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 in the preservation and restoration of your landscape or building.

House and Property Research

If you are doing research into a house 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

Historic Property Patents, Land Grants, Homesteads, and Deeds
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

House and Architecture Identification Resources and Catalogues
The Summer 2009 edition of the Stanislaus Historical Quarterly has an article about house architecture in the Modesto area from the 1870s to the early 20th century.
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

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
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

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

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
Polk Husted Directory for Modesto, Turlock, & Stanislaus County, 1915

Historic Preservation

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, and National Preservation Organizations
Modesto Landmark Preservation Program
National Trust for Historic Preservation
California Preservation Foundation
California Main Street Alliance

Other Helpful Web Resources
Googie Architecture Online
Online Archive of California