The Long Beach Museum of Art is a museum located on Ocean Boulevard in the Buff Park neighborhood of Long Beach, California.
The Museum’s permanent collection includes approximately 3,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, works on paper, and decorative arts objects. Particular strengths include American decorative arts objects, early 20th century European art, California Modernism, and contemporary art of California.
The house occupied by the Long Beach Museum of Art was built in 1912 as a summer home by Elizabeth Milbank Anderson, a wealthy philanthropist and heir to Jeremiah Milbank, who was a financier, a co-founder of the Borden Company, and a founder of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. According to Fortune Magazine, “a number of Milbanks have been considerable figures in the industrial history of the U.S. and the family has also left its mark on the educational and medical institutions of the country…” (May 1959).
Elizabeth Milbank Anderson (1850–1921) was an energetic, strong-minded woman with a wide range of interests. She was a successful businesswoman, philanthropist and art collector who traveled frequently to Europe. In 1905 she established the Milbank Memorial Fund, which gave grants to various medical and educational projects; this fund is still in existence. She donated a library to Greenwich, Connecticut, and gave three blocks of choice New York City land to Barnard College, upon which was built Milbank Hall. She built public facilities for the poor, such as a sports arena and public baths, and established a program of free school lunches. Her husband, Abram A. Anderson, was a well-known portrait painter and friend of Teddy Roosevelt.
In 1926, the house became Long Beach’s first social, athletic and beach club, the Club California Casa Real.
From 1929 to 1944, Thomas A. O’Donnell, a pioneer industrialist of the California oil industry, owned the house. He developed the Coalinga field, helped organize American Petroleum Corporation and became president of California Petroleum Co. and the first CEO of the American Petroleum Institute.
During World War II, the house was the U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer’s Club. It was purchased by the City of Long Beach in 1950 for a Municipal Art Center, and designated in 1957 as the Long Beach Museum of Art. Today, while the Museum is still owned by the City of Long Beach, its day-to-day operations are handled by a private foundation, the Long Beach Museum of Art Foundation. In the late 1990s, the Foundation undertook a major capital campaign to fund the complete restoration of the historic facilities, relocation of the carriage house and construction of a new two-story exhibition pavilion. The project was completed in September, 2000.
The Elizabeth Milbank Anderson House and carriage house (now the Miller Education Center) were designed and built by the Milwaukee Building Company, an influential architectural firm that did other work for the Milbank family and associates. In 1911, Isaac Milbank, co-founder of the Borden Milk Company and an oil investor, had a magnificent Craftsman summer home constructed for him in Santa Monica by the Milwaukee Building Company. At the same time, the Milwaukee Building Company constructed a similar home on the same street in Santa Monica for retired hotel proprietor Henry Weaver, who owned several Midwest hotels.
The Milwaukee Building Company later became the Los Angeles firm of Meyer and Holler, an eminent firm that constructed numerous landmark buildings. Their most famous designs were the Chinese and Egyptian Theaters in Hollywood. In Long Beach, they designed the Ocean Center Building, Walker’s Department Store, and the Fox West Coast Theater (now demolished).