Colorful oval labels for a property that has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
(Anne Latini / Los Angeles Times)

I’m visiting all 600 L.A. spots on the National Register. Here are 10 you can’t miss

I’m not a marathon runner. My bucket list mostly includes breweries and taco spots I haven’t tried. My calendar is rarely booked much more than a few weeks out, unless there’s a big metal show coming up. Point is: I’m not the kind of person you’d expect to commit to visiting 600 L.A. landmarks on the National Register of Historic Places. Yet here I am, with a blog and an Instagram account dedicated to this quixotic project.

How did I end up here? It’s September 2021, midpandemic. It’s year two of working remote, and I’m going stir-crazy from all this aimless … sitting I’ve been doing. So I decide to take a bike ride to this extravagant shrine at the cemetery next to the Burbank Airport. You know, the one with the scale model of the Columbia space shuttle mounted in front of it? Turns out, the structure has a fascinating history involving Burbank’s long involvement with the aviation industry, Churrigueresque-style architecture and D.W. Griffith’s infamous film “Intolerance.”

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While I was reading about the shrine, officially called the Portal of the Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation, I noticed that it was on the National Register, a list of places across the country that are deemed significant by the National Park Service. If a lifelong Angeleno like me had never heard of this spot before, how many more landmarks must be hiding in plain sight?

Visiting that shrine flipped a switch in me. I used to spend most of my free time at record stores. Now I go to house museums and take photographs of 1920s bungalow courts. It’s kept me connected with my city during the pandemic, reignited my interest in architecture and introduced me to people and neighborhoods I didn’t know existed. It’s also been a great source of adventures for my family. While my 6-year-old daughter may not share my newfound love for clinker-brick retaining walls, she did make up a killer National Register theme song at the top of Angels Flight Railway.


So far I’ve visited 174 of the nearly 600 National Register sites in LA. Here are 10 that are well worth visiting, all for very different reasons.

One important PSA: Several of the below sites are private residences. So if you gawk, please respect the stewards of these historic homes and gawk from the sidewalk. Let’s not break any trespassing laws, mmkay? Happy landmarking.

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The Lummis Home in Highland Park on Sept. 22, 2023.
(Lisa Boone / Los Angeles Times)

Lummis Home (El Alisal)

Mount Washington Historical Landmark
This rustic mini-mansion made of Arroyo Seco river rock, mortar and telephone poles is an architectural oddity, a combination of Craftsman ideals, Pueblo building traditions and quirky Mission Revival features from two decades before “Mission Revival” was a thing in L.A. Its uniqueness is a perfect reflection of its idiosyncratic first owner: Charles Lummis, a writer, photographer, Native American advocate, early preservationist and city librarian who once traveled from Cincinnati to L.A. on foot to accept an editorship at the Los Angeles Times.

Lummis built his home by hand over a period of 15 years, with the help of a constant stream of Indigenous kids from the Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico. The floors are all concrete so that they could be easily hosed down after one of the endless parties that Lummis threw at the house (he called them “noises”). Wander around the bountiful gardens and imagine what it must have been like to spend time here before the 110 Freeway was constructed, just steps away.

And did you know this? Embedded into the window frame in the living room are negatives from photographs that Lummis took during his travels around the Southwest.

Admission: The Lummis Home is open for free, self-guided tours from 10 a.m to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Docents from the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks are usually there to answer questions.
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Concrete blocks and a driveway gate at Frank Lloyd Wright's Storer House.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Storer House.
(Etan Rosenbloom)

Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis, Freeman, Millard and Storer houses

Los Feliz Historic Home
The four “textile block” houses that architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed in L.A. in the early 1920s are like little else in architecture. Each one is constructed of thousands of concrete cubes, many of them imprinted with a design unique to that house. Wright’s idea was to democratize good design by ennobling affordable building materials. He stacked his blocks into monumental masses that resemble ancient Mayan temples. In each case, the visual heaviness is balanced with Wright’s mastery of light and space.

Though built of similar materials, these houses have distinct personalities. The Ennis is an imposing hilltop fortress with a Hollywood pedigree (“Bladerunner,” “The House on Haunted Hill,” etc.); the Storer is the sleek cliffside villa; the Millard is the lush jungle dwelling, especially as seen from the back gate. After decades of decay, the Freeman is just beginning a restoration by its new owner. They’re all worth visiting to see how Wright applied his ideas in different settings.

The marker on the map takes you to the Ennis House. Other addresses: Freeman House, 1962 Glencoe Way, Los Angeles; Millard House, 645 Prospect Crescent, Pasadena; and Storer House, 8161 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. These houses are all privately owned. The Ennis offers periodic tours (visit; when restored, the Freeman will occasionally open to the public as a condition of its easement with the L.A. Conservancy.

Did you know? Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, Lloyd Wright, was construction supervisor on all four houses and designed a detached studio for the Millard. Famed architects Rudolph Schindler, John Lautner and Gregory Ain all worked on the Freeman at various points.
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Visitors walk among jutting rock formations at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Vasquez Rocks

Agua Dulce Park
Drive up the 14 Freeway to Agua Dulce and you’ll find some of the most stunning rock formations this side of Arizona. The gravity-defying sandstone of the Vasquez Rocks juts out of the earth at 45-degree angles, the result of 25 million years of weathering, erosion and seismic activity. The rocks get their name from Tiburcio Vásquez, an infamous Mexican bandido whose posse used to hide out there in the 1870s in between highway robberies and horse thefts. But the area’s human history goes back much further. Head down the well-marked “nature-heritage trail” and you’ll come across pictographs drawn on the rock by the Tataviam people, a band of Native Americans who lived here for at least 2,000 years before the Spanish missionaries arrived.

Did you know? The Vasquez Rocks’ alien topography has made them a popular backdrop for film and TV shoots since the early days of Hollywood — most famously in the O.G. “Star Trek” series, also in “The Ten Commandments,” “The Muppet Movie,” “Blazing Saddles” and music videos by Radiohead, Rihanna and BTS.
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A blue concrete sea serpent undulates in the sand at La Laguna de San Gabriel.
(Etan Rosenbloom)

La Laguna de San Gabriel

San Gabriel Valley Park
Tucked inside Vincent Lugo Park in San Gabriel is a fantastical wonderland of 14 concrete sea creatures, populating an ocean of sand. You’ll find a giant whale with a slide for a tongue, a jaunty octopus named Ozzie, two dragons and a larger-than-life starfish, all ready to be climbed atop or slid down or just grinned at. This is La Laguna de San Gabriel, the creation of master concrete artisan Benjamin Dominguez. Opened in 1965, La Laguna was the final project in a career that took Dominguez from his native Mexico to El Paso to Las Vegas and finally to Los Angeles. In L.A. you can find his whimsical play sculptures at Whittier Narrows and the Atlantis Play Center in Garden Grove. But La Laguna was Dominguez’s masterpiece, an immersive environment where the creatures seem to exist in communion with one another. Take the kids, or go alone — it’s impossible to not fall in love with this place. Open 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Did you know? La Laguna is a great example of community preservation efforts in action. When it faced demolition in 2006, a group of locals formed Friends of La Laguna to save it. They’ve since raised some $700,000 to restore and preserve the playground, piece by piece.
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The Greene and Greene-designed Duncan Irwin house is surrounded by greenery
The Greene and Greene Duncan Irwin house, completed in 1908.
(Katie Falkenberg / For The Times)

Park Place/Arroyo Terrace Historic District

Pasadena Historical Landmark
In the early years of the 20th century, Pasadena was an epicenter for Craftsman architecture, and brothers Charles and Henry Greene were its superstars. Stroll by the 11 contributing homes in the Park Place-Arroyo Terrace Historic District, and you’ll find seven magnificent Greene & Greenes, representing the largest concentration of their work anywhere. Their homes on Arroyo Terrace and Grand Avenue showcase all of the G&G hallmarks: dark wood shingles, wide eaves with exposed rafters, bands of casement windows, retaining walls made of clinker brick and rocks from the Arroyo Seco. Spend some extra time gawking at the Duncan-Irwin House at 240 N. Grand Ave. for a great sense of how G&G’s style evolved in the years leading up to their famous Gamble House, right around the corner.

In addition to the seven Greene & Greenes, you’ll find an English Tudor-style home designed by Pasadenan Sylvanus Marston (also known for the Fenyes Estate and the USC Pacific Asia Museum), and a lovely Colonial Revival joint by Myron Hunt (Rose Bowl, Huntington Library).

Contributing houses are on 368-440 Arroyo Terrace; 200-240 Grand Ave.; and 201-239 N. Orange Grove Blvd., Pasadena. All homes are privately owned but viewable from the street. Gamble House docents offer a regular Greene & Greene Neighborhood Walking Tour of the Arroyo Terrace neighborhood.

Did you know? This district includes homes that architects Charles Greene and Myron Hunt designed for themselves.
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An old concrete and adobe building with brick steps leading to an open door.
(Etan Rosenbloom)

The Old Mill (El Molino Viejo)

San Marino Historical Landmark
It’s hard to believe that the oldest commercial building in Southern California sits on a leafy street in tony San Marino. But it’s true. This two-story concrete and adobe grist mill was built in 1816 by Tongva Native Americans, under the direction of a padre from the nearby Mission San Gabriel Arcángel.

For seven years, the mill provided food and resources to the mission, but it was abandoned when a more efficient mill was built not far away. Edward Kewen, first attorney general of California, lived here from 1859 to 1879. Then the Huntingtons came-a-buying in 1903 and converted it into a clubhouse for the golf course attached to their hotel. In the 1960s, Leslie Huntington Brehm willed the Old Mill to San Marino. It’s now operated by the nonprofit Old Mill Foundation, which keeps a small interpretive museum downstairs and hosts rotating art exhibits by the California Art Club upstairs. The landscaping is gorgeous too.

The Old Mill building is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Garden hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on those days.Closed onholidays. Admission is free.

Did you know? For decades the original millstones were thought lost, until a young George S. Patton rediscovered them on the grounds of the Huntington Library, years before his military career. They’re currently enjoying their retirement on the patio, as we all should.
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A clapboard home with a peaked roof on 27th Street.
(Etan Rosenbloom)

27th Street Historic District

Historic South-Central Historical Landmark
This South L.A. neighborhood bears witness to the city’s rapidly changing demographics in the early 20th century. When these blocks were first developed in the late 1800s, the area was almost exclusively white. By 1920, it housed a large number of Russian Jews, living alongside immigrants from all corners of Europe. Black Angelenos dominated the neighborhood from the late 1920s through the ’50s, and these days most of the homes are owned by Latinos.

The 27th Street Historic District also offers an important reminder that well-designed, charming homes aren’t the exclusive province of the wealthy. Developed between 1895 and 1926, these houses were built for working-class folk, in all the favored styles of the day. You’ll see Queen Anne Victorians with gingerbread ornamentation; transitional Craftsmans, sheathed in clapboard; even a couple Colonial Revivals with porticos and Grecian columns.

Visiting the district: The 27th Street Historic District centers around the intersection of East 27th Street and Paloma Avenue. Some contributing buildings are further south on Paloma Avenue and east of Paloma on East 28th Street. The houses are privately owned and not open to the public. The 28th Street YMCA is now an apartment building offering affordable and transitional housing.

Did you know? The most significant building in this district is the 28th Street YMCA. This stately Spanish Colonial looker was designed in 1926 by Paul Revere Williams, the first Black American with an architecture license west of the Mississippi. Williams later designed private mansions for Hollywood’s elite, but early on he had a major impact on the built world of the Black community in L.A.
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The orange Angels Flight Gate with one of the cars of the funicular in downtown Los Angeles.
(Etan Rosenbloom)

Angels Flight Railway

Downtown L.A. Historical Landmark
Is there any better way to spend $1 than taking a ride on the world’s shortest railway? Since 1901, the Angels Flight funicular has ferried passengers 298 feet up and down a hill in downtown L.A. It was originally located half a block north, next to the Third Street Tunnel that ran beneath the once-fashionable Bunker Hill neighborhood. In the 1960s, Angels Flight continued to run while the Victorian homes surrounding it were demolished, part of the still-controversial “redevelopment” of Bunker Hill. Ultimately the funicular followed the neighborhood’s fate and was dismantled in the spring of 1969. It spent the next 27 years collecting dust in a storage facility.

In 1996, a restored Angels Flight opened up just south of its old home, connecting California Plaza on Grand Avenue with the commercial corridor on Hill Street. There have been bumps on the track, including a 2001 accident that killed a tourist and a derailment in 2013 that led to a four-year closure. However, it’s been a smooth ride since Angels Flight reopened in 2017.

You can access Angels Flight from the Top Station at California Plaza (shown on this map) or the Lower Station (351 S. Hill Street, Los Angeles). It’s open every day from 6:45 a.m. to 10 p.m., including weekends and holidays. Fares are $1 each way, or $2 for a souvenir round-trip ticket.

Did you know? The Angels Flight cars are named Sinai and Olivet, after biblical hills. These same two cars have been in use since 1905.
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A stone-walled fountain in front of an adobe building
(Francisco Castro)

Mission San Fernando Rey de España

Mission Hills Historical Landmark
Founded in 1797, Mission San Fernando Rey de España was the second religious outpost in L.A. built by Spanish missionaries. From a strictly historical perspective, this is as important as it gets. The large “convento” building on the mission’s southern edge was constructed between 1810 and 1822, making it the oldest building in the San Fernando Valley, and one of the few visible remnants in L.A. of the era when Spain occupied California.

Of course there was also a dark side to the mission enterprise. Franciscan priests brought thousands of Chumash, Tongva and Tataviam people here, often against their will, to be Christianized and acculturated, and to work on the vast farms and ranches owned by the missions. To its credit, the Catholic church has set up a museum in the convento, documenting the difficult daily lives of the natives who lived here.

This is a peaceful place of worship, a vitally important link to Los Angeles history and a site of deracination and enslavement. That complex, uncomfortable legacy is all the more reason to see it for yourself.

Did you know? The San Fernando Mission Cemetery is the final resting place for Bob Hope, Ritchie Valens, Ed Begley and many more.
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A cottage with brick steps, surrounded by trees
(Etan Rosenbloom)

Rockhaven Sanitarium

Glendale Historical Landmark
January 2023 marks the 100th anniversary of Rockhaven Sanitarium, a pioneering home for mentally ill women. It was founded by Agnes Richards, a nurse who had seen firsthand how poorly women were treated at the public asylums that predominated in the early 1900s. Richards bought a small rock cottage in Verdugo City (present-day Montrose) and opened Rockhaven with six patients — or “ladies,” as she called them. Word got out about her dignified approach to treatment, and by the end of the ’30s, Rockhaven had expanded into the leafy campus you see today.

Rockhaven was one of the first American institutions run by and for women. Richards also embraced the novel idea that physical environment shapes behavior. She built a facility that felt serene and human in scale, full of single-story cottages, beautiful landscaping and meandering walkways to encourage her ladies to stay active.

Rockhaven closed in 2006 and was bought by the City of Glendale. In 2021, State Sen. Anthony Portantino secured $8 million to preserve it and turn it into a museum. Maybe by its 101st anniversary?

Did you know? Rockhaven’s residents included actress Billie Burke (Glinda the Good Witch in “The Wizard of Oz”) and Gladys Baker Eley, mother of Marilyn Monroe.
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