While PDHC continues to digitize historic documents and photographs, there is a significant amount of material that exists only in paper format. The following is a list of libraries and special collections that have significant holdings related to Pasadena history. Some of the libraries or special collections included in this list have limited hours or are open by appointment only. Always call ahead to check schedules and to make an appointment if necessary.
A number of surrounding communities have their own local historical societies, historic preservation organizations, and public libraries that are not listed here. The researcher should also keep in mind that many still-active organizations and businesses maintain their own archive and should be approached for information they might have on a specific topic.
Altadena Historical Society
Since the borderline between Pasadena and the unincorporated community of Altadena has always been rather fuzzy, the archives of the Altadena Historical Society also contain information about people and places in northern Pasadena. Their collection is especially strong in the history of the San Gabriel Mountains and the Mt. Lowe Railway. The “house history” files of Altadena Heritage, the local historic preservation organization, may also be of interest.
California Institute of Technology
Einstein Papers Project
California State Library
California History Section
Contains a number of aerial photographic views of the Pasadena area.
Glendale Public Library
Includes a number of unique photographs of Pasadena. Open on a limited basis – call ahead.
Greene & Green Digital Archive
A major center for the study of these important Pasadena architects and the arts and crafts movement. Also contains some material on other architects of the era. Also check out the Greene & Green Digital Archive digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/p15799coll61
A great photograph and manuscript archives of local history. Authorized researchers only. Several hundred of their Pasadena photographs are on this website already.
La Canada and Flintridge were, for many years, unincorporated County territories. Flintridge, especially, depended on Pasadena for its commercial, educational, and cultural needs. The Lanterman House archives contain the historical documents and photographs of the La Canada Flintridge Historical Society, which dissolved in 1999. Some historical files can also be found at the La Canada Flintridge branch of the Los Angeles County Public Library.
Los Angeles Public Library
The oldest public collection of local history in Southern California. The “California Index” contains many citations to articles on Pasadena history, people, and buildings. Pasadena scenes can be found in the Library’s photo collections, which also include the old Security Pacific collection and the Examiner and Herald-Examiner photo morgues. A number of the Library’s databases, including the “California Index”, are now available online at the website. The Los Angeles Times, Historical Archives database is especially valuable, but can only be accessed at an LAPL branch.
Mountain View Cemetery
2400 North Fair Oaks Avenue
Altadena, CA 91001
Many Pasadena pioneer families are interred here. The Cemetery office has biographical and obituary materials on file. Because of limited staffing, it is imperative that you call ahead with your question.
Pasadena, City of
Maintains a City government records center
Public Health Department
Keeps a file of death certificates of all who died in Pasadena. File is by date of death, not by name.
Design & Historic Preservation Section
Planning & Permitting Department
Maintains an archive dealing with histories and architecture of Pasadena buildings. The archives are closed to the public, but their files on architects and builders can be viewed by appointment. Staff will research house histories for callers as their time permits. (Note: Fees are charged for this service)
Keeps a file of research undertaken for documentation of past house and neighborhood tours. May be viewed by appointment only.
Pasadena Museum of History, Research Library & Archives
Maintains the largest local photographic collection and owns many unique books, manuscripts, directories, oral history transcripts, postcards, architectural drawings, ephemera, and maps. Its special collections include: Tournament of Roses, Black History, Pasadena Star-News photo morgue, and the papers of architects, such as Sylvanus Marston.
Pasadena Public Library, Centennial Room
A strong complement to the Pasadena Museum of History’s collections. The Library maintains a number of important files, including news-clippings, biographical material, architectural history, and complete runs of old Pasadena newspapers and periodicals, in hard-copy and/or on microfilm.
Regional History Center, University of Southern California
Although primarily a collection of Los Angeles city history, this archive contains a number of Pasadena photographs and other material, including the Title Insurance & Tryst photograph collection, Herald photo morgue, and the archives of the Historical Society of Southern California.
San Marino Historical Society
A number of influential people in the Pasadena area maintained homes and businesses in San Marino. The Society has photographs and manuscripts in its collections located in the Thurnher House in Lacy Park. Other files can be found in the collection of the San Marino Public Library.
Seaver Center for Western History Research/Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Contains many photographs and other materials on the Pasadena area. Call for an appointment.
Sherman Foundation Library
Has some early Pasadena maps and other research materials.
Sierra Madre Public Library
Although a small incorporated town, long independent of Pasadena, Sierra Madre shares the same public school system and has much in common with its neighbor, especially in the history and development of the San Gabriel Mountains.
South Pasadena Library
South Pasadena has been an incorporated city almost as long as Pasadena has been. Sometimes a researcher will find that a historic person, although associated with Pasadena, actually lived in South Pasadena. The Library also houses the records of the City’s Cultural Heritage Commission.
Southern California Genealogical Society
A good source of direction as how to proceed in genealogical research.
Southwest Museum of the American Indian
Now a part of the Autry National Center, it contains collections of Indian and Mission period artifacts from the early days of the Pasadena area, in addition to more recent materials.
Tournament of Roses Association
Maintains an archive of Tournament programs, photographs, films, videos, and histories of the parade and football games. By appointment only.
University of California, Los Angeles
Charles E. Young Research Library Department of Special Collections
Contains some collections on Pasadena residents and architects.