Banning House

Also known as: The Gen. Phineas Banning Residence
401 E. M St., Wilmington, California


General Phineas Banning Residence


Photo from the Historic American Buildings Survey

View photos at Library of Congress


Street View 


The General Phineas Banning Residence consists of a 23 room house built in 1864 in the Greek Revival style. The residence is set in 20 acres of parkland and gardens. The property is located in the Wilmington district of the City of Los Angeles, California. Since 1927 the Department of Recreation and Parks of the City of Los Angeles has managed the buildings and gardens and currently does so in cooperation with the Friends of Banning Park, a private, non-profit foundation. There are no records indicating the name of any builder or architect. Many Banning family papers were lost in a fire in 1946 and there is little documentation to indicate the exact details of the structure's construction. The residence's stylistic details recall many Greek Revival houses in the northeast that would be familiar to Phineas Banning from his boyhood. Skilled craftsmen were available throughout California at this time and redwood lumber and brick would have been relatively easy for Banning to procure through his lumberyard, freighting and shipping activities. A historic structure report commissioned for the house in 1992 noted the similarities in construction between the Banning Residence and the Drum Barracks for which Phineas Banning was the contractor. Extended study of the house, however, convinced these architects that both the Drum Barracks and the Banning Residence must have had the direction of someone very experienced with architecture and must have been constructed by workmen with previous experience in the building of major structures. Although there have been some modifications over time, the Banning Residence is relatively unaltered since its construction and appears little changed from an 1873 photograph. The front, or south, elevation has had window alterations and the insertion of French doors in the position of the original windows. The basement, rear and side wings have also been modified and added to over time, as shown in the sketch below taken from the historic structures report. Interior changes have been generally limited to modernization of kitchen and bathrooms and have not substantially affected the historic arrangement of rooms. However, these changes were made by the Banning family as successive generations lived in the house and may themselves be considered historic. There have been no substantial changes since 1927. General Phineas Banning was a major contributor to Southern California's role in the building of a nation. Several historic themes show Phineas Banning's national vision: his creation and development of the Port of Los Angeles as a gateway for international commerce; his part in the establishment of a transcontinental railroad system; his accomplishments as a Union supporter in holding California for the Federal side during the Civil War; and finally his untiring efforts as a community builder - an Easterner who imposed Yankee values and cultural norms on the commerce, architecture and politics of the pre-existing social order of Hispanic California. The Banning Residence served as a focus for these activities. Banning's choice of Greek Revival architecture, regarded as the first genuinely American architectural style, connects California frontier life with the politics, democrat idealism and enterprise that formed the national character in the period 1830-1885. The Banning Residence was lived in by three generations of the Banning family until it and the surrounding land were acquired by the City of Los Angeles in 1927. Eighteen rooms of the house containing furniture and decorative elements added during 60 years of Banning family residence in the house are shown to the public during regular tours of the house and grounds. On January 11, 1935, Banning Park was officially made California Historical Landmark #147 and the residence was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. -- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS CA-2660)

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on May 6, 1971
Reference number
Architectural style
Area of significance
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic function
Single dwelling
Current function
Periods of significance
1875-1899; 1850-1874
Significant year
ca. 1863

Update Log 

  • May 4, 2017: New Street View added by Bill Eichelberger