I wonder about all the property that was brutally taken from African Americas early in the 20th century. We know about the towns that African Americas were run out of and/or destroyed for no reason. Recently, we heard through social media that there are black towns purposely underwater in lakes. Is this crazy! There are tons of stories of us being locked out by unknown and untold grievous events. The early 20th century sanctioned hate brought down on African Americans by white entities was unfair and inhuman. Below is an interesting story I ran across. All credit to architecturaldigest.com for this story.
Pacific-Front Parcel Taken From Black Family in 1924 Returned to Rightful Owners
African American descendants of former resort owners have been awarded property now valued at roughly $75 million
By Dan Avery
September 13, 2021
An aerial view of Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach, California. The beachfront property was once a seaside resort owned by Charles and Willa Bruce—a Black couple—which catered to African Americans. Amid the Jim Crow era, the city claimed the property in 1924 through eminent domain and vastly underpaid the couple for the land. Los Angeles County is making plans to return the prime beachfront property, which may be worth $75 million, to Bruce family descendants. Mario Tama
Descendants of a couple who built a beachfront resort for Black families in Los Angeles more than a century ago—only to have it taken away by racist government policies—are finally able to reclaim the land, officials announced Friday. Viewed in today’s frothy real estate terms, the property could be worth roughly $75 million.
Migrating from New Mexico in the early 20th century, Willa and Charles Bruce were among the first Black people to settle in what would become Manhattan Beach, California. In 1912, they bought two parcels of land on Highland Avenue for less than $2,000 and built a beachfront lodge with a café, dance hall, cabanas, and bathing suit rentals.
An advertisement in the Liberator, an early 20th-century Black newspaper, announced that the June 17, 1912, opening of Bruce Beach Front would be a “grand affair.”
The lodge is considered the first resort for African Americans on the West Coast, opened at a time when Jim Crow laws barred them from most seashores.
“Wherever we have tried to buy land for a beach resort, we have been refused,” Willa Bruce told the Los Angeles Times in 1912. “But I own this land and I am going to keep it.”
The couple was able to purchase the property because prominent real estate developer George Peck chose to ignore segregation policies in the area and sold land to African Americans, allowing a thriving Black American community to emerge.
A photo of Charles and Willa Bruce is attached to a plaque marking Bruce’s Beach. Mario Tama
Willa handled most of the lodge business as Charles was often out of town working as a railroad dining car chef.
Almost immediately, guests were harassed by white neighbors and members of the Klu Klux Klan, who reportedly slashed the guests’ tires and set fire to a mattress under the main building. Furthermore, fake “10-minute only” parking signs were posted to vex visitors from out of town.
Finally, in 1924, the Manhattan Beach City Council used eminent domain to condemn the Bruces’ lodge, along with other nearby Black-owned properties, and claim the land. The alleged reason was to build a park, but according to a report prepared by the city council, contemporary articles and historical documents indicate the real motive was that “white neighbors resented the resort’s growing popularity and prosperity of its African American owners.”
The families sued, claiming they were the victims of a racially motivated removal campaign. Eventually, the Bruces were awarded $14,500, but their lodge was razed in 1927, and they were unable to re-open anywhere else in Manhattan Beach.In the years that followed, Black families still tried to come to Bruce’s Beach, but police began charging them with trespassing. NAACP members were arrested for holding a “swim-in” in 1927.
Despite the alleged park plan, Bruce’s Beach sat empty for decades. It wasn’t until the 1960s, when officials worried families might sue to regain their land, that an actual park was built on part of the Bruces’ parcel.
In 1948, ownership of the park was ceded to the state, which transferred it to Los Angeles County in 1995 to oversee maintenance. It went through several name changes until it was finally christened Bruce’s Beach Park in 2007, thanks to the efforts of then-mayor Mitch Ward, the only Black elected official in Manhattan Beach history.
For years historians, activists, and Bruce family members have advocated for the return of the land, which is probably worth $75 million today, CNN reported. L.A. County board of supervisors member Janice Hahn became aware of the campaign last year, as the death of George Floyd fueled an overdue radical reckoning across the U.S. Hahn began looking into how to rectify a century-old wrong. “Bruce’s Beach became a place where Black families traveled from far and wide to be able to enjoy the simple pleasure of a day at the beach,” she said in April, when the council announced plans to return the land.
“The Bruces had their California dream stolen from them,” Hahn said. “And this was an injustice inflicted not just upon Willa and Charles Bruce but on generations of their descendants who almost certainly would have been millionaires if they had been able to keep this property and their successful business.”
The city’s ability to sell or transfer the property was blocked by regulations requiring legislation to change. The California state Senate passed the final vote unanimously on Thursday, the last day of the legislative session, to formally allow L.A. County to return Bruce’s Beach to members of the Bruce family. It’s believed to be the first time that land has been returned to a Black family as reparation for past discrimination. California Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the bipartisan bill.
“I’m elated, walking on water right now,” Bruce family spokesperson Duane Shepard said Thursday, according to the Daily Breeze. “This is going to be the start of something really big for our people now.”
Manhattan Beach resident Kavon Ward, who had been petitioning for the property’s return, told NBC News she was “ecstatic” over the vote. “I never would have fathomed that this would have happened so quickly. I was prepared to fight for years if not decades.”
Ward believes the property should come with financial reparations too. “They need to pay for the stripping of generational wealth,” Ward told KABC 7 in March. “This family could have been wealthy, they could have passed on wealth to other family members. Manhattan Beach could have been more culturally diverse… There would have been more black people here.”
Today Manhattan Beach is a wealthy enclave on the south shore of Santa Monica Bay, with some of the most expensive real estate in the United States. It’s home to about 35,000 residents, less than 1% of whom are Black.
The spot where the Bruce family lodge once stood is now home to a lifeguard training station.
Family members have not said whether they will sell the land to developers, lease it back to the county to maintain the lifeguard station, or keep it for themselves.