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Pedestal and Plaque Honoring Uyematsu Family Approved for Mira Costa

Mar 31, 2021 09:19PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
A pedestal and plaque honoring the Uyumatsu family, former owners of the land upon which Mira Costa High School sits, was approved by the Manhattan Beach Unified School District's board on Wednesday.

Chuck Currier, retired Mira Costa teacher and head of the Mira Costa History Project; and Mira Costa Principal Ben Dale presented the history of the Uyematsu family and introduced the project to the board.

According to historical records, Francis M. Uyematsu arrived in the United States in 1904 when he was 22 years old during a peak period of Japanese immigration. He forged success importing and breeding Japanese camellias and cherry trees. He pioneered temperature-controlled greenhouses and earned the nickname "Camellia King." Over four decades, despite anti-Asian sentiment and racist restrictions on land ownership and citizenship, he was able to acquire farm land and eventually expanded his Star Nurseries to three locations, including 120 acres in Manhattan Beach.

Amid the hysteria that followed the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, but before the U.S. government forcibly removed and incarcerated 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent, Uyematsu had to sell his stock. Manchester Boddy, publisher of the Los Angeles Daily News, bought 300,000 of Uyematsu’s prized camellias; these camellias formed the basis of what is now known as the Descanso Gardens. The Uyematsu family was not able to avoid internment but was able to negotiate their being placed at Manzanar, the closest camp to Los Angeles, by donating 1,000 cherry trees for a park there. Their indefinite detention necessitated the parcel by parcel sale of most of the Manhattan Beach nursery to sustain the Uyematsu business.

In 1947, less than two years after the camps were closed, and with his business well below pre-war levels, Uyematsu sold the last 40 acres of his Manhattan Beach property to the Redondo Union High School District for $60,000.

A new 10’ x 4’slab will tie the Uyematsu historical plaque to two existing concrete benches and to the 40's wing walkway on the Mira Costa campus. The pre-cast concrete pedestal will be approximately 30”w x18”d x35”h with the top/face (plaque) beveled downward to 18”in the front. The plaque will be 24”x18” in either cast or machined bronze and will be recessed into the pedestal. Two to three camellias, Uyematsu’s own breeds, will be planted behind the monument.

The film below was made by Lindsey Fox of Manhattan Beach.



Mira Costa and the Uyematsu Family

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