Blueprint for Los Angeles

Many of Los Angeles’ most iconic landmarks—from Memorial Coliseum and City Hall to Bullocks Wilshire and Union Station—were designed by visionary and self-taught architect John Parkinson.

A trove of rare materials from the Parkinson firm has been acquired by The Huntington, thanks to a generous donation from Wm. Scott Field, a restoration architect who stewarded the archive for decades.

The collection spans the years from 1894 to 1994, featuring Parkinson’s work during Los Angeles’ rapid growth in the early 20th century as well as that of his successors—including his son, Donald—who built upon his creative legacy. Over the century, the Parkinson firm developed more than 400 structures.

Two people look down at an architectural drawing set on a table.

Erin Chase, assistant curator of architecture and photography at The Huntington, looks at the Parkinson archive with architectural historian Stephen Gee.

| Photo by Jamie Pham.

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Sketch of proposed Los Angeles City Hall, ca. 1928. John Parkinson, architect, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.

Front-facing architectural drawing of an approximately 12 story building.

Braly Block, Fourth Street elevation, June 19, 1902. John Parkinson, architect. Ink on tracing cloth. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.

Black and white portrait of John Parkinson.

Portrait of John Parkinson (1861-1935), undated. Photograph. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.

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Portrait of Donald B. Parkinson (1895-1945), undated. Photograph. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.

“The Parkinson archive unlocks the design process behind some of the most iconic buildings in Los Angeles,” notes Erin Chase, assistant curator of architecture and photography at The Huntington. “Spanning 100 years, and chronicling the firm’s work in detail, the collection will be the cornerstone of our Southern California architecture and planning materials documenting the growth of our region in the early 20th century.”

Pamela Parkinson Kellogg, M.D., great-granddaughter of John Parkinson and granddaughter of Donald Parkinson, says she is “thrilled the Parkinson architectural archive is now at The Huntington. Whenever my husband and I are in LA, we make a point of visiting The Huntington. The exhibitions are fascinating, and the gardens are extraordinary.”

Dr. Kellogg has fond childhood memories of visiting Parkinson buildings with her grandmother, Grace Wells Parkinson. Their favorite places were Bullocks Wilshire and Union Station. Even so, it was not until Kellogg, her husband, and their children attended the Parkinson firm’s 1994 centennial celebration, organized by restoration architect/firm owner Wm. Scott Field, that she understood the architects’ vast impact on the history and development of Los Angeles.

“Seeing enlarged copies of plans for Bullocks Wilshire, LA City Hall, USC, and the Coliseum, as well as photographs of so many other completed structures—more than 200 buildings and projects in LA alone—I was bowled over by the enormity and beauty of their work,” Kellogg says. “Without a doubt, all these materials belong in LA for scholars and the public to enjoy and study. I am so delighted that these documents are now at The Huntington, an institution widely known for its preservation work and extensive collections.”

Architectural historian Stephen Gee, author of Iconic Vision: John Parkinson, Architect of Los Angeles, is deeply familiar with the archive through his research.

Gee explains, “John Parkinson came to North America from England in the early 1880s with $5 and a toolbox, looking for adventure. He worked in Canada, Seattle, and other parts of the continent before settling in Los Angeles, where he quickly rose to prominence, and is considered by many historians to be one of the founders of modern Los Angeles. One of the great things about Parkinson’s story is that he constantly manages to be the right person at the right time with the right skillset in the right place.”

Gee recalls first hearing about the legendary architect while touring downtown Los Angeles and seeing one Parkinson-designed building after another.

“I remember waiting to meet somebody on the corner of Fourth and Spring streets and counting 12 or 14 Parkinson buildings from where I stood,” Gee says. “Even if Parkinson were formally educated, it would still be remarkable that one person could have such a dominant influence. No other architect did more for Los Angeles.”

The massive collection contains more than 20,000 items, including drawings, blueprints, office records, photographs, and ephemera. It adds dramatically to The Huntington’s existing collections in Southern California architectural history.

Sandra Brooke Gordon, The Huntington’s Avery Director of the Library, says: “Forming the core of this collection are thousands of original drawings created by the firm. These are one-of-a-kind, richly detailed renderings that, for many buildings, cover the entire scope of the project—from elevations and floor plans to technical specifications and design details.”

The Parkinson collection is unparalleled in its breadth and scope, Chase notes. “As The Huntington carefully stewards these historic materials,” she says, “the archive will be an incredible tool for researchers and scholars who want to understand how Los Angeles grew from a small town to a major metropolis.”

Gifts in kind play a vital role in expanding The Huntington’s collections. For more information, please contact Amanda Greenberger, associate director of major gifts, at 626-405-2263 or agreenberger@huntington.org.