Explore Your Home’s History

When Matthew Dubois purchased a Victorian house on Scott Avenue in 2001, he not only became a homeowner but a historic researcher. Here are the resources he used to track down his home’s interesting history—which had been moved twice and once served as a restaurant—and its previous owners.

Click here to read the article written by Dubois.

Research Resources

Los Angeles Conservancy

Historical Research Guide
A helpful and comprehensive site to help you research your home using online resources.

Los Angeles Building & Safety Dept.

Building & Safety Records Counter
201 N. Figueroa 1st Flr. Rm. 110, Downtown Los Angeles
Click here for hours and other details

Building permits, which date back to 1905, and other documents can provide you with such valuable information as the original owner and archictect of your home. You can also find estimated construction costs and can track building additions and remodeling projects over the decades.

Copies cost $1.50 each. Be aware that it can take as long as one hour to obtain a copy in person during peak times, such as early morning. You can also request permit copies by fax and phone.

Los Angeles Central Library

630 W. Fifth St., Downtown Los Angeles
Click here for hours and other details

The History Department is where Matthew found the City Directories, a listing of city residents and businesses. In many cases, the listings not only to identify the occupants located at a certain address but their occupation as well. Some of the directories are now online.

The History Department is also where you will find Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, detailed city maps created for property insurance purposes. These are extremely detailed and include the location of buildings on lots and sometimes a description as well.

You can also search digital versions of the Sanborn Maps from home by going to the database section of the library’s web site: www.lapl.org. However, you will need a library membership number to gain access to the Sanborn maps.

In the central library’s Science & Technology department, copies of Los Angeles Builder & Contractor magazine helped Matthew by providing comprehensive listings of city building permits and other information.

Los Angeles County Assessor

500 W. Temple St., Room 205
Hours: M-F 7:30 am – 5 pm
Phone: (888) 807-2111

Gaps in city building permit information can sometimes be filled with a trip to the Los Angeles County Assessor. Here is where you can view old property tax records, maps and other documents. You can also click on the link above to view information online by using an interactive map.

The staff will show you how to use the in-house computers to conduct your search but you might have to wait to use them (there are 5 terminals in the downtown office). The computer search is free but you will be charged to make copies. So, bring cash.

Be prepared to make more than one trip because some old property tax documents are located nearby in the Los Angeles County Archives.