On Sunday, Feb. 20, at 2:00 p.m., the Santa Monica History Museum will host a free public lecture by columnist Frank Gruber on the history and fate of the Belmar Triangle, an African-American neighborhood that was destroyed in the 1950s by the City of Santa Monica to allow the building of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.
From the museum’s press release:
Frank Gruber to Give Public Lecture
on the History and Fate of the Belmar Triangle,
an African-American Neighborhood
Razed to Build the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium
Santa Monica, CA – Tuesday, February 9, 2011 – In celebration of Black History Month, the Santa Monica History Museum will host a talk by local columnist Frank Gruber about the Belmar Triangle, an African-American neighborhood that was razed in the 1950s to build the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Gruber writes a weekly column for The Santa Monica Lookout News website and is the author of the book, Urban Worrier: Making Politics Personal.
Gruber’s talk will trace the history of the African-American commercial and residential district that arose on both sides of Pico Boulevard, around Third and Fourth Streets, beginning early in the 20th century. Though not wealthy, and historically “on the other side of the tracks” in Santa Monica, this community was a vibrant district with many black-owned businesses. The location was only a few blocks up Pico from the “Inkwell,” the area of the beach African-Americans most often frequented, and many of the businesses catered to black visitors from the rest of Los Angeles.
In the 1950s, however, the area north of Pico, between Main and Fourth Streets, known as the “Belmar Triangle” from a street, Belmar, that crossed it, became a target of the City of Santa Monica, which wanted to improve its tourist facilities by building a new Civic Auditorium. What was home and a vibrant community to those who lived and owned businesses there was categorized as “blight” by a City that desired a centrally-located site large enough for its new facility.
Using eminent domain, the City condemned the black-owned properties, leveled the homes and businesses, and built the Civic Auditorium and its parking lot. Ironically, within a decade the auditorium was labeled a white elephant. Currently, as Gruber will discuss, the City has plans to turn the parking lot into a park. Gruber will propose that the park be named after the Belmar Triangle neighborhood and include features commemorating what once was there.
Following the lecture will be a presentation by Carolyne Edwards on the Quinn Research Center (QRC). Carolyne and her husband Bill founded QRC as a tribute to the legacy of Dr. Alfred T. Quinn, a prominent Black educator, community leader and icon of the Santa Monica Bay area. As his niece, Carolyne wants to preserve and share the contributions and achievements of a man dedicated to education and the advancement of every individual. The ongoing project of the QRC is “The Black Family Oral History Project”. It is designed to collect, record and preserve the oral histories of African Americans who have lived in the Santa Monica-Venice Bay Area.
The lecture will take place Sunday, February 20, 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. The event is free and will be held at the Santa Monica History Museum at 1350 7th Street in Santa Monica. RSVP is strongly recommended due to limited seating. The museum is located adjacent to the Santa Monica Main Public Library. To RSVP or for more information, please call the museum at (310) 395-2290.
The Santa Monica History Museum has been collecting, preserving, and sharing the history of Santa Monica since 1975. It has an extensive collection of historic photographs, archives, and artifacts. The museum’s permanent exhibit, “Santa Monica: A Journey Into An Extraordinary Past,” showcases a diverse collection of original photographs and artifacts ranging from the Native Tongva Indians to the Santa Monica Pier. This exhibit also includes fun and engaging hands-on interactive exhibits that bring Santa Monica’s history to life. The museum’s research library is free and offers specialized research and photo reproduction services. The museum is open on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; and Tuesday & Thursday from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.