Venice is a district on the Westside of Los Angeles, California, United States. It is known for its canals, beaches and circus-like Ocean Front Walk, a two-and-a-half mile pedestrian-only promenade that features performers, fortune-tellers, artists, and vendors. It was home to some of Los Angeles’ early beat poets and artists and has served as an important cultural center of the city. Venice is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the southwest, by the unincorporated Marina del Rey on the southeast, by Culver City on the east, by the Los Angeles neighborhood of Mar Vista on the northeast, and by the city of Santa Monica on the north.
Recent archeological studies show there was a seafaring culture in Southern California in 8,000 B.C.
The area was occupied by the Hokan-speaking people of the Milling Stone Period who both fished, hunted sea mammals, and gathered wild seeds. They were later replaced by migrants — possibly fleeing drought in the Great Basin.
Generations before the arrival of the Europeans, the Gabrielinos had identified and lived in the best sites for human occupation. The survival and success of Los Angeles would depend greatly on the presence of a nearby and prosperous Gabrielino village called Yaanga. Its residents would provide the colonists with seafood, fish, bowls, pelts, and baskets. For pay, they would dig ditches, haul water, and provide domestic help. They often intermarried with the Mexican colonists. Oil had always been a part of Southern California, dating back to the Chumash Indians and the seeps, or areas where the natural gas and tar just appeared bubbling up from the ground. Native Americans had known these seeps for thousands of years.
The first Europeans to visit the Los Angeles region were Captain Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his crew. They were sailing up the coast looking for a new passage to Asia. Cabrillo noticed the native people using the naturally occurring tar, or “pitch”, to waterproof their canoes. In 1602, Captain Sebastián Vizcaíno dropped anchor at Santa Catalina Island and near San Pedro. It would be another 166 years before another European would visit the region. Los Angeles had its beginnings between 1765 and 1771 in the plans of a royal bureaucrat visiting New Spain, General José de Gálvez. During the land expedition from San Diego to Monterey, engineer Michael Costanso and FatherJuan Crespi accompanied Portola. They kept careful notes of all they observed. Reaching the future site of Los Angeles, the party camped out along side a river. Portola named the river Porciuncula.
Mexico’s independence from Spain was celebrated with great festivity throughout Alta California. No longer subjects of the king, people were now ciudadanos, citizens with rights under the law. In the plazas of Monterey, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and other settlements, people swore allegiance to the new government, the Spanish flag was lowered, and the flag of independent Mexico raised. Los Angeles would grow into a self-sustaining farming community, the largest in Southern California. Its development conformed strictly to the Law of the Indies
The Indian village of Yaanga was relocated near the future corner of Commercial and Alameda Streets. In 1845, it was relocated again to present-day Boyle Heights. With the coming of the Americans, disease took a great toll among Indians. Between 1848 and 1880, the total population of Los Angeles went from 75,050 to 12,500. Self-employed Indians were not allowed to sleep over in the city. They faced increasing competition for jobs as more Mexicans moved into the area and took over the labor force. Those who loitered or were drunk or unemployed were arrested and auctioned off as laborers to those who paid their fines. They were often paid for work with liquor, which only increased their problems.
California transferred to the United States as a result of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-American War. According to historian Mary P. Ryan, “The U.S. army swept into California with the surveyor as well as the sword and quickly translated Spanish and Mexican practices into cartographic representations.” Gold discovered in Coloma first brought thousands of miners from Sonora northern Mexico on the way to the gold fields. So many of them settled in the area north of the Plaza that it came to be known as Sonoratown.
Lieutenant Edward Ord surveyed Los Angeles to confirm and extend the streets of the city. His survey put the city into the real-estate business, creating its first real-estate boom and filling its treasury. Street names were changed from Spanish to English. Further surveys and street plans quickly replaced the original plan for the pueblo with a new civic center south of the Plaza and a new use of space. During the Gold Rush years in northern California, Los Angeles became known as the “Queen of the Cow Counties” for its role in supplying beef and other foodstuffs to hungry miners in the north. Among the cow counties, Los Angeles County had the largest herds in the state followed closely by Santa Barbara and Monterey Counties. With the temporary absence of a legal system, the city was quickly submerged in lawlessness. Many of the New York regiment disbanded at the end of the war and charged with maintaining order were thugs and brawlers. They roamed the streets joined by gamblers, outlaws, and prostitutes driven out of San Francisco and mining towns of the north by Vigilance Committees or lynch mobs. Los Angeles came to be known as the “toughest and most lawless city west of Santa Fe.”
Los Angeles was incorporated as an American city on April 4, 1850. Five months later, California was admitted into the Union. That same year Abbot Kinney was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Kinney was best known for his “Venice of America” development in Los Angeles. Kinney’s family moved to Washington, D.C. and became known in politics. His aunt’s husband was Senator James Dixon of Connecticut.
The Constitution of California deprived Indians of any protection under the law, considering them as non-persons. As a result, it was impossible to bring an Anglo to trial for killing an Indian or forcing them off their property. Anglos concluded that the “quickest and best way to get rid of (their) troublesome presence was to kill them off, (and) this procedure was adopted as a standard for many years.” When New England author and Indian-rights activist Helen Hunt Jackson toured the Indian villages of Southern California in 1883, she was appalled by the racism of the Anglos living there. She found they treated Indians worse than animals, hunted them for sport, robbed them of their farmlands, and brought them to the edge of extermination.
Every oil or gas field discovered in California was discovered in California was located on the basis of nearby seeps. In California, the earliest oil exploration efforts began in areas where numerous seeps, such as Ojai and Santa Paula, occurred.
At the age of 16, the 6-foot-2-inch Abbot Kinney went to Europe where he studied in Heidelberg, Paris and Zürich, and became fluent in six languages. A walking tour of Italy took him to Venice and the Italian Riviera.
The first railroad, San Pedro Railroad, was inaugurated in October, 1869 by John G. Downey andPhineas Banning. It ran 21 miles (34 km) between San Pedro and Los Angeles. Returning to Washington in 1869 he joined the Maryland National Guard and in 1873 was able to join a U. S. Geological Survey team to map the Sioux reservations ofthe Dakotas. He traveled to Salt Lake City and Oregon and rejoined the survey team in the Yosemite Valley.
Los Angeles was still little more than a village of 5,000.
Phineas Banning excavated a channel out of the mud flats of San Pedro Bay leading toWilmington. Banning had already laid track and shipped in locomotives to connect the port to the city. Harrison Gray Otis, founder and owner of the Los Angeles Times, and a number of business colleagues embarked on reshaping southern California by expanding that into aharbor at San Pedro using federal dollars.
Abbot Kinney joined his older brother’s tobacco business with offices in New York. The Kinney Brothers Tobacco Company did much of its purchasing in the southern states, and then took an interest in imported tobaccos.
Abbot Kinney traveled toEgypt and Ottoman Macedonia. Blake Gumprecht wrote, “The completion of a transcontinental railroad to Los Angeles in 1876 changed Southern California forever.”The town continued to grow at a moderate pace until its connection with the Central Pacific and San Francisco in 1876, and more directly with the East by the Santa Fe system (through its subsidiary California Southern Railroad) in 1885. put them at loggerheads with Collis P. Huntington, president of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company and one of California’s “Big Four” investors in the Central Pacific andSouthern Pacific. (The “Big Four” are sometimes numbered among the “robber barons” of theGilded Age). The line reached Los Angeles in 1876 and Huntington directed it to a port at Santa Monica, where the Long Wharf was built.
Instead of returning home Kinney took an extended vacation through Europe, India, Ceylon, New Guinea, Australia andHawaii. He arrived in San Francisco in January 1880, and train travel east was delayed by snow. Instead, Kinney, anasthmatic, visited a Southern California health resort, the Sierra Madre Villa Hotel. Without a reservation, Kinney slept on a billiards table in the parlor, and woke free from asthma symptoms. Consequently he purchased 550 acres (2.2 km2) of nearby property he named “Kinneloa”. Kinney was appointed to a three year position as chairman of the California Board of Forestry. There he developed an agency to protect the forests of the San Gabriel Mountains, on which ranchers set fires to clear land for livestock grazing. The fires created floods in the valleys during subsequent rainfalls. On his own property he developed land management techniques for raising livestock alongside cultivated forests. Aided by his friend naturalist John Muir, Kinney established the San Gabriel Timberland Reserve in December 1892, forerunner to theAngeles National Forest.
Kinney and Helen Hunt Jackson co-wrote a report for the U.S. Department of the Interior on the condition ofCalifornia Mission Indians. This report and others led to the Mission Indian Act of 1891, which created a commission to seek to establish or confirm reservations in Southern California.
Kinneloa did not suit Kinney’s first wife Margaret Kinney in the summer months and in 1886 they built a summer home inSanta Monica. Kinney formed the Santa Monica Improvement Company in 1887 and built a lawn tennis club.
Kinney purchased 247 acres of land on the bluffs north of Santa Monica Canyon to be developed as “Santa Monica Heights”, but economic conditions forced Kinney to abandon the project. Collis P. Huntington of Southern Pacific Railroadbought the property in 1891 and renamed it “Huntington Palisades”. Kinney shifted his attention to the coastal area south of Santa Monica. Kinney established the nation’s first forestry station in Rustic Canyon on 6 acres (24,000 m2) of land donated by Santa Monica co-founder John P. Jones (also a U.S. Senator from Nevada), and Arcadia Bandini de Stearns Baker. One of the station’s projects was a study of the newly introduced eucalyptus trees.
The Union Oil Company of California was incorporated on October 17th, in the small town of Santa Paula, the first major oil company in California.
Kinney and his partner Francis Ryan bought a controlling interest in Pacific Ocean Casino, a country club featuring tennis courts. In september the two partners purchase a tract of land 1-1⁄2 miles long and 1,000 feet wide, 275 acre tract of partially marshy beach front land south of Santa Monica. Kinney and Ryan built a pier, golf course, horse-racing track, boardwalk and other resort amenities. Kinney convinced the Santa Fe Railroad to extend itsInglewood line north to his resort. Ryan died in 1898 and his widow’s new husband, Thomas Dudley, sold their half interest to a group of men (Fraser, Gage and Merritt Jones) not to Kinney’s liking. With a flip of a coin, which Kinney won, he took the marshy southern half to build his Venice of America.
Santa Fe Railroad passenger depot built in Ocean Park. First trains arrive on June 18th. The first well to strike oil in Southern California was drilled by Edward L. Doheny at a depth of 160 feet, at the Los Angeles Field at the corner of Colton Street and Glendale Boulevard, near present day Dodger Stadium. It was drilled using the unlikeliest of instruments, a sharpened end of a eucalyptus tree. And soon Los Angeles became cluttered with oil wells.
Kinney & Ryan begin selling small 25 x 100 foot beach lots at their “Santa Monica Tract” in March. The YMCA decided to build a bathhouse & two story pavilion on donated land in June.
1895 The Small community was renamed Ocean Park in May for a small eucalyptus grove on the adjacent Vawter property. A 500 foot long pier was built into the ocean just south of Hill Street in September.
1898 The resort in March consisted of 150 beach cottages, and a small commercial district along Pier Avenue. A building boom added 40 new beach cottages, several stores, and Kinney’s new 40 acre Ocean Park race course and golf links. Kinney & Ryan granted permission to built a 1250 foot long pier at Pier Avenue over Santa Monica’s city outfall sewer pipes. The town celebrated the pier’s opening on August 29th with a clambake picnic. Francis Ryan, Kinney’s partner, died of a heart attack and his widow’s new husband, Thomas Dudley, sold their half interest to a group of men (Fraser, Gage and Merritt Jones) not to Kinney’s liking. With a flip of a coin, which Kinney won, he took the marshy southern half to build his Venice of America.Henry Huntington purchased the Los Angeles Railway. Two years later, he founded thePacific Electric Railway. These two systems, one with yellow cars serving the city and the other with red cars serving the rest of the county, came to be known as best public transportation system in the world. At its peak, the Pacific Electric was the largest electrically operated interurban railway in the world. Over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of tracks connected Los Angeles with Hollywood, Pasadena, San Pedro, Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Pomona, San Bernardino, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, and other points.
Ryan’s widow married Thomas Dudley, a Santa Monica businessman and becomes Kinney’s new partner.
There were over 100,000 occupants of the city. Several men actively promoted Los Angeles, working to develop it into a great city and to make themselves rich.
Dudley sold his half interest in Ocean Park to Alexander Fraser, Henry Gage and George Merritt Jones. Sherman & Clark announced the formation of the Beach Land Company to develop the marshy land at Playa del Rey into a Venetian style beach resort. With the completion of the Los Angeles Pacific’s electric trolley line in October hundreds began visiting the resort. To assure electric trolley service to Ocean Park from downtown Los Angeles, Kinney formed a partnership with Hook, the owner of the rival Los Angeles Traction Company. Although construction of the line started, Hook sold out to railroad interests who didn’t want competition.
Kinney’s partners built a Casino containing a restaurant and vaudeville theater beside the Ocean Park Pier. Kinney and his partners began to disagree on the development of the marshy undeveloped southern portion of their property.
Kinney and his three partners meet in January to dissolve their Ocean Park Development Company partnership. Kinney won the coin toss and choose to own the undeveloped marshy property. Voters residing in the unincorporated section of the Ocean Park Development land, south of Marine Avenue, voted to establish the city of Ocean Park on February 12th. Henry Huntington and Arthur Parson’s Pacific Amusement Company announce plans to develop Naples, a canaled town near Long Beach. Strong & Dickerson acquired an 1800 foot long tract of beach front land south of Kinney’s tract and began selling lots in their South Ocean Park development. Kinney sent Frank Dunham, his building superintendent, to the east coast to visit various seaside resorts. He travelled to Boston where he hired one of Olmstead’s apprentices as Venice’s landscape architect and town planner. Dunham returned to Venice with preliminary plans in June.Kinney signed contracts to dig the Venice’s half mile long, 70 foot wide Grand Canal and build a 900 foot long, 30 foot wide pleasure pier at Windward Avenue. Work on the canal began in July and in September on the pier. Final plans for Kinney’s resort arrived in July and he hired architects Marsh and Russell to design its principal buildings. All buildings were be built in “Venetian Renaissance” style, with buildings featuring enclosed colonnaded walkways. The Los Angeles Pacific completed its Short Line electric trolley line to Venice in September. Contracts for Kinney’s Ship Cafe and Auditorium, located on the pier, plus four business structures on Windward Avenue were awarded in the fall. Kinney, unsatisfied with progress on the canals, in November hired the Hall Construction Company to use a steam dredge to complete Kinney’s two miles of waterways. Residential lots were offered for sale on November 12th. The St. Mark’s Hotel on Windward broke ground on December 5th.
Enormous waves from two disastrous winter storms in February and March demolish the entire Venice Pier. All the pier’s buildings were damaged beyond repair. The beach was a pile of driftwood and many building sites were flooded. Damages exceeded $50,000 and set the resort’s planned May opening back several months. Venice of America’s grand opening was rescheduled for the July 4th weekend and 1000 workers worked in shifts to rebuild the damaged pier and its Auditorium and Pavilion buildings in time. Water, flowing from the sea in two huge pipes at a rate of 500 gallons a second, began filling the canal network’s central lagoon on June 30th. Coffer dams held back water from the unfinished portions of the canal network where workers were cementing canal walls. Opening weekend’s events included yacht racing, swimming races in the lagoon, the opening of his six week long Assembly in the pier’s 3000 seat auditorium, and band concerts and evening fireworks at the lagoon’s huge 2500 seat amphitheater. Each day 20,000 visitors thronged Venice’s streets for the four day holiday weekend. Many of the resort’s buildings and attractions weren’t open yet, but visitors found the resort enchanting. With only a few hotels open, many tourists stayed at Kinney’s Tent City alongside the Grand Canal. Ocean Park dedicated its enormous $150,000 indoor heated salt- water plunge on July 4th. Strong Dickerson began selling canal lots in their adjacent Short Line Canal tract on July 6th. Work began shortly afterwards to dredge their canal network and connect it to the Playa del Rey lagoon and to Kinney’s Venice of America’s canals. Venice’s imported gondola fleet and miniature railroad began operation in July. Venice of America’s canal network was completed in September. Kinney announced that the sideshows and amusements from the Portland World’s Fair would come to Venice. Construction of buildings to accommodate them began in an area beside the canals. In the off-season, the lower floor of the pier’s Auditorium was converted to the Venetian Gardens. They served refreshments at tables while patrons listened to Ellery’s Royal Italian Band.
Unfortunately for Kinney, the majority of the inhabitants of Venice of America did not share his interest in art and culture. Even though he hired the best lecturers and performers of the time, theChautauqua-like Assembly lost $16,000 the first summer. By December 1905, Kinney knew his dream of creating a great cultural mecca had failed and, ever the astute businessman, he turned his attention to accommodating the wishes of the public. The character of Venice succumbed to the beach-goers and summer holiday guests who frequented the community’s many amusement attractions. Venice came to be known as the “Coney Island of the Pacific”.
By mid-January 1906, an area was built along the edge of the Grand Lagoon that was patterned after the amusement thoroughfares of the great 19th and 20th century expositions. It featured foreign exhibits, amusements, and freak shows. Kinney’s Lagoon Bathhouse with a 70 x 70 foot heated salt-water plunge opens in February. Ocean Park built a 6000 seat auditorium adjacent to its Ocean Park Pier. A skating rink occupied a portion of the immense building. It opened in the spring. Venice’s skating rink, located at Trolley Way (Pacific Avenue) and Loreli, opened on May 11th. Venice quickly fielded a roller hockey team and challenged team from other southern California cities. The roller skating fad ended by Christmas. Kinney built a huge dance hall on his pier. When it opened in July, it could accommodate 800 couples on its wooden floor. As Kinney began to consolidate power and gain control of many of the town’s concessions, simple disputes with partners turned into a series of nasty lawsuits in the fall. He proved to be a ruthless businessman. In December Harriman, who owned both the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Los Angles Pacific trolleys, gave Kinney an ultimatum to sell Venice of America. Kinney reached an agreement with the railroad baron that would allow him to develop the ocean front as a harbor. Fortunately Harriman lost interest. Trolley service was available from Downtown Los Angeles and nearby Santa Monica. Visitors were dazzled by the system of canals complete with gondolasand gondoliers brought in from Venice, Italy. There were ornate Venetian-style businesses and a full sized amusement pier. Around the entire park was a miniature steam railroad along a 21⁄2-mile track. Kinney and some of the nearby residents were aghast at some of the low-class shows that that Venice began to offer, but it was considered the best collection of amusement devices on the Pacific Coast, and it made a handsome profit.
Kinney and the town’s Trustees were embattled in a power struggle over control of Venice of America. When they banned Sunday dancing in his Dance Hall and rescinded his liquor licenses, he closed down operations to deprive the city of most of its tax revenue. The Trustees, who badly miscalculated, yielded. When Kinney decided to build a new ocean front bathhouse and plunge near his pier, several of the Trustees who owned the Ocean Park Pier refused to issue a building permit. Kinney didn’t wait and poured the concrete foundations. When the sheriff decided to dynamite the foundations in June, the woman’s Pick and Shovel Club held a picnic on its walls. The sheriff gave up. Kinney finished construction and his open-air pool opened in August. It was free to the public. Bowling alleys replace the Japanese Exposition in the pier’s Pavilion. Kinney loses the dis-incorporation election on September 30th. Venice of America remains part of Ocean Park. Venice’s new city hall, located on the eastern outskirts of the community opened on October 31st. When the citizens passed a bond issue to finance it, Kinney offered several parcels of land that would have given it a central location. But the Trustees who were at odds with him, instead accepted a ten acre site for $5000 offered by David Evans who was friends with Mayor Burke. A building contract for $10,798 was awarded in May. When it opened, citizens dubbed it “Tokio Palace” because they thought it was about as far away as its namesake in the Orient.
Kinney got his revenge when his Good Government League slate of candidates for Trustees defeat his entrenched enemies. Although Kinney’s supporters were clearly dominant, they were unable to muster a 2/3 majority to dis-incorporate from Ocean Park. Work on Kinney’s $100,000 bath house and plunge resumes in March. The 100 x 150 foot salt water pool could accomodate 2000 bathers. It opened for business on June 21st. The 1908 summer season was the last for the Midway on the lagoon. Fire fighters saved the Abbot Kinney Pier when a fire broke out near the Venice Theater at midnight October 26th.
The Venice Aquarium on Kinney’s Pier opened in January. It’s sunken seal and sea lion tank was surrounded by 48 glass tanks that contained specimens from the Santa Monica Bay.
The L.A. Thompson Company began construction of a Scenic Railroad beside the Kinney Pier. It had mountainous terrain and a tunnel which depicted scenery. The ride gave couples a chance for a quick kiss and an embrace. The pier was widened and Kinney added a Dentzel carousel, a Hades attraction, a Japanese Tea House, and the Ocean Inn restaurant. Construction began in Ocean Park on Fraser’s Million Dollar amusement pier. It would be the largest amusement pier in the world; 1250 feet long and 300 feet wide. It incorporated the existing Horseshoe Pier, built in 1909.
The town’s population increased; it annexed housing tracts. The population (31219 residents in 1910) soon exceeded 10,00; the town drew 50,000 to 150,000 tourists on weekends. Eventually Kinney gained control of city politics and had the name changed from “Ocean Park” to “Venice”. Kinney was also allowed to build a 60-foot breakwater to protect his facilities from ocean storm surf. Kinney sought to recreate the appearance and feel of Venice, Italy in Southern California. The beautifully lit canals with gondoliers and bridges drew widespread publicity and helped sell lots in the development. New rides on the Abbot Kinney Pier included a ferris wheel that arrived from Seattle’s Yukon-Pacific Exposition, and a Rapid’s ride. The latter, a tunnel of love boat ride, depicted scenes like the Panama Canal and an Irish castle. The Merryland Arcade (a penny arcade) and the Neptune Theater, a 750 seat theater for vaudeville and early silent films, opened near the pier across from the Thompson Scenic Railroad. The community officially changed its name from Ocean Park to Venice after the election. Adjoining tracts of nearby land, including Playa del Rey and the Walgrove area were annexed. This increased the city’s size to 4.1 square miles and its population to 5000 residents. Fraser’s Million Dollar Pier opened on June 17th. It featured a spacious dance hall, a PTC carousel, the Crooked House fun house, the Grand Canyon Electric Railroad (a 3rd rail coaster), the Starland Vaudeville Theater, Breaker’s Restaurant, an the Panama Canal model exhibit. One of the more interesting exhibits was the Infant Incubators, where premature babies were displayed and cared for. Medical care like this wasn’t available at hospitals. The L.A. Thompson Company acquired the property south of Fraser’s pier and built a huge Dragon Gorge Scenic Railroad on the beach. The building took up several blocks and also incorporated an Auto Maze ride, a Grotto Cafe and House of Mystery. Arthur Looff installed a beautiful carousel between it and the Casino on the pier. Margaret Kinney, Abbot’s first wife, died on June 30, 1911. She had been living with her sons on Park Avenue while her husband was living with his mistress in nearby Santa Monica. Prior and Church’s Race Thru the Clouds racing roller coaster opened on July 4th. They did a record business that day with only half the cars operating: 25,230 paying customers. In September Venice opened its Union Polytechnic High School in the old Lagoon Bathhouse. One principal and five teachers taught 52 students, mostly in the 9th grade. 700 children were enrolled in Venice schools. The Al G. Barnes Wild Animal Circus made Venice their winter headquarters. They set up a circus tent and gave performances throughout the winter. They returned each year until 1919, except for the 1913 winter.
New rides on Kinney’s amusement pier included Johnson’s Captive Airplane ride, another aerial ride called the Dippy Dips, the circular Auto Races and the Virginia Reel. Tom Prior a miniature motordrome on Windward Avenue. A dare- devil driver raced his car along the 65 degree walls of the saucer shaped course. Hal Shain drove too fast in December when his car rose past the “red line” and smashed into the wooden guard rail protecting the spectators. He died when his car rolled over and crashed into a heap at the bottom. The first bathing beauty contest was started as a promotional feature for the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper. Fire broke out in the basement of the Casino Cafe on Fraser’s Million Dollar Pier on September 3, 1912. A stiff sea breeze fanned the flames and soon the entire pier was ablaze. More than a 1000 visitors quickly headed for the single exit not blocked by flames. Some, who were trapped, escaped by boat or dove into the sea. The fire leapt across Ocean Front Walk and engulfed five square blocks of Ocean Park’s business district. 700 fire fighters from 12 fire companies were powerless to stop the fire as 100,000 spectators watched. Finally the winds shifted off- shore and nearby Venice was spared. The loss was set at $2.5 million, much of it uninsured.
There were nearly 123,000 automobiles in California, prompting the opening of the first service station – or “gas stand” – on the corner of Sixth and Mateo streets in downtown Los Angeles. And as the number of automobiles mushroomed, gas companies worked hard to keep pace. Eddie Maier, owner of a brewery, bought the Vernon baseball franchise of the Pacific Coast league and brought it to Venice. The Venice Tiger’s first exhibition game, against the Chicago White Sox, was a loss for the Tigers. Although Santa Monica files an injunction to prevent Fraser from rebuilding his pier (they owned 42 foot of ocean frontage at the foot of the pier), he proceeded by setting his pilings beyond the disputed property line. It reopened on May 30, 1913. It had a new Dance Hall, a bowling & billiards hall, a skating rink, a carousel, Puzzletown, Baby Incubators, Crooked House, Mystic Maze and La Petite Theater. It only lacked thrill rides that season.
A huge January storm only slightly damaged the pier, but waves washed over Venice’s badly eroded beach south of the pier. They destroyed several beach front homes and washed away a mile and a half of ocean front sidewalk. Abbot Kinney remarried on March 19, 1914. His second wife, Winifred Harwell, who had been his mistress since 1902, had two children with Kinney before their marriage. Within a year Kinney officially adopted them. Fraser won his lawsuit against Santa Monica. His pier entrance was now on Ocean Front Walk and new buildings took up the gap. A new racing roller coaster, the Ben Hur Racer opened on the north side of the pier. New attractions on Kinney’s Pier included an Ostrich Farm, a Zoological Garden, a Skating Rink and an Underground China exhibit. When Venice’s Union Polytechnic High School on the lagoon burned, Venice built a new high school on the eastern edge of the city. It became one of the most beautiful campuses in the country.
Storms, worse than the previous year, severely damaged portions of Kinney’s pier. Waves washed across Speedway sometimes as far as Trolley Way, one block inland. The Venice Gran Prix automobile race was held on St. Patrick’s Day. 75,000 spectators watched the 300 mile race. Barney Oldfield driving a Maxwell won the race in 4 1/2 hours with an average speed of 65 MPH. The Waldorf Hotel opens in May on the Ocean Front Walk at Westminster Avenue. The hotel had gas lighting, ornate chandeliers a central telephone for its 50 rooms and penthouse apartments, and a ballroom where a six piece band played on weekends. Charlie Chaplin lived there from 1915 to 1920 in Penthouse #1. Clara Bow and Wallace Berry also had penthouses in 1916-1917. Fire destroyed one third of the Fraser Pier Christmas night. Several buildings including the Dance Hall and half of the Ben Hur Racer were destroyed. The combined fire fighting force of three beach cities prevented the blaze from spreading.
Fraser rebuilt his amusement pier. A new dance hall was built at the end of the pier. Another dance hall along the Ocean Front had a 100 foot concrete dome for a roof. The Dome Dance Pavilion opened on July 4th and set record attendance.
Prior and Church’s Great American Racing Derby opened on the Fraser Pier. It was an exciting combination carousel and horse race where the winner of each row of four race horses, won a free ride. When America entered the Great War (WW I), it meant that Americans would have to make sacrifices. To conserve wheat and sugar, food vendors and restaurants had restrictions. There were meatless Tuesdays and wheatless Wednesdays, and soft drinks were less sweet.
Prior and Church, in a dispute with the city of Santa Monica, closed their Great American Racing Derby and attempted to demolish the building. They installed an even larger version on the Abbot Kinney Pier. Their previous location on the Fraser Pier became the Rosemary Theater. Venice and Vernon were the only towns in Los Angeles County where one could buy a drink and a bottle of liquor. When the World War I armistice was signed on November 11th, Venice was the only town open during the killer influenza epidemic. While everyone thought that the epidemic was over, 169 cases and six deaths were reported during the second week of December. Schools, theaters, and dance halls were closed, and people wore flu masks on the streets. The epidemic was abating by Feburary 1919.
In April Venice inaugurated the first aerial police force. It proved useful for tracking fleeing automobile bandits, or finding boats in distress. The Kinney Company enlarged the end of their pier beyond the Auditorium and installed new attractions like the Over the Falls fun house. There was also a new cafeteria on the pier. Enerest Pickering purchased the Fraser Pier in July, then left for the East Coast to procure new rides and attractions.
Venice’s population was now 10,385 residents. The Volstead Act, which ushered in liquor Prohibition, took effect on January 17th. Tax revenue from liquor licenses was cut $30,000 as many bars and restaurants closed. Liquor consumption took place in basement “speak easy” bars along Windward Avenue. They were supplied with liquor smuggled in from offshore boats that docked beneath the nearby pier. Convenient tunnels leading from the beach to nearby hotel basements plus an occasional payoff to the police, cut the risk. Venice added numerous attractions to its pier district. The Scenic Railroad was removed to make room for the 1500 seat California Theater. Prior and Church razed the Rapids ride to make room for their new Big Dipper roller coaster and for a Mill Chutes ride. Others added a Noah’s Ark fun house, a Bug House and a Pig Slide. Pickering doubled the size of his Ocean Park Pier (400,000 sq ft). He enlarged his Crakerbox Dance Hall and placed new rides around it; a Captive Airplane ride, Over the Top (a cross between a Virginia Reel and a spiral coaster), a Dentzel Carousel, and half a dozen other attractions. Crandell built the Blarney Racer roller on the north side of the pier, and rides like the Ye Old Red Mill, the Frolic and the Monkey Speedway Auto Races opened nearby. People could bet on three monkeys peddling miniature autos. Abbot Kinney died of lung cancer on November 4, 1920. He was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica. His eldest son, Thornton, took over the business. A fire started in the Dance Hall on the Venice Pier at 9:30 P.M. on December 20th. Flames quickly spread to adjoining attractions and by 10 P.M. the fire was out of control and in danger of jumping across Ocean Front Walk to Venice’s business district. Fireman dipped there hoses into the nearby Plunge and used dynamite in a futile attempt to stop the fire at the outer boundaries of the pier. All seemed lost when suddenly the wind shifted and blew offshore at 11:30 P.M. By morning the pier was a smoldering ruin with only the new roller coaster and the bandstand tower spared. Damages ran to $2,000,000 with little insured. Pier game concessionaires set up along Ocean Front Walk and the Venice Plunge was converted into a temporary dance hall in time for the New Years Eve Winter Carnival.
The Sunset Pier, several blocks south of Windward Avenue was under construction within days of the disaster. The pier featuring the Sunset Ballroom and little else opened in July. Plans for completing the horseshoe pier never materialized. Reconstruction of the Venice Amusement Pier began in February and by April 15th, the last of the pier pilings were in place. The new pier was 1200 feet long by 525 feet wide. The Kinney Company built a new Dance Hall. Others were building a larger Ship Cafe, Noah’s Ark, Dentzel Carousel, Great American Racing Derby, Captive Aeroplanes, Dodgem and Over the Falls rides. Prior and Church were building a radically new “Bobs” designed twister roller coaster. The pier opened for limited business on Memorial Day and was fully operational for July 4th weekend.
Charles Lick’s new pier adjacent to Pickering’s pier in Ocean Park, but physically on the Venice side of the town line, opened for Easter. It featured the Bon Ton Ballroom, the Zip roller coaster, a Dodge’em, Caterpillar and Captive Aeroplane rides. The old Dome Dance Hall along the boardwalk was converted into a theater. Pickering added only a few rides to his pier; a Witching Waves, Double Whirl and Dodge’em. James T. Peasgood, Jr., Venice’s City Treasurer disappeared with $23,000 in city funds. Trustees discovered $28,500 in securities in his safety deposit box. When he returned, he confessed to the embezzlement to cover his gambling losses. He was sentenced to prison for one to ten years.
The city, faced with various political as well as municipal problems, decided with a February election to submit a charter to the voters for a city manager style government. But then they befuddled the voters by placing a series of bond issues on the ballot totaling over $1,600,000 that attempted to fix all problems. Finally they asked the voters if they wanted to be annexed to Santa Monica. The voters rejected everything. They were clearly dissatisfied, but each faction opposed each other’s plans. After 2000 people petitioned that the city be annexed to Los Angeles, a special election was held in July. Annexation lost by 346 votes; 1849 to 1503. The city was temporarily saved. Pickering commissioned Prior and Church for a new twister roller coaster on the site of the old Blarney Racer. He also purchased Whip and Caterpillar rides for his Ocean Park pier. The Kinney Company, in a round of friendly pier competition, added $500,000 in new attractions. Foremost was the new Fun House which contained 25 different types of rides, slides and amusements. Some Kick roller coaster was built at the seaward end of the pier, while others installed a Glass House, Pig Slide, Automatic Baseball Pitcher, several children’s rides and a Deep Diving concession.
The Pickering and Lick Piers in Ocean Park burned in another disastrous fire on the morning of January 6th. Ten fire companies fought the blaze fanned by only a light sea breeze and in 2 1/2 hours managed to contain the fire to only the piers. However, the entire pier complex was destroyed, a loss of $2,000,000. The Venice Investment Company and West Coast Theaters bought Pickering’s beach holdings just two weeks after the fire. While Lick, on the Venice side of the property, began rebuilding immediately, the new investors didn’t. Lick hired Prior and Church to reconstruct their Giant Dipper on his pier, and built a new Ballroom. The ballroom opened in May and the new coaster in July. The City Betterment League’s slate of candidates won the spring election. However, they were bent on self destruction and voted in the name of progress to fill in Venice’s canals. The residents who sued were granted a temporary injunction.
Union Oil had more than 400 service stations on the West Coast. Both Venice Pier’s Coal Mine (burros pulled two passenger carts) ride and the Dragon Bamboo Slide opened that spring. In July the long awaited (construction began in 1922) Flying Circus aerial ride debuted. Six, eight passenger planes, attached to rotating vertical arms, circled the high 65 foot tower, and rose and fell as the speed and plane’s lift were varied. It was a thrilling ride, just like barnstorming in the 1920’s. While the Ocean Park Pier’s grand opening celebration wasn’t until August 29th, both its Egyptian Ballroom and Jones’ Fun Palace opened in late June. The pier had a new Hi-Boy roller coaster, an Aerial Swing, Toonerville Fun House, Lighthouse Slide, Miniature Auto Speedway, carousel and two theaters; the Rosemary and Dome. Venice became more and more politically hard to govern. When a series of bond initiatives for civic improvements failed to pass in the August 14th election, the city Trustees called an annexation election to Los Angeles for October 2nd. Both sides fought a bitter battle. Many influential citizens wanted to be annexed to nearby Santa Monica. Out of towners temporarily moved to Venice to influence the election. Perhaps the voters listened or they were just fed up with Venice’s inept government for they voted 3130 to 2215 to become part of Los Angeles. After Venice became part of the city of Los Angeles on November 25th, its Sunday Blue Laws immediately became effective. Sunday dancing and gambling games were banned. Pier business suffered. Venice residents became concerned when the director of the city’s planning commission declared that Venice’s amusement piers marred nature’s beauty and they should be removed. Several days later city officials apologized and assured Venetians that their piers would remain, but no more would be built. That squashed Prior and Church’s plans for a new $1,500,000 amusement pier a mile south of Windward. Los Angeles took advantage of Venice’s municipal prosperity by spending its municipal tax surplus on its new downtown city hall, and took its brand new fire engine, replacing it with a clunker.
Petitions were circulated to create a special amusement zone in Venice that would circumvent Los Angeles’ strict Blue Laws. An election was scheduled for April. A clear majority of Los Angeles’ votors voted for it and Sunday dancing resumed on May 16th. Evangelist Aimee Sempre McPherson, “Sister Aimee,” disappeared while swimming in the ocean in front of her Venice hotel near the Lick Pier. Airplanes and deep sea divers were called into the search. A lifeguard drowned during the search. Rumors of foul play abounded. A month later they held a memorial service, then two days later she reappeared. She told a tale of kidnapping and torture, and how she escaped across the Mexican desert. When contradictions in her story surfaced, charges were filed against her. All charges against her were dropped the following year. The Ocean Park pier added new attractions including the China- town and Underworld waxworks which depicted realistic scenes like a Chinese opium den, an electrocution at Sing Sing, and several dramatically showing beheading and torture. A lifeguard station was built on the beach at Brooks Avenue. The Venice Miniature Railroad ceased operation and Trolley Way (Pacific Avenue) was finally paved for automobile traffic. Villa City along side Grand Canal was razed to make room for a new business district.
New attractions on the Venice Pier included the Flying Trains, the Submarine Divers and 20 Years in Sing Sing. Dance marathons became the rage and dance halls offered cash prizes. Participants had a five minute break every hour. They danced until they dropped from exaustion. Los Angeles officials decided to fill in Kinney’s Venice of America canal network so citizens would have more streets and places to park their cars. Naturally the city governmnet expected the canal residents to pay for the project by setting up an assessment district. Although they awarded the contract to the R. A. Watson Company in December, the Board of Public Works refused to execute it in fear that they canals, if filled, would revert to the Kinney heirs. The contractor took his case to court.
The California Supreme Court finally ruled in the canal filling case. The court stated that the canals were transportation corridors and that although Kinney didn’t anticipate newer forms of transportation, it was no reason to deny their use.. The first trucks began to dump dirt into the canals in the summer. Work was completed by the end of the year at a cost of $636,000. The canals south of Venice Boulevard remained. They survived because the area was only half settled and couldn’t support an assessment. Besides there wasn’t a need for more streets in that area of Venice. The Ocean Park pier was lengthened 500 feet and a Shoot the Shoots ride occupied its very end. Boats slid down its 120 foot high ramp into a four foot deep pool below. A Ferris wheel was nearby. Jones’ Fun Palace was converted into a roller rink. The Venice Pier removed the Bobs roller coaster to make room for several flat circular rides. The old merry-go-round building was razed to make room for the Niagara Barrel and the Parker carousel operated under a tent nearby. The city took possession of the bankrupt Sunset Pier for non- payment of rent. The Parks Department decided to convert it into a municipal bathing pavilion. Oil was discovered 0n December 18th on county property just east of the Grand Canal and Avenue 35 on the Venice Peninsula. The well initially produced 3000 barrels per day. Oil fever swept the town, and within a month Los Angeles allowed drilling south of Lenona (Washington Street). Oil wells were in people’s front yards, backyards, and by late 1929, on the beach in Venice and Santa Monica. There were hundreds of them. The royalty checks were welcome but the tranquility of the land was destroyed. The wells were everywhere. Within a year, 148 oil wells covered the area, producing over 40,000 barrels of oil daily.
When surfers in California wanted something to surf when the waves were flat. No one knows who made the first board; it seems that several people came up with similar ideas at around the same time. These first skateboarders started with wooden boxes or boards with roller skate wheels attached to the bottom. The boxes turned into planks, and eventually companies were producing decks of pressed layers of wood – similar to the skateboard decks of today. During this time, skateboarding was seen as something to do for fun besides surfing, and was therefore often referred to as “Sidewalk Surfing”. By January, 2000 property owners enthusiastically supported residential oil drilling. There seemed no end in sight. September 50 oil wells were in production on the Venice Peninsula. The former residential area became an ugly, polluted place and Florence Nightingale Grammar School was closed for safety. By the end of the year, the oil field became the 4th largest in the state. Amusement revenue was cut sharply during the first summer of the Depression. Only a few improvements were made on the Venice Pier. A Monkey Zoo and only two kiddie rides opened.
The weather was strange as record temperatures hovered around the 100 degree mark throughout the summer. Ocean temperatures reached between 76 and 78 degrees and hammerhead sharks were sighted in bay for the first time. It was so hot in Los Angeles on July 26th that 350,000 people fled to the beach between Del Rey to the Ocean Park Pier. Thousands camped out on the beach at night.
The year 1932 was considered the worst of the Depression. First National Bank of Venice and Ocean Park’s First Marine Bank went bankrupt. Five water polo players from Venice played on the USA’s Olympic water polo team. Unfortunately they lost their final match to Hungary and only won the silver medal. Local beauty pageants became so popular that Venice hosted the state wide Miss California Contest in the Venice Ballroom. The Kinney Company’s pier amusement business was so bad the summer of 1932, that they defaulted on their bond interest payments. The company went into receivership. Bingo parlors became the only profitable business in Venice. Technically they were illegal, but clever operators developed variations that allowed the customer to use their “skill” to choose numbers. One of the most successful operators was John Harrah and their son Bill. (They would later move to Reno, Nevada in 1937 where they built a sucessful casino).
The Long Beach earthquake on March 10th wrecked Venice’s high school. Students took classes in tents for nearly 18 months while the campus was rebuilt. Only a few other Venice buildings were damaged in the quake. In April Congress passed the Little Volstead Act which allowed the consumption of 3.2% beer. A beer garden opened on the end of the Venice Pier and the Ship Cafe reopened under the ownership of Tommy Jacobs. Finally liquor consumption became legal again in December when the states ratified the repeal of the 21st Amendment.
Jobs were created, but environmental destruction was wide spread and polluting the surrounding residential area and beaches. Drilling waste clogged the remaining waterways. It got so bad that the Del Rey Oil Co’s drilling permit was revoked for dumping waste in Venice Lake, located at 500 Washington Boulevard. The Venice peninsula had become a payed-out, polluted mess. For ten years Venice residents were dissatisfied with Los Angeles government. Although property taxes had increased 116% by 1929, not one bond issue for local improvements was approved by the electorate until 1930 when a new police headquarters, library, and municipal swimming pool were built. However, secessionists managed to get 12,000 signatures on petitions asking for a state constitutional ammendment to hold a special election within the old incorporated city. While it was passed in the Assembly, powerful lobbyists delayed it in the Senate until it adjourned for the year. Venice held its first Mardi Gras Festival in August. The three day event featured parades, costumes and entertainment. Business was the best in five years, primarily because round trip trolley service from downtown L.A. was reduced to 35 cents. Business also began to improve beginning in 1935 when McDonald Douglas began building DC-3 commuter aircraft in nearby Santa Monica. Venice was a cheap place to live for the aircraft workers. Construction of the new Venice High School began in February 1935 and completed in time for September classes. Its 1200 seat auditorium was finished until January 1937. Plans were proposed to extend the beachside Roosevelt Highway south through Venice to Playa del Rey. It required condemning all the property between Ocean Front Walk and Speedway at a cost of $2,000,000 per mile. The piers would also be torn down. But the state, always short of highway funds, delayed it year after year until World War II intervened.
The buildings on Windward Avenue were remodeled to have a more modern look. Brick buildings were restuccoed and colorful neon lighting was installed along the colonnade’s arches and rooflines of the buildings.
Much of low-lying Venice is flooded during a huge March rainstorm when flood waters overflowed the banks of nearby Ballona Creek. The streets that once were Venice canals were again filled with water, but unfortunately so were people’s homes. Lifeguards evacuated 2000 people from their homes and a large number of families were given Red Cross emergency aid at the Sunset Pier. Damage to 500 homes was $100,000. Tony Cornero converted an old brigantine sailing ship into a gambling ship called the Rex. Its superstructure had a specially designed luxury gambling casino. He anchored it just beyond the three mile limit, and announced with radio and newspaper ads that he was open for business. Water taxis, operating from the Venice, Ocean Park and Santa Monica piers, brought hundreds of customers. It was a first class operation with good food, top name bands, unwatered booze and honest games. It was a success and needed Tony $300,000 per month. Other gambling ships also operated in the Santa Monica Bay until Earl Warren, the California Attorney General decided to take action. Cornero held the police boats at bay with high pressure fire hoses when they tried to close his operation that summer. But nine days latter, Cornero unexpectively surrendered. The war moved to the courts where they ruled that the three mile limit in Santa Monica Bay extended to an imaginary line connecting the two ends of the bay. Tony had to pay a fine.
Once World War II began on December 7, 1941 a blackout immediately took effect. While National Guardsman patrolled the beach. helmeted air raid wardens inspected their assigned blocks for any stray shafts of light that might be a beacon for enemy submarines and ships. Douglas Aircraft’s factory in Santa Monica was completely camouflaged so that it looked like a suburban housing tract from the air. A fake aircraft factory was built across the street. Hundreds of local Japanese residents, many who farmed nearby or operated games on the piers, were rounded up and deported to detention camps in California’s Owens Valley.
Venice’s amusement piers were open throughout the war, except at night. They were a favorite place for soldiers and sailors on weekend leave. Dance halls were a favorite place to meet local girls. James and Benny Goodman played swing music at the Ocean Park Pier’s Casino Gardens and Venice’s Dance Hall offered the best bands playing country western music.
After threats of Japanese invasion diminished in 1943, the amusement piers were permitted to operate in the evenings The piers were also a haven for young Mexican-Americans. They adopted a style of dress distinctively their own; the boys ducktail haircuts, large pleated trousers and long drape coats. The girls wore tight fitting sweaters and black hobble skirts. Going out in one’s best attire was called “zooting.” It was inevitable that tension would develop between the “zoot suiters” and the serviceman. On May 8, 1943 a clash began when several hundred sailors, soldiers and local teens ran them out of the Aragon Ballroom on the Ocean Park Pier. They clashed again at midnight. About 40 “zoot-suiters” were arrested. Several hours later the Kinney Company’s offices at Windward and Ocean Front Walk mysteriously burned. Police roadblocks prevented further clashes the following weekend, but the action moved to downtown Los Angeles where considerable racial violence occurred. The California State Board of Health quarantined Venice’s beach as far north as Brooks Avenue because Los Angeles was dumping raw sewage into the Santa Monica Bay. Officials closed the Venice Plunge because rotting timbers on the roof made the structure unsafe. Restrictions of building materials during the war made repair impossible.
The Kinney Company’s tidelands lease expired on January 13th. The company was stunned when the city’s Park’s and Recreation Dept. refused to renew the lease. The company had just recently built a new pier entrance and repaired the pier’s ageing deck. Besides it was profitable with revenues of $100,000 annually, and was the key to the community’s return to prosperity. But officials felt that renewing the lease with conflict with their long range goals of widening the beach and removing all existing piers. The local city councilman tried to intervene and extend the lease another year. Naturally the Parks department rebuked the request because they had been against Venice’s honky-tonk atmosphere since the day they annexed the city. The Venice Amusement Pier closed on midnight Saturday April 20th. The Kinney Company had until May 15th to remove anything salvageable. Several of the rides were sold to other parks. Dismantlement took over a year. Finally in May 1947, boys set fire to the Bamboo Slide and it quickly spread to the roller coaster, the only other remaining structure. The Ocean Park Pier kept Venice’s amusement park tradition alive. First they installed a double Ferris wheel near the end of the pier, and the huge Strat-o-liner ride that Edmund Martine had begun before the world war intervened, was finally completed.
Venice’s badly eroded beach was widened during construction of Los Angeles’ Hyperion Sewage Plant in El Segundo. Sand, 14 million tons, was sluiced (a slurry of water and sand) north in enormous pipes until the beach was a uniform 500 feet wide. It was strange to see the short Sunset Pier completely land locked before it was eventually removed.
The Kinney Company’s Venice Pier beach property was sold to the State of California for $640,000. Unfortunately Thomas and Phil Davis, two sleazy lawyers, had acquired majority control of the company’s bonds in the 1930’s. Although they owned slightly more than half the company, few Kinney family members received more than a few thousand dollars. Venice had a double celebration that summer, first when the beach quarantine was lifted on June 16th, and then when its new beach athletic center opened on July 9th. It was located between Avenues 17th and 19th. It had an adjoining 1000 car parking lot. Venice Lake Park opened a kiddie amusement park on a 70 acre tract at Dell Avenue and Washington Street. It included the 30 acre Lake Los Angeles (nicknamed Mud Lake) which featured water ski shows. The park had a 35 foot tall Philadelphia Toboggan Company Junior roller coaster called the little dipper. It also had several pony tracks, a mile long miniature railroad, and five other rides.The first manufactured skateboards were ordered by a Los Angeles, California surf shop, meant to be used by surfers in their downtime. The shop owner, Bill Richard, made a deal with the Chicago Roller Skate Company to produce sets of skate wheels, which they attached to square wooden boards. Accordingly, skateboarding was originally denoted “sidewalk surfing” and early skaters emulated surfing style and maneuvers.Crate scooters preceded skateboards, and were borne of a similar concept, with the exception of having a wooden crate attached to the nose (front of the board), which formed rudimentary handlebars
The Lawrence Welk Band was hired in an attempt to revive the failing dance business at the Aragon Ballroom on the Lick Pier. Television KTLA was persuaded to resume its broadcasts. Welk’s “Champagne Music” became a hit and within a year, Welk became a national celebrity.
Nearly 7 inches of rain fell on the Los Angeles area in a January two day storm. The area west of Electric Avenue from Brooks Avenue to Venice Boulevard was under water and 100 families were evacuated by boat. CBS and the Los Angeles Turf Club (Santa Anita) obtained the lease on the Ocean Park Pier. They decided to build a $10,000,000 nautical themed park to compete with Disneyland. The pier was closed after Labor Day and for more than a year, 80 of the best amusement park designers, special effects wizards and artists created new rides and integrated the old roller coaster, diving bells, Strat-o-liner and carousel into the design. The 28 acre theme park opened on July 28, 1958.
The Urban Renewal Agency in Los Angeles announced that federal funds would soon be available for redevelopment of the Venice area. Venice had badly deteriorated physically through the 50’s. Pawnshops and liquor stores had replaced souvenir shops and bingo parlors. Tourists were replaced by derelicts, drug addicts, winos and motorcycle gangs. Property values had dropped dramatically. Construction of the huge Marina del Rey small boat harbor adjacent to Venice began in December. Huge dredges began cutting a channel entrance for the harbor at Avenue 58 on the Venice Peninsula. After it was finally completed in 1962, it became home to 6500 boats and thousands of residents who lived in apartments that fronted the harbor.
Venice property owners, who were against relinquishing their property rights, voted against urban renewal. The Venice Canals Improvement Association was formed by Henry Greene and Barbara Jean Hayes to redevelop the remaining canals. They were inspired by the development of the nearby Marina del Rey and they envisioned concrete lined canals wide and deep enough for boating. A new group of people began to settle the Venice area. They adopted a new lifestyle that rejected the bland contemporary values of work and success in favor of a Bohemian life centered on poetry, jazz and art. These people called the “Beats” were attracted to the area by cheap rent, a mild climate, and toleration of their lifestyle. They hung out at coffee houses like the Gas House and Venice West Cafe where they held poetry readings and listened to jazz combos or folk singing. But unrelenting civic pressure pushed the fire department to issue citations for over crowding, and the police to make vice raids and drug arrests. The Gas House closed in 1960, but Venice West Cafe lasted a few years longer.
Pacific Ocean Park was a twenty-eight acre (110,000 m²), nautical-themed amusement park built on a pier at Pier Avenue in theOcean Park section of Santa Monica, California, which was intended to compete with Disneyland. “And Disneyland and POP is worth a trip to L.A.” is a line from the Beach Boys‘ song “Amusement Parks U.S.A.” from their 1965 album Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!). After it closed and fell into disrepair, the park and pier anchored the Dogtown area of Santa Monica.”POP,” as it was soon nicknamed and pronounced, “pee-oh-pee” was a joint venture between CBS and Santa Anita Park. It opened on Saturday, July 28, 1958 with an attendance figure of 20,000. The next day, the park drew 37,262 which handily outperformed Disneyland’s attendance figure that same day. Admission was ninety cents for adults which included access to the park and certain exhibits. The term “POP” was also used as a clever acronym for “Pay One Price”, though other rides and attractions were on a pay-as-you-go basis. Like Disneyland, Pacific Ocean Park found corporate sponsors to share the expenses of some of the exhibits. Six of the pier’s original attractions were incorporated into the new park: The Sea Serpent roller coaster, the antique Looff carousel, the Toonerville Fun House, the Glass House, twin diving bells and much more.
Surfers were taking 2×4’s, cutting roller skates in half and mounting the wheels to the wood. Then riding them down hills. Copying the moves they used in the water on pavement. By January 5, 1959, Pacific Ocean Park had attracted 1,190,000 visitors. Although plans were made to add four new attractions, only two were completed at a cost of $2,000,000.
Los Angeles City Councilman Karl Rundsburg formed the Venice Planning Committee in an effort to revitalize the community. These representatives from 14 civic organizations requested that Los Angeles implement a program of building code enforcement. Essentially they wanted city building inspectors to force property to improve their structures to current day standards. Owners would either make repairs or demolish them at their own expense.
The city agreed to the above plan, and a pilot program in the downtown beach front district was implemented. When building inspections began in January, both the Gas House and St, Marks Hotel failed to pass. They were condemned for demolition, but the owners demanded a public hearing. They formed the Shoreline & Landmarks Society with the goal of having them declared cultural landmarks. They eventually hired a lawyer to file a lawsuit against code enforcement, but they lost. Phase II and III of the inspection took place in 1963 and 1964. While it was unfair that banks would not make loans to upgrade these structures, in the end many property owners had no choice in 1965 but to watch their historic buildings be demolished. By the end of the year 550 buildings, one third of the Venice community was destroyed. It was supposed to be for the better, but Venice took on the appearance of a bombed out war zone, just cleared of rubble. It was ironic that with Los Angeles waging a war to evict the “undesirables” from the community, especially in the black Oakwood ghetto, that by leaving that area for the last phase of the project, the Oakwood community had the extra time to organize against code enforcement thus remaining an intact slum. The city built athletic facilities, beach parking and a main pavilion building on the old Kinney Company pier property at Windward Avenue. The building had an open air theater with amphitheater seating. Cold damp evenings beside the ocean soon convinced the city to put a roof on the building. There was also plans to build an outdoor swimming pool beside the pavilion, but the Board of Education with a bit of politicking managed to move the site inland, adjacent to Venice High School.
A number of surfing manufacturers such as Makaha started building skateboards that resembled small surfboards, and assembling teams to promote their products. The popularity of skateboarding at this time spawned a national magazine, Skateboarder Magazine, and the 1965 international championships were broadcast on national television. The growth of the sport during this period can also be seen in sales figures for Makaha, which quoted $10 million worth of board sales between 1963 and 1965 (Weyland, 2002:28). Yet by 1966 the sales had dropped significantly (ibid) and Skateboarder Magazine had stopped publication. The popularity of skateboarding dropped and remained low until the early 1970s
Work was begun on the $80,000,000 Ocean Park urban redevelopment project. All buildings along the beach west of Main Street from Ocean Park Blvd. south to the Venice boundary were demolished. Two large apartment building skyscrapers and an adjoining golf course replaced Ocean Park’s historic business district.
The 1200 foot long concrete Venice Fishing Pier opened at Washington Street. Skateboarding dies, again. Santa Monica began its Ocean Park urban renewal project. Buildings in the surrounding area were demolished and streets leading to the park were closed. As a result, visitors simply couldn’t reach the park and attendance plummeted to 621,000 in 1965 and 398,700 in 1966.
Pacific Ocean Park was forced into bankruptcy when the city of Santa Monica demanded that company pay their bank rent. The rides were auctioned the following year. Although the huge Start-o-liner (Mr. Dolphin) tower with rockets was sold, it was welded together too well to disassemble. At the end of the 1967 tourist season, the park’s creditors and the City of Santa Monica filed suit to take control of the property because of back taxes and back rent owed by the park’s new owner since 1965. Pacific Ocean Park closed on October 6, 1967. The park’s assets were auctioned off June 28 through June 30, 1968. The proceeds from the sale of thirty-six rides and sixteen games were used to pay off creditors. The ruins of the pier became a favorite surfing area and hangout of the Z-Boys of Dogtown fame. The first of the Hippie invasions of “Flower Children” began that summer. They held love-ins on the beach and beat their bongo drums. While it was peaceful that first summer, the police began round-ups of trouble makers the following winter. Hundred of hippies meet with residents to air complaints. The older residents complained that they were afraid of the long-haired, unkempt youths on the beach who panhandled, used narcotics and were frequently drunk. Peace prevailed until April when riot police were dispatched to clear the beach when 14,000 hippies gathered for a free concert and “love-in” sponsored by the Los Angeles Free Press. Six officers were injured, mostly by flying rocks and bottles while they made 108 arrests. One couple were arrested for lewd conduct as the girl danced topless while her boy friend fondled her. The Western Center for Law and Poverty sued the police department for over reacting at what was considered a lawful assembly.
Racial tensions at Venice High School suddenly flared in March. Police made arrests on the first day as 1000 students pelted them. Six hundred students joined the protest on the second day with additional demands over the school’s rigid dress code. Eventually a list of grievences were drafted to improve minority student’s position on campus.
Canal residents staged a September canal festival as a show of unity against the impending canal improvement project that would force most of the low income renters out of the area. The hippie like festival, attended by thousands, became an annual event until it ended in 1976.
The abandoned Pacific Ocean Park pier burned in a spectacular night fire. About half the pier (the outer end) was consumed in the arson fire. Transients living beneath the structure set nearly 70 additional fires from 1970 until it was finally demolished completely in 1974. During the 70’s Venice was marked for slow growth as political groups with the help of the newly created California Coastal Commission managed to mount opposition to any project that would alter the character of the community. They felt that the poor had just as much right to live in Venice as the rich people who were buying property to develop. They realized that rapidly rising property values were on a collision course with the community’s entrenched low-income population. The Venice Town Council’s goal was to delay or at least scale down any project that might affect surrounding property values and the rents landlords charged. They preferred empty ugly lots and a general slum look if need be, anything but upscale development. However, what they didn’t foresee was Venice’s rebirth as a major tourist destination.
In the early 1970s, Frank Nasworthy started to develop a skateboard wheel made of polyurethane, calling his company Cadillac Wheels. The improvement in traction and performance was so immense that from the wheel’s release in 1972 the popularity of skateboarding started to rise rapidly again, causing companies to invest more in product development. Nasworthy commissioned artist Jim Evans to do a series of paintings promoting Cadillac Wheels, they were featured as ads and posters in the resurrected Skateboarder magazine, and proved immensely popular in promoting the new style of skateboarding. Many companies started to manufacture trucks (axles) specially designed for skateboarding, reached in 1976 by Tracker Trucks. As the equipment became more maneuverable, the decks started to get wider, reaching widths of 10 inches (250 mm) and over, thus giving the skateboarder even more control. Banana board is a term used to describe skateboards made of polypropylene that were skinny, flexible, with ribs on the underside for structural support and very popular during the mid-1970s. They were available in myriad colors, bright yellow probably being the most memorable, hence the name. city constructed a bicycle path adjacent to Ocean Front Walk. The path, part of an 18 mile long route extending from Torrance to Santa Monica, exposed Venice to thousands of bicyclists who would have otherwise avoided the seedy looking area. They stopped to watch weight-lifters work out at the outdoor weight pen, or listened and watched the occasional entertainer.
Summer nude sunbathing on Venice Beach, mainly north of the Venice Pavilion, gained national media attention. Venice was unprepared for the onslaught of sexually-repressed Americans who came to gawk or participate. LAPD officers, dressed in blue shorts and T-shirt patrolled the freak show. While the non-elected Venice Town Council championed everyone’s rights, the Los Angeles City Council saw things differently. They voted 14 to 1 to ban nude sunbathing. But it was too late to turn back the clock for people had discovered that Venice existed and was actually a pleasant and relatively safe place to visit during the day. The park’s dilapidated buildings and pier structure remained until several suspicious fires occurred and it was finally demolished in the winter of 1974-75.
With the evolution of skateparks and ramp skating, the skateboard began to change. In the mid-1970’s companies began making parts for skateboards. One of the first, Bennet, began making the first skateboard “Deck” in 1976. Around that time the companies were still trying to figure out what to make the boards out of. Early skate tricks had consisted mainly of two-dimensional maneuvers like riding on only two wheels (“wheelie” or “manual”), spinning only on the back wheels (a “pivot”), high jumping over a bar and landing on the board again, also known as a “hippie jump”, long jumping from one board to another (often over small barrels or fearless teenagers) or slalom. Skateboarding was transformed by the invention of the ollie by Alan “Ollie” Gelfand. It remained largely a unique Florida trick until the summer of 1978, when Gelfand made his first visit to California. Gelfand and his revolutionary maneuvers caught the attention of the West Coast skaters and the media where it began to spread worldwide. The ollie was adapted to flat ground by Rodney Mullen in 1982. Mullen also invented the “Magic Flip”, which was later renamed the kickflip, as well many other tricks including, the 360 Kickflip, which is a 360 pop shove it and a kickflip in the same motion. The flat ground ollie allowed skateboarders to perform tricks in mid-air without any more equipment than the skateboard itself, it has formed the basis of many street skating tricks.
Manufacturers started to experiment with more exotic composites and metals, like fiberglass and aluminium, but the common skateboards were made of maple plywood. The skateboarders took advantage of the improved handling of their skateboards and started inventing new tricks. Skateboarders, most notably Ty Page, Bruce Logan, Bobby Piercy, Kevin Reed, and the Z-Boys (so-called because of their local Zephyr surf shop) started to skate the vertical walls of swimming pools that were left empty in the 1976 California drought. This started the vert trend in skateboarding. With increased control, vert skaters could skate faster and perform more dangerous tricks, such as slash grinds and frontside/backside airs. This caused liability concerns and increased insurance costs to skatepark owners, and the development (first by Norcon,then more successfully by Rector) of improved knee pads that had a hard sliding cap and strong strapping proved to be too-little-too-late. During this era, the “freestyle” movement in skateboarding began to splinter off and develop into a much more specialized discipline, characterized by the development of a wide assortment of flat-ground tricks.As a result of the “vert” skating movement, skate parks had to contend with high-liability costs that led to many park closures. In response, vert skaters started making their own ramps, while freestyle skaters continued to evolve their flatland style. Thus by the beginning of the 1980s, skateboarding had once again declined in popularity.Entrepreneurs, seeing increasing weekend crowds, were beginning to change Venice’s character into a tourist destination. Tom Sewell and Roger Webster had earlier converted a dilapidated building at Windward and Pacific into boutiques and restaurants, when Robert and Mary Goodfader transformed a boarded up warehouse on Ocean Front Walk into a bookstore and outdoor Sidewalk Cafe. The latter became a hang-out for local artists and writers in the area. Goodfader also leased space at several nearby parking lots and rented stalls at $40 per month to local artists and flea market vendors.
Jeff Rosenberg leased a space from Goodfader and began renting roller skates out of the back of his van. He called his operation Cheapskates. He rented skates with innovative polyurethane wheels that allowed skaters to glide easily over rough concrete and asphalt surfaces. Venice’s wide open Ocean Front Walk and smooth bicycle path made it a perfect outdoor roller rink. When two other small rental stands also leased space in Goodfader’s lots, Jeff moved into a storefront on Ocean Front Walk near Westminster. Others like Suzanne Thomas and Phil Lacey moved their operation into a vacant storefront of Windward. Once the media began publicizing the new fad, these shops were soon grossing $6000-8000 per week. The Los Angeles city mayor in a gesture of largess declared “Venice is the roller skating capital of the world.” After city officials told the police to hassle street musicians who played “illegally” on public property, Jingles organized the Street Musicians Union to fight the ban. After city officials condemned the Lighthouse and Outrigger canal bridges on the Venice Peninsula that allowed beach residents easy access to nearby Marina del Rey, Jeffrey Stanton built his own 50 foot span at Hurricane Street. Residents donated money to finance the $100 three foot wide bridge that was built with the help of teenagers. When Los Angeles discovered the illegal bridge several days later, they discovered that it required a coastal permit to be removed. The Coastal Commission allowed its removal with the condition that they spend $60,000 to repair the nearby Lighthouse bridge. Seven of the nine commissioners spared Jeff a jail term because he built it unselfishly to serve the community.
The use, ownership and sale of skateboards were forbidden in Norway, during the period between 1978 and 1989. The ban was said to be due to the perceived high number of injuries caused by boards. The ban led skateboarders to construct ramps in the forest and other secluded areas to avoid the police.Marina Del Rey Skatepark was developed from concept by Dennis Ogden, an ambitious, 24 – 25 year old local surfer / skateboarder type building contractor with a recent degree in Construction and Architecture from SMCC. With the design expertise of the industry well – known, Ray “Woody” Allen the Park was up and running by November, 1978. The initial skating area consisted of, Three pools complete with tile, coping and a special plaster, A 10’ deep half pipe with a capsule end, Two intermediate “brown” bowls, a beginners bowl area, a 230 yard long slalom with smooth transitioned banks, and a large freestyle area with gentle sloping banks. All common areas and terraces between the runs were finished so you could literally skate all around from the upper levels to the entrance. There were some raw edges as Marina was built on a shoe string budget and the lower keyhole pool had about 3 feet of to much vertical’ The response was tremendous with the local skaters ripping, shredding and living up to their “hero” status along with visiting ambassadors of the sport, roller skaters and BMX’ers. The famous punk rock band “Devo” filmed their early “Freedom of Choice” music video there. Being close to “Hollywood” commercial film location requests was routine. TV pilots, commercials and movie segments were filmed, more contests were in the works and the place was jammed with stoked skaters. A custom sound mix was piped through our faux pool light speakers.…Little did we know that the sport of skateboarding was beginning to lose popularity with the mass majority…
The high point in Venice mural art occurred in the years 1979-81. Terry Schoonhaven after painting several other Venice murals with his Fine Arts Squad, painted solo a mammoth 50 x 100 foot “St. Charles Mural” on the side of a hotel on Windward. John Werde painted his “Fall of Icarus” on a wall along Market Street, while others painted on walls throughout the community.
Unfortunately the roller skating fad had peaked in 1979 and was dying by the end of 1980. Numerous skating businesses folded or went bankrupt. However it did little to dampen the public’s new enthusiasm for Venice. Thanks to world wide publicity and the fact that it was one of the few places to walk in Los Angeles, 50,000 to 75,000 visitors on weekend days made Venice the second most popular tourist attraction in Southern California. New businesses selling T-shirts, sunglasses and other tourist items were thriving. Jeffrey Stanton, a local photographer, started the Venice Postcard Company after he discovered competitors didn’t have one single postcard available that showed Venice’s Ocean Front Walk, its entertainers, roller skating, or even Venice’s canals. This period was fueled by skateboard companies that were run by skateboarders. The focus was initially on vert ramp skateboarding. The invention of the no-hands aerial (later known as the ollie) by Alan Gelfand in Florida in 1976 and the almost parallel development of the grabbed aerial by George Orton and Tony Alva in California made it possible for skaters to perform airs on vertical ramps. While this wave of skateboarding was sparked by commercialized vert ramp skating, a majority of people who skateboarded during this period never rode vert ramps. Because most people could not afford to build vert ramps or did not have access to nearby ramps, street skating gained popularity. Freestyle skating remained healthy throughout this period with pioneers such as Rodney Mullen inventing many of the basic tricks of modern street skating such as the Impossible and the kickflip. The influence freestyle had on street skating became apparent during the mid-eighties, but street skating was still performed on wide vert boards with short noses, slide rails, and large soft wheels. Skateboarding, however, evolved quickly in the late 1980s to accommodate the street skater. Since few skateparks were available to skaters at this time, street skating pushed skaters to seek out shopping centers and public and private property as their “spot” to skate. Public opposition, and the threat of lawsuits, forced businesses and property owners to ban skateboarding on their property. By this time about late 1980 Ray Allen had moved on to start a successful TV Production company and a weekly skate series called “The Ray Allen Show” . We were fortunate to have Christian’s Hosoi’s dad, Ivan Hosoi step up as manager and what a blessing that was. When Ivan had time, he would create posters and fliers for our skating events and our Monday Night Punk Rock Concerts. The neatest thing about Ivan is that he is such a consummate, professional artist and he would draw and paint murals on our solid wood fence of the top pro skaters at the time. The murals were unreal! The 1980-1981, contest scene was still, hot and heavy with local boy Christian Hosoi emerging as the most bionic pro in the world along with other wonderful visiting pros like young Tony Hawk, working his way to the top. There was the Vans Series… (What nice people, Everet Rosecrans and skateboarding sons). The Powell Peralta Gold Cup Series with Stacy Peralta as the affable, magnanimous director with top notch officials. Unfortunately, by this time, due to lack of recreational skaters and revenue, Marina Del Rey Skatepark had to be put up for sale. We tried to sale it to any Skate park operator but after about six months, it was sold for a small amount to recoup part of initial investment.
No pro could make a living through the sport alone. Not surprisingly, all contests, demonstrations, videos, and companies wereunderground, and far from mainstream. Vertical Skateboarding (aka, ‘vert’) dominated the professional scene and the magazines that covered it. However, it was at this time that upstarts such as Mark Gonzales (also known as ‘the Gonz’), Natas Kaupas, and other top skaters in and around Los Angeles began to get creative with variations of vert and freestyle tricks on public terrain. The first “streetstyle” contest was held at San Francisco‘s Golden Gate Park in 1983, and Tommy Guerrero won an upset victory as an unsponsored amateur. Guerrero, from San Francisco, also got the first, true, street skating part in a video, in 1985’s “Future Primitive” by Powell Peralta. This video part coincided with a boom in skateboarding’s popularity, and was a defining moment in influencing a new generation to street skateboarding. The fiercest winter storms in more than 50 years pounded the Southern California coast. Huge waves quickly eroded Venice’s wide beach and threatened homes. Waves sometimes washed in beyond Speedway alley and flooded many underground parking garages on the Venice Peninsula. Venice’s fishing pier’s approach ramp collapsed after sand beneath it was washed away. Portions of Venice’s huge beach parking lots were also washed away, and nearby communities like Santa Monica lost most of their piers. Although a new access ramp to the Venice Fishing Pier was constructed in 1983 and the pier was reopened, it was condemned as unsafe in 1986 when its concrete deck began to crack and blister. Salt water had seeped into its reinforced concrete interior and rusted the rebar.
Venice’s popularity as a tourist attraction was at its height during the summer the Olympics were held in Los Angeles. Live daily TV coverage at Venice Beach showed the world one of Los Angeles’ unique tourist attractions. Athletes on many nation’s teams visited the Venice boardwalk and the route of both the men’s and woman’s marathons was on Pacific Avenue only one block from the beach. Magazines throughout the 1970s and early 1980s were dominated by vert skating and to a lesser extent freestyle skateboarding. 1984 was a watershed in street skateboarding’s history as Tommy Guerrero made the July cover, Natas Kaupas made the September, and Mark Gonzales made the November cover of Thrasher magazine. This level of exposure was unprecedented for street skating and marks the birth of the golden age of street skating. Just as VCR’s were being purchased as the latest luxury item, the skateboard video revolution began in late 1984 with the release of Powell Peralta’s “Bones Brigade Video Show“. In it, street skating serves as just the backdrop of the videos various vert and freestyle parts as Lance Mountain cruises around Los Angeles, doing little more than bonelesses and acid drops, but the video itself helped skateboarding make a comeback. By 1985, both street skating and skateboarding’s popularity were making a resurgence. Overnight, street skating eclipsed freestyle in popularity, though vert remained the preeminent form that got most of the attention. Photos of street skaters like Mark Gonzales, Natas Kaupas and Johnee Kopwere seen fairly often, but this emerging form of skating was still not taken seriously by most and considered a fad.
Handrail skating originated in California in the spring of 1986Template:Thrasher Magazine December, 1986. Although it is generally accepted that Mark Gonzales is the first to skate a handrail, it’s also acknowledged that Natas Kaupas skated a handrail at this time too. Johnee Kop was the first to have a published handrail photo. Also, Julien Stranger was the first to do a frontside boardslide and have a published photo. Handrail skating continued to come into its own for the rest of the ’80s, from more veteran pros like Christian Hosoi and Steve Caballero to then upstarts Jeremy Klein and Frankie Hill.
Up through 1987, most street skaters did mostly handplant and kicker ramp tricks. Just one year later the dynamics began shifting dramatically. The release of Powell Peralta’s “Public Domain” and H Street’s “Shackle Me Not” videos were an eye-opener for the skateboard world. In them, a new generation of street skaters led by Mike Vallely, Ray Barbee, and Matt Hensley departed from the handplant and jump ramp trends to progress street skating to a respectable level with major ollies, handrail boardslides and freestyle flip maneuvers. This was the point of no return where street skating began to progress at an extraordinary pace through the early 1990s, while vert’s popularity waned rapidly.
Gleaming the Cube, a 1989 movie starring Christian Slater as a skateboarding teen investigating the death of his adopted Vietnamese brother was somewhat of an iconic landmark to the skateboarding genre of the era. Many well-known skaters had cameos in the film, including Tony Hawk.
During the early 1990s, vertical skating nearly disappeared, and street skating was the dominant style practiced by successful professional riders. The mainstream popularity of skateboarding began to decline once again during the early 1990s. By 1993, the sport’s popularity was at an all time low point. But during this period, hardcore skaters continued to practice in any way they could, just as they had following the skatepark crash of the late 1970s. A strong foundation for street skating had been established from the mid to late 1980s, to the point where dozens of pros were known almost exclusively for their performance on the streets. Street skateboarding in the early 1990s looked nothing like that which was performed even a few years earlier in the late 1980s. Riders now rode both in normal and switch stance and would perform flip tricks and ollie variations that were mostly invented in the 1980s by world champion freestyler Rodney Mullen. Mullen himself became a street skater during this period, due to the death of freestyle. Most of the tricks that were once street staples such as the streetplant and boneless as well as any trick that involved picking a board up from the ground, were now considered cliché.
Only a small fraction of skateboarders remained as a highly technical version of street skating, combined with the decline of vert skating, produced a sport that lacked the mainstream appeal to attract new skaters. The current generation of skateboards is dominated by street skateboarding. Most boards are about 7¼ to 8 inches wide and 30 to 32 inches long. The wheels are made of an extremely hard polyurethane, with hardness (durometer) approximately 99A. The wheel sizes are relatively small so that the boards are lighter, and the wheel’s inertia is overcome quicker, thus making tricks more manageable. Board styles have changed dramatically since the 1970s but have remained mostly alike since the mid 1990s. The contemporary shape of the skateboard is derived from the freestyle boards of the 1980s with a largely symmetrical shape and relatively narrow width. This form had become standard by the mid ’90s.
Venice became a hang-out for inner city black gangs. On hot summer Sunday afternoons nearly 2000 gangbangers would loiter in groups along Ocean Front Walk. Sometimes there would be minor skirmishes between rival gangs and occasionally a shooting. When fifty youths went on a rampage one Sunday, the police over-reacted and closed the boardwalk and beach. People were told to go home while media helicopters from CNN and the national television networks broadcast the event live. Tourists stopped coming and the business community suffered.
From 1965, three years after the citizens of Venice vigorously objected to this proposed oil well right on the beach, until 1990, both the City of Los Angeles and the oil companies, who consecutively occupied the site (Socony Mobil, Stinneti and Damson) were in gross violation of the original contract. The unsightly oil derrick was camouflaged as a lighthouse and the area adjacent to the Venice Pavillion was landscaped. From June 1966, the oil companies pumped 2000 barrels per day from the site for 25 years, with little or no interference from the residents and without ever paying a dime back to Venice.
Under the Coastal Tidelands Trust, it was obligatory upon the City of Los Angeles to divert royalties from oil exploitation (in this case 16% of the gross) back into the area that was being exploited. The purpose of this obligation was to ensure that the areas being exploited would benefit. To this end , the Parks and Recreation Department assured the local citizens that the Venice Del Rey area would become the “epitome” of recreational and home improvement. Unfortunately the reverse was the case, as it so often is. Venice properties depreciated and stagnated for at least the next two decades while, at the same time, developers and speculators were afforded the perfect opportunity to cash in on some prime real estate which has since, rapidly appreciated in value, becoming some of the most desirable in Los Angeles.
Damson Oil Corporation leased the site from the City in 1976. Oil production stopped in 1989 and Damson began deconstruction of the facility in 1991. The lease terms required the deconstruction of all facilities and restoration of the beach to its original condition upon cessation of production. However, after removing all the usable equipment and capping the wells, Damson filed for bankruptcy and abandoned the site. Left behind were the subsurface soils with extensive hydrocarbon contamination, sumps containing oil and potentially contaminated sludge and water from from the extraction process, oil well vaults, and 3.2 miles of pipeline leading to an offsite facility. The City sued Damson to recover $1.8 million through the bankruptcy proceeding in order to complete the cleanup, but was awarded only $800,000. And so the site sat empty, a blight on the beach.
But finally, in 1995, the refurbishment of the Ocean Front Walk, began to be implemented. And on January 15th, 2001, the Windward Plaza was officially opened and the remains of the old oil well were just a vision in the past. Out with the old, and in with the new, so that once again the oceanfront would retain the character of Venice Beach: “unique, funky, eclectic, artistic, and free…a safe, fun, family, place.”
After nearly thirty years of talk, Los Angeles refurbished Venice’s six remaining canals. The project took nearly eighteen months and was paid for partly by an owner’s assessment. It cost $6,000,000. The skateboarding industry experienced major growth starting in the mid 1990s. The global recession that had affected so many during the decade’s early years was coming to an end, which generally meant more disposable income for young people. As a result, more time and money could be invested into adolescent pastimes. Skateboarding related culture was becoming much more popular and visible mainstream media. Although the mainstream has brought in money, many skateboarders feel that the mainstream has tainted skateboarding as a whole. Wanting to ‘cash in’ on a wealthy demographic, ESPN introduced the Extreme Games (later renamed the X-Games) in the summer of 1995. The games showcased skateboarding as well as other activities such as rollerblading, BMX biking, motocross. The X-Games initially hosted two skateboarding contests: a vert contest and a “street” contest held on a course constructed of a mix of rails, ramps, and banks. Accordingly, the X-Games played a major role in familiarizing the mainstream population onto the sport. The X-Games and other large scale contests led to increased polarization of the professional skateboarding community. While there was some cross over between professional riders, most skaters chose to either seek coverage through industry sources (such as Transworld Skateboarding Magazine, Thrasher), and company videos or participate in the contest circuit. By 1990, the first kickflip boardslide on a handrail was performed, H-Street’s “This is not the new H-Street Video” provides the first on film by Sal Barbier . Handrail skating became much more common throughout the 1990s as it was further pushed into the limelight in by Pat Duffy’s landmark part in the Plan B “Questionable Video” in 1992. By 1995 kickflip and shove-it variations were being ‘thrown down’ on a regular basis by advanced pros like Heath Kirchart who is responsible for the firstkickflip backside lipslide on a handrail. Similarly, technical flip tricks were being taken down larger and larger stair sets. Handrail skating became so common in the mid-1990s that 1995 was actually declared the year of the 50-50 grind by Transworld Skateboarding Magazine due to the number of grinds that were being performed on rails at this time.
Once voters approved a bond issue to improve parks and recreational facilities, $10,000,000 was allocated for refurbishing Venice’s Ocean Front Walk and its closed fishing pier. After two years of community meetings to determine how the money was to be spent, residents split into factions. One group, favoring no change, wanted to retain the ocean front’s funky deteriorated asphalt look that was obviously attractive to the poor third world visitors. However, the other wanted to attract an upscale crowd with a brick surface and improve Venice’s declining business. In the end neither group won as the Parks Department chose concrete, their favorite paving material. While the community expected work to begin in Fall 1996, it will be delayed at least one more year because an endless number of bureaucratic permits have to be obtained. Like no other time before it, the period between the mid 1990s and the early 21st century saw an incredible amount of influence originating in promotional videos released directly by skate companies themselves. Whereas skate demos and competitions continued to maintain their important role that had been established in previous skate eras, many professional skaters now focused the majority of their attention on videos, and the tricks being performed in those videos. Skate videos in the mid 1990s were almost exclusively street based, with absolutely no freestyle, and very little vert to mention. Some videos, such as Girl Skateboards‘ Mouse (1996) directed by Spike Jonze, and A-Team’s‘ Rodney Mullen vs. Daewon Song(1997) followed the tradition of technical flatground skateboarding that had been spawned from the ashes of freestyle in the early 1990s. Tricks were executed faster and with more power. The boundaries of switch stance skating were being pushed and many skaters appeared equally competent in both their regular and switch stance. Others videos, such as Toy Machine‘s Welcome to Hell (1996), and Zero Skateboards‘s Thrill of it All (1996), represented the direction that street skating took in the late 1990s towards high impact stair and handrail skating. n the late 1990s and early 21st century, handrail skating became a professional standard as well as a proving ground for young and up and coming skaters. Not only were rails a staple in pro street skating, but also in competitions and demonstrations. Indeed, for some time it seemed the larger the rail, and the bigger the stair set, the better. Some young skaters were able to capture attention from the industry though getting a trick on a notorious set such as El Toro, Wallenberg, and Wiltshire. Despite the strong interest in skate large stair sets, many skateboards still focused on extremely technical grinds and manuals. In the last few years, skating handrails has remained an important part of professional street skating, but is not as essential to a video part as it once was.
Skateboarding was, at first, tied to the culture of surfing. As skateboarding spread across the United States to places unfamiliar with surfing or surfing culture, it developed an image of its own. For example, the classic film short Video Days (1991) portrayed skateboarders as reckless rebels.
The image of the skateboarder as a rebellious, non-conforming youth has faded in recent years. Certain cities still oppose the building of skateparks in their neighborhoods, for fear of increased crime and drugs in the area. The rift between the old image of skateboarding and a newer one is quite visible: magazines such as Thrasher portray skateboarding as dirty, rebellious, and still firmly tied topunk, while other publications, Transworld Skateboarding as an example, paint a more diverse and controlled picture of skateboarding. Furthermore, as more professional skaters use hip hop, reggae, or hard rock music accompaniment in their videos, many urban youths, hip-hop fans, reggae fans, and hard rock fans are also drawn to skateboarding, further diluting the sport’s punk image.
The skateboarding industry has now grown and flourished for nearly ten years without experiencing a major recession like those seen by previous skate generations (although minor financial losses were reported by several companies in the year 2003). During the last 5 years, skateboarding has taken many interesting turns. Skateparks, which were a scarce commodity in the mid 1990s, are now present in both small and large communities throughout North America and Europe. Moreover, a significant number of female participants can be reported in a sport that has been largely male dominated throughout the course of its history.
Films such as Grind and Lords Of Dogtown, have helped improve the reputation of skateboarding youth, depicting individuals of this subculture as having a positive outlook on life, prone to poking harmless fun at each other, and engaging in healthy sportsman’s competition. According to the film, lack of respect, egotism and hostility towards fellow skateboarders is generally frowned upon, albeit each of the characters (and as such, proxies of the “stereotypical” skateboarder) have a firm disrespect for authority and for rules in general. Group spirit is supposed to heavily influence the members of this community. In presentations of this sort, showcasing of criminal tendencies is absent, and no attempt is made to tie extreme sports to any kind of illegal activity.
Skateboarding video games have also become very popular in skateboarding culture. Some of the most popular are the Tony Hawk series, and Skate series for various consoles (Including hand-held) and personal computer.
Depending on local laws, using skateboards as a form of transportation outside residential areas may or may not be legal. Backers cite portability, exercise, and environmental friendliness as some of the benefits of skateboarding as an alternative to automobiles.
1970’s Cut plywood over oak, clay wheels
1972 Fiberglass / Urethane wheels/Cadillacs – Zephyr shop opens/Skate Team Z Boys
1974 Skating School Banks – Kenner / Bellagio – Riding Hills – Bay St.,
- Jesse Martinez catches air at the pavillion
1975 Del Mar contest – Skateboarding makes comeback – Skating pools
1976-77 California drought
1978-81 Marina Skate Park – LAX expands–birth of street skating–skating Pavillion starts
1985 BMX riot
1986 Summer – Joff’s ramp / birth of VSA
1990 Rollerblade invasion
1994 Skateboarding declared Hazardous Activity by law. Three strikes law inactted
- Urethane made gripping walls possiable
1995 first inline contest held on beach – Start of Extreme Games – becomes X Games
1999 Geri sees plans for boardwalk redevelopment – starts petition for skate park. The United States Marine Corps tested the usefulness of commercial off-the-shelf skateboards during urban combat military exercises in the late 1990s in a program called Urban Warrior ’99. Their special purpose was “for maneuvering inside buildings in order to detect tripwires andsniper fire”.
2000 Geri meets Jeidi at ASR – Pavillion torn down
2001 Boardwalk Phase 1 finished / the Bunny Lip – Geri meets Ruth at opening
2002 18.5 million skateboarders in the world. 85 percent of skateboarders polled who had used a board in the last year were under the age of 18, and 74 percent were male.
2003 Ruth re-assigned – Cindy shows up
2004 LA Kings want Rollerpark – Adam’s story
2005 Bill elected
- Spraying cement on scallops
2007 October SD meeting – Jesse makes speech
2008 Dec 31 Park Construction Begins
Feb Ground breaking ceremony
2009 July Construction Finishes
2009 October Park officially opens
2010 June Jesse gets Venice Sprit award
October One Year Anniversary