The following history was written for the city hall dedication on Nov. 1 1975. It was included in the bicentennial time capsule that was sealed in the corner stone of the City Hall.
Capsule History of Manhattan Beach, 1912 – 1975 (A Manhattan Beach Historical Series Publication No. 3, 1975)
by Judson Grenier, Professor Emeritus
resident of Manhattan Beach since 1956
Dedication of the Manhattan Beach City Hall coincided with the Bicentennial celebration of the founding of the nation. But if we turned back the clock 200 years in this area, much would be recognizable. A broad sand dune ran the length of tile city, melding into hills in the east. There were no roads, no houses, no trees, no telegraph lines; motion came from the waves on Bay and the fluttering of birds in low-lying areas, which were swampy part of the year. On the southern edge of the city was an Indian burial ground used by aborigines living in a Redondo village called “Chowig-na,” and Indian trails traversed the area. No people of European descent had seen Manhattan Beach, though the Portola expedition from Mexico had explored inland areas, and the Spanish missions were under construction.
Even a hundred-year span brought few changes to the region. During the nation’s Centennial in 1875-76, Manhattan Beach remained uninhabited sand hills and slopes covered only by purple wild verbena and scrub brush. Hunters, fishermen, and clam diggers had begun to make the trip from Los Angeles so a few beach cottages had been built. The first settler of Manhattan most likely was a legendary Col. Thomas Duncan, a former Virginia plantation owner, who built a large home and pier at about First street, and probably made his fortune by smuggling. (His long-vacant home burned in 1927.) In 1875 the city was part of the ten-mile ocean frontage of Rancho Sausal Redondo, owned by the Avila family. That year the United States government upheld the Avilas’ half-century-old Mexican land grant.
Rancho Sausal Redondo had many owners; the last was Daniel Freeman, a former Canadian. The eastern section of Manhattan was part of a vast agricultural area, used first as a cattle ranch, then for dry [land] farming. The main dirt toad between Los Angeles and the Redondo salt-works roughly paralleled Aviation Boulevard.
Development of Manhattan Beach resulted from the construction of two public transportation systems. First, the Santa Fe Railroad completed a single track line to Redondo Beach [along the present-day green belt between Valley and Ardmore] in 1888. [Later], a small sub-station built at what is now Manhattan Beach Boulevard. Real estate promotion began at the turn of the century in three areas of the present city. John A. Merrill laid out the southern section, working south from Manhattan Beach Boulevard, then known as Center Street. (Merrill’s small frame office on Center was later used for the first offices of the city government.) Planks were placed on the sand to create Manhattan Avenue, and boardwalks were built along the Strand and on side streets. Merrill’s section was named “Manhattan”, after the Eastern metropolis.
Frank Daugherty and five associates developed the central area, incorporating as the Highland Beach Company and working south from offices on Marine. Daugherty’s tract ran east to the railroad, and he promoted sales by chartering a train to transport 500 people from Los Angeles to the grand opening.
The northern tract was developed by George Peck, a wealthy Los Angeles realtor. Peck’s tract ran from the Strand to the crest of the dune (where one had a “grand view”) and included land north of Rosecrans Ave. He borrowed a name from the Santa Fe sub-station and promoted “Shore Acres” in newspaper advertisements.
[The second transportation system] further stimulated land sales by construction of an electric transit line from Marina del Rey to Redondo in 1903. At first the Los Angeles Pacific (LAP) Railway, it later became part of the Pacific Electric system, and at times included four local stops. At these locations, four wooden piers were built, but only two survived. Recreational pavilions were constructed near two of the stops. [During peak traffic hours the PE “red cars” or trolleys stopped every hour.]
Building and sand dunes looking North from 15th St. & Valley Dr. – circa 1917
Real estate shack and city hall on Center St. (now Manhattan Beach Blvd.)
The PE trolley tracks, boardwalk, beach cottages, and old iron pier – circa 1913
Original homes in Manhattan were little more than wooden summer cottages. Water was piped from wells on Highland Avenue at 10th Street and 16th Street, but service was poor, and enterprising youngsters earned pocket-money making hand deliveries by bucket. Sewage was disposed through clay pipes that ran to cesspools at the end of each street. The first lighting consisted of four acetylene lamps mounted on 10-foot poles on Center Street at Manhattan Avenue and the Strand. Later, the Pacific Electric supplied electricity, and ornamental electric lights were constructed along the Strand, Center St., Highland Ave., and Marine Ave. Some of these lights functioned for 50 years, and the ornate standards were symbols of the architecture of Early Manhattan Beach.
Two organizations formed in 1909 to promote civic betterment. The Manhattan Beach Improvement Organization, a forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce, and the Neptunian Club, a women’s group (many of whom were wives of MBIO members), determined to lead Manhattan toward city-hood. In the municipal election of November of 1912, with a population between 500 and 600, voters approved the Articles of Incorporation. On December 2 1912, the County Board of Supervisors forwarded its certification to the California Secretary of State.
The city’s first government was a five-man Board of Trustees headed by E. W. Campbell. The first city hall, Merrill’s Center Street structure, was run by C. E. Jenkins, city clerk, and A. C. Conner, treasurer. City Marshall Fred Petway directed law enforcement and fire fighting, assisted by volunteers. A reception for the new city officers, “all in full dress,” was held by the Neptunian Club after the installation.
In 1914, city government moved to its second home, the upper floor of the Sadler building at Marine and Strand, and invited the active participation of all citizens in such projects as planting foliage to hold down blowing sand, paving the principal streets, and constructing a city pier. The pier took three bond issues and $140,000 to complete in 1920. Although at various times in its history, the pier has had a wooden extension, had two building at the base, and been restored and renovated, it remains the city’s most noteworthy historic site.
The third home of the city government also was a historic site until its demolition a few years ago. Land for the city hall at 15th and Highland was sold the city by George Peck for a small sum; F. S. Daugherty was named contractor, the site was terraced, and construction completed in less than a year. In May, 1916, the cornerstone was laid, and city officials moved in for a stand of more than a half-century. The Hall also housed the police and fire departments and meeting rooms for private organizations. Its exterior architecture was “years ahead of its time” and masked the wooden Victorian flourishes and narrow hallways of the interior.
In the following years, city government charted new paths for civic growth. A municipal water system was installed and utilized until 1942; subsequently, the city joined the Metropolitan Water District and tapped water from the Colorado and Feather River projects. After Los Angeles built its Hyperion disposal plant in 1924, Manhattan constructed a truck line to the new plant; however, continuing problems involving the plant (resulting in a beach quarantine) continued until the 1940s. Rosecrans Ave., Sepulveda Blvd., and cross streets were paved, and the “Big Red Cars” of the Pacific Electric carried residents to and from the metropolitan area until the lines were abandoned (for lack of ridership) shortly in May 1940
The year 1915 saw many tourists pass through Los Angeles County on their way between the San Diego and San Francisco Pan-Pacific Expositions. The county spent large sums erecting trellises along highways and planting palms in tubs beside the road. Many cars traveled along El Camino Real (now Sepulveda Blvd.), and concern was expressed about the lack of vegetation along the road. Closer to the beach, blowing sand was a problem.
In the early days, sand was more than a symbol to the residents. The wind spread sand in drifts, dunes shifted, boardwalks and streets were inundated, and homes undermined. Between City Hall and Live Oak Park, sand could pile halfway to the top of the ornamental lampposts. Finally a Manhattan Development Company headed by C. H. Avey was hired to level the dunes from Center Street south to First Street. For two years, tractors worked long hours to remove the sand and pave the streets in that section. But the project went bankrupt. N. R. Kuhn, a local contractor, successfully completed the project by selling sand for construction projects, including the floor of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. The northern dunes, more stable, remained half intact, and were utilized for the filming of desert scenes by Hollywood movie studios in the 1920s and 1930s.
Other civic services came into being. A library, started by the Neptunian Womans Club (founded in 1909), became a branch of the County Library system. The first school was erected in 1913 at the corner of Center and Pacific Avenue; Center School opened with 43 pupils. The city’s first fire chief was hired and the first fire truck purchased in the mid-1920s. The religious life of the city was enhanced by the establishment of churches: the Community Church (1905), Community Baptist (1911), American Martyrs (1931), and others. Service organizations and clubs chartered before World War II included the Lions (1926), the Sandpipers (1931), the PTA (1932), the Dolphins (1939), the Property Owners’ Association (1939), the East Manhattan Women’s Club (1940), and branches of the Scouting movement. Liaison between these organizations and the city was provided by establishment in the mid-1930s of a “Coordinating Council,” a sounding board for exchange of ideas and activities which functioned effectively 40 years later.
During World War II, residents joined all branches of the armed forces, while at home, non-combatants were organized into civil defense units, and served as air raid wardens, aircraft spotters, Red Cross workers, canteen hostesses, volunteer firemen, civil guardsmen, and youth leaders. Residents opened their homes to servicemen manning artillery and infantry stations nearby [located at a coastal artillery battery in the vicinity of the present-day Racket Ball Club].
The original boundaries of Manhattan Beach included 3.31 square miles, and the annexation of an eastern tract in 1916 increased the total territory to 3.81. Population growth reflected the limited area available for expansion, and the city remained largely a family town. In 1920, it had 859 residents, in 1930 it had 1891, in 1940 it had 6398. The 1930s saw the growth of the “tree section” and the “hill section.” But the post WWII-war period was the time of the greatest population boom as new sections were developed. The hill west of Sepulveda was quickly followed by building east of the highway: Manhattan Village [the original], Liberty Village, Bermuda Village, Victory Village. By the mid-1950s residents in these areas, led by the Property Owners Association, had worked to establish new schools and storm drains, a new fire station, a new post office, Manhattan Heights Playground and Park, and a branch of the County Library.
City government expanded, too. The first City Manager, Clifford Petrie, took office in 1948, and new departments and commissions were established. The public works department undertook a mammoth storm drain project, designed to ease flooding of city streets. In the 1950s, water service was the most expensive item in the city’s annual budget. The increasing number of water users was so great that a 7.5 million gallon reservoir was constructed in 1957, and by 1960 consumers used over 220 million gallons each year.
A prominent organization of the 1950s was the Chamber of Commerce. Incorporated in March, 1941, the Chamber worked in the 40s to encourage trade and business expansion, and campaigned against beach pollution. Along with the Coordinating Council, it sponsored festivals and fairs that added flavor to the social life of the city. Typical was the five-day “Fun Fair,” held annually in the summer from 1952 onward at the National Guard Armory, and complete with parades, dances, queens, amusement booths and rides. Proceeds of the fairs went into a municipal fund for building a swimming pool. The summer fairs were abandoned 20 years later, but their spirit lives on in the “Old Towne Fair” held in early autumn near Live Oak Park.
In 1955 the Chamber began its annual “International Paddle-board Race” from Catalina Island to Manhattan Beach. The event soon became a three-day “aquatic spectacle,” featuring life guard races, volleyball tournaments, dory races, surf mat races, a parade, band concert, dance. Coast Guard demonstration, and – on the final day – the channel race itself, longest in the world (.32 miles), with 50,000 people on the beach to greet the winner. The Paddle-board Race was abandoned in 1961, but the other events are continued in the annual Surf Festival now co-sponsored by the other beach cities. The Chamber of Commerce also initiated the annual Manhattan Art Festival, the Santa Claus float project in December, and annual recognition awards for outstanding citizens.
Expanding population in the 1960s created new needs for public service facilities. The public works department opened its new quarters in the dunes near Bell Avenue and Rosecrans Avenue on April 13, 1967 (in time to be dusted by ashes from an intense oil tank fire later in the year). By 1975 the main building and nine storage buildings. housed 80 employees, three minibuses, trash trucks, and street maintenance, water, refuse and animal control vehicles, all needed as part of the new services provided by the city.
The oldest house [in 1975] was the Horner house, built in 1902
Since 1939, citizens groups had urged construction of a combination recreation-meeting hall centrally located. The Joslyn Community Center is such a building, which opened on Oct. 2, 1965. The Center was built with a financial contribution of $75,000 from the Joslyn philanthropic foundation, plus an appropriation of $155,000 from the city’s general fund, and dedicated to the Senior Citizens’ Club, which had utilized the facility for the past 10 years. Another community building was erected by the city in Manhattan Heights in 1969-70. The following year, December of 1971, ribbon was cut on a multi-level parking facility in the center of the downtown business area.
By 1975, it was apparent that Manhattan’s population was no longer growing, though the wealth of the city continues to rise. Estimated population of 1960 was 33,934, and of 1970, 35,352; but estimates for 1975 are somewhat lower. The median age of residents was 29 years in both 1960 and 1970. But the median income of residents was $8,289 in 1960, $14,234 in. 1970, and probably $15,000 in 1975. Land values, much to the annoyance of long-time [retired] residents, have doubled and doubled again in that period.
The third city hall was built in 1916 at 1400 Highland Avenue
For 55 years, the old City Hall presided in stately fashion from the hill overlooking the downtown area. But government outgrew the facilities. A moderate earthquake on Feb. 9, 1971, damaged the building; it was condemned shortly thereafter and vacated on August 2. City employees moved into a temporary structure as demolition began. The 1916 cornerstone failed to reveal any historical mementoes, but city officials implanted it in the wall of the new City Hall to keep historical tradition alive. The cornerstone of the new building will contain a time capsule, as well. But the most important mementoes of the history of Manhattan Beach are the memories of its citizens of “the good life” they have led.
The following newspaper article deals with the excess sand from Manhattan Beach going to Waikiki beach in the Hawaii:
The Daily Breeze, October 13, 1973
By Rex. Dalton, Staff writer
With the omnipresent Diamond Head towering in the background etching an everlasting memory of tranquility you enjoy the majestic spectacle of the enchanting island of Oahu while consuming the pungent, floral flagrance as the white fine grained sand of Waikiki Beach provides a relaxing cushion.
One might not guess it, but an area of the South Bay is responsible for an integral part of the pleasures of Hawaii, referred to in the quote above from a travel brochure. In the early 1920’s when developers in the Hawaiian Islands were looking for beautiful, fine-grained, white, beach sand, they found it in Manhattan Beach. In fact, all the sand on Waikiki Beach is from sand dunes, excavations and construction sites in Manhattan Beach.
And Marshall Kuhn and his brother, Bob, owners of Kuhn Bros. Construction Co. and Builders Materials Co. supplied the sand. Operating from the comer of Valley Drive and Manhattan Beach Boulevard, Kuhn, and his now deceased brother, Bob, gave the island paradise the one thing it was mlsslng. “We had so much sand at times,” the 70-year resident of Manhattan Beach says, “we had to give it to them.” “A guy came over from Hawaii looking for sand to cover the rock [and coral] beaches on the islands.
“The sand was becoming more and more of a problem for us with the increasing growth of the community. My brother and I were taking the sand and using it to fill a gully that ran parallel to the coast about where the Santa Fe rail line now is. But we had too much. Our company was the only one around who had the equipment to handle the operation. We would haul it up from the beach, load it onto railroad cars, have it transported to the harbor in San Pedro and shipped by barge or ship to Hawaii.
“The Santa Fe and Southern Pacific Railroads were buying most of it before that to use as ballast and to sand the tracks. Selling it to those guys from the islands was quite a lucrative deal. We sold it to them for years and years. They looked all over and felt we had the best sand they could get, so they gave us all their business. Makes me feel kind of proud,” Kuhn says, relaxing under the canopy of avocado trees in his backyard.
“We were the only ones who supplied the sand to build those beaches. If it wasn’t Manhattan Beach’s sand, Hawaii might not be what it is today. Getting such a contract wasn’t any an easy proposition, nor would it pay all the bills,” Kuhn adds. “Our main business was construction. We built miles of roads and sidewalks in Manhattan Beach and the South Bay, supplied the sand for the construction of much of the Coliseum, and paved the Pacific Coast Highway from Redondo Beach to Lomita.
“Building PCH was a heck of a job. The company lost all kinds of money on that job. After grading and preparing the road bed for the pavement, we would come back the next day to pave and find the farmers had driven their horse-drawn wagons along the road turning it a sea of ruts. I can’t remember how many times we graded the road before we finally got the pavement down.”
But over the years Kuhn Bros. prospered and the hardships of the era blossomed into rewards. The Kuhns settled in an area known as “The Knoll,” an area between Second and Sixth Streets and Meadows and Rowell Avenues. Ruth Kuhn’s father had retired there around the turn of the century in a house on Fifth Street across from where she and her husband now live.
Kuhn’s father was a motorman for Pacific Electric, along with being the water and street superintendent, building inspector, marshal, and the rest of the city positions. “In those days,” Kuhn says, “one man got paid $100 to do them all. We started on this site camping out in the late 1920’s in a cabin,” Mrs, Kuhn says. “Over the years we bought 25 acres, the entire ‘Knoll; but we have had to sell all the land except for the five lots the house and avocado grove are on. The taxes were just too high. It’s rough to keep this much up, nowadays,” she says with a sigh of regret. Not to imply the Kuhns are hurting financially, but because of the intelligent frugality and good sense that has dominated their lives they say they find it hard to rationalize today’s high costs. “Our water bill has been up to $156 some times, because of the amount of water the avocado trees need,” they say. “It seems unnecessary for things to cost so much. But we’ll live our life as best we can, like we always have.”
Marshall Kuhn, 77, picks an orange-lime from a tree in his back yard
DUNCAN RANCH HOUSE FOLKLORE vs. FACT by Bonnie Beckerson, Former MBHS President
Stories have been told and retold about a mysterious colonel from Kentucky who was the first to purchase land in what is now called Manhattan Beach. But over the years, the stories have been embellished. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know who was the first to recall an abandoned house high on a hill with secret tunnels and hidden bars of gold and possibly haunted? Folklore says – Just before the end of the Civil war, Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, sent Blanton Duncan to England to obtain funds for the South to fight the war. He brought with him cotton from his Virginia plantation and the neighboring plantations and exchanged the cotton for gold. Upon returning, the war was over and he moved to California taking the gold and some of his slaves. Depending on who is telling the story, the slaves were black but sometimes they were Chinese.
Not True! Just before the end of the Civil War, Blanton Duncan was living in Columbia, South Carolina. He had established a large engraving and printing company where he printed Confederate money until the end of the war. He had mustered out of the Army in 1862. He was a private citizen. It would have been impossible for him to leave for England by water. All waterways were blocked and in the control of the Union soldiers. He did not own Virginia plantation land. He owned plantation land in Mississippi which he leased to others to farm. He was a lawyer, and active in politics.
Folklore says – When coming to California with the stolen gold, he built a pier at what is now First Street and he built a plantation house high on a hill with a beacon to signal ships. He built a secret tunnel from the house to the sea and he entered into the smuggling business. He served wine or food to the man delivering the goods to his house from the ship. None ever returned. They were then buried in the tunnel or elsewhere on the grounds of the property.When did he buy the land and enter into the smuggling business? Some stories say before the Civil War, shortly after the Civil War, 1872, and 1875. Blanton can be traced up until 1892 as living in Louisville, Kentucky. Blanton Duncan moved to Los Angeles sometime in 1894. His wife had moved here for her health in 1893 and was living with their only daughter on Figueroa Street in Los Angeles. He bought Mrs. Duncan a house next door to their daughter’s. In 1894, he and his wife are listed in the Los Angeles city directory as living at 3012 Figueroa Street. It was a fashionable neighborhood.
The land that is now Manhattan Beach was part of Rancho Sausal Redondo. In 1837, Governor Juan B. Alvarado of Alta, California issued Antonio Ygnacio Avila a grant for Rancho Sausal Redondo. On June 19, 1856, the U. S. District Court issued a decree of confirmation of title to Antonio Ygnacio Avila for Rancho Sausal Redondo.
In 1858, Antonio Avila passed away. In 1868, the heirs of Antonio were forced to sell the rancho to pay the probate costs. The property consisting of approximately 22,000 acres was purchased by Sir Robert Burnett on May 5.
In 1873, Burnett leased the land to Daniel Freeman for $10,000 per year with an option to buy. He used the land for sheep, horses and orchards with fruit, almonds and olives. When a severe drought occurred in 1875 and 1876, he received heavy loses. He turned to dry farming and did well with Barley. In 1882, Freeman used his option to buy and he purchased 3,912 acres for the sum of $22,243. In 1885, Freeman purchased the remainder of Rancho Sausal Redondo for $140,000. Daniel Freeman was the last person to own all of Rancho Sausal Redondo. He was a clever businessman and knew he would do well selling off the land for development. Not all that he sold were large parcels.On August 8, 1895, Colonel Blanton Duncan purchased from the Redondo Land Company, in the township of Redondo, 87 3/4 acres of land paid with $1000 in gold coin. On June 6, 1896, Blanton Duncan purchased another 100 acres from the Redondo Land Company. The cost was $681.00 paid with lawful money of the United States. A payment in gold coin was very common especially after the gold rush days. By the end of the war, Confederate money was worthless.
The Redondo Land Company had problems selling land in what is now Manhattan Beach. It could have been due to the fact that sand dunes, some 50 to 70 feet high discouraged buyers. Blanton was the first major property owner in this area after Rancho Sausal Redondo was put up for sale.
What kind of a ranch house did he build on the land that is now Manhattan? A ranch house was built but the 1904 and 1908 Sanborn maps do not show any structures on the land. In the early days, building permits in remote areas were not always obtained. Mr. & Mrs. Duncan lived well in Kentucky and would never consider shabby housing. They were accustomed to entertaining. One would have to take into account that the house was built on top of a 50 to a 70-foot sand dune. It was probably two stories with a porch, comfortable, spacious and large enough for entertaining.
How did he get to the ranch from downtown Los Angeles? In the 1890s, roads barely existed in remote areas. One got around on horseback, or horse and buggy. In 1888, the Santa Fe Railroad laid tracks from Los Angeles to Redondo Beach across the property. Pinpointing it today, the tracks were between Valley Drive and Ardmore Avenue.
Was there a tunnel? To dig a hole large enough for a tunnel in a 50 to 70 foot sand dune and continue for a mile down to the sea would have been a major project and not very secret. How would he dig under the Santa Fe Railroad tracks that cut across the property? One folklore story says he blew up the tunnel when he couldn’t dig under the tracks.
Did he grow cotton and tobacco? Impossible! Both crops are labor intensive and not suited for the area and soil. As for killing people and smuggling goods, there was no reason. Another problem was the lack of water. Water had to be carried 1/4th mile up a hill.
If he wasn’t in the smuggling business and he didn’t grow crops, and he lived in Los Angeles, why did he buy so much land? There are obvious reasons: Huntington was bringing transportation into the area, and there was talk of the Redondo Beach wharf area becoming the official port for the city of Los Angeles. Note: On March 1, 1897, San Pedro was declared the official port. Another factor was that oil had been discovered in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, he referred to the property as the Redondo Ranch and paid a housekeeper, cook and a foreman to take care of the place. He leased parts of the land out to various individuals for farming. At the time of his death in 1902, the itemized property list described the property as improved land with a stable and ranch house. Also listed were two horses and three mules which were in the possession of one of the persons who were leasing part of the land for farming. Where exactly was the house? According to newspaper articles, books and memories:
High on a hill at First Street & Sepulveda Blvd. Manhattan Beach 90266 (book).
Southeast area just east of Camino Real. A walk Beside the Sea (book).
Location not legible. Daily Breeze 02/3/12.
Southeast of Manhattan. Unknown newspaper 01/23/14.
Located north of Hermosa Beach. Unknown newspaper 11/27/14.
Longfellow and Camino Real. M. B. News 01/25/24.
Just north of Hermosa Beach boundary line in east Manhattan Beach. Manhattan News 03/26/26.
Southeast on a hill off of El Camino. Daily Breeze 07/31/29.
First Street and Camino Real. Daily Breeze 07/31/29. On the hill top, near Thirtieth Street at Sepulveda Blvd. Hermosa Beach Review 12/05/35.
On a little hill 500 feet east of U.S. 101A from the north city limits sign of H. B. Know your L.A. 12/17/71.
On a Sepulveda hilltop near Manhattan Beach. CA State Junior’s Chamber of Commerce 04/38.
On a hill overlooking the surf in Manhattan Beach. Daily Breeze 08/29/71.
On the hill east of El Camino. Memories of Les Johnson.
High on a hill just east of Sepulveda. Memories of Ruth Linaker 02/81.
A large white house in Manhattan Beach. Old Redondo by Dennis Shanahan.
Northern limits of Hermosa Beach on the highest hill of his land. H. B. History’s web page. Some accounts place the mansion inside what is now Hermosa, while others have it just within the present confines of Manhattan Beach. Easy Reader October 26, 2000.
Blanton passed away in 1902. The property was put up for sale by Blanton’s daughter in 1903.
In the Grantee Book 83 (Deeds) 1912, Robert Young buys one piece of property from P. F. Bresee. The filing date is July 25, 1912. The second piece of property was sold to Henry Ward Wilson.
The last owner while the ranch house was still standing was George E. Martin. George Martin was a Manhattan Beach City Council member from August 1918 to December 1918. He did not live on the property. He bought the property to lease out for the possibility of finding oil. In 1924, he leased a section to Shell Oil.
In a Manhattan Beach News article dated 03/26/26, the house is described as in ruin. An oil well was drilled just a few feet from the house in 1926 by G. W. Johnston. The well was later shut down due to a salt water invasion. The house was condemned by the city in 1927 and taken down. In 1935, Doyle Petroleum drilled in the same hole. Their reasoning was the equipment was much further advanced than the equipment used in 1926. A short time later they shut the well down due to a salt water invasion. George Martin passed away and the property was put up for sale on April 30, 1937. It was purchased by a corporation and farmed by Japanese flower growers. Bob Kuhn purchased the property when officers of the corporation were interned at Tule Lake at the beginning of World War II.
In the early 1950s, Bob built the Kuhn tract consisting of 24 homes in the area east of Sepulveda Boulevard. He lived in one of the homes on a hill. The address was 340 Kuhn Drive. He recalls that he was always finding pieces of metal, oil clay, etc., when digging in his yard. This was leftover from oil drilling at the site of his home back in the 1920s and 1930s.
In conclusion, this places the original Duncan ranch house in the 300 block of Kuhn Drive between Longfellow Drive and Duncan Drive. That would be on the hill behind the Manhattan Car Wash.
Of interest: Blanton Duncan issued oil leases to five different people in 1901. For some reason, they did not drill for oil. In 1903, his daughter broke the leases due to nonperformance and put the property up for sale.
Was Blanton Duncan the grandfather of the Duncan Sisters of Vaudeville? Certainly not! Blanton was an only child. There is not even a chance of a mix up. Only one of Blanton’s children lived into adulthood and she never had children. The story of Blanton walking around with the Duncan Sisters in Hermosa Beach is not true.