The History of Venice in Silicon Beach
Land Developer Abbot Kinney Pioneers Modern Day Venice
Abbot Kinney The Man
The Venice Beach portion of Silicon Beach is an eclectic beach community that traces its roots to land developer Abbot Kinney. An educated and well-traveled man who spoke six languages, Kinney was determined to bring culture to his new home with his Venice-of-America project intended to share the social and cultural heritage of Venice, Italy. Intended to be built on marshy swampland, Kinney's project became known as "Kinney's Folly."
Kinney, however, had the last laugh. His project opened July 4, 1905 with a crowd of 40,000. Venice with hotels, an arcade, the Pleasure Pier, a yacht club and surf bath house, country club, tennis and croquet facilities, an aquarium, chariot track, miniature railroad, boat house and seven canal waterways complete with gondolas imported from Italy navigated by singing Italian gondoliers.
Despite his best efforts to interest people in culture, Kinney found what they really wanted were the gondola, camel and railroad rides. Despite his best efforts toincorporate a cultural exhibition, Venice ended up with a carnival atmosphere that has persisted to modern day.
Along with his love of culture, Kinney was also a avid exercise buff, and sports in Venice were also encouraged. Aquatic contests were a natural for the area. The largest skating arena in Southern California opened in Vence in 1906. Beauty pageants followed in 1912, reaching a peak in the 1930's and '40's with Miss California contests held at the Pier Auditorium.
Kinney died in 1920 and controlling interest in the Abbot Kinney Company was passed to his son Thornton. Shortly after Abbot Kinney's death, a fire completly destroyed the Pier, a serious blow to the profitability of Venice. Thornton Kinney rebuilt and reopened to great fanfare in July 1921.
Venice As A Hotbed Of Political Strife
Venice has always been a hotbed of political strife with the competing interests of the amusement supporters versus the clergy and residential population. Sound familiar? Today it's modern day gentrification in Silicon Beach.
In 1923, Santa Monica sought to annex Venice, but was defeated by the voters who, instead, threw in with the City of Los Angeles. Some have called this choice the most unfortunate event in Venice history. Without this choice, Venice would not be the gritty, bohemian, creative place that it is, in my own humble opinion. And that would be a shame.
The Automobile Takes Over In Venice Beach
By the late 1920's, the automobile was becoming more popular and Venice businessmen found the canals impeding commercial progress. Sadly, the picturesque waterways were filled in in 1929. Today's Windward Circle was a swimming lagoon and the centerpoint for the canal grid. The current Main Street was Coral Canal, Cabrillo Avenue was Cabrillo Canal, Grand Boulevard was Grand Canal, Market Street was Aldabaran Canal, San Juan Avenue was Venus Canal and Windward Avenue was Lion Canal.
The canals that still exist today (Carroll, Howland, Linnie, Sherman, Eastern and Grand) were part of the Short Line Canals. Although not filled like the primary canals, expense prevented utility and safety improvements to the lots on these canals and they sold poorly. Rent was cheap and hippy and other counterculture enthusiasts were drawn to the area in the 1960's.
The 70's brought social services agencies to Venice to combat the social problems wrought by the 60's. Both the St. Joseph Center and Venice Family Clinic started. SPARC was created in 1976 to develop art to change the community, and has become the largest repository of information about murals and other public art in Venice.
Game On For Venice Beach Real Estate Values
The 90's brought rehabilitation and redevelopment to much of Venice. Real estate prices boomed. West Washington Boulevard was renamed Abbot Kinney Boulevard. The "boulevard" has gone from bohemian to casual cosmopolitan to ultra trendy. Artists and entertainment industry stars co-exist. More recently, digital tech entrepreneurs have joined the mix and "Silicon Beach" was born.
Everywhere you look, you can see indications of Abbot Kinney's influence and Venice persists today as a funky, eclectic, casual, liberal and hip place to live. It's no wonder that Venice Beach is the place Snapchat calls home and Silicon Beach techsters want to live.
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