News & Advocacy

National Historic Register Designation for Bay Street Beach Historic District

May 27, 2019
by Alison Rose Jefferson, PhD


On May 8, the California State Historical Resources Commission (SHRC) voted unanimously that the historic African American beach site in Santa Monica is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Next, the State Historic Preservation Officer will determine whether to forward the nomination to the National Park Service for a final review prior to listing in the NHRP. Michael Blum of Sea of Clouds and I worked together to develop the listing nomination and to get it approved by the Commission.

Beachgoers at the segregated section of Santa Monica Beach.  Photo: Los Angeles Public Library

Bay Street Beach is recognized as an important seaside recreation and leisure place that was relatively free from white citizens’ harassment for African American Angelenos during the Jim Crow era (1908-1965). The site became contested ground in the development of attractive beaches and resorts. The area was also called “the Inkwell” by whites, referring to the skin color of the beachgoers.

This National Register nomination project aligns with the goals of the California Coastal Commission’s landmark environmental justice policy to protect California’s coast and ocean for the benefit of all Californians regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, or place of residence, and supports the mission of the California Coastal Act.

The Santa Monica Conservancy supported the NRHP listing of the Bay Street Beach Historic District, advocating for greater visibility of the African American experience, and equity and social justice to be represented in preservation and history. At this time, the number of properties associated with communities of color and women is less than 5 percent of the total 1.4 million historic places listed on the National Register.

Additionally, I was able to attain new signage during the March Coastal Commission meeting to identify the Bay Street Beach area and its historical significance as a condition of permit approval for the improvements to be constructed along the shoreline bike and pedestrian path from the Pier to Bay Street.

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