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In 1891 Abbot Kinney, a wealthy tobacco mogul, and his partner Francis Ryan bought the two mile strip of marshland 14 miles west of Los Angeles, California now known as Venice Beach. The idea was to create a tourist area filled with amusement parks, gondolas, canals, hotels among other structures based around Venice, Italy.
Venice Beach opened July 4th, 1905 after a couple disastrous storms that resulted in over 1,000 workers rebuilding around the clock in order to open Venice Beach by the 4th of July. Over the years Venice Beach became more tourist oriented opening more and more amusement rides and attracting up to 150,000 tourists every weekend.
Annexation and The Great Depression
In 1925 Venice was annexed to Los Angeles due to their lack of funds. Los Angeles committees began making Venice more into an image of Los Angeles by trying to take down the amusement piers, this didn’t actually happen until 1946 when the leases for the piers were up, and by cementing over canals in order to make more roads. Venice began booming when oil was found in 1929 moving in roughly 450 oil wells giving Venice needed income during the great depression in 1932.
During World War II Venice began having blackout rules so it was only available for use during the day. Even with these rules it was a constant destination for sailors and soldiers during the daytime on weekend leave. Then in 1946 two out of the three amusement parks were torn down leaving the Ocean Park Pier to be turned into a nautical themed amusement pier thriving in the 50’s yet still being torn down in 1967.
A New Venice Culture
After The Great Depression Venice Beach was still suffering. Bad luck ensued and a new building code was enforced that required all buildings to be upgraded. This code made it impossible for building owners to get loans, resulting in about 550 busineses being demolished.
After this demoliton a group of coffee shop philosophers known as the ‘Beats’ began to move to Venice beach living off of their poetry, music and art. Then during the Summer of Love the hippies moved in to Venice while the ‘Beats’ moved out, giving Venice a whole new population.
This new generation gave Venice Beach a whole new artistic, young feel even though it had been run down from the years of bankruptcy and neglect from Los Angeles. During the 1970’s and 1980’s Venice Beach became a ground for murals, street performance, skateboarding, basketball and many other activities.
To cope with this new population Venice built an 18-mile bicycle path which extends from Torrance to Santa Monica in 1972, moving people in Venice around on bicycles and also moving in people from Torrance and Santa Monica easily on bicycles as well.
Venice Beach and Santa Monica are actually where modern day skateboarding derived from surfing.
Venice Beach Today
There are a few core attractions in Venice Beach. Skateboarding, body building and basketball are the things that attract most tourists to this thriving beach town, possibly even more than the countless street performers. Since it’s always good weather in this area of California there is a famous outdoor gym on the sand called “Muscle Beach” where body builders work out for surrounding onlookers. Arnold Schwarzenegger actually used to work out at Muscle Beach before and during his fame.
Skateboarders have run Venice Beach since skateboarding was created in this area. There is a famous skatepark in Venice Beach where skateboarders from Los Angeles and other areas will drive to just to skate it even though most days it’s packed full of skaters.
Outdoor street basketball is also a huge deal on the beach in Venice which holds multiple outdoor courts where people can show up to play pickup games of basketball or compete in the league that has formed at these courts. Many basketball players that have played at these courts have earned fame either on television, in the NBA or just amongst the Venice Beach crowd.
Dates and information for this exhibit were obtained from: