Not everybody has a famous address like 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. However, with a little detective work, you can uncover the history of your home. 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. Don’t forget, you can also learn a lot from your neighbors.
There are two online resources that will give you free general information about the history of your home.
First, Porch.com will detail the previous owners of your home. Additionally, it outlines contracted work and permits that were pulled at the city.
Second, HouseFax.com 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)
Pro Tip: This information is also a great tool when purchasing a home!
Long Beach City Resources
A trip to the County Court House, City Hall, or 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 has information on the history of buildings in Long Beach. Additionally, 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. Also, the Planning Department can help 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.
Long Beach Heritage
The Long Beach Heritage is 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.
Historical Society of Long Beach
Also, the Historical Society of Long Beach is 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 a sample search below.
For example, using ‘Residences – Lemon’ will send you to all 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 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 Magazine and Newspaper databases.
Long Beach Public Library subscribes to Ancestry Library. This database 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.
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. Additionally, you can find them on microfilm in the Periodicals Department at the Main Library.
Pro Tip: 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. This resource is available for reference at the Main Library.
More Resources for Researching the History of Your Home
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. However, keep in mind they are not well-indexed. Although, 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.
The Shannon Jones Team
We love historic homes! We have helped clients buy and sell a number of them and love writing about Long Beach’s history. Check out our Instagram account where we highlight Long Beach’s historic homes and buildings almost every Thursday. Additionally, we love creating videos about Long Beach’s history. You can watch our video highlighting some of Long Beach’s historic districts below.
Furthermore, we also have a number of blog posts about Long Beach’s history. You can see those below or CLICK HERE to see historic homes that are currently for sale.
- Hot Historic Homes On The Market In Long Beach
- Historical Properties: Living In History
- The Willmore, A Historic Condo Building In Long Beach
- Cliff May Rancho Homes In Long Beach
Researching a Long Beach Historic Home
We recently listed 2111 Eucalyptus Avenue for sale. Its current owner is an architect and extremely interested in his home’s history. Therefore, he dug into some research and even got his home qualified for the Mills Act. What is the Mills Act? In exchange for tax breaks, he keeps up the historic integrity of his home. You can learn more about the Mills Act and this historic home in the video below.
Ready to Start Your Research?
Researching the history of your home does take time. However, 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.
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