I haven’t been to the Southwest Museum in eons so when some of my explorer friends planned a visit it seemed like a good way to spend a Saturday. We all met at Los Angeles Union Station which is always a good location to begin an adventure. We then took the Gold Line out to the Southwest Museum Station… yes, it has it’s own Metro train station! And the museum entrance is just a few yards across the tracks.
The museum is located in Mount Washington which is in northeast Los Angeles. We were a little early so it gave me the opportunity to take a photo of the pedestrian entrance (there is also a vehicle entrance which is at the top of a steep driveway).
A lot of things have changed since my last visit. For one thing previously we could not have arrived by train as there wasn’t one! This tunnel was a surprise. The elevator to the lobby is waaaaayyyyyyy down at the end.
The security guard who opened the doors and ushered us in told us that these alcoves at one time housed art objects… until there was a heavy rainstorm and they discovered the tunnel was not waterproof.
From the website: The Historic Southwest Museum Mt. Washington Campus was founded as the Southwest Museum of the American Indian in 1907 by Charles F. Lummis and the Southwest Society (formed in 1903), the western branch of the Archaeological Institute of America. The Southwest Museum building was constructed between 1912 and 1914. Lummis worked with architects Sumner P. Hunt and Silas R. Burns to design the main museum building and the Caracol and Torrance towers. Lummis wanted the building to reflect Spanish culture and the Alhambra in Spain. The tunnel and elevator were added in 1919–1920 to provide easier access to the museum.
Photo of the museum as it was constructed in 1914. Note the trolley car at the bottom of the hill. In more or less the same location as the Gold Line tracks. At one time Los Angeles was covered in trolley/train tracks which by the early 1960s had disappeared from the face of the earth.
Stairs up to the main gallery area.
Those of us who had visited the museum in years past were perplexed. It looked nothing like we remembered. I was even beginning to wander if I had been there at all. I picked up an information sheet at the museum but evidently lost it on the way home. And I couldn’t find anything on the website. But from what I remember, some years ago the Southwest Museum was in danger of closing. They were running out of money, the building was deteriorating and the collection of Indian art and artifacts was in peril. They were able to merge with the Autry National Center (named for Gene Autry) which is located in Griffith Park.
The Autry took the bulk of the collection and now the Southwest Museum houses special exhibits, such as this one on Four Centuries of Pueblo Pottery which encompasses about one hundred examples. The museum also has a library, gardens and special programs.
An example of Acoma pottery. I visited this area when I was in Albuquerque a couple of years ago. You can read my post here.
This is an example of Laguna pottery which apparently is very similar to Acoma pottery.
View from the window at the end of the gallery. You can see the homes peeking through the trees in the surrounding neighborhood of Mount Washington. It was an overcast day with rain in the forecast. But fortunately the weather gods held off until I was back in Culver City.
Below are two sculptures and a totem pole in the patio area.
We couldn’t decide if this ground hugging succulent/cactus was hibernating for the winter or just plain dead from lack of water. But it made an interesting abstract pattern.
The museum in the background of the first photo.
We all opted to take the trail rather than the elevator down to the street. But when I saw this sign I wondered if that was the wise choice. My knees always make going down much harder for me than going up. But it was too late to turn back!
It may not seem too steep from these photos but believe me, you had to be there! You can see the train tracks at the bottom of the stairs on the left hand photo.
Back at the Metro station, these two (of three) works of art are winged “guardians” made of glistening tile mosaics and capped with metal crowns.
It was lunch time and we were off to South Pasadena for the second part of our Saturday adventure. I’ll be posting that soon!
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