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2016 Tours

Downtown Long Beach Art Deco Walking Tour: Saturday, October 15, 2016
Time:  10:30 AM – 12:30 PM (2 Hours)
Location:   WPA Mural, Harvey Milk Park, Promenade and Third St. (3 block walk north)
Limited to 25 people

Join local expert John Thomas on a delightful walking tour to learn about the development of Long Beach and the buildings that help tell the story. The tour will highlight Long Beach’s wealth of elegant historic buildings, many  in the Art Deco and Streamline Modern Styles built in the 1920s during a Million Dollar a Month building boom.  The facades of several of Long Beach’s older buildings were replaced with these “new” styles following the devastating 1933 earthquake.  The tour includes access inside buildings such as the Lafayette Hotel, an Art Deco masterpiece finished in 1929.

John Thomas is a noted Art Deco and Streamline Modern author and collector, president of the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, and volunteer extraordinaire for the Historical Society of Long Beach and Long Beach Heritage. The tour begins at the WPA Mural at Third Street and the Promenade, directly northeast of the Renaissance Hotel.

A little historic background:  The history of the area’s land and people might begin with scattered Tongva villages, followed by the Spanish land grant era in 1780s.  California was ceded to the United States in 1848 following the Mexican-American War.  By the mid-1870s, local large ranch owner, Jotham Bixby, was selling off Rancho Los Cerritos land parcels for development.  Thus, Long Beach was founded in 1880s partly as a resort destination named for the nine mile stretch of beach between the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers. (The Renaissance Hotel location at Pine Avenue and Ocean Blvd is at the heart of the tiny coastal town’s beginnings). The Pike Amusement Park and beach area welcomed an estimated 30,000 visitors to the town of around 5000 upon the opening of a Pacific Electric Railroad line on the 4th of July, 1902. Adding an identity as a “port town” began in 1911, a Navy town in 1919 with the arrival of the Pacific Fleet, and an oil town in 1921with the discovery of oil on Signal Hill. Like most historic downtowns, the struggle to reinvent itself and preserve historic buildings is ongoing after urban sprawl, freeways, and shopping malls drew people away. Enjoy a view of new vibrant restaurants, hotels, condos, apartment buildings, shops, and businesses alongside reinvention and reuse of the old!


Museum of Latin American Art Tour (623 Alamitos Ave.)  (
Time:  Sunday, October 16, 2016 1:00 pm – 3:30pm
Meet:  In front of Renaissance Hotel for bus ride, car pool, or tram ride depending on number who sign up.

The Museum of Latin American Art is the only art museum dedicated to contemporary Latin American Art in the United States.  To celebrate MoLAA’s twenty year anniversary, rotating exhibits feature some of the best of the MoLAA collection from artists such as Tamayo, Botero, Matta, Cruz-Diez, Los Carpinteros, and Tunga.  October is also the month of elaborate Dia de los Muertos installations; and a new Port to Learning gallery features local artists. Our tour guide, Paula Reynozo Isenberg, has eight years of experience as a guide and lecturer, leading visitors into a deeper understanding of the artists and their work.

Founder Robert Gumbiner, a physician who established FHP HMO, dedicated his retirement and his wealth to building MoLAA into a world recognized museum.  The museum structure is an intriguing example of creative reuse of an historic site.  Balboa Studios developed the site from 1913-1917–the most innovative and productive film studio at the time with stars such as Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton.  Starting in 1920, a roller skating rink entertained young and old.  Now the 30,000 square feet museum combines both buildings. Tucked in the middle is an enchanting outdoor sculpture garden. The museum complex includes a lovely small gift shop and a restaurant.