This museum and historic site is located in an adobe home that was built by Massachusetts-born John Temple in 1844 as the headquarters for his large cattle ranch. Today this adobe serves as a museum where visitors can enjoy tours of the home and its exhibits by docents. Between tours, exhibits, and a research library, Rancho Los Cerritos offers a variety of experiences designed to match the needs of each visitor from school children, adults, and academic researchers. First-time visitors can take a tour in a couple hours-just enough time to see each exhibit and ask questions about the history of Southern California from early 19th century when the area was controlled by Native tribes and the Spanish Empire to the mid-20th century when the property was acquired by the city of Long Beach.
Visitors can also learn about the expansion of settlers of Mexican and American descent into the area, and the territorial period of California and early statehood. Exhibits trace the heritage of the area and its economic transition from ranching to the growth of an urban community by the end of the 19th century. The complex includes a research library and a garden maintained to reflect the appearance of similar gardens during the second half of the 19th century.
The museum and library is located inside this historic Monterey-style adobe, along with artifacts and furnishings from the 19th century and exhibits drawn from the museum's collection of over a thousand items. The library contains over a thousand historic photos of the area and several thousand books on various aspects of California history. Open by appointment only, the library also offers a number of one-of-a-kind items like diaries, blueprints, letters, and official documents that can only be seen at the museum's archive. For example, the archive includes a set of early photographic images known as stereograph cards that allow researchers and visitors to the museum to see what Rancho Los Cerritos looked like in 1872.