A cow in a pasture below the Southwest Museum, January 28, 1916, gelatin silver print. Photographer: Charles Puck. Braun Research Library Collection, Autry Museum of the American West; S1.604.

Historic SWM and Casa de Adobe FAQs

Please scroll down to find responses to general questions as well as to RFI applicant questions about the Historic Southwest Museum and Casa de Adobe sites in Northeast Los Angeles.


Are the Southwest Museum and Casa de Adobe currently open to visitors?

The Southwest Museum campus is open to the public (and free) on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. It is also open for occasional public programs and collaborative community events and meetings. Learn more about current exhibits

The Casa de Adobe is currently not open to the public due to accessibility and safety concerns.

Why not simply give the Southwest Museum and/or Casa de Adobe to a community group or nonprofit?

Community groups and nonprofits are welcomed and encouraged to respond to the RFI. Autry staff will review responses in close consultation with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Trust’s Steering Committee, and the Autry Board of Trustees.

In previous discussions, smaller groups and organizations have been concerned about the complexities of the historic buildings and the ongoing maintenance and operating costs. For these reasons, we may propose partnerships between organizations that respond.

What is the status of the Southwest Museum Collection?

At the time of the merger with the Autry in 2003, the Southwest Museum’s collection was in urgent need of care and protection. Over the years, overcrowded storage rooms, poor climate controls, water leaks, pests, and dust imperiled the artifacts, advancing the deterioration of objects of great cultural, historic, and educational value. Following the merger, the Autry began a multi-year, multi-million-dollar effort to inventory, catalog, conserve, and rehouse more than 400,000 objects, including art, artifacts, cultural materials, and library materials. This critical and costly preservation work has been performed by teams of dedicated collections, library, and conservation professionals and technicians.

The Southwest Museum Collection—now under the care of the Autry, and not included with the transfer of property—is housed properly and safely at the Autry’s state-of-the-art,100,000-square-foot Resources Center of the Autry in Burbank. As noted above, materials from the collections will continue to be exhibited at the Autry Museum in Griffith Park and at other museums in Los Angeles and beyond. Furthermore, we would like to collaborate with the site’s future owner/operators on public and community programming, including potential installations of materials from the Southwest Museum collection.

Can the Autry just sell off the collection if they want to?

No. The Autry complies with strict deaccessioning guidelines as set by the American Alliance of Museums, and the Association of Art Museum Directors, and related policies as established by our Board of Directors. The American Alliance of Museums reviewed the Autry’s Deaccessioning Policies and Procedures in 2012 and found them to be in full alignment with professional standards. The act of deaccessioning an artifact from the permanent collection requires exceptional caution and must fully adhere to policy; such policies and procedures do not permit accredited museums to sell off artifacts simply to raise money for operations or other purposes. Not only are there ethical considerations related to deaccessioning, but there are also ownership and tax laws that can play a role in whether an artifact can or will be deaccessioned. If an object meets all required criteria for deaccessioning, all proceeds received must be used for the acquisition of new objects that improve the collection. Nevertheless, it has not been the Autry’s intent or practice, with any of its collections, to consider selling objects for profit.

If the collection is preserved at the Resources Center of the Autry, can it still be displayed at the Southwest Museum site?

Properly caring for the collection at the Resources Center ensures its long-term care and protection. At the Resources Center, the collection will be made accessible to researchers, tribal communities, scholars, and the interested public who wish to study materials from the Autry’s two libraries and object collections when they are not on public display. The Autry continues to include the historic Southwest Museum collection in exhibitions at the Autry Museum in Griffith Park and collaborate with other museums to exhibit the collections through loans.

Currently, materials from the historic Southwest Museum collection are also on view at the Southwest Museum site in two ongoing exhibits, Four Centuries of Pueblo Pottery and Making a Big Noise: The Explorations of Charles Lummis. The Autry understands and respects the local community’s keen interest in continued programming at the site that draws on the historic Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, and we are committed to exploring those opportunities together with any interested parties.

Will the Autry continue to conduct outreach to the local community and hold public events at the Southwest Museum site even during the Request for Interest process?

Yes, the Autry will continue to reach out to various organizations, leaders, and residents in the local neighborhoods and throughout the Los Angeles area to keep lines of communication open. The Autry will also continue to collaborate with community organizations, as well as with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and many others, on an ongoing series of public activities, as it has the past few years.


How will potential partnership(s) be established? What if I’m an artist or small nonprofit?

We encourage interested parties to reach out to others to establish thoughtful collaborations or note in their proposal if they are interested in partnering with specific types of nonprofits and/or for-profit organizations. To aid this process, we encourage community groups to submit proposals describing their proposed concepts, capabilities, and experience (which can likely be covered in one to three pages) if they are interested in becoming involved. The Autry also has several established educational programs it hopes to continue in the local communities, and would make introductions to expand those relationships and programming. In addition, as described in the RFI, we may encourage discussions among parties about potential partnerships based on submittals. See FAQ: How will the Autry be a partner on programming, exhibits, and events?

Are there long-term considerations for the garden or limits on how it could be used?

The community outreach and survey work completed by the National Trust revealed that activation of the grounds and garden as public park space or green space was a highly desirable use. Applicants are invited to explore creative ways of activating or expanding the garden into possible outdoor theater, sculpture garden, performance or event space, farm-to-table garden, urban agriculture, or myriad other ways to tell the story of the place and its history.

How does the Southwest Museum compare with the National Trust’s other National Treasures?

Like other National Treasure sites throughout the United States, the Southwest Museum is nationally significant and faced with considerable preservation challenges. The National Trust has been able to forge partnerships, establish a team and Steering Committee with preservation expertise, and engage the community to hear not only how the site is viewed, but also the other kinds of uses of possible interest to community groups. In addition to its National Treasures program, the National Trust also owns or operates 28 historic sites and has extensive experience keeping complex places   relevant, active, and appealing to a broad audience.

What is the Autry’s timeline for the RFI process and outcomes?

The deadline for RFI submissions is June 10. There will have to be an appropriate amount of time for submittal review, Steering Committee discussions, and potential further discussions with interest respondents, among other related review activities. Formal discussions with the selected party or parties will also require time to complete. Because the outcome depends on the nature of responses received and the potential for groups to work together, any definitive time estimate would be speculation at this point. For example, rehabilitation projects at the Museum and Casa may occur on different timelines. We are eager, however, to move along as quickly as we can. We encourage applicants to consider project phasing in their proposals, given the size and complexity of the sites. See FAQ: Who will review and make decisions about the RFI responses?

What is known about the possible costs for work at either site?

We encourage you to review this summary of projected project costs based on various concepts that have been considered in the past. Any cost estimate naturally depends on the proposed use. Although neither site is located in an Opportunity Zone, they are in a New Market Tax Credit census tract, and rehabilitation work would also qualify for 20% Federal Historic Tax Credits and the Mills Act. Combining these incentives could result in significant offsets to the rehabilitation costs. Other potential incentives that applicants may want to explore are discussed in our Project Appendix. See FAQ: Are there any incentives for the rehabilitation of the property?

Is there an opportunity for density transfer / Transfer of Development Rights / Transfer of Floor Area Rights?

Currently the Southwest Museum parcel is zoned A-1 Light Agriculture with very little density available to transfer. Potential changes to the use would likely require a General Plan amendment and zone change, which triggers the City’s land use entitlement process.

Does the Autry plan to manage future operations of the site?

Based on previous discussions with some potential partners, we believe that ownership of the property may be a prerequisite for another organization to make the major financial investment necessary to rehabilitate and revitalize these historic sites. The involvement of another major organization, or a combination of organizations and uses, will help make the site sustainable. But the Autry welcomes opportunities for partnership, particularly in public programming. The Autry is flexible and open to various forms of partnerships, which could include different types of activities, exhibits, and installations. The Autry also has several established educational programs it hopes to continue in the local communities and would make introductions to expand those relationships and programming.

How might potential activations of the site affect the surrounding community?

Given that this is a hillside site in a residential neighborhood, any proposal should address how any activities, including rehabilitation/construction and ongoing uses, would be implemented to minimize impacts to residents. We encourage a proactive public outreach and communications plan that includes early dialogue with Mount Washington residents.

Is there a specific sale price associated with transfer of property ownership?

As a non-profit, the Autry is not seeking to make a profit but instead is using the RFI process to identify the best possible future use of the site that aligns with the 4C principles outlined in the RFI. The specifics of a potential transfer of property ownership depend on factors such as the level of nonprofit or for-profit uses proposed for the property; the role that the Autry will play with public, educational, and/or exhibit-based programming; and similar considerations. Following the initial review of RFI responses, the Autry will have in-depth conversations with potential owner-operators about legal and tax considerations associated with ownership transfer.

Would a ground lease be considered?

The Autry does not want to preclude alternative proposals, such as ground leases, as part of this RFI process. However, we currently believe ownership transfer would be best to allow partners to take advantage of the financial incentives available.

What are the minimum operating expenses associated with the properties?

The minimum expenses for security, building maintenance, and landscaping are approximately $200,000-250,000 per year. This estimate does not include costs associated with public and exhibit programming, major system upgrades, or management/administration expenses.

How can I find out more about the Autry’s collections? What, if any, research has been conducted on the significance of the site from before Lummis' arrival?

The area in general is the traditional territory of the Tongva/Gabrielino people who settled alongside the Arroyo Seco long before European expeditions arrived in the 18th century. While the Autry is not aware of extensive existing research on this particular site pre-Lummis, we expect that there may be some interest on the behalf of local area tribes in collaboration on research and interpretation.

How can I sign up for a property tour?

You can sign up for a tour through this Eventbrite page.

Can I respond for only the Casa de Adobe or the Southwest Museum site, or do I need to respond with interest about both sites?

You are welcome to submit a response for either or both of the individual sites.

What parts of the property are protected by historic designation?

According to the Office of Historic Resources (OHR), the entire Southwest Museum property is shown as historic in City’s ZIMAS system, but this does not mean all components are considered character-defining features. The City’s OHP staff will work with applicants to analyze any proposed project and determine its potential impact on historic features. The project team's architect and/or preservation consultant would be primary liaison to OHR.

What can you tell us about the previous proposals?

The Autry, the National Trust and the Steering Committee have had many conversations with several organizations interested in using the property in a variety of ways. The biggest challenges consistently were the complexity of the property, the capital costs of the rehabilitation, and the costs of sustaining operations over the long term. One organization was interested in activating the historic buildings along with the addition of new construction. After conducting extensive due diligence, they determined that their organization’s needs did not align with the historic nature of the property. Another organization came forward with an arts-based multiuse concept. After conducting additional due diligence, they decided it was not the right time for the organization to proceed with the project based on their priorities and other projects. Previously interested groups are willing to share the results of their due diligence with serious interested parties after the initial RFI review.

What kind of responses are you expecting to the RFI?

There is no set expectation of how many applicants or partners will come of the RFI process; the RFI was specifically left open-ended to allow for possible match-making among applicants. For example, some applicants may have the capacity, while others are more sensitive to community issues. We are looking for the best possible, viable solution.

Can interested parties submit proposals for a specific part of the property?

Yes. We specify in the RFI that applicants can provide a response for a portion of the property, specific buildings, or the entire SWM Campus and the Casa de Adobe. Responses need to indicate if they are interested in a specific portion of the property, explain why that approach is being taken, and articulate what resources or expertise the applicant brings to their proposed concept.

Is there a preferred concept?

We are open to all creative and thoughtful concepts, but the RFI articulates the basic principles that any successful applicant must consider and address in their response.

Is the Autry interested in interim uses for the property?

Yes, the Autry is already working with Arroyo Arts Collective and other local organizations on events and community programming through 2019. You are welcome to e-mail suggestions to SouthwestRFI@theautry.org. Please note that we schedule public programming 3-6 months in advance to adequately plan and communicate activities.

Are there any incentives for the rehabilitation of the property?

Yes. Historic designation makes both the SWM campus and the Casa de Adobe eligible for significant financial incentives. Please see the RFI for information about those programs, as well as other potential funding sources and California Historic Building Code. We will add and highlight new information on our web site if we become aware of other opportunities or incentives.

Who owns and has access to the Southwest Museum collection and archives?

Since the merger in 2003, the Autry has actively worked to preserve the vast Southwest Museum collection, library, and archives. It is the Autry’s responsibility to continue to care for that collection with qualified staff at the new Resources Center. The Autry abides by and fully supports the Native American Grave and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), consults with Native communities regarding exhibitions and programming, and takes necessary precautions regarding loans, while simultaneously looking for ways to bring the collection to life.

How will the Autry be a partner on programming, exhibits, and events?

The Opportunities for Partnerships document in the Appendix lists some possible options. The Autry is flexible and open to various forms of partnerships, which could include different types of activities, exhibits, and installations. The Autry also has several established educational programs it hopes to continue in the local communities, and would make introductions to expand those relationships and programming.

Where can I find information about the Southwest Museum of the American Indian collection?

We encourage interested parties to attend one of the two tours of the Resources Center of the Autry to see the Collection first-hand. The Collections Online database contains information and images of items from the collections, library, and archives. The Autry is in the process of digitizing its entire collection; the database currently includes records and images for over 50,000 objects and items.

Will you publish a list of individuals who have attended the RFI property tours? We would like to understand how our organization/firm can partner with them.

No, we plan to wait until organizations formally respond to the RFI to potentially encourage partnerships among organizations. If you are interested in partnering with other types of entities, please indicate that interest in your response.

Who is reviewing the RFI submissions?

With support from the National Trust and its Southwest Museum Steering Committee, the Autry will review all responses and make a set of recommendations on how to move ahead. The Autry Board will make final decisions on how to proceed and with whom. 

Is anything excluded in the 10-page submission limit (resumes, cover, dividers, etc.)?

We ask that all information is contained to a 10-page PDF, including a cover page and any dividers. If you feel additional information may be helpful, you can provide URLs to supplemental files that you have available online (web pages or hosted via software like Dropbox).

Is there a preference for a non-profit or a for-profit entity? Are there a lot of interested candidates who are proposing museum uses?

There is no specific preference. The goal of the RFI process is to identify a set of uses and will evaluate the community and public benefit of those uses. The 4Cs speak to the value of the overall site to the community, as well as the need for capacity to help ensure a long-term and sustainable solution for the SWM campus and the Casa de Adobe, regardless of the type of organization. At this time we do not know who will be chosen to submit proposals.

What is being asked for in the RFI is very detailed in building and program—what level of detail is expected in the RFI proposals?

The RFI emphasizes the 4Cs for reactivation, but any proposal must also be grounded in sustainability and feasibility. While we want people to be very creative, proposals still must be grounded in financial reality. This process is intentionally NOT a Request for Proposals (in which pro-formas or renderings would be expected). Instead, strong concepts, relevant precedents, and the kinds of partners necessary to sustain the site(s) over the long term should be thoughtfully considered and presented.

Should responses to the RFI point to similar projects, or are they expected to include specific designs for the proposed concept?

We are not expecting significant design work or pro-formas in response to the RFI. Respondents are encouraged to reference other projects—their own or others—to explain how their concept for the SWM and/or Casa can be successful and financially sustainable. Respondents can provide online links to relevant information and examples. Keep in mind that the responses can be no longer than 10 pages.   

Can our organization participate in multiple proposals?

Yes, you can be part of several proposals and teams if you wish.

Are there any large music or arts groups you know are looking for a space?

Over the last four years, the Autry and the National Trust have participated in discussions with dozens of non-profit and for-profits institutions, some of which have connections to the arts and live performance. We don’t know at this time which, if any, will respond to the RFI.

Will you publish a list of tour attendees?

We do not plan to publish a list of all tour attendees, but there is a high probability that we will suggest partnerships among applicants following the June 10 deadline.

Would participants from previous undertakings be interested in participating again?

RFI applicants are welcome to reach out to these groups, which include Levin & Associates, Gruen Associates, Louisa Van Leer, PLUM Architects, Historic Resources Group, and others. See the RFI Appendix for copies of previous reports.

Regarding preservation of the existing buildings, how important is the Spanish architectural style to the original building?

The portions of the museum constructed in 1914, in addition to the Poole Wing and Casa de Adobe, are all protected by designation as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments (HCM), as outlined in the RFI. Because of this, any rehabilitation or expansion of the buildings must respect and retain the character-defining features in accordance with the Secretary of the Interiors Standards for Rehabilitation (see the Appendix for the HCM forms and links to the Standards for Rehabilitation). In general the buildings are simple in form and materials, which will make them easier to adapt without compromising their historic integrity. Any expansion or new construction should not replicate the existing architectural style, but should be clearly differentiated from and respectful of the existing historic building. Proposed rehabilitation projects as well as additions or new construction would need to be reviewed and approved by the Office of Historic Resources to ensure they comply with the Secretary of the Interiors Standards for Rehab.

Is the Caracol Tower stair protected by designation?

Yes. The Caracol Tower design and construction with its central spiral staircase is very unusual and would be considered a character defining feature of the SWM building.

How motivated is the Autry to retain the Native American elements?

The architectural style of the SWM is more Mission and Spanish Revival inspired and exhibits only a few Native American influences—such as the basket-weave designs on the pilasters of Poole Wing, and the pendant lamps and murals in the entrance hall. When the museum was originally founded, it focused more broadly on general Southwestern natural and cultural history, including (but not exclusively) Native cultures. Regarding the Native American cultural materials in the collection, the Autry is committed to caring for that collection and making it accessible for future use and creative programming. Any successful concept will need to consider how to draw on the Southwest Museum collection for activation and programming. The RFI reflects serious consideration that came out of years of conversation and collaboration with the community, the City, and other participants. This is reflected in the 4Cs outlined in the RFI: capacity, commitment, community, and collections. The Autry wants community access and benefit to be a priority for any future use, and would like to see the properties serve as a community gathering place rather than solely for limited or private uses. The Autry also has continued to collaborate with many Native community organizations, artists, playwrights, and leaders to maintain and develop new programming at the Autry Museum in Griffith Park and the Resources Center in Burbank. The Autry will help provide introductions among organizations and individuals as we continue with the RFI process.

Are there any floor plans available?

The Rehabilitation Study Phase 1 Planning document (Levin & Associates, 2006; PDF) has basic plans on a small scale (see the RFI Appendix) There are currently no large scale plans or CAD files available.