The Mission of Rancho Los Cerritos Historic Site
The mission of Rancho Los Cerritos Historic Site is to restore and preserve the structure and grounds; collect appropriate resources; and interpret the relationship of the Rancho’s diverse peoples, from Native American times through the 1940s, to the development of the Long Beach area.
This will be accomplished through a broad spectrum of educational programs, exhibits and publications designed to provide local residents, students and other visitors with an understanding of the forces that shaped this region.
To support the Mission Statement, the following objectives have been established:
- to conduct, encourage, produce and share scholarly research on the history of Rancho Los Cerritos
- to advocate, preserve and manage the site’s historical, architectural, botanical and archaeological resources
- to collect, preserve and manage appropriate and authentic artifacts
- to develop innovative and effective interpretive programs on Rancho Los Cerritos history
- to supplement the teaching of local and Southern California history in the classroom
- to encourage local history instruction in the schools and colleges
- to expand resources and increase accessibility of the archives, research files and research library
Focus of Rancho Collections
The adobe ranch house, built in 1844, is the most important “artifact” at Rancho Los Cerritos, and the museum collections are aimed toward researching and sharing information about the house. For this reason, the most important collections include objects and archival materials that are directly associated with the Rancho and its owners, occupants and workers from prehistoric times through 1955.
The museum also collects artifacts, primary documents and photographs needed for research, exhibition and educational purposes in keeping with the mission statement. These items may be originals or items representative of those once found at the Rancho.
Furnishings in the exhibit rooms depict the work and leisure of both the owners and workers on a 19th century ranch. Handcrafted and mass produced objects demonstrate the changes occurring in America’s Victorian years, as well as the transition from a rural landscape to populated cities. Using various Bixby family reminiscences, many of the rooms are furnished with furniture, glass, ceramics, metals and tools from the 1870s.
The museum’s collections include more than 1,000 items of clothing and textiles from the 1830s-1930s. There are also over 1,100 historic photographic views of the rancho and its occupants, and various maps, letters, deeds and other documents relating to the site.
Highlights from the Collections
- the 1866 deed, signed by John Temple, transferring ownership of Rancho Los Cerritos to Flint, Bixby & Co.
- a pair of oil portraits of John Temple and Rafaela Cota de Temple, painted in 1856 by pioneer California portrait artist William S. Jewett
- John Temple’s branding iron
- an 1860s velocipede (child’s horse tricycle)
- a bookcase built ca. 1871 in the Rancho’s blacksmith shop
- a Howe treadle sewing machine of 1872
- 1882 California-style stock saddle
- oil portraits by Sarah Bixby Smith and Fanny Bixby Spencer
- hair wreaths and shell pictures representing popular 19th century women’s handicrafts
Rancho Los Cerritos is designated as site number “LAn 696,” which refers to its registry in Los Angeles County as part of a statewide archaeological survey. The grounds under and surrounding the adobe are rich in archaeological materials. The site includes known trash pits from the 1840s-50s and from the 1870s-80s. The cache of “cogged stones” discovered in 1930 suggests that people have called this site home for at least 5,000 to 7,000 years.
The California History Research Library contains more than 3,000 books on California history, both rare volumes and current publications, and also books on decorative arts and museum studies. It is a non-circulating reference center and is cataloged through the Long Beach Public Library. The research library is available by appointment with the historical curator, Sarah Wolk FitzGerald at:
Museum Archives and Research Files
The Archives contains original documents, maps, blueprints, photographs and sound and image recordings directly associated with the Rancho and its owners, occupants and workers. Highlights include the Sarah Bixby Smith Manuscript Collection, Llewellyn Bixby, Jr. Manuscript collection, a series of 1872 stereograph cards of Rancho Los Cerritos by William Godfrey of Los Angeles, photographs of the site from 1872 through the 1940s, and architectural blueprints of the adobe during the 1930 remodel.
The Research Files consist of documents, articles, research notes and photographs collected to support research and further the mission of the museum. Access to these collections is by appointment only.