Museums of the Arroyo Day: A fun and free peek at L.A. history

Lummis House (left), Heritage Square (center) and L.A. Police Museum (right) will be free for Museum Of The Arroyo Day

By Brenda Reese

Get your history for free this Sunday, May 19 when the annual Museums of the Arroyo (MOTA) Day welcomes visitors to check out a slice of SoCal life from way back when.

Three Highland Park museums and Heritage Square in Montecito Heights team up with two Pasadena institutions for a free day of art, architecture, family fun and entertainment. The MOTA museums are: The Gamble House, Heritage Square, Los Angeles Police Museum, Lummis Home and the Pasadena Museum of History.

Each MOTA museum is open for free tours from noon – 5 p.m. with last entry at 4 p.m. at all museums. Festivities are scheduled at each museum throughout the day.

Perhaps one of the more interesting additions to this year’s MOTA Day is that historian Dennis Harbach has compiled and will share a list of visitors to the Charles Lummis Home during its heyday in the late 1800s.

According to Ariel Van Zandweghe of the Historical Society of Southern California, many people have visited the Lummis Home saying they remember hearing stories from older relatives about being on Lummis’ guest list.

“Now is the chance for them to finally get those questions answered,” he says describing Harbach’s database as a complete list of both local dignitaries and common folk who, for one reason or another, were invited to join in the rollicking gatherings that took place at El Alisal (Place of the Sycamore Trees, aka Lummis Home). “Come to MOTA Day and see if your grandfather met Theodore Roosevelt or if you grandmother danced the fandango with Rudolph Valentino in this place,” says Van Zandweghe.

Other special events this year include:

The Gamble House
Visitors can tour the 1908 Arts and Crafts gem that is on the National Registry of Historic Places; children can do crafts in the backyard.

Heritage Square Museum
Guests can observe a Spanish American War encampment, watch traditional woodcarving demonstrations, listen to storytellers as well as enjoy music and traditional dancing. Children can play with Victorian toys, do crafts, and learn about plants and flowers in the Ford House Kitchen garden.

The Los Angeles Police Museum
Visitors can tour the facilities which feature private collections and historical memorabilia that date back to the late 1800s, including the newly constructed vehicle shelter and the freshly restored 1955 paddy wagon. Kids can climb into a retired police helicopter, try on police gear and get “locked” in a real jail cell where adults can snap free police booking photos. Tour the limited engagement Gangster Squad exhibition as well as three other permanent exhibits: Onion Field murders, the Patty Hearst kidnapping, and the 1997 North Hollywood Shootout.

The Lummis Home and Garden
From its inception, the Lummis Home has been the place to see and be seen. Visiting and local dignitaries, artists, controversial public figures – all were guests of Lummis from 1897-1928. Using a newly developed computer application, historian Dennis Harbach will help you discover if your ancestors rubbed elbows with the likes of Lummis, Theodore Roosevelt or even Rudolf Valentino. Browse through Harbach’s photo album of Lummis’ famous guests. In addition, self-guided tours of the home and garden will also be available on MOTA Day.

The Pasadena Museum of History
Guests can take a mini-tour of the newly remodeled Fenyes Mansion as well as the Finnish Folk Museum which is housed in a replica of a 19th Century Finnish farmhouse. Pasadena Society of Artists members will display their works; artwork will be for sale and artists will be actively working on new pieces during the afternoon.

For more information visit www.museumsofthearroyo.com and “like” MOTA (museumsofthearroyo) on Facebook.

Brenda Rees is a writer and resident of Eagle Rock.

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