Manhattan Beach,


United States

Bruce’s Beach

Located in Manhattan Beach, this approximately 1.5-acre public park is named after a nearby African American-owned beachfront resort established at the beginning of the twentieth century by Willa and Charles Bruce. In 1912 Willa Bruce purchased the first of two contiguous lots between Twenty-Sixth and Twenty-Seventh Streets, selling refreshments and offering changing tents for visitors to the Strand. The earliest building at the resort, “Bruce’s Lodge,” was constructed in 1913. By 1920 Mrs. Bruce had purchased the adjacent lot where a residence that could accommodate visitors was built. The Bruces and other African American property owners were met with hostility and discrimination from their white neighbors; when tactics such as vandalism and intimidation failed to drive them out, a campaign to create a public park and condemn the neighborhood was launched by private citizens and submitted to city officials.

Although a nearby site, larger and more central, had been set aside for a park, the properties owned by the Bruces and other African American residents were seized by eminent domain in 1924. The residents took the case to court; they lost, and during their appeal the city moved quickly and preemptively to raze the properties. For thirty years the site stood vacant, and its history of African American entrepreneurship erased. In the 1950s a park, on a site occupying an entire city block, was finally constructed, two blocks inland from the original site of the Bruce family resort. Its simple design includes a multi-use pedestrian path that bisects the park, with the western half made up of an open lawn that slopes gently to Manhattan Avenue. The eastern half is dotted by Malaleuca trees and cast-concrete benches, which take advantage of the site’s topographical variation to capture broad vistas of the beach below. Grassy terraces with concrete stone staircases built into the ground navigate the sloping site.

The park received its current name and a commemorative plaque in 2006, which failed to tell a full history of the site. New park signage and an interpretive plaque were rededicated in 2003, acknowledging the wrongs committed against the neighborhood’s African American citizens. The beachfront once owned by the Bruce family was returned to the family’s descendants in 2022, who sold the land back to the county in 2023.

Location and Nearby Landscapes

Nearby Landscapes