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Miner Smith Craftsman Bungalow

Miner Smith

Miner Smith was an artisan builder of bungalows in Long Beach, California in the 1920’s. He specialized in custom, high quality bungalows for well to-do clients, and called them bungalow mansions. He built over 23 bungalow mansions in Long Beach, most of which still remain in good condition.

Miner Smith was known for constructing his bungalows with elaborate architectural detail such as ornamental concrete porches and fireplaces that looked like logs or trees, and porte-cocheres over the driveway. The interior décor always exceeded that of an the average bungalow. He would include wonderful built-ins as buffets, desks, tables, shelving and cabinetry. Miner also included beautiful lighting and fixtures, ornate moldings, intricate fireplaces, and even plein air paintings installed on the walls. Some of the homes were sold fully furnished, including baby grand pianos!

A Brief History of Miner Smith’s Life

Miner Smith PhotoMiner Robert Smith was born in 1877 in Eastern Ohio. His father was a stonecutter, who moved the family to Tennessee and later to Philadelphia. Miner became a stonecutter also, and lived in New Jersey prior to moving to Los Angeles in 1904. Sometime in 1908-1909, Miner formed the M.R. Smith Stone and Mantel Company in Los Angeles. He advertised his business as “Designer and Builder of Artistic Natural Stone Mantels.” During this time, Miner designed and built fireplaces, porches, etc. around the greater Los Angeles area.

After working in Long Beach during World War I, Miner relocated his family to Long Beach in 1919. Long Beach underwent rapid growth in the 1920s and by November of 1920, Miner Smith was building houses. From 1922-1924, he was advertising his custom bungalows as “bungalow mansions.” A simple bungalow during this era may cost from $629-$4,909. Miner’s least expensive bungalow cost $10,750. (data courtesy of Norbert Schurer)

Sometime between 1926-1928, Miner moved the family out of Long Beach. It seemed that his house building business(es) had failed, although no one is exactly sure what happened. This was also right before the Great Depression. Miner went on to do artificial stone work (and even owned some restaurants) in Los Angeles, San Jose, and then came back to Long Beach for a short time in 1948. Miner Smith and his wife retired in Yucaipa, and Miner passed away there in 1965.

The family of Miner Smith remembers him as a businessman, an artisan, a developer, and a family man. As a person he was said to be an exuberant character with a lot of charm and story-telling wit. He was a teetotaler, and loved to play the piano. Miner lived quite a life, filled with many different business ventures.Miner Smith Fireplace

Miner Smith’s Work Preserved
The great grandson of Miner Smith – Larry Smith – donated some of his grandfather’s building memorabilia to the Long Beach Historical Society (HSLB). Miner’s original sketchbooks, vintage photos, and marketing materials can now be viewed at HSLB. A book about the life of Miner Smith and his bungalow mansions is now available at HSLB for purchase – “Boom and Bust. Miner Smith and his 1920s Bungalow Mansions” by Norbert Schurer.

A group of Long Beach residents lead by Steffie Hands and Norbert Schurer, formed The Miner Smith Project. This project is dedicated to documenting, researching and preserving Miner Smith homes and memborabilia. We are still finding previously unknown Miner Smith homes every few months and we continue to document them. If you are interested in learning more about Miner Smith, or if you believe you have a Miner Smith bungalow, please send contact Steffie Hands at 562.508.9869 or email at

How Do I Know If I Have A Miner Smith Bungalow?
On the exterior, many of Miner’s houses are local architectural icons that are easily recognizable by the niches in the porch columns, where he placed concrete planters shaped to resemble tree trunks. He had made porch rails to resemble tree trunks as well. Some had porte-cocheres above the driveway, although today sometimes only the pedestals may remain on either side of the driveway. If he did not do the tree trunk design, often the pedestals of the porch and porte-cocheres will have scalloped leaf design on all four corners. This same design may be on the exterior chimney.

Scalloped leaf design, Miner SmithConcrete planter with tree bark detailPorch Tree Rail, cast concrete

Front door with diamond-shaped leaded glassFront door with leaded glassOrnate molding

The front door may have one of these designs of beautiful leaded glass: a diamond shape, a design that looks like a vase, or a design that looks like a wavy ribbon.

On the interior, Miner Smith houses had remarkable fireplaces and wood craftsmanship. It was not uncommon to find all or some of the following custom built-ins: wide ceiling moldings, buffets, cabinetry, shelving, pull out desks, kitchen tables that folded out from the wall, ironing board cabinets, hallway attic ladders, bedroom vanities, shoe shine kits, etc.

Other custom interior details may include:Miner Smith built-in buffet or sideboard

  • Beautiful light fixtures of brass and/or crystal
  • Coved ceilings, even in the bathroom
  • Hand painted walls, or even a plein air painting
  • A large bay window in a bedroom

Exceptional Fireplace Design

  • Fireplaces of fine concrete design that look like stone or granite
  • Tree or branch designs, sometimes with bird nests in the design
  • A mirror above the fireplace
  • Small light fixtures flanking the fireplace