Not everybody has a famous address like 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. However, with a little detective work you can uncover the history of your house. Who knows? Maybe you will discover a famous person once owned your home.
Where to Start?
This can be a bit overwhelming, but start with the structure of your house.
- What era is your home from?
- What is its architectural style?
- Examine the materials used to construct the exterior and interior of your home. This will help give you a starting point for your research. Do not forget, you can also learn a lot from your neighbors.
There are two on-line resources that will give you free general information about your house. This information is also a great tool when purchasing a home.
Porch.com – This site will detail previous owners of your home. It also outlines contracted work and permits that were pulled at the city.
HouseFax.com – This web site also gives a free report detailing the following topics.
- Property Ownership
- Property Deed History
- Building Permits
- Property Incidents (fire or flood)
- Property Issues (lead based paint or roof issues)
- Natural Hazards (flood zones or earthquake faults)
A trip to the County Court House, City Hall, and Downtown Library will provide a wealth of information. The county deed office will provide a list of all ownership transactions of your house as well as property tax records. City hall has two departments that can help with your research. The Historic Preservation Department just received a generous grant from the Navy Heritage Memorial Association to help preserve the city’s history. They have information on the history of buildings in Long Beach. They also have the city’s inventory of historic landmarks and historic districts. The Planning Department can help with maps of the city, building permits, contractors, and architectures. Once you have the names of previous owners you can research newspaper archives at the library. You can find obituaries, wedding announcements, and other public records.
History of Long Beach
Once you know the nuts and bolts of your house there is still a past to uncover. Long Beach has several non-profit organizations that dedicate their time and resources to preserving the past. The Long Beach Heritage – A non-profit education and advocacy group that helps promote public knowledge and preservation of the City of Long Beach. They can help identify historic places and architecturally significant structures in neighborhoods throughout the city. Also, the Historical Society of Long Beach – Another non-profit organization that connects people to the past. They collect, preserve, and exhibit historic material about Long Beach.
Resources Available through the Library
Long Beach History Index – The Long Beach History Index is a selective index of Long Beach history-related citations. To research the history of a Long Beach home, start with a keyword search that includes street number and street name. Do not include Drive, Ave, Street, etc. See asample search below.
The subject, for example Residences – Lemon, will be a link to all of the articles in the index with that subject. Although the index is online, the full-text articles are not. Some articles are on microfilm and some are in the Long Beach History Collection clipping files. To locate an article, bring the citation details (example below) to a Librarian at the Main Library. Microfilm is available for self-service to view or print (black and white low-resolution microfilm prints $.25 each). Many newspaper articles are available online through our Magazine and Newspaper databases.
Census Records – Long Beach Public Library subscribes to Ancestry Library, which has unparalleled coverage of the U.S. and the U.K., including census, vital, church, court, and immigration records. In-library use only.
Long Beach Cultural Heritage Surveys – From 1979 to 1988, the Long Beach Cultural Heritage Commission completed surveys of several historic areas of Long Beach. These surveys are extensive and, for some homes, list important information such as architect, builder, construction date, architectural style, and a brief history of the home. See where they’re available using Encore.
Long Beach Fire Insurance/Sanborn Maps – Sanborn Fire Insurance maps (1888-1950) are available on microfilm in the Long Beach History Collection at the Main Library. These maps show street layouts, house footprints, garage locations, etc.
City Directories – Polk Long Beach Directories (1899 – 1969) list the name, spouse’s name, and occupation of a person who lived at an address. City Directories are available online through the library’s Digital Archive or on microfilm in the Periodicals Department at the Main Library. Note: some Long Beach street numbers changed in January 1921. To see if a street name has changed over the years, please see Long Beach and Signal Hill Street Names Changes: 1900-2006, available for reference at the Main Library.
City of Long Beach Development Services – Street maps of neighborhoods, the name and date of the original tract, building and alteration permits, and ownership and builder records are available through the Development Services Department. Search the Building Permit Records Archive for all permits on file for an address or search Permit Status Inquiry for activity since 1985.
Builder and Contractor (March 1893 – June 1917) and Southwest Contract and Manufacturer (1908-1917) combined in July of 1917 to form Southwest Building and Contractor. These magazines list permits, owners, architects and builders of various dwellings in the Los Angeles Area. They are not well-indexed. However, later editions do have a separate section for Long Beach permits. These magazines are available through the LAPL History Department, USC Architecture Library, and UCLA Young Research Library. Please call to confirm.
Research does take time, but the end result can be gratifying, and perhaps even profitable. Sometimes the property value of your house can increase if your home has a story or a history.