SMHPS History

How we began

1931 was the 50th anniversary of Sierra Madre’s founding, a milestone that citizens of our town knew called for a grand celebration, so that year a group of them assembled in the parlor of the Congregational Church and together founded the Sierra Madre Historical Society, not only to plan the anniversary celebration, but also to be able to participate in a remarkable upcoming series of events, the festivities that would be surrounding the 1932 Olympic games in Los Angeles. 

What we’ve done 

Over the intervening years, besides holding an ongoing stream of talks, tours and events, and publishing smaller, targeted literature, the Historical Society, along with its volunteers and supporters, achieved the following: 

In 1950, we published a collection of accounts by and about the original settlers, Annals of Early Sierra Madre; the Pioneer History of Sierra Madre, California, complete with old photographs. We are now working on republishing that landmark book, with the original photos enhanced, and new ones added. 

In 1972, we began what would turn out to be a successful campaign to construct a bell tower in Kersting Court. 

In the 1970s, we began restoring two City-owned side-by-side circa 1890 structures, a small restaurant (Lizzie’s Trail Inn) and a pioneer residence (the Richardson House) that have since become our charming town museums, showcasing the history of Sierra Madre.

The restoration of the Richardson House began in 1972 and was complete in 1975; the restoration of Lizzie’s Trail Inn began in 1975, and its doors opened for tours July 4th, 1976, the Bicentennial of our nation. We still continue to staff and maintain our museums, and to constantly add to the exhibits. At our museums you can learn about our town’s history, and the pack trains, trails and mountain camps of early Sierra Madre. 

Also in that Bicentennial year of 1976, we published Sierra Madre Vistas, a first comprehensive history of Sierra Madre that included copious photographs. 

In the late 1980s/early 1990s, the Sierra Madre Preservation Society joined together with the Sierra Madre Historical Society, and our name was changed to the Sierra Madre Historical Preservation Society. 

After having gathered historical documents and photos for decades, and having stored them here and there, in the 1980s we requested that the Sierra Madre Library house them. Then in 1999, we and the library formally became co-owners of the archives in order to make it possible for us to successfully apply for a grant to fund an archivist to put them in order. Over time, we have gathered a significant collection of photographs, printed matter and ephemera which are available to scholars and other inquiring minds. 

We created an oral history program to capture old-timers’ memories for posterity. This program is still very active and on-going. 

We placed plaques at several of Sierra Madre’s historic properties, identifying them as significant. 

In 2009, we published Michele Zack’s impressive, extensively-illustrated history of our town and the forces that shaped it, Southern California Story; Seeking the Better Life in Sierra Madre, which garnered major awards for Ms. Zack and the book’s designer, Jeff Lapides. 

In 2013, the Teen Docent program was instituted, thanks to a grant from the California State Library and funding from the state, with additional funds provided by us. 

In 2016, we had our website completely redesigned, with a great deal of new content added.