Monday, April 26, 2010

Historic Bruce's Beach in Manhattan Beach

Bruce's Beach was a small beach resort in the city of Manhattan Beach, California, that was owned by and operated for African Americans. It provided the African American community with opportunities unavailable at other beach areas because of segregation.

As a result of racial friction from disgruntled white neighbors, the property was seized using eminent domain proceedings in the 1920s and closed down. Some of the area was eventually turned into a city park in the 1960s and renamed to bear the Bruce's Beach name in 2007.


George H. Peck (1856–1940), a wealthy developer and the founder of Manhattan Beach, "bucked" the practice of racial exclusion and set aside two city blocks of beachfront area and made them available for purchase by African Americans. Peck also developed "Peck's Pier," the only pier in the area open to African Americans.

Willa and Charles Bruce bought a property in the strand area that was set aside from Henry Willard for $1,225 in 1912, and added on with an additional three lots. They established a resort and named it for Mrs. Bruce.

The development included a bathhouse and dining house for blacks, whose access to public beaches was highly restricted. That a black-only beach resort would open up there was all the more notable because Manhattan Beach was "an otherwise lily-white community" and blacks only had limited access to beaches; Mrs. Bruce's initiative "defiantly transgressed these racial boundaries." It was not the only beach attraction available to blacks, there was also Peck's Pier and pavilion, on 34th Street, a section of Santa Monica State Beach referred to as the "Ink Well", and the Pacific Beach Club in Orange County. As the Los Angeles population increased and property values soared in the 1920s, blacks in the area suffered from increased racial tension, before eminent domain proceedings started by the city forced the club to close down.

Bruce's Beach modern history

In the 1960s, the property, which had been vacant for decades, was made into a city park first called Bayview Terrace Park, then Parque Culiacan; in 2006, the Manhattan Beach City Council decided to rename the park, "commemorating our community's understanding that friendship, goodwill and respect for all begins within our own boundaries and extends to the world community. All are welcome." It was ceremoniously renamed in March 2007, during an event exhibiting "a deep tide of goodwill."

The park is on a slope overlooking the ocean and includes rolling grassy terraces with benches and small trees. It is located a few blocks from the beach, between 26th and 27th Street, and runs west from Highland Avenue to Manhattan Avenue.