Museum History

museumfrontThe Long Beach Heritage Museum, Long Beach, California, started in 1961 when Ken Larkey put on a photo display of the 1933 earthquake at the Long Beach Recreation Department hobby show. The display featured some of the photos and picture postcards that he had been collecting since he was nine years old. The exhibit was so popular that his booth was crowded every day. This convinced him to find a permanent home where people could see his collection of Long Beach memorabilia.

In February of 1971 Long Beach’s first Historical Museum was open at the northwest corner of First Street and Linden Avenue, then called the “Queen of the Beaches Museum.” After a few years the Museum was moved to Third and Elm, just east of the main post office downtown. It was then renamed the Long Beach Heritage Museum, to avoid confusion with Queen Mary exhibits. It was open to the public free of charge as the only Long Beach historical museum. Among the many activities at the Museum was the presentation of historical movie and slide shows in the forty-five seat theater with a complete stereo sound system and footlights on stage, with a grand curtain in front of the silver screen. Over the next 20 years many historical artifacts and other memorabilia were added to the collection.

In 1994, the Museum’s 1917 building on Third Street was declared as substandard by the city building and safety department and was demolished. Since then the collection has been in storage, viewable only through photographs in the newsletter or on this site. Many of the items are now on display in local businesses. New displays are always being added. See the latest listing of community displays.

Museum Collections

sodaThe Museum has the only roller coaster car left from the famous Pike Cyclone Racer (now restored and on display at Looff’s Lite-A-Line), the last drug store soda fountain in the city from the Harriman Jones drug store, artifacts from the Pacific Coast Club, a wooden clothes washer built in 1916 in Long Beach, and an eleven-foot long, solid redwood surfboard used by Long Beach lifeguards in the 1930’s (now displayed at Polly’s Gourmet Coffee). There are also old telephones used throughout Long Beach, old wooden telephone booths, and grocery/drug store windows full of brand name products of years gone by.

There are more than a thousand black and white photos, which show samples of life in Long Beach over the years. There are also historic documents, rare photographs, old clocks, radios, a steam radiator, a wooden ice box, an old cook stove, kitchen utensils, and much more.

Residents truly interested in preserving our heritage from the past frequently donate historical documents, scrapbooks, framed pictures, medals and other souvenirs. Please contact us if you have items to donate.

The Collection page shows you just a few of the interesting items, photos, and postcards in the Museum collection. Learn more about Long Beach history through the Museum and other organizations.