Modesto History Center Online Resources


Use these online resources to help you with your research into Modesto’s history, architecture, and landscapes. You will also find links to information helpful to explore your own history, that of your family, your neighborhood, or of your community in Modesto, and the preservation and restoration of your landscape or building.

House and Property Research

If you are researching a house, a building, or piece of property in Modesto, we suggest you start your project by reading and completing the tasks in the Modesto Art Museum publication, Researching Your Modesto Property, and reading the Smithsonian guide to exploring your house history: House Detective: Finding History in Your Home

Virtual Workshop
Modesto House History Workshop

Property Patents, Land Grants, Homesteads, Deeds, and Wills
Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records
Western Pacific Railroad Land Grants in Modesto and Surrounding Area, 1871
Central Pacific Railroad Land Grants in Modesto and Surrounding Area, 1872
Stanislaus County Records of Deeds-Indexes Only, 1854 to 1898
To see deed images you will need to go to the main Stanislaus County Library.
Stanislaus County Wills, 1872 to 1908

Modesto Building Survey of 1984
In 1984, a survey of many buildings constructed from 1870 to 1942 was completed by the Stanislaus County Historical Society. It was updated in the 1990s by Carey & Co. and is available in two digital versions. The city version, with sections missing or repeated, is available in one volume here. The Stanislaus County Library version, in three volumes, Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, is also incomplete. There is still information in both versions for your research.

House and Architecture Identification Resources and Catalogues
Identifying a Sears House
The Craftsman Style Guide
Aladdin Sales Catalogues 1906 – 1954
California Bungalows 1915
Montgomery Ward 1911, Montgomery Ward 1916
Model and Modern Bungalow Plans – California, c. 1911
Radford’s Artistic Bungalows 1908
Redwood Home Plans by California Architects 1925
Redwood Home Plans by California Architects 1927
Sears Catalog Homes
Stickley Craftsman Homes 1912
The Blue Book of California Bungalows c. 1920
Modesto Architecture Guides Five different tour guides to help you explore Modesto’s architectural heritage starting in the 19th century and continuing to the Modernist period.
Modesto Historic Structure Reports Various types of detailed reports on a growing collection of historic Modesto structures

Modesto History Resources

Use these resources to help you research the history of your family, neighborhood, or communities in Modesto.

Historic Maps of Modesto and Stanislaus County
Historic Maps of Modesto Neighborhoods, Tracts, and Colonies
Library of Congress collection of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Modesto
Topographic Maps Modesto East 1914, Modesto East 1939, Modesto West 1913
1906 Map of Stanislaus County
1920 Map of Modesto
1930s Map of Modesto
Stanislaus County GIS Maps
Modesto GIS Maps and Parcel Information

Historic Photographs
UC Santa Barbara Historic Aerial Photographs of California
Calisphere Use search term Modesto
Library of Congress

Historic Newspapers
There are no historic Modesto newspapers on any free sites, but the following two free sites have newspapers that often covered events in Modesto.
California Digital Newspaper Collection
Chronicling America – Library of Congress

The best archives for research in the immediate area are the Special Collections Room in the main branch of the Stanislaus County Library, the Modesto city archive in the basement of the McHenry Museum, and the archive in the library at CSU Stanislaus.

In the region, the California State Archive in Sacramento, the California Historical Society and the Society of California Pioneers, both in San Francisco, are good places to check, and the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. Access to archives is usually limited, so call before you visit.

Ebook Editions of Modesto History Resources
Note: None of these are scholarly works and have misinformation.
History of Stanislaus County, by L.C. Branch, Elliot and Moore, San Francisco, 1881
History of Stanislaus County by George Tinkham, Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, 1921
The Story of Stanislaus by John Barnham, Modesto Herald, Modesto, 1914
Stanislaus County by Stanislaus Board of Trade, Modesto, 1902
Modesto, The Automobile Gateway to Yosemite by Modesto Chamber of Commerce, Modesto, 1913

Other Resources
Polk Husted Directory for Modesto, Turlock, & Stanislaus County, 1915
Genealogical Society of Stanislaus County

Preservation, Restoration, and Reuse

Introduction to Historic Preservation
24 Reasons Historic Preservation is Good for Your Community
Top Ten Myths about Historic Preservation
Why Do Old Places Matter

Restoration and Rehabilitation Resources
Rehab Right, though from Oakland in the 1970s, this publication will help you protect your investment in your property.

Free Online Journals and Periodicals
These publications often mention building projects in Modesto including houses. Use search term Modesto or the name of an architect. They are also helpful to learn about the architectural details of the era when your building was designed to aid in restoration, conservation, and preservation.

Architectural Record, 1891-2018, in USModernist Library
Architect and Engineer of California, 1905-1940s, Hathi Trust Digital Library
Daily Pacific Builder, 1907-1912, San Francisco Public Library
Southwest Contractor and Manufacturer 1909-1917, Hathi Trust Digital Library
Building & Industrial News, 1911-1914, San Francisco Public Library Site
Building & Engineering News , 1911-1930, Internet Archive
Arts and Architecture, 1912-1943, Hathi Trust Digital Library, AIA San Francisco
Southwest Builder and Contractor, 1917-1922, Hathi Trust Digital Library
Architect and Engineer 1920s-1950s, Internet Archive
Pacific Constructor, 1932-1939, Internet Archive

Free online collections of many architecture journals, especially covering the mid 20th century modern period, are part of the US Modernist Library.

For valuable preservation, conservation, and restoration information use the Building Technology Heritage Library at the Internet Archive. “The Building Technology Heritage Library (BTHL) is primarily a collection of American and Canadian, pre-1964 architectural trade catalogs, house plan books, and technical building guides. Trade catalogs are an important primary source to document past design and construction practices. These materials can aid in the preservation, restoration, and conservation of older structures.”

Local, State, National, and International Preservation Organizations
Modesto Landmark Preservation Program
National Trust for Historic Preservation
California Office of Historic Preservation Instructions for DPR 523 Forms DPR 523 Forms
California Preservation Foundation
Preservation Directory
California Main Street Alliance
International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property

Other Helpful Web Resources
Googie Architecture Online
Online Archive of California