1914-1916 Part 1
from Free Venice Beachhead #122
The following article is the first in
a series treating the history of Venice California between 1914-1916.
The articles were researched and written by students enrolled at California
State University, Long Beach. The class, Methodology of History #301,
was taught by Dr. Arnold Springer. The students, faculty, and administration
of Cal State Long Beach take this opportunity to thank all the people
in the Venice community who, over the past several years, have given of
their time, energy, and knowledge while helping Long Beach State students
in their various research projects. It is hoped that by publishing this
series in the Free Venice Beachhead the University will be giving
something of value back to the community on its 75th anniversary. Research
for the paper which follows was gathered by Nancy Hogan, Art Kuhlmann,
Mark McIntire, Marilyn Cavanaugh, Ralph Migliozzi, John Haber, Kathleen
MacAndrew, and Maureen Burns. The final paper was written by Maureen Burns,
edited and revised by Dr. Springer.
Part 1: Big $ Back When
by Maureen Burns
"Venice of America. The favored year-round
pleasure beach of the Pacific Coast. The city of health, happiness, and
homes, situated on the shores of the Santa Monica Bay."
During the period 1914-1916, the economic base of
Venice stood on the twin foundations of tourism and amusements. The origins
of this base go back to the founding of the city. On New Years Day, 1907,
State Senator Dorsey Patton predicted to a capacity crowd at the Venice
Auditorium, that Venice would be "the Mecca for the world's tourists."
This hyperbole was, in a small sense, accurate. Abbot Kinney modeled his
city after Venice Italy. The facade of Windward Avenue, for example, borrowed
heavily from the Doge's palace. The appearance of the city itself was
meant to be an attraction. Its architectural style, combined with Venice's
natural attractions of mild weather and beautiful beaches, made it a natural
resort setting. Numerous hotels, restaurants, theaters, dance pavilions,
rides, and pier concessions provided for visitors from the region, state,
and nation. Tourism and entertainment were the industries of Venice and
the city was, for the most part, dependent on them.
But Venice was also a city of permanent residents
and civic improvement and upkeep were essential. Unemployment, municipal
debt, taxes, bond issues, capital outlays, all represented characteristic
economic issues with which Venice had to deal.
In order to appreciate the economic history of this
period, one should bear in mind that $1 in 1914 is equal to about $6.50
In 1914 the average work week was 49 hours and the
average weekly earnings were $10.92; the average wage per hour was 22
cents. That is equivalent to $1.43 in 1979 dollars. To put that in perspective
we should know that in 1979 the average wage earner had a weekly income
of $273.00, worked a 40 hour week, and made $6.79 per hour. The purchasing
power of today's worker is thus much higher than it was in 1914.
Wages and hours are not the only things that have
changed since 1914. At that time it cost 5 cents to get into a movie,
about 33 cents in 1979. One could rent an eight room house in Venice for
$40 per month, or about $260 in 1979 dollars. It would be interesting
to see what kind of a house you could rent in Venice for that price today.
The most expensive Ford in 1915 was the Sedan, which cost $975.00, incredibly
cheap until you convert to the 1979 equivalent which is $6,338.00. At
the Venice Hardware Co. on Windward Ave. one could purchase a rake from
25 cents to 85 cents ($1.60 - $5.50 in '79 dollars) and a lawn mower for
$5 ($32). At C. M. Young's grocery store one could purchase two pounds
of coffee for 55 cents ($3.50) and two pounds of tuna for 45 cents ($2.90).
A meal could be had at the lunchroom on Zephyr Avenue for 15 cents (86
cents in 1979 dollars).
Prosperity and wealth were important to Venetians
and local banks were seen as the indicators of how well or how badly the
local economy was doing. The Venice Vanguard reported that the
First National Bank of Venice was prospering with assets close to $2 million
1979 dollars. According to John Moore, president of the Venice Savings
Bank, money was more plentiful than ever. The Ocean Park Bank with a branch
in the Sibley Building in Venice advertised $575,273 (1979) in capital
and 4% interest on savings accounts held for six months. Almost every
issue of the Vanguard contained advertisements or other information
on the local banks.
Investment and real estate speculation in Venice
were very active, then as now. The Moore investment Co. opened its offices
in the community. It was headed by H.S. Moore who worked at the First
National Bank. Other partners were Abbot Kinney, R.A.Phillips, P.H. Young,
and Carol J. Daly. The purpose of this organization was to "keep
up with the necessity for new buildings, provide ample capital for new
projects, and aid and encourage new capital" into the area. These
men, all of whom had a strong economic interest in Venice, encouraged
others to participate in the growth of the city.
Another area of economic activity in Venice was,
of course, the inevitable collection of taxes. Venice, it must be remembered,
was still an independent city. The Vanguard printed the amount
of taxes collected and owed. During the fiscal year 1913-14 it reported
that $373,769 in taxes was collected. The report was addressed to the
"gentleman" of Venice, supposedly indicating that women didn't
pay taxes or were uninterested in such issues.
The paying of income taxes was a new thing in Venice.
The 16th amendment, passed in 1913, authorized the Federal government
to collect such taxes. It was a serious issue with ideological overtones.
Two cartoons in the Vanguard illustrate the problem. In one a big
businessman is shown at the income tax office giving a large amount of
money to the clerk. Behind him stands the ordinary citizen, dressed up
as an Irishman, who is very happy because he does not have to pay anything.
In the second cartoon a big businessman is shown trying to pay his income
tax; however he does not understand the instructions. These examples illustrate
a point of view that was the Vanguard's and possible some citizens',
that the income tax would undermine the rich and give a break to the poor.
The rich were depicted as the backbone of America and the poor as leeches.
Although Venice was not a city of wealthy people the attitude reflected
here is one of righteous middle class values.
Taxes were a constant topic of discussion at the
meetings of the Board of Trustees and, as a result, frequently reported
in the newspaper. In July 1916, the Trustees presented the budget for
the year; there was a reduction in many of the city's expenses. The Trustees
said that the reduction would not cause unemployment because there was
a lot of construction going on in the city and thus jobs were available.
The Trustees were intent on reducing the budget and balancing it by eliminating
municipal improvement projects which were paid for out of the general
In August 1916 a board of equalization was established
in Venice and it assessed the value of all property in the city at $65,731
Unemployment and Vagrancy
Unemployment was a problem in Venice during 1914.
The newspaper ran free want ads for people seeking work. A sampling of
these ads reads: "Employment of any kind in connection with a restaurant
or cafe ... experienced chef, capable of working at the range or taking
charge of kitchen and dining room ... Lady wants position of general house
work, or work by day. ... Position as chauffeur or automobile work preferred,
but will take anything as I need work. ... Reliable girl wishes position
in a good family; must be employed before Saturday."
City employees began a fund to help the unemployed
of the community. Donations to the "city employees cash fund"
were printed daily during the month of December. Similarly, the Trustees
planned to give unemployed Venetians work by using workers in relay teams
to improve roads in the city and to remove the miniature railway roadhouse.
These examples indicate that unemployment was a problem with which the
community attempted to deal. Unemployment is mentioned only infrequently
during the years 1915-16, probably because the outbreak of war in Europe
quickened the economic pace in the United States and in the community.
A problem that resulted from unemployment was vagrancy.
Tramps and vagrants who wandered into Venice from Los Angeles were quickly
removed and the "purity squad" was out nightly rounding up these
men. One article on the subject read:
"Clean Up Made on Hobos - Sergeant Berkline, officers Reynalds, Wagner,
Sprankling, raided hobo camp south of city near old shoe factory. Nine
men were there (four blacks) sitting around a fire made of ties from Pacific
Electric Railroad. They were taken to the station and booked as vagrants.
None were from California. Later in the evening, a second raid was made
and a few more were brought in. Judge Rennie sentenced all nine to six
months on the city chain gang with suspension of sentence if they promised
to leave Venice and stay away for 6 months. The nine men made a bee line
"Orders to drive anyone out of town who can't
give a good account of themselves have been given. Knights of the road
are not wanted. They are an annoyance to housewives when begging for good
and to merchants who they solicit for alms...a general menace to the community.
Chain gang reports are keeping tramps away according to detective Golding."
If unemployment caused suffering at home, World
War I was causing it abroad, and Venetians responded to it as well. In
December 1914 a collection drive was launched to help with war relief.
School children, citizens organizations and the Chamber of Commerce were
all involved. Venice High students mounted a campaign "for relief
of suffering humanity both local and foreign...particularly the Belgians."
The Chamber of Commerce raised funds to assist "poverty stricken
Belgians." H. Rios, a local gardener, "was permitted to renew
his lease of a piece of ground lately purchased by the city for the purpose...
of raising beans on this land next season and the city is to receive one
fifth. The beans will be given to the unfortunate Belgians."
Local sentiments favored home charities however.
An editorial in the Vanguard read: "Charity should begin at
home and end across the seas only when all home relief work has been done."
In the spirit of the Christmas season "nearly all of the Santa Monica
Bay fraternal, social, and charitable organizations and benevolent individuals
are working to provide food and cheer for the needy." In Santa Monica
the charity drive included an "anti-rooster society" headed
by a man named White. Membership fees were to be the "carcass of
a rooster" or a special tax. The proceeds were to go to the associated
charities of the city. The society would serve two purposes; "rid
the city of the annoying roosters" and help the needy.
In summing up the charity efforts of local citizens
the Vanguard opined,
"When the day is spoken of in the past tense, that in not one home
on this Christmas Day was this spirit absent. To the credit of our good
people, let it be known that they have worked as individuals and they
have worked collectively to provide for those who have not been favored
as much as themselves."
Prosperity Over All
Hard times were not uncommon in the early 20th century
and Venice was no exception. For some, times probably could not have been
worse. Nevertheless, the Vanguard emphasized the prosperity of
Venice; one of the newspaper's major functions was to promote the city.
Besides, by 1915 the economic problems experienced by Venice seemed to
be diminishing due to the war and increased tourism within the country.
"Most people believe that hard times are a thing of the past,"
said an editorial in May, "though real booming prosperity will not
come until the Republicans come once more into power."
Many of the newspaper's articles had prosperity
as a central theme. One proclaimed, "Prosperity in Los Angeles means
more prosperity for Venice. With the warm weather and the influx of tourists
Venice ought and will enjoy one of her most successful seasons."
An intimate relationship with her larger neighbor, Los Angeles, is recognized
in several articles. Venice was dependent on the influx of visitors from
inland areas, particularly Los Angeles and so Los Angeles was seen as
a potential rich field which needed to be cultivated. "Venice needs
publicity," said the paper. "Los Angeles is a storehouse from
which Venice could draw its supply of patronage" was the theme of
another article. A cartoon portrayed the city of Los Angeles hooked up
by chains to the cars of the Pacific Electric, being pulled towards Venice.
However the peculiar relationship with Los Angeles did have its drawbacks
and one day the Vanguard published an ominous prediction: Venice
was "...a fine spot to settle in...in the future the line of homes
along the Pacific Electric will form one solid avenue...it will be hard
to tell where Los Angeles leaves off and Venice begins."
The relationship between the two cities was not
always harmonious. For instance the Vanguard feared that L.A. papers
were trying to steal her advertising business, sending newsboys into Venice
with "extras." The upshot was that the Trustees passed an ordinance
which prohibited all but Vanguard newsboys from selling papers
without a license.
Los Angeles stepped on Venice's toes again in 1916,
this time in regard to tourism. When the Los Angeles Preparedness Committee
scheduled a "preparedness parade" for July 4th, all Bay area
cities, including Venice, issued strong protests. July 4th was a big economic
day for Venice. The Committee offered to make financial contributions
to each city so that it could hold its July 4th festivities on the 3rd,
in return for which Bay area cities would promote the parade in Los Angeles
on the 4th. This proposal was rejected and Mayor Gerety of Venice and
Mayor Berkeley of Santa Monica sent telegrams to 25 Southern California
municipalities requesting a united front against Los Angeles on this issue.
The pressure paid off:
"Due to the unremitting efforts of the beach
officials headed by Col. Tom Prior and the secretaries of the three bay
Chambers of Commerce, the Los Angeles Preparedness Parade Committee last
night agreed to abandon 4th of July as the date for holding the parade.
The date will be on June 14, Flag Day. As a result of the decision to
change the date of the parade, the beach and inland cities...promised
to support the Preparedness Parade to the man."
It was vital to the economies of beach cities that
the holidays and weekends attract large crowds; any attraction outside
of these cities which threatened to detract from those crowds was bound
to meet with stiff opposition.
Selling Venice of America
Advertisement was one of the vehicles used by Venetians
to interest people in their city. George Heisley of the L. A. Herald
Examiner appeared before the Trustees with a proposal to publicize
Venice. He suggested that an entire edition of his paper be devoted to
the city. Although the Trustees decided not to purchase advertising space
in this venture some Venetian businessmen and companies, like the Abbot
Kinney Co., did so.
Carl Arnold, an "inventor" who happened
into Venice, went before the Trustees selling an advertising technique
which he claimed could reach 500,000 people daily. The "technique"
was not described. But a cartoonist formerly with the New York World was
put on the city's payroll and his job was to advertise the resources,
businesses and attractions of Venice.
Andrew S. Lee, president of the Venice Chamber of
Commerce and an active leader of the business community, was one of the
most committed advertising enthusiasts. He wanted the city to put more
effort into representing itself as a winter resort since it already had
its share of summer visitors.
Prominent local businessmen and politicians were
expected to use any opportunity to promote Venice as the ideal place to
vacation. The experience of Mr. Lee at the Covina Chamber of Commerce
illustrates this attitude:
"He said his presence was appreciated by the Covina committee and
they assured him they liked Venice, often came here, and expected to come
again. Mr. Lee told of tacking up signs along the way that mentioned the
St. Marks Hotel and Venice in very conspicuous letters. He said he wanted
at all times to boost for Venice and make people feel they would be welcome
The campaign for winter visitors was, at least in
part, successful. Tourists came to Venice from as far away as Winnepeg,
Chicago, St. Louis and Seattle. To attract such tourists Venice hotels
were advertised as "the finest and most modern." The "American
Plan" was put into operation at the Merrit Jones Hotel on Pier Ave.
to complement the existing European plan. This same hotel reported that
60% of its winter reservations came for "tourist booking bureaus
in the East" and 50 reservations from the Northeast came in as a
result of advertising.
The Venice Promotion Committee and the Chamber of
Commerce organized an advertising campaign "through the East and
elsewhere" picturing Venice as "the winter resort of the Pacific
Coast." There was some disagreement over just how much money the
city should spend on this campaign and some objected to the sum proposed,
$1,298 (1979). The Vanguard chided such 'naysayers':
"Are we going to take the broad businesslike
view of the situation and try to build up the city, or are we going to
take the narrow view of some of the pessimists in this town who argue
that it is best to let well enough alone?"
All in all, Venice tried to enhance her economic
prosperity by advertising everywhere, from Los Angeles to Alaska. This
was a necessity because tourism was so fundamental to the community.
Celebrate, Celebrate, Celebrate
Although July 4th was the most important holiday
of the year for beach cities, any holiday or excuse to celebrate was capitalized
on by Venetians, especially if they could be made to fall on weekends.
At the suggestion of the local Chambers of Commerce amusement interests
in the bay area founded their own Ocean Park Amusement Association, with
Col. Tom Prior of Venice as president. It specialized in organizing spectacular
special events, and that was appropriate since those interests stood to
gain most from such activities.
Throughout the year there were many opportunities
for celebration. In May 1915 the first of the month saw May Pole dances
at both the Venice and Ocean Park Dance Pavilions. The dances were so
popular that they were rescheduled the following day. A bathing suit parade
was scheduled for May 2nd but was postponed because of bad weather.
A sunny day and the postponed bathing suit parade
combined, attracted 60,000 visitors to Venice. It was the largest crowd
of the season, which was just beginning. Women came from all over to participate
in the bathing suit contest. Local women, department store clerks, and
movie starlets wore their best suits in competition for the $321 (1979)
first prize. People flocked to the Ocean Front Walk along which the parade
was to pass. Heading up the parade were Mayor Gerety, Police Chief Frank
Watson, Fire Chief George Hubbard. Following them were the contestants,
and the Venice of America Band, floats, and comedians. Miss Fay Tichner,
one of the starlets, won first prize, Miss Alice Taffe of Venice took
second, and Miss Ivy Brown third. All go their picture on the front page
of the Vanguard. The immense crowd ate Venice out of bread; the
supply fell short at all the food establishments except the wiener stands.
An editorial in the newspaper reported that there
was "...not one accident and was but one arrest for anything more
serious than auto lights off." The contest tailed into another event,
the filming of a movie starring Ms. Tichner, "...the scenes in which
will lead up to her receiving her prize money." Venice seemed to
handle crowds well and the impression is given that Venetians were professionals
as far as the tourist trade was concerned.
Another big event in 1915 was the opening of Topanga
Canyon Road and Venetians were all urged to turn out for the celebration.
All celebrants were invited to return to Venice that evening for special
Memorial Day, like most holidays, was elaborately
prepared for. Thornton Kinney was the chairman of the committee organizing
the event and, as usual, the Mayor and Trustees led the parade. A parade
assembled at the plaza near the Race Thru the Clouds. The USS Farragut
lay anchored off the Windward Avenue Pier to fire salutes, followed by
the "strewing of flowers on the ocean in memory of departed soldiers
and sailors." Naval and state militia were stationed on the end of
the pier and fired salutes out of four cannon. Taps were played followed
by a final salute to the flag. The procession then went to the Venice
Auditorium for a celebration patriotic and religious in nature. Twenty
thousand people came to Venice that Saturday and 35,000 on Memorial Sunday.
The Vanguard plastered its front page with a picture of the women
"strewing flowers on the ocean."
Thousands of people visited Venice every weekend
during the summer. Business was good, and fishing was splendid. Pacific
Electric began its summer schedule in mid-May. Parking for cars was at
a premium; amusements, cafes and restaurants did landmark business. Thousands
also came for evening fun. On one such night thousands packed Windward
Avenue and there was boating on the canals, and the plaza was crowded
with music lovers.
Invariably the Vanguard waxed enthusiastic
about the hordes that poured into Venice:
"Summer was officially welcomed in Venice yesterday by the largest
crowd here since last July 4. Indeed many careful estimators declared
that yesterday's attendance was ahead of last year. And it was a money-spending
crowd. Beginning Saturday night, the people surged in. The hotels and
apartment houses filled up. Yesterday the crowd was augmented. From 8
o'clock in the morning until the middle of the afternoon, Pacific Electric
trains brought thousands to the beach. It is no exaggeration to say that
50,000 visitors came here, either in the electric cars or in machines.
The cafes were taxed to their capacity to supply the hungry crowd. The
amusements ran continuously from morning until late at night. Many special
trains were parked on the stretch of track between Windward Avenue and
the car barns."
Such articles usually ended in a positive manner,
such as: "Everybody went away feeling Venice was an ideal place for
Whenever there was a convention in Los Angeles,
Venetians invited the delegates to visit their city. In May and June 1915
the most important of these was the National Real Estate Dealers Convention.
Venice realtors, responsible for placing Venice on the conventioneers'
program, were in charge of preparing the entertainment. This event was
considered a big plus for Venice because boosters hoped that when the
realty men got home they would tell everyone about the city. Pacific Electric,
Abbot Kinney Co., So. Calif. Edison all took an active part in this promotion.
It consisted of: half rates on all amusements and concessions, a free
aquarium visit showing the fish and plant life of the Pacific, a free
exhibit by diving girls, "fancy swimming," and water sports
at the Bath House, a special Venice of America band concert, free entertainment
and dancing at the Venice Dance Pavilion, a demonstration by the Venice
Fire Department, a visit to the Ship Cafe, and an automobile parade along
Ocean Front Walk escorted by the Mayor, the Trustees, and a citizen committee.
Invitations were extended to other conventioneers,
but none of them received such an elaborate reception. The Pacific Coast
Advertising Men's Association and a group of 500 newspaper editors were
two of the many that visited Venice during their Los Angeles conventions.
The headlines on the last day of June, 1915, proclaimed that 75,000 Elks
were planning to descend on Venice. These examples illustrate the energy
expended by Venice commercial interests to promote the city.
The leading role of amusements and tourism in the
prosperity of Venice was apparent to the business community as was its
special relationship to Los Angeles:
"Venice lacks manufacturing interests and must depend largely upon
tourists and the various ocean front amusements. The amusement park district
expends about one million dollars annually," wrote Mark Collins,
a spokesperson for the Venice Chamber of Commerce who urged Venice to
concentrate on its "natural role" as a resort and bedroom community,
letting industry locate in Los Angeles.
In 1916 three major additions were being constructed
to augment the entertainment facilities already in Venice. The Schleuter
Dance Pavilion was being built at a cost of $448,154 (1979) between Ocean
Park and Venice. Another new addition was the Derby Race being financed
by Col. Tom Prior on the Ocean Park Boulevard. It featured a beautiful
$59,755 (1979) organ and the largest carousel in the world measuring 75
feet. The third major addition was the Pacific Coast Excursion Co., owned
and operated by Joseph McAfter of Catalina Island, and its new launch
The Calypso. For two dollars ($12 in 1979) anglers could spend the day
fishing while on Sunday the boat was cleaned up for short trips up and
down the bay for the expected summer visitors. Besides these major supplements,
new "games of skill" and a shooting gallery were being added
to the attractions in Ocean Park. Venice was always looking for new promotions
to draw more crowds.
The Venice Promotion Committee stated: "The
day is not far distant now when Venice will offer more and better attractions
than ever before. The Venice Promotion Committee are after them. Venice
needs attractions and the sooner it gets them the better it will be for
the Venetians and those who are doing business here. That is all that
The traveling amusements that stopped in Venice
enhanced the economy in two ways. For example,. when the Al G. Barnes
show arrived for its winter quartering in Venice, it was seen as a big
plus to the economy of the City:
"Barnes is to pay off all of his people on Monday following closing
of the exhibition. (about $77,900 - 1979) As our people will nearly all
remain here for the winter, I feel safe in saying that Venice will get
the lion's share of this money. Our outfitting for next year... will start
at once and is going to cost us about $142,817 (1979). Venice is going
to be a gainer by a whole lot by the show coming here." Not to mention,
of course, the profits to be made from visitors the circus would attract.
But the amusements were as much for the residents
as for the tourists and thus they played a dual role in the economy of
Venice. The Classified Business Telephone Directory published in the Vanguard
lists businesses from detectives to drugs, from florists to furniture,
from plumbing to sewing machines. Besides the banks a sampling would include
the Lewis Realty Co., Akins Realty, Windward Supply Co., Imperial Ice
Co., Watterman Sign Works, Chas. D. Ponedel, Venice Quality Market, R.
J. Sadler, "The Merchant of Venice," Holbrook's Market, J. F.
Reed Diamonds, Watches and Jewelry, Santa Monica Dairy Co., Ocean Park
Bath House, Home Telephone Co., and the Emporium.
Professional men engaged in business included: Burgess
J. Reeve - Architect; Braun, Bryant and Austin - Contractors; O. A. Kirkeln
- Funeral Director and Ambulance Driver; Chas. A Lyon - Lawyer; A. K.
Hancock - Lawyer; and Dr. E. S. Gum - Dentist.
Cafes and restaurants were also important businesses.
Among those advertised in the newspaper were: the Decatur Bar, the Monte
Carlo Cafe, Original Joe's White Kitchen, the Cafe Nat Goodwin, the Strand
Cafe, and the Ship Cafe. They offered a variety of food, entertainment,
There were many hotels in the Venice area. The Grand
Hotel was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Lee Rose and boasted of between 30-40
rooms. There was also the Rose Hotel and Apartments purchased by G. C.
Evans for $12,500 ($74,000 in 1979). Other hotels mentioned were the Windward,
the St. Marks, the King George, and the Waldorf. Police Judge King promised
stiff sentences to all boarders who failed to pay their bills, an indication
that there was some problem in this regard.
Business competition in Venice was disturbing to
the editors of the Vanguard, who commented: "When a city ceases
to grow, it commences to die, and the more people try to kill each other
off in business and good names the more rapidly will utter ruin come to
all. Stand together for the advancement of every citizen - and the city
in which you live. If some of the nonsense now being indulged by factions
in Venice is not stopped we can see the result."
O God! Vendors
This conflict between businesses involved not only
competing permanent interests and factions within Venice, but it extended
into the conflict between year-round businesses and mobile wagon businesses
which operated only in the good season. The conflict here is obvious.
Those businesses that were a permanent part of the economy of Venice wanted
to protect themselves form the 'parasites' that came to do business only
in the good season. Eventually the storekeepers made a formal protest
to the Board of Trustees. They wanted to halt the granting of licenses
to street vendors who wished to operate such things as popcorn or peanut
wagons on leased ground at the corner of Wavecrest Ave. and Ocean Front
Walk. The storekeepers objected to this practice on the grounds that there
were fourteen empty stores between Brooks Ave. and Windward Ave.; the
vendors should use these stores, not a wagon on one of the corners. The
storekeepers also complained that they had kept their businesses open
all winter long, while business was not good, and here the vendors could
come in just when business was getting good for the summer season. Finally,
the City Trustees decided that any future applications for such licenses
would probably not be granted. Thus, the Trustees assumed the role of
protectors of home business and proper decorum.
Not all new businesses were welcome in Venice. An
ordinance regulating the location of saloons was passed in 1915. Two of
four saloons mentioned in the ordinance could be located at any spot between
but not on Center St. and Zephyr Ave., but not on the Ocean Front and
not west of Trolleyway.
Captain Felix, a well-known curio dealer, wanted
to lease the site of the Decatur Hotel (it had burned down) to build stores
for concessions and a "family style garden like those in Germany.
The lease would have gone through if the Ocean Park Chamber of Commerce
had not been opposed. The German Beer Garden was denied and the lease
One of the Vanguard's mottos was "Patronize
Your Home Merchants and Keep the Money at Home." When the Merchants
Association of Santa Monica inaugurated a movement called "Buy at
Home Week," the Vanguard added four pages to promote this
event. Businesses were to place their regular prices in the windows of
their stores to encourage patrons. The merchants claimed that their prices
were "as cheap and in many lines cheaper" than in other cities.
Everyone was encouraged to "come and see for themselves." This
indicates that there might have been a problem with residents shopping
in other areas. Late in 1914, a "business depression" was commented
on in the Vanguard, and it was hope that the push to buy at home
would help reverse the trend.
The theme of progress was harped on in most issues
of the newspaper between 1914-1916. Progress seemed to be equated with
material progress and business. For example, something called the "Groceteria"
became the latest touted novelty in Venice. The paper described it as
"the latest thing in groceries." Food items were displayed and
a woman could walk around the store and choose the items she wanted, put
them in a basket, and go to the cashier. Money could be saved by the owner
to the benefit of the consumer. The Vanguard made the statement
that "Maybe this is going to be another innovation in the commercial
world that was started in the Santa Monica Bay district and copied all
over the country."
The real estate business prospered even when others
were languishing. Sales were up in 1914 and the development of United
States Island helped. It was located 'In the very heart of the city"
and offered "cheap yet luxurious homes, with all the modern conveniences."
It was owned by Captain Mark S. Collins and the "bungalows"
that were built on the "Island" were named after states. The
H. H. Culver Co. reorganized and doubled its sales force. "In anticipation
of brisk real estate activity during 1915, the Culver Co. has made preparations
broadly to extend its operations. The L. A. to Venice acreage department
of the company will be energetically exploited."
Real estate was pushed to bolster the Venice economy
and people were encouraged to stop renting apartments or homes and to
buy houses. "A small cash payment and balance like rent buys your
own home." Near City Hall a five bedroom, 'modern' home cost $2,750
($17,850 in 1979). In 1916 realtors reported an increased demand for houses
in the Bay district. Nearly all houses listed that year for rent were
occupied and this seemed to indicate that more people were on the beach
than the previous year. Property had been sold totaling $250,000 (or $1,493,884
in 1979). The prosperous conditions in Venice were recognized by Los Angeles
banks which loaned money for Venice real estate. It was stated that the
people in Venice sold more property than any other city in California.
Venice issued $5,485,157 (1979) worth of building
permits in 1913. It was a banner year. In January 1914 $315,009 worth
were issued. In March 1915 $236,119. By the end of May 1916 building permits
issued by the city had doubled against those of the previous May's $32,138.
The south side of Windward Ave. was an eyesore to
many people, due to the fact that it was for a long time a series of empty
lots. When building finally began on that side of the street the Vanguard
applauded this as progressive. In an article published April 7, 1915 it
probably expressed the sentiments of many Venetians:
The south side of Windward Ave. is assuming a busy
aspect and no one is the least bit peeved on this account...This will
have a tendency to build up other sections of the city and it will not
be long before Lorelei Avenue, Zephyr Avenue and other arteries of the
city will be added to the business section of the city of Venice...The
proposed completion and opening of the Maier Pier is sure to result in
the advancement of Center St. and other streets in the immediate neighborhood
of the pier...When the Maier Pier is completed and opened with Center
St. as a regular stop for trains both ways, there is going to be a great
relief to the present congestion at the junction of Windward Ave. and
The paving of Trolleyway (Pacific Ave.) from Windward
to Mildred was begun in 1915 with a projected completion date of June
1. On Windward Avenue two business blocks were going up. On the Ocean
Front, the block next to the Neptune Theater was being built and further
down near Brooks Avenue new construction was also underway.
In an article entitled "Venice Sure to Prosper"
the Vanguard summarized the building improvements from May 1915
to April 1916:
"Never has Venice enjoyed a more assuring outlook
for progress and development than at the present time. This does not apply
to the amusement interests alone, but more particularly to the city's
future as a center for educational institutions and beautiful homes.
"The growth of Venice as depicted by a review
of a few of the principal public buildings, erected in the past 12 months,
proves that Venice is growing very much faster than the average...
"S. J. Conron started the ball rolling about 12 months since, with
his brick block of stores on Ocean Front and Horizon Ave, at a cost of
"Next came Caesar Menotti with a two-story,
brick building on Windward Ave. that cost about $15,000.
"The City of Venice comes next with a comfort
station at the foot of Navy Street on the Great Western Amusement Pier,
the cost of which was over $19,283 (1979).
"William Ellison with his new, five-story annex,
makes the Ellison Apartments a most handsome and imposing structure. The
Ellison Apartments are a fine example of what up-to-date down-to-the-minute
buildings and management will do. The last improvement will cost over
$385,657 (1979) and will be open to the public in a few days.
"Next, Mrs. La Croix at number 22 Rose Ave,
was forced to rebuild her apartments which fire partially destroyed some
time ago. This cost $19,283 (1979)
"J. B. Garacoche build a handsome store and
bakery on Rose Ave. near Fourth, at a cost of $24,425 (1979)
"Mrs. Lena Rose build a modern class C Grand
Hotel building on Zephyr Ave., of 25 rooms, up-to-date and modern in every
way, cost $15,000.
"W. G. Auburn with Giant Seaswing at the foot
of Zephyr Ave. and Ocean Front, an amusement device to entertain bathers,
at a cost of over $3,000.
"Next comes that magnificent attraction on
the Windward Ave. Pier, the Humboldt County Redwood Stump and Log, costing
many thousands of dollars.
"Mrs. C. P. Dodge, on Breeze and Speedway,
is erecting a brick class C garage, costing $32,138 (1979).
"And last, but not least, we find our attention
called again to the foot of Navy St., on the Great Western Amusement Pier.
There we find Henry W. Schleuter erecting a reinforced concrete amusement
pavilion, involving structural features of unusual interest. The pavilion,
which will be used for dancing, will be surmounted by a reinforced concrete
true hemispherical dome, 101 feet in diameter. The cost of which will
be $482,072 (1979).
"It is certain that Venice is growing and will
continue to grow faster and faster, for the businessman and homebuilder
with modern ideas, and up-to-date methods with buildings designed for
comfort and convenience will transform our healthful shores into a modern
city of homes."
Despite the optimism and the obvious growth in the
city, the Trustees were experiencing great difficulties in meeting the
demands for municipal improvements. These improvements were essential
for the upkeep and beautification of the city.
"Mayor Gerety has now appointed a committee
of fifteen to constitute a sort of advisory body to work with the city
Trustees and plan for important measures for the good of the city...This
committee represented the citizenship of Venice and there seems to be
no reason why all cannot work out some way in which to get a bond issue
to provide needed improvements."
This committee was created to help develop a plan
for financing some major improvements in Venice and was primarily made
up of businessmen.
"...a bond issue to provide for south beach
protection, a breakwater to extend the salt-water high pressure fire system
into the industrial district, for a storm and flood control water drainage
system in the back country, and for a sum to pay the city indebtedness
and to put the municipality on a cash basis."
Thus the Trustees recognized that Venice was growing
and needed more municipal facilities which present income could not provide.
Consultation with the "citizenship of Venice" thru the Welfare
Committee was developed and contacts were established with the East Venice
Improvement League (W. H. Geldert, president) and the North and South
Venice Improvement Leagues.
The issue of financing new municipal improvements
was a constant and sometimes bitter one. When the Trustees levied an assessment
on property fronting Venice Blvd. to improve that street, the property
owners went to court and argues that the improvements should be paid out
of the general fund. The Trustees won.
Money was always a problem and the City had to tighten
its belt. In August 1916 the city's budget was reduced through the expedient
of reducing wages and $288,690 (1979) was thereby saved. All salaried
employees took pay cuts and the maintenance and supply departments were
reduced. The Board's policy was "not one cent for improvements until
the City is out of debt."
Venice was a summer resort in which many non-residents
owned property. Absentee property ownership caused problems for the community.
For example the Venice Chamber of Commerce called the City Trustees' attention
to the growth of weeds and the neglect of homes by absentee owners. A
general clean-up was urged and real estate agents notified non-residents
that they must clean up or else it would be done by the City at their
expense. Eventually, June 14 was set as "Clean-Up Day" for Venice.
May 19 was originally suggested by the Chamber but the Trustees thought
a later date would be better to insure that the City was still clean upon
the arrival of the summer tourist season. Everyone was asked to pitch
in, including women, school children, and the Pacific Electric. The Vanguard
promoted this event and an editorial a few days before official clean-up
"Weeds, unsightly places, heaps of old bottles
and cans will disappear as if by magic. Everyone who cares about the good
looks of this beautiful city by the sea will lend a hand."
Clean-Up Day resulted in much good for the city,
"...a lot of unsightly weeds have gone up in smoke and tons of tin
cans have found their way to the dump."
The Vanguard also reported that, "as
a rule, few Venetians litter up the Ocean Front, for they realize how
unsightly the appearance of papers, empty boxes, banana and orange peels
and so on is. But the visitors are not always so careful and considerate...."
Venetians were proud of their city and resentment
can be sensed from reading the Vanguard towards those who did not
cooperate with them. They were grateful towards those who did. For example,
the Abbot Kinney Co. presented the City with some palm trees on the condition
that the City plant them on Washington Blvd. between "Death Curve"
and the baseball park.
Additional municipal improvements dealt with fresh
water for the canals and the fresh water table. The intake pipe under
the Windward Ave. Pier that fed fresh sea water into the canals was out
of commission. The Abbot Kinney Co. repaired it temporarily, but reported
that it would last only two or three months. The Trustees said that they
would take immediate action to make the repair permanent. Nevertheless,
several weeks later, it was still out of commission and badly in need
of attention; the pipe was swinging against the pilings. Venice, because
of ifs extraordinary nature as a city of beaches and canals, had many
unusual problems that were not always easily remedied.
The Chamber of Commerce called the Trustees' attention
to the continuous lowering of the fresh water table in Venice, from which
all of the domestic water of the city was derived. Some of the wells had
dried up and salt water had seeped into several others rendering the water
non-palatable The Chamber suggested, for immediate protection, that Venice
should control the removal and sale of water to districts outside of the
city, in particular, Santa Monica. The members felt that all of the water
was required for the increasing population and for the future expansion
A vibrant, healthy economy is vital to any city
and Venice was no exception. The main difference between Venice and most
cities was that her economy was dependent on tourism and amusements. This
type of economy can be quite profitable but it can also be expensive and
difficult to maintain. Public relations and advertising, special events
and natural beauty all served to draw the multitudes to Venice. Something
novel seemed to be occurring all the time. The city had a good disposition
with a growing metropolis just inland of her. Civic pride was an outstanding
characteristic and was actively promoted. Venice's businesses were protected
to enable them to flourish and n turn, Venice herself would grow. Growth
The tentativeness of the city's economic base fostered
the long term development of both sociological and psychological volatility
in the evolution of community mentality and helped create an air of tension
and expectancy that was communicated to the outside world and made Venice
But the City's economic base was definitely vulnerable
since it was dependent on socio-economic conditions outside of the community.
The commercial base could not be supported by the residential community
while real estate speculation, with its pronounced ups and downs contributed
to the uncertain economic atmosphere. Little or no manufacturing base
existed in Venice to provide more consistent economic growth and stability
and, for the most part, Venetians worked outside of their community.
This special economic configuration contributed
to the development of a curious community consciousness, schizophrenic
in the sense that there was a strong tendency to identify with Venice
emotionally but at the same time to hedge one's bets as far as total commitment
to the community was concerned. Only a small minority of people, led by
the Abbot Kinney Co., were prepared to make the commitment while the principal
characteristic of most Venice businessmen was adventurism and speculation
in pursuit of quick profits.
Thus the economic base had a great impact on the
peculiar development of Venice. But in the short run, Venice was viewed
by all as a place where people could relax and get away from everything.
It was an entertaining and desirable place to visit or live. The Vanguard's
motto, printed below its masthead, certainly was appropriate:
"Devoted to the interests of Venice and Santa
Monica - a herald of peace, promotion, publicity, and prosperity of the
(Copyright 1980 by Maureen Burns and the Trustees
of California State University, Long Beach. No part of this article may
be reprinted with out the expressed written consent of both of the above