As an architect, it is great to live and work in a city like Long Beach with so much going for it in terms of architecture. We have everything from Spanish Colonial Revival buildings to Art Deco structures to Renaissance Revival buildings and more. When it comes to historic homes, you can see craftsman-style homes, as well as Victorians and Spanish-style residences.
There are more than 100 historic landmarks in the city of Long Beach, (you can see the entire list here). So, if you wanted to start exploring the architecture in Long Beach, you could be busy for quite some time. The following buildings and homes are a few of our Long Beach architecture firm’s favorites, though there are many more worth seeing.
Municipal and Business Buildings in Long Beach with Architectural Significance
You may notice that there are a lot of buildings in Long Beach designed in the Art Deco and Streamline Modern styles. This is because a devastating 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck Long Beach in March of 1933 destroyed or damaged many of the existing structures at that time. Of those buildings that were rebuilt or repaired in subsequent years, many took on the Art Deco style because it was considered fashionably modern at the time. Art Deco was also the style of choice, since buildings designed in this style were often constructed with reinforced concrete and with decorative details that contributed to the buildings’ structural soundness—important considerations after a natural disaster that had caused more than $50 million in damage to the City of Long Beach.
One of the best Art Deco buildings in the city is the Rowan/Bradley Building on the corner of Pine Avenue and Broadway. On the second story of this 1930s building, you’ll find exquisite terra cotta work portraying various ocean motifs.
The Long Beach Skating Palace on Alamitos Street, another Art Deco masterpiece, was originally constructed as an auditorium, later converted to roller skating rink, and now houses the Palace Lofts. The exterior features various zigzags, chevrons, and geometric shapes that give it a lively façade. The interior has an open span arched ceiling.
Another building worth seeing for its architecture is the Long Beach Main Post Office, located in downtown Long Beach. While not as ornate as some other buildings of the era, the subdued design of the post office is still impressive. It is a great example of a Depression-era building constructed under the Public Works Administration (PWA). Its style is often referred to as “PWA Moderne” or “starved classicism.”
Notable Historic Homes in Long Beach
If you want to see a great example of a Victorian-style home, visit the Bembridge house on Park Circle Drive. Built in 1906, this well-preserved, ornate home features gorgeous woodwork inside, including a grand staircase and an intricately carved fireplace mantle. You also won’t want to miss the various stained glass windows and the original light fixtures. While you’re there, make sure you check out the home’s garden, which is lovingly maintained by volunteers, as well as the original carriage house and gazebo. Docent-led tours of the home are available every Tuesday afternoon and on the fourth Saturday of the month.
Another unique Long Beach residence is the so-called “Skinny House” on the corner of Gladys Avenue and 7th Street. This home has the distinction of being the narrowest freestanding house in the country, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Long before the tiny house movement became popular, a Long Beach man named Newton P. Rummonds built the tudor-style home on its 10-foot by 50-foot lot in 1932. As the story goes, he built the house to prove to the naysayers that a livable house could, in fact, be constructed on a lot of that size. The three-story, 860-square foot house is privately owned, and therefore not available for tours, but you can get a sense of the surprisingly well-appointed interior by taking a look at this YouTube video.
If you’d like to learn more about the amazing architecture in Long Beach, connect with Long Beach Heritage, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the city’s historical landmarks and promoting public awareness about them. The organization offers a wealth of resources on their website and also gives regular walking tours of Downtown Long Beach.
If you’re interested in creating your own piece of Long Beach architecture—either commercial or residential—contact us at M. Grisafe Architect. While we can’t promise that it will someday end up on the list of historical landmarks, we will make sure its design is everything you want in a home or place of business.