Los Angeles' Citywide 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 lead 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. The HCS structure is designed to avoid repetition and be expandable over time. It focuses on extant resources, rather than attempting to document the city's 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).  

Ethnic and Cultural Contexts

Ethnic and cultural contexts have been developed as “stand alone” documents, but with themes included within the overall citywide framework. 


Developing a comprehensive HCS for a city as large and complex as Los Angeles has been an enormous undertaking. 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 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 has been completed by consultants, students, and volunteers meeting professional qualification standards in historic preservation.
  • 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 Communities Grant), and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. State and federal grants primarily funded the development of ethnic/cultural contexts.


Los Angeles Historic Context Statement

Context Outline

Guidelines for Professionals Using The Historic Context Statement

Guidelines for Evaluating Resources Associated with Significant Persons in Los Angeles

Guidelines for Using the "Other" Context


The Contexts

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

Pre-Consolidation Communities of Los Angeles, 1862-1932

Residential Development and Suburbanization, 1880-1980

Commercial Development, 1850-1980

Public and Private Institutional Development, 1850-1980

Architecture and Engineering, 1850-1980

Entertainment Industry, 1908-1980

Cultural Landscapes, 1875-1980

Industrial Development, 1850-1980



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


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


Spanish Colonial and Mexican Era Settlement, 1781-1849


Pre-Consolidation Communities of Los Angeles, 1862-1932 (includes the following)

San Pedro
Barnes City
Hyde Park
Eagle Rock


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 ethnic/cultural contexts)

Ethnic Enclaves, 1880-1980 (see 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, 1895-1970 (includes the following)

The Bungalow Court
Courtyard Apartments
Apartment Houses
The Stucco Box/Dingbat
Multi-Family Residential Districts

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 (includes the following)

Bowling Centers and Skating Rinks

High-Rise Corporate Office Buildings, 1945-1975

Mortuaries and Funeral Homes, 1920-1980*

Commercial Signs, 1906-1980

Commercial Development and the Automobile, 1910-1970 (includes the following)

The Car and Car Services
Commercial Drive-in/Drive-Thru

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

Neighborhood Commercial Development, 1880-1980 (includes the following)

Streetcar Commercial Development
Arterial Commercial Development
Neighborhood Downtowns and Villages
Post WWII Neighborhood Shopping Centers
Variety Stores
Neighborhood Theaters


Public and Private Institutional Development, 1850-1980

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

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

Private Recreational Facilities, 1880-1980

Guidelines for Evaluating Private Recreational Facilities

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

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

Public and Private Health and Medicine, 1850-1980

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

Government Infrastructure and Services

Federal Infrastructure, Programs, and Services

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

WPA, 1935-1943

Government Administration Buildings and Centers

Post WWII Branch City Halls and Administrative Centers, 1957-1970

Municipal Infrastructure, Programs and Services

Municipal Water and Power, 1902-1980

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

Post WWII Fire Stations, 1947-1963

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

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

Transportation Infrastructure

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

Telephone History and Development, 1881-1974

Military Institutions and Activities, 1850-1989 (also see 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

Newspapers and Publishing, 1850-1980 (see ethnic/cultural contexts)

Cultural Development and Institutions, 1850-1980* 
(see Guidelines for Evaluating Resources Associated with Significant Persons in Los Angeles and ethnic/cultural contexts)

Performing Arts, 1870-1980
Visual Arts, 1888-1980
Literature, 1929-1980
Literature, Music and Art, 1920-1970
Public Art, 1900-1980*
Folk Art, 1850-1980

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, 1885-1910

The Shotgun House, 1898-1929 

Arts and Crafts Movement, 1895-1930

Mediterranean and Indigenous Revival, 1893-1948

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* (includes the following)

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

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

Natural Features, 1850-1980

Designed Landscapes, 1875-1980 (includes the following)

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
Ecological Landscapes, 1962-1980
Private Recreational Facilities, 1880-1980


Industrial Development, 1850-1980 (includes the following)

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