On a sunny Saturday afternoon I headed to The Murphy-Smith Bungalow to learn some of the history and stories of our art colony. The unassuming Murphy-Smith Bungalow is situated at 278 Ocean Avenue, between Wells Fargo Bank and Whole Foods. Although it may not appear to be much, once you hear its history and see some of the historical paraphernalia on the inside of the home, your appreciation grows. The Bungalow happens to also be the home of the Laguna Beach Historical Society which has volunteer docents available on weekends to speak with visitors.
It is estimated that the Murphy-Smith Bungalow was built around 1923, and the architecture was very typical of the time. Up until the 50s much of the downtown area on and around Ocean Avenue (now shopping and restaurants) was residential. The Murphy-Smith Bungalow was built for the Murphy family and at the time it was constructed, it didn’t have running water. In fact, they used a cistern for water. It was Blanch Clapp Smith who added running water to the home.
|Much of the kitchen is still working.|
Inside, the Bungalow is decorated in a 20s and 30s style, has hardwood flooring, and several cases of historical artifacts from Laguna Beach.
The docent on the day of my visit, Kathy Smith (no relation to the Smith family associated with the Bungalow), was a delight to talk with about the history of the Bungalow. She has a passion and love for history, art and Laguna Beach. She pointed out a photo taken in 1938, showing Franklin Roosevelt on PCH during a parade through town. I had no idea that he had ever visited Laguna Beach. Another photo was from 1928, showing the school house and all of the children gathered in front. Many of the children were barefoot, probably from running on the beach. A display case in the living room held other interesting pieces of history. There were bathing suites from the early 20s, thickly woven, nearly full body suites.
Several copper pieces from the 1930s up until the 1960s. Many were made from the copper factory that was in the canyon.
Kathy also told me the story of the Bungalow’s cellar.It is said that during the time of prohibition that the cellar was used by Mr. Murphy to store and sell bootlegged liquor. Kathy lifted up a corner of the area rug and showed me the ‘trap door’ for going below, into the cellar. Mr. Murphy was also quite the ladies man. Below is a picture of him in the front yard of the house with two Flapper girls.
|Mr. Murphy and Flapper Girls|
Eventually, the Bungalow was sold to Claudia Clapp who then sold it to her daughter, Blanch Clapp Smith. During World War II, Mrs. Clapp Smith rented out one of the bedrooms of the house to service personnel and their wives who could not find housing. She was a very traditional lady and rumor has it that she requested that the husbands sleep in the living room on the couch, while the wives were to stay in the bedroom.
|Guest room used for boarders during WWII.|
Mrs. Smith remained living in the Bungalow until her death in 1990. She was a fixture in the community and some residents still remember her sweeping her front porch, gardening in her backyard and chatting with neighborhood folks.
The Historical Society is constantly adding new items to the Bungalow and are always happy to answer your questions. The Bungalow is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 1pm to 4pm.
On your next visit to Laguna Beach be sure to schedule in a visit to The Murphy-Smith Bungalow and take a step back in time.
By: Anne-Marie S.