946-1976
Late Modernism, 1966-1980

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

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

Engineering, 1900-1985

Technological Developments in Construction, 1900-1985

- Hill Houses, 1920-1985

- The Quonset Hut, 1941-1965


Entertainment Industry, 1908-1980*

Residential Properties Associated with Entertainment Industry, 1908-1980

Industrial Properties Associated with Entertainment Industry, 1908-1980
Commercial Properties Associated with Entertainment Industry, 1908-1980
Institutional Properties Associated with Entertainment Industry, 1908-1980
Filming Locations Associated with the Motion Picture and Television Broadcasting Industries, 1908-1980


Cultural Landscapes, 1875-1980*

Vernacular Landscapes, 1850-1980
Natural Features, 1850-1980

Designed Landscapes, 1875-1980*

Botanica California, 1888-1910
Old/WorldNew World Estate Gardens, 1907-1939
Monumental Civic Improvements, 1916-1939
Burial and Memory, 1877-1980
Post WWII Landscape Architecture and Design, 1948-1966
Japanese Style Gardens, 1946-1969
Ecological Landscapes, 1962-1980
Private Recreational Facilities, 1880-1980


Industrial Development, 1850-1980

Early Industrial Development, 1880-1925

Agricultural Roots, 1850-1945

Building the City, 1876-1965

Oil and Other Petroleum Products, 1892-1965

Freight Rail Transportation, 1876-1940

The Port of Los Angeles, 1907-1980

Manufacturing for the Massess, 1887-1980

Factories, 1887-1980
Food Processsing, 1831-1955
Garments and Textiles, 1896-1980
Automobile Production, 1920-1965

Los Angeles Downtown Industrial Historic District

Aviation and Aerospace, 1911-1989

Industrial Giants, 1870-1980

Industrial Identity, 1870-1980

Industrial Architecture, 1850-1980

Industrial Design and Engineering, 1876-1965

Labor History, 1870-1980

Wholesale Flower Markets, 1912-1962


Other Context, 1850-1980 

Other Context, 1850-1980 (used to record properties that do not fit into context outline)

Event or series of Events (Criterion A/1/1), 1850-1980
Important Persons/Individuals (Criterion B/2/2), 1850-1980
Design/Construction (Criterion C/3/3), 1850-1980
Historic/Prehistoric Archaeology (Criterion D/4/4), 1850-1980


Ethnic/Cultural Contexts

African American Historic Context Statement

Asian American Historic Context Statement

Chinese Americans in Los Angeles

Japanese Americans in Los Angeles

Korean Americans in Los Angeles

Filipino Americans in Los Angeles

Thai Americans in Los Angeles

Jewish History Context Statement

Latino Los Angeles Historic Context Statement 

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Historic Context Statement

Women's Rights in Los Angeles Historic Context Statement*


* Context/Themes marked with an asterisk are currently in progress.

Click HERE for full Historic Context Statement Outline.