Mount Washington’s Southwest Museum is up for grabs

Southwest Museum Tower & Palms, Mt. Washington

Southwest Museum Tower | Photo by Martha Benedict

Mount Washington —  The owner of the historic Southwest Museum  today said it is looking for another organization to run the place — the most recent effort to revive the 12-acre hillside property.

The Autry Museum of the American West, which took over the Southwest in 2003,  said it was “seeking organizations to propose innovative and financially sustainable concepts,” in a statement issued today.

In addition to the Southwest, founded by Charles Lummis in 1913, the Autry also wants to unload the Casa de Adobe, a 1917 replica of a rancho located near the museum on Figueroa Street.

“I am deeply committed to identifying an exciting future for the Southwest Museum site and the Casa de Adobe,” said W. Richard West, Jr., President and CEO of the Autry. “We are eager to hear from parties who can bring renewed energy, imagination, and resources to this project.”

In a statement, the Autry said it was open to proposals from a wide range of interests, from arts organizations and education institutions to historic property developers and private businesses.

“Respondents, including potential new owners/operators, are encouraged to consider how multiple uses can be combined to create a vibrant and sustainable operation that brings value to Los Angeles,” said the museum.

The Autry has tried before to partner with others  to operate the Southwest while battling critics who claimed promises to run the facility as a full-fledged museum were never honored.

While the Autry has invested millions in the Southwest, the facility is closed for much of the year to the public and most of its valuable collection of Native American artifacts has been moved to a storage facility in Burbank.

Nearly a decade ago, the Autry said it was looking “to team up with partners to develop future programs suitable to the Southwest Museum site.”  At one point, Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district once included Mount Washington, approached Occidental College in Eagle Rock about taking over the Southwest. But that never came to pass.

In 2015, the National Trust for Historic Preservation was enlisted to help come up with a new plan to guide the future of the property. But apparently that effort never resulted in a workable solution.

The Autry said requests for proposals  to find new uses for the Southwest are due June 10.

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  1. Wednesday Curmudgeon

    Maybe I’m just in a bad mood this morning (surly to bed, surly to rise), but it looks like the Autry now gets everything it wanted: it’s already poached the Southwest’s excellent collections, its whimsical “operation” of museum hours have killed off attendance at the Southwest and thus the Autry’s local competition, and now Autry gets to sell off that incredible building.

    Watch for the signs: “Gene Autry Memorial Condos, Coming Soon!”

    Grrrrr. Maybe I’ll have some breakfast and see if that helps …

    • Good analysis (“how the south west was won!)… grisly

    • Interesting to hear them talk about how much money they’ve put into the Southwest site. After all, they don’t have the major expense of rent/mortgage for their museum site in Griffith Park.

      If I’m not mistaken, the Autry pays only $1 per year for their piece of public land.

      Why do they have such a sweetheart deal? True, they’re an amenity. But it’s not like they’re not a city or county museum. In the end, like say, the Getty, they’re a private foundation.


  2. I’d happily buy a condo here. What a fantastic location, both in the hills and across the street from a Metro Gold Line.

  3. It’s too bad the Southwest is fading away. Perhaps if it had been better managed and maintained and had more people supporting it financially, it wouldn’t have fallen into such disrepair and been vulnerable to being raided by the Autry. Many of the collections, I understand, were in very poor shape.

  4. We all love the building in NE LA but its really all about the collection, which is one of the best ever in the US regarding native american artifacts. As much as I dislike what has happened the SWM was didn’t have the resorsces to properly care for the collection and it was being poorly cared for for many years. Now it is being properly cared for which is very good. Audrey never thought of the building in the same regard as the collection. For many of us the building is very important to the history of LA and our community. Its all very sad, SAD !. But its the reality of today. I really hope the SWM can be a successful adaptive reuse that will support the local community. I hate to think about what the next chapter will be if that does not happen.

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