Research the History of a Whittier Residence or Building

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Online: Whittier Public Library's Digital Collections

Whittier Street Number Changes: In 1966, street numbers throughout much of Whittier changed, to conform to the County numbering system. Use this resource to discover the old address of your home. The directional indicator (north, south, east, or west) is important – for instance, at one time there were two 102 Greenleaf Avenues, one North and one South. This book also contains a list of re-named City streets. There are physical copies of this book at the Central Library, in the Adult Reference section and Local History Room.

Whittier City Directories 1903 and 1911: Two of the earliest Whittier City Directories have been digitized, and are keyword searchable here. This is helpful if you do not already know the names of former occupants, as the reverse address feature (in which addresses are organized by street as well as alphabetically by occupant) does not appear until the 1920-1921 edition of the city directories.

Whittier Digital Newspaper Collection: Once you have ascertained the old address of your home, use it as a search term in the Whittier Digital Newspaper Collection, which currently spans 1888 to 1956. Put quotation marks around the term for fewer irrelevant results, and do more than one search – once with the direction abbreviated, and again with the direction spelled out. For example, “102 N. Greenleaf” as well as “102 North Greenleaf”.

Whittier Historical Photograph Collection: The library’s collection of Historical Photographs includes some photographs of homes, generally limited to those built prior to 1910 in Uptown Whittier. You may search using the same strategy as above, or browse the Residences folder to view photographs of historic Whittier homes.

In Person: At the Central Library in Uptown Whittier

Whittier City Directories: The library’s collection of Whittier City Directories spans 1903 to 1977. As mentioned above, starting in the edition of 1920-1921, the books include a reverse address feature in which addresses are organized by street as well as alphabetically by occupant. The approximate date of a home’s construction is generally indicated by its first appearance in a city directory. These are stored in the Whittier History Room and are for library use only.

Haines Criss-Cross Directories: The library’s collection of these directories, which list names, addresses and phone numbers of home occupants, spans 1972 to the present. 1972 to 1986 cover 35-37 cities and county areas in East Suburban Los Angeles. 1986 to present cover 20-24 cities and county areas in East San Gabriel Valley. These are stored in the Whittier History Room and are for library use only.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps: The library’s microfilm reel containing Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps can show you your home’s original footprint. Map years include 1888, 1891, 1984, 1900, 1907, 1912, plus a 1925 map updated to 1941. Ask the Reference Librarian to access this microfilm, which is stored in the Whittier History Room, and for help using the microfilm reader machine, located near the mezzanine staircase at the Central library.

Tax Assessment Ledgers: The library's collection of tax assessment ledgers spans 1898 to 1956. Index volumes accompany the ledgers covering 1898-1919. This resource can be used in tandem with Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, city directories, and the L.A. County Property Assessment Information System website, to determine the following pieces of information: at what point a parcel of land in Whittier was subdivided; who owned the land; when "improvements" (structures) were built on the land, and what they cost to build; and additional properties in Whittier a landowner also owned. These books are large, heavy, and fragile, and patrons must be accompanied by a trained library staff member in order to access them, to ensure they are not damaged. 

Vertical Files: The Vertical Files consist of 12 linear feet of newspaper clippings, correspondence, ephemera and other materials on various topics in Whittier History. Of particular interest to the home researcher may be newspaper clippings from years of the Whittier Daily News that have not yet been digitized (1956 onward). These are organized by subject, and a list of subjects is available here. Subjects relevant to history of home research include Buildings and Streets. The Vertical Files are stored in the Whittier History Room, and are available by appointment only. Please call (562) 567-9900 or email to make an appointment.   

Library Books Containing Photographs of Whittier Homes

  • Founders and Friends. Written by Phyllis M. Pearce, Claire G. Radford and Mary Ann Rummel. 1977. Call no. WH 979.493 PEA.
  • Old Whittier, 1904. Written by Harry A. Williams. 1904, 1987. Call no. WH 979.493 WHI.
  • Pioneer Families of Whittier. Written by Virginia Mathony. 1998. Call no. WH 979.493092 MAT.
  • Pioneer Families of Whittier II. Written by Virginia Mathony. 2004. Call no. WH 979.493092 MAT. Library use only.

Library Books Containing General Reference Information on the History of Houses

  • The Abrams Guide to American House Styles. Written by William Morgan. 2004. Call no. 728.37 ABR.
  • American Houses: A field guide to the architecture of the home. Written by Gerald Foster. 2004. Call no. 728.37 FOS.
  • The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Homes Through American History, Vol. IV: 1946-Present. Written by Busch, Braun & Kayzar. 2008. Call no. 728.0973 GRE V.4.
  • House Histories: A Guide to Tracing the Genealogy of Your Home. Written by Sally Light. 1989. Call no. R 728.37 LIG. This book is stored in the Reference section and is for library use only.

Library Books Containing Information on Architecture Types Found in Whittier Homes

Arts and Crafts

  • Beyond the Bungalow: Grand homes in the Arts & Crafts tradition. Written by Paul Duchscherer and Linda Svendsen. 2005. Call no. 728 DUC.
  • Bungalow Style: Creating classic interiors in your Arts and Crafts home. Written by Treena Crochet. 2005. Call no. 728.373 CRO.


  • American Bungalow Style. Written by Robert Winter and Alexander Vertikoff. 1996. Call no. 728.373 WIN.
  • Bungalow Bathrooms. Written by Jane Powell and Linda Svendsen. 2000. Call no. 643.3 POW.
  • Bungalow Details: Exterior. Written by Jane Powell and Linda Svendsen. 2006. Call no. 728.373 POW.
  • Bungalow Details: Interior. Written by Jane Powell and Linda Svendsen. 2006. Call no. 728.373 POW.
  • Bungalow Kitchens. Written by Jane Powell and Linda Svendsen. 2000. Call no. 643.3 POW.
  • Bungalows: Design ideas for renovating, remodeling, and building new. Written by M. Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman. 2002. Call no. 728.373 CON.
  • The California Bungalow. Written by Robert Winter. 1980. Call no. 728.373 WIN.
  • California Bungalows of the Twenties. Written by Henry L. Wilson. 1862, 1993. Call no. 728.37 WIL.


  • Red Tile Style: America’s Spanish Revival architecture. Written by Arrol Gellner. 2002. Call no. 728.37 GEL.


  • Victorian Exterior Decoration: How to paint your nineteenth-century American house historically. Written by Roger W. Moss and Gail Caskey Winkler. 1987. Call no. 698.12 MOS.

Other Research Locations: Online

Los Angeles County Department of Public Works - Land Records ViewerThis website allows viewers to type in an address, or select a map location, to view multiple layers of maps, including parcel maps and tract maps, which can be of historical interest, as they sometimes include the names of land owners at the time the land was sub-divided.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Works - City Annexations within the County of Los Angeles: This website allows users to type in an address, or select a map location, to view the date an annexation took place. This is helpful in understanding when (or whether) your home became part of the City of Whittier.

Los Angeles County Office of the Assessor - Property Assessment Information System: This website allows users to find a property by address, intersection, or map location, and view property details. Of local history interest is a link within Parcel Details to "View Assessor Map". This is a map of the initial development of your home's neighborhood, which can be useful in understanding the context of your home's history.

National Geologic Map Database - Topoview: This website allows users to search or click on a map of the United States to view historic maps created by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). As of 2018, searching by location for "Whittier, California" yields 42 maps that cover the Whittier area, ranging from 1896-1981. These maps can be useful in understanding the historical context of a house or building's surrounding neighborhood and town.

Mapping InequalityMapping Inequality is a project of the University of Richmond, the University of Maryland, Virginia Tech, and Johns Hopkins University that provides access to more than 150 interactive maps and thousands of "area descriptions" produced by the Home Owners' Loan Corporation during the Great Depression. These maps and descriptions were used to determine whether a home loan would be approved, based on the racial and ethnic makeup of the neighborhood in which the home resided. Coverage includes Whittier and the surrounding areas.

Other Research Locations: In Person

Whittier City Hall Building & Safety: 13230 Penn Street, Whittier, Calif. (562) 567-9320. Building permit records are sometimes available here. These can help with ascertaining the date of construction, as well as alterations made to your home.

Whittier City Hall Planning Services, Historic Preservation: 13230 Penn Street, Whittier, Calif. (562) 567-9320. Before beginning alterations or rehabilitation on your historic home, it is important to find out which City planning ordinances apply to your home and how to obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness, if one is required.

Whittier Historical Society & Museum: 6755 Newlin Avenue, Whittier, Calif. (562) 945-3871. The Whittier Museum, a private, nonprofit institution owned and operated by the Whittier Historical Society, maintains collections of historical photographs, Name Files (collections of clippings similar in character to the library’s Vertical Files), maps, and local history books. Archives research is available by appointment, and free for Museum members.

Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder, Real Estate Records: (562) 462-2133. The Real Estate Records section of the Registrar-Recorder’s office maintains records of all real estate transactions in Los Angeles County from 1850 to the present. If you know the title of and names on the document, as well as the year of range of years to be searched, you may obtain a copy of a historical real estate record.

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