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Report by Galen Hunter

Shakespeare Beach

[ Page updated - September 3, 2019 ]

This exhibit displays documents and photographs of the stretch of land called "Shakespeare Beach" located in Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach in Southern California. Before the beach was called Shakespeare Beach, the area was known as part of the Blanton Duncan Ranch. Blanton Duncan purchased the deed to the place from the Redondo Land Company and built a house there on the highest point of his estate. Decades before the land companies and Blanton Duncan, U.S. Coast Survey scientists established a triangulation survey observation station called "West Beach" at the exact site where the Duncan later built his house.

No wonder there are old fantastical local legends published (Figure 5) about Blanton Duncan and his house on the ranch. Shakespeare Beach, the Duncan Ranch and West Beach are connected. Also, see the web page report West Beach for an initial write up of the work of the U.S. Coast Survey scientists at West Beach.

Researching the cause of the legend about Duncan and his house is interesting. The latest research into the subject reveals what may be the first written account of the legend in a 1914 edition of the Redondo Reflex newspaper paper published just 12 years after Duncan's death and 11 years after the public was invited to tour his house and property and participate in the auction of his estate property. While, the origin of the legend is clearly in part explained by knowledge of the history of West Beach, the rest of the legend about Duncan being a smuggler, etc. is curious since he wasn't apparently. Interestingly, even the legend itself says there is no evidence.

Blanton Duncan's life was Shakespearean, including lots of drama at the end. This report is the first to characterize Duncan as Shakespearean and connect him with the name of the subdivision created after he died out of the ocean waterfront part of his ranch. The people who bought this property and formed the Shakespeare Beach Company in 1903, were the railroad company owners, who Duncan was seemingly holding out allowing to put their rail line through to Redondo Beach. Moreover, while Duncan was an elite and had elite friends, he also irritated many prominent Los Angeles businessmen, including newspaper owners, for a number of reasons. Perhaps someone, a literary person, may have had the last laugh creating the mystery of legend.

Figure 1 - Figure 1 is page 75 from a book published in 1906 titled "The Nature of Capital and Income" by Irving Fisher. This page of the book refers to the Redondo Land Company as follows - "For instance, land companies in Colorado and California, such as the Redondo Land Company, are formed for the express purpose of investing in land and selling it again. As fast as it is sold, the proceeds are divided among the stockholders, and stock certificates cancelled, until the whole capital of the company is cleared away". Shakespeare Beach was owned by the Shakespeare Beach Company, a land company formed to sell real estate. This land was previously owned by Blanton Duncan who in 1896 purchased it from the Redondo Land Company.

[Figure 1]

Figure 2 - portion of the 1876 U.S. Coast Survey T-Sheet T01432B - showing location of the West Beach station (middle) and is where Duncan's house was later built. The land shown below the West Beach station to the Pacific Ocean is what became the Shakespeare Beach subdivision soon after Duncan's death.

[Figure 2]

Figure 3 - 2019 Google Earth screenshot - with rough indications of location of Shakespeare Beach, the Duncan Ranch, West Beach Station and Duncan House, Manhattan Beach Pier, Hermosa Beach Pier and Redondo Beach.

[Figure 3]

Figure 4 - is page 276 from a book published in 1913 titled "The Evolution of a Theologian" by Stephan K. Szymanowski. This page of the book begins Chapter 9 titled "Cause and Effect" and indeed the entire chapter is a fictional discussion of cause and effect with the setting at Shakespeare Beach. Download Full Book (PDF, 5 MB). The discussion begins "How inspiring the ocean is, and what a mass of thoughts it suggests."

[Figure 4]

Figure 5 - is a article appearing in the January 23, 1914 edition of the local newspaper Redondo Reflex, page 3. The article is titled "Historic Place" and is the first time a description of the legend of the Blanton Duncan House appears in writing.

[Figure 5]

Figure 6 - is an August 4, 2019 photograph by Galen Hunter at the foot of Longfellow Avenue in Hermosa Beach, looking north with Manhattan Beach Pier in the distance. Several of the original streets and names created in the 1903 Shakespeare Beach subdivision are still in use today.

[Figure 6]

Figure 7 - is Page 1 of the 1903 Los Angeles County Incorporation Record for the Shakespeare Beach Company at the Seaver Center for Western History Research, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History (GC-1145-4923). Digitized by Galen Hunter. Section II of Page 1 reads: "The purpose for which it is formed is to purchase, acquire, own mortage and sell real estate: to subvidide, grade" [...]. Note: a review of the current published conventional history of Shakespeare Beach contains an apparent fictional narrative about the owners purpose was to create a literary colony. A review of the original historical documents show only the intention to sell real estate.

[Figure 7]

Figure 8 - is the 1905 "Map of Shakespeare", 1 ms. map; 25 1/2 x 34 3/4 in., Map number 3022. Hurley/Wright Surveyor Map Collection. MS 064, Department of Archives and Special Collections, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University. Digitized by Galen Hunter. This is the map the owners made per above Section II Articles of Incorporation.

[Figure 8]