The cool sea breeze masks summer heat, and combines with ocean-scented air, ozone-rich, to enhance creativity and joy at beach locations. The beauty of Venice Beach and the Santa Monica Pier beckon visitors not only from all over Southern California, but from other parts of the world.
YouTuber Darren is from the UK. He’s been traveling since January 2015, recording his adventures on a series of videos at his ExploreList Youtube Channel. He invites you to see the world through his eyes, and has been through Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Now he’s visiting the USA including this adventure on the beaches of Los Angeles County.
The Santa Monica Pier was the first concrete pier in the USA. It was dedicated in 1909 for a desperate purpose – to carry Santa Monica sewage out to sea. This may have seemed a good idea at the time. By 1920 it was discontinued, probably because of the pier collapse in 1919. A crowd gathered at the end of the pier to watch two incoming battleships, the USS Praire and the USS Texas. Suddenly the pier dropped about two feet, proving that concrete piers were not as sturdy as hoped. After this the entire pier was gradually replaced with creosote covered wood. Even the concrete walkway was replaced with wood. Live and learn!In the meantime an amusement park entrepreneur, Charles Looff, who got his start as a carousel carver, decided to widen the pier to include a place for fun.
The Looff Hippodrome opened on June 12, 1916. This building contained one of Charles Looff’s own carousel masterpieces, which remained in that location until it was replaced in 1939 by Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel #62. Restoration of the Looff Hippodrome took place from 1977 through 1981. Six years later, in 1987, the building was designated a National Historic Landmark.
The extended pier was once called the Looff Pleasure Pier. It included the Blue Streak Racer (a roller coaster), and a fun house called What Is It? Unfortunately, Charles Looff passed away, and in 1924 his family sold the pier to the Santa Monica Amusement Company. This company wasn’t able to keep money flowing in, so by 1929 all the rides were sold except the carousel. It was a dismal decade for the Looff Pleasure Pier.
In 1943 Walter Newcomb bought the pier and changed the name to the Newcomb Pier. He died only a year later and his wife ran the new amusement park there for 26 years, until 1974. Ownership was turned over to the city of Santa Monica. At that time the pier was nearly demolished, but a group called Save Santa Monica Bay convinced the city to restore the amusement park instead. Proposition 1 was passed in 1975, which states that the pier will be preserved forever.
A storm hit in 1983 destroying much of the pier. This launched a total restoration project from 1983 to 1990. The wooden piles were replaced with concrete! Pier-building technology had improved.
According to Google Maps, Darren’s walk from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach was about two and a half miles in length and probably took just under an hour unless he stopped to shop, eat, rest on the beach, or sight-see.
Venice Beach, south of Santa Monica, was founded as Venice of America, a seaside resort town. Construction began in 1904 when a tobacco millionaire, Abbot Kinney, won the rights to the property in a coin flip with his former partners. He built canals, a 1200′ pleasure pier, a dance hall, restaurant, auditorium, salt-water plunge, and business and residential areas for workers. There were 3,119 residents by the 1910 census. By that time the pier was loaded with rides and amusements.
Abbot Kinney died in November, 1920, and six weeks later, in December, the pleasure pier and amusement park burned. Not discouraged, the Kinney family rebuilt it and created new rides. There was a lot of competition, including the Lick Pier (also in Venice) and the Ocean Park Pier… and Santa Monica’s Looff Pleasure Pier, of course.
Venice city politics became a problem so the town was annexed into Los Angeles in 1926. That done, Los Angeles wanted to destroy the Venice, Italy-like canal system created by Abbot Kinney. A three year court battle with canal residents ended in 1929 and Los Angeles paved over most of the canals, leaving only a few that still exist today.
The city also wanted to destroy all three amusement piers, and managed to do so when tidelands leases expired in 1946. By the 1950’s, Venice was considered “the slum by the sea” with low rents attracting European migrants, Holocaust survivors, and the beat generation.
There was an oil boom in Venice from 1929 to 1970. The numerous oil wells are gone now. These days the boardwalk thrives, artists transform old buildings with bright murals, and Venice’s reputation has been redeemed with an onslaught of tourists from all corners of the globe.
Well, what a fantastically written post. Learnt lots. I am unsure how long it took me on the walk, as I was stopping a lot to shoot video and had a lunch break. It’s a really nice walk and what I loved more was that it was great to see families out on their bikes, and just people generally enjoying life outdoors.
Linda Jo Martin says
Thanks, Darren. I love to research and write about California. I would definitely like to ride a bike there. Thanks for the video journey.
Barbara Radisavljevic says
I grew up in Southern California and spent nine years living in Culver City, not far from Venice and Santa Monica. I never did have a chance to see any canals in Venice. but I have been on the beach in Santa Monica when I was a student at UCLA. I have enjoyed learning more about this area.
Linda Jo Martin says
I have been to Southern CA many times, but not to these places. I’m an armchair traveler now. My grandparents lived in Pasadena. My uncle lived in Ontario. So those places, I’m more familiar with. But life’s not over yet. There’s still time for us to go to Venice Beach!