Some of the greatest cultural landmarks and civic achievements in Los Angeles resulted from its philanthropic spirit. Here is a chronology dating from the last century.

1919: Railway Treasure
Henry Huntington and his wife Arabella started an organization to make their library and art collection available to the public. In 1924, the Huntingtons gave art treasures, buildings, land, investments and cash worth $13 million at that time, it was the largest single sum ever donated by an individual in Southern California to the project. The Huntington Library Art Collections and Botanical Gardens opened to the public in 1928 and remain popular today.

1924: Better Way
The predecessor of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles was founded, bringing together 166 agencies and raising nearly $2.5 million from 168,000 donors. Originally called the Los Angeles Community Chest, the organization decentralized into five regional operations in 1971. The name United Way originated in Los Angeles in 1963 when 30 community chests and funds combined. By 2005, the United Way had an annual income of $59.4 million and supported 200 local agencies.

1937: Nazi Response
The Los Angeles Jewish Council was incorporated. As Jewish immigrants fled the Nazis, their numbers swelled in Southern California. The council controlled the United Jewish Welfare Fund, which coordinated local and foreign philanthropy projects. Another group, the Jewish Community Committee, emerged as the forerunner to today's Community Relations Committee, which combats discrimination and anti-Semitism.

1945: Going to War
The Los Angeles Area War Chest raised a record $1.1 million, thanks to 24,741 individual donors. The campaign enjoyed the backing of Hollywood guilds and unions. When a Time magazine article scolded the film industry for not supporting charities, P.G. Winnett, co-founder of the Bullocks department store chain and chairman of the War Chest, responded by saying Hollywood's record of giving was "a convincing example for less civic-minded groups."

1954: Oil Wealth
The Getty Museum opened in Pacific Palisades. The original collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, 18th-century French furniture, and European paintings were exhibited in J. Paul Getty's ranch house. In 1974, the collection moved to a newly constructed Roman villa based on an original at Herculaneum. Getty's death in 1976 left $700 million worth of stock to the museum, but lawsuits blocked access to the money until 1982. In 1997, the paintings moved to the Getty Center, a white-stone, billion-dollar landmark on a hilltop in Brentwood.

1964: Cultural Pride
The Los Angeles Music Center opened. Dorothy Chandler of the L.A. Times publishing family had waged a 10-year campaign to build a permanent home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic that gathered big donations from the city's wealthy elite. The buildings were named for some of the major donors: the Mark Taper Forum, the (Howard) Ahmanson Theater, and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The effort was successful in no small part from the desire to show that Los Angeles was now a leading cultural center.

1965: Visual Arts
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art opened, thanks to $12 million in donations. Celebrity donors included William Randolph Hearst, J. Paul Getty, Edward Carter, the Lytton Foundation, Anna Bing Arnold, and Howard Ahmanson. A drive in the 1980s to expand and renovate the museum raised $209 million. Today's museum features buildings named after Ahmanson, Bing, Armand Hammer, and Robert Anderson.

2002: Academic Excellence
The University of Southern California concluded its "Building on Excellence" campaign after raising $2.9 billion. The largest gifts were $120 million by Walter Annenberg to establish the USC Annenberg Center for Communication, $110 million from the W.M. Keck Foundation to rename the USC Keck School of Medicine and $100 million from Alfred Mann to establish the Alfred E. Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering.

2003: Mickey's Music
Walt Disney Concert Hall opened at the Music Center. Lillian Disney, Walt's widow, originally donated $50 million but the final budget ballooned to $274 million. In 1995, the county threatened to halt the project unless volunteers could raise $52 million in two years. Billionaire Eli Broad and Mayor Richard Riordan stepped into the breach, gathering a $10 million commitment from Arco and $25 million from the Walt Disney Co. to put the builders back to work. In the end, donations from the Disney family totaled more than $100 million.

2003: Cutting Edge Medicine
The foundation of Hollywood mogul David Geffen donated $200 million in unrestricted funds to the UCLA School of Medicine. It marked the largest individual gift ever to the University of California. The gift also changed the institution's name to the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

... But some L.A. plans ran into roadblocks.

1951: Sounds of Silence
The Hollywood Bowl closed for lack of money. Dorothy Chandler formed an emergency committee and managed to save the season when orchestra musicians agreed to forfeit their wages. The following year, Chandler merged the Southern California Symphony Association with the Hollywood Bowl Association to provide year-round music and consolidate finances.

1998: Fallen Angels
Artist Brett-Livingstone Strong proposed the City of Angels Monument. The project, designed to create a symbol on the scale of New York's Statue of Liberty or Paris' Eiffel Tower, would have covered 122 acres near downtown dominated by a 750-foot high tower supporting a gigantic angel. Although backers secured loans for some land, the $3.6 billion development never gained momentum or donors. An eminent domain action by the Los Angeles Unified School District finally killed the project to little notice.

1998: Stalemate
Biotech entrepreneur Al Mann pledged $100 million each to USC and alma mater UCLA to build biomedical research institutes. USC built its facility but the UCLA center didn't get off the ground as the entrepreneur and the University of California failed to come to an agreement over intellectual property rights for discoveries at the institute.

2003: Demolition
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art abandoned a $300 million renovation plan. Architect Rem Koolhaus' design would have demolished most of the museum's existing structures, including the Robert O. Anderson Building, finished in 1986. Eli Broad offered $50 million, but the plan collapsed when other donors balked at funding it. Two years later, a stripped down renovation proposal got off the ground.

2005: Empty Chair
A Los Angeles court acknowledged a giver's right to revoke money. In 2000, Woodland Hills-based L.B. Research & Educational Foundation gave UCLA a $1 million donation for an endowed chair in cardiothoracic surgery. Three years later, L.B. sued for breach of contract, saying the school hadn't found a qualified candidate. UCLA maintained the money had established a charitable trust so only the state attorney general could regulate it. A state appeals court disagreed. The case remains unresolved, and the chair remains vacant.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.