History of the Los Angeles City Historical Society

In the 1970s, despite the existence of historical societies serving particular neighborhoods, local communities, and the larger Southern California region, historians Paul de Falla and William Mason recognized the need for an organization devoted to the preservation of the history of the original City of Los Angeles and the education of its people about that history. They, with the help of their long-time friend Dr. Atilio Parisi, established a new non-profit organization on that mission, and the Los Angeles City Historical Society was incorporated with the State of California on October 25, 1976.

Membership dues were first set at $7.50 per year, and a newsletter began publication in January 1978. Member Bill Boehner designed the Society's logo, which symbolizes (1) the original plots of land designated for the Mexican founders and (2) the seats of municipal authority over time: the Plaza Church, the old City Hall at Broadway and 2nd Street, and the present City Hall on Spring Street.

One of LACHS's first projects was to mark the four corners of the original Pueblo in a permanent and conspicuous manner. Joseph Northrop, the Society's second president, continued this work. Through the Society's efforts, plaques now commemorate these historic points, located in now-modern settings: in Ernest S. Debs Park; near Sunset Boulevard at Fountain Avenue; near Olympic Boulevard at Indiana Street; and in Exposition Park—the Pueblo's northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest corners, respectively.

At the suggestion of genealogist Marie Northrop, LACHS sponsored the creation of a heritage organization for Pueblo founders' descendants. Compiling all the necessary information, she and her husband, Joseph (himself a descendant of two founders' families) approached as many descendants as they could find. Thus was established Los Pobladores 200 in 1981, on the second centennial anniversary of this tiny Spanish colonial settlement, turned Mexican town, now US urban metropolis.

In 1992, the Society inaugurated its now-signature educational program, the Marie Northrop Lecture Series. Every year for nearly two decades, LACHS has arranged and presented a trio of talks by experts on wide-ranging aspects of Los Angeles history. In the late 1990s, the City Council named the Society as the official "Friends of the City Archives," to assist the City Clerk and Records Management Division in preserving and safeguarding the records which document the city's operations and history.

The Society has earned a record of research and publication over the years, having sponsored and published two major academic reference works on Los Angeles history. Also, LACHS supports research for publication by others, demonstrated in the recent appearance of a new book on the city's sewerage system. Currently, the Society is supporting a project to establish an online database of all Los Angeles city officials serving between 1850 and 2000. Each of these projects is described on our publications page, and all of them have benefitted from the assistance and generosity of the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation.