Article by Alex Stowell
Venice, CA. was born on the 4th of July, 1905, the creation of visionary tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney! Kinney’s idea was to created a place dedicated to health, higher learning, and education. A place where people would come to relax and enjoy the ocean air while following intellectual pursuits. After opening, Kinney brought in professors and writers to deliver lectures to what he thought would be well attended seminars. Much to his dismay, the idea flopped! It turned out people were much more interested in carnival rides and side show attractions. So, Kinney gave the people what they wanted. He built and amusement park, a pier, a miniature steam train, 16 miles of canals with gondola rides, and more.
Kinney died on Nov. 4 1920 from lung cancer. By 1925, Venice was in shambles, unable to govern itself. So, Venice voted to become part of the City of Los Angeles. In 1930 oil was discovered, and up went the oil rigs. Venice’s once pristine air turned into a cloud of toxic fumes and the canals became polluted, dirty eyesores. Venice became known as the “Slum by the Sea.”
”Time went on, the oil boom dwindled, and WW2 came to an end. The newly remodeled and renamed Lincoln Place apartments were originally built to house WW2 veterans. As the 1950’s got going, bodybuilding became all the rage in Venice. The original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica inspired a culture of outdoor fitness, weightlifting, physique contests, and gymnastics in Venice.
In the 1960’s the beatniks, followed by the hippies, migrated to Venice. Cheap rent and a vibe of individuality fed a culture of artists, musicians, and poets. Famously, The Doors formed in Venice in the mid 60’s and were a staple around the Venice/Santa Monica area.
Then came skateboarding. Originally known as sidewalk surfing, Venice is largely credited as being the birthplace of modern skateboarding. The pioneering Zephyr team, home to Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta, Jim Muir, and many more, was run by Jeff Ho and Skip Engblom, out of a local shop. They eventually became known world wide as one of the most influential skate teams ever.
Venice’s punk rock culture, born in the late 70’s continued on into the 80’s. Most notably with local band Suicidal Tendencies skyrocketing to international stardom. The aggressiveness of Venice’s skate/surf culture was a perfect compliment to the punk rock movement, and both scenes flourished.
In the 1980’s the crack epidemic hit Los Angeles, and Venice had its own problem with gang wars. This continued into the 90’s and Venice’s reputation as a rough town was well warranted. In 2000 the city re-did the boardwalk. Part of this process was to tear down the Pavilion, which had been a make shift skatepark for years. People would bring in plywood and make ramps, or just skate on the existing concrete structures. On Oct. 3 2009, after many years of activism on the part of Geri Lewis and others, the famed Venice Skate Park opened on the beach.
Through the first two decades of the 2000’s, Venice continues to go through changes. A large influx of tech companies has driven up real estate prices and rent in the area, causing many people to move and local businesses to shutter. As well, Los Angeles is currently allowing sidewalk camping and Venice has become a magnet for transients, There are homeless encampments everywhere in Venice, and both violent crime and property crime has skyrocketed. There is a constant dialogue among residents about what is happening to Venice.
For more Venice History
- Click here to view the top 10 books on Venice, California as recommended by Small World Books.
- 2nd photo: Photos from westland.net/venicehistory
- 3rd photo: “Abbot Kinney and the Story of Venice” by Edward Biberman shows the town’s founder with frolicking beachgoers on one side and oil workers on the other. (Anthony Peres / Los Angeles County Museum of Art) . Photo found on LATimes
Here is how to celebrate in Venice!
Take a selfie with Venice’s founder Abbot Kinney himself and #VeniceBeachFun.
The Abbot Kinney mural by Rip Cronk is located on North Venice Blvd. across from James Beach.
2. Take a selfie with the Venice Sign and @venicebeachfun @venicesign!
About the Venice Sign: Spanning across Windward Avenue at Pacific, the VENICE Sign in lights is a modern day replica of the one originally installed in 1905 by the legendary Abbot Kinney. It is a defining symbol of Venice, past and present.
In 2007, the Venice Sign Restoration Project recreated and installed the contemporary version of this historic sign. Since that time the Venice Chamber has been responsible for the sign and for protecting its trademark.
- View all Venice Sign photos by Venice Paparazzi.
- Love the Venice Sign! Adopt a bulb visit www.VeniceChamber.net
3. Toast to Venice and Abbot Kinney!
Check out the best bars/restaurants in Venice, California and have a toast to our founder Abbot Kinney.
4. For more Venice Beach Fun, visit our sister site VisitVeniceCA.com