Venice California was founded over 100 years ago by Abbot Kinney as a unique beach resort and real estate development. Built to look like it’s namesake in Italy, many of its streets were canalled, its business district building’s colonnaded in Venetian Style, and its huge amusement piers both at Windward Avenue and at Pier Avenue in adjacent Ocean Park, contained the latest in fun houses, dance halls, roller coasters, thrill rides and other entertainment.
This resort, dubbed The Coney Island of the Pacific, the Disneyland of its day, thrilled millions of visitors during the first half of the 20th century. Los Angeles’ interurban trolley system transported 100,000 tourists to the beach resort each weekend, and Venice’s miniature steam trains and gondola fleet provide its internal transportation.
Those who preferred to walk could stroll between its amusement piers along Venice’s boardwalk, which fronted its beach. There they could rent bathing suits for a cool dip in the ocean, or swim at the Venice Plunge, a hot salt water swimming pool.
Unfortunately Venice’s heyday began to fade when it gave up its civic identity in 1925 to become part of the city of Los Angeles located 14 miles inland. As a provincial town with pretensions of becoming a world class city, Los Angeles was insensitive to Venice’s unique amusement pier business and picturesque canals, and historic buildings. It filled most of its canals in 1929, closed its largest amusement pier in 1946, and destroyed most of its historic business district in 1962.
After decades as a rundown beach town and a cheap place to live, it was rediscovered in the late 1970’s as an interesting place to visit, and a hip place to live. Now with real estate prices soaring, it is quickly becoming gentrified.
*Words from the book, Venice California ‘Coney Island of the Pacific’ by Jeffrey Stanton.