Historical plaque reported stolen from Bruce’s Beach

Wave Wire Services

MANHATTAN BEACH — Police here are searching for the person or people who stole a bronze plaque detailing the racially charged history of Bruce’s Beach.

The theft, which was reported to police Jan. 29, is the latest in a string of recent crimes in which thieves have made off with bronze or other metal items in hopes of selling them.

Manhattan Beach city and police officials issued a statement saying the Bruce’s Beach plaque, which was installed in February 2023, “held significant historical and cultural value.”

“Upon discovery of the stolen plaque, the Manhattan Beach Police Department immediately opened an investigation to identify, locate, and apprehend those responsible for this unfortunate incident,” the city statement said.

The plaque detailed the long and troubled history of Bruce’s Beach, a pristine piece of land that was owned in the early 1900s by a Black family who developed a small resort catering to Black residents from across the county.

Charles and Willa Bruce purchased the land in 1912 and operated the resort until the city of Manhattan Beach condemned the property under a false pretense of developing a park. Instead, the property sat vacant for years after the Bruces and other Black families were evicted from the area.

It was not until 1960 that a park was built on a portion of the seized land, with city officials fearing the evicted families could take new legal action if the property wasn’t used for the purpose for which it was seized.

The exact parcel of land the Bruces owned was transferred to the state, and then to the county in 1995. In 2022, at the urging of county Supervisor Janice Hahn, the county agreed to return the land to the descendants of the Bruce family in an effort to correct what she called an “injustice inflicted upon not just Willa and Charles Bruce but generations of their descendants who almost certainly would have been millionaires.”

In early 2023, the Bruce family reached an agreement to sell the parcel of land back to the county for $20 million.

The city of Manhattan Beach installed the bronze plaque at the site last February, providing a detailed history of the land.

Hahn issued a statement condemning the theft of the plaque.

“I am sorry to hear that the Bruce’s Beach Park plaque was stolen and I know it opens up old wounds, especially for African Americans,” Hahn said. “I hope that the plaque’s theft is unrelated to the painful history of Bruce’s Beach and my decision to return the property to the Bruce family, and more related to the string of recent bronze thefts we have seen.”

Police asked anyone with information about the theft to contact Det. Sgt. Taylor Klosowki at 310-802-5123 or contact CrimeStoppers at 800-222-8477. 

Thefts of bronze and other metals have grabbed headlines in recent weeks as thieves look to capitalize on rising metal prices. Earlier this year, thieves stole more than 100 name plaques from gravesites at Lincoln Memorial Park Cemetery in Carson. A week earlier, metal markers were stolen from graves at Woodlawn Celestial Gardens in Compton.

Over the weekend, a copper statue was stolen from outside Marco Antonio Firebaugh High School in Lynwood.

A pair of Los Angeles City Council members last week announced a series of measures hoping to crack down on thefts of copper wire that have occurred in various locations and knocked out street lights and other infrastructure — including lighting on the Sixth Street Bridge near downtown.