home page table of contents writings paintings Venice in print other media poets nobody leaves Venice Venice music virtual boardwalk visual arts

30 Years Ago in
Free Venice
Beachhead

1914 -1916 Part 4

1914-1916 Part 5

John Hamilton

Lighthearted Beachhead pieces

People of Venice (from Beachhead)

Windward Avenue Articles from Beachhead

Art in the Beachhead

Venice institutions from the Beachhead

30 Years Ago in Call Someplace Paradise and/or Ghost Town

Free Venice Beachhead archives selected articles 1980-81

Beachhead Archives 1982

Beachhead Archives 1983

Beachhead Archives 1984

Venice in Books A-C

Venice in Books D-K

Venice in Books L-P

Venice in Books Q-Z

Quotations about Venice

Venice in Magazines and other ephemeral sources

1981 Resistance Celebration Schedule

1981 Resistance Celebration Articles

Birth of Venice:
old-timey magazines

Destiny's Consent by
Laura Shepard
Townsend

Lions and Gondolas

Rana Ayzeren

Tales of the Blue Meanie by Allan Cole

Another Chapter from Tales of the Blue Meanie by Allan Cole

"Brick" Garrigues

The Spectre

Venice Historical Society

1969 Police Riots

Jack the Liar

 

 

 

1914-1916 Part 1

from Free Venice Beachhead #122
February 1980

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 1979.

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 fund.

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 1979 dollars.

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 for L.A."

Also:

"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 here."

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 entertainments.

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 a holiday"

Conventions

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 Venice lacks."

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, and dancing.

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 canceled.

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."

Real Estate

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 Trolleyway."

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 over $96,415.(1979)

"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 day read:

"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 of Venice.

Conclusion

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 was progress.

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 attractive.

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 Bay."

(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 mentioned parties.")

 

 

Or email the Webslave.

© 2004 - 2012 Pat Hartman
Put "subscribe" in the subject line, send a blank email to info (at) virtualvenice.info

"Table of Contents" or site map here it is

Google
WWW Virtual Venice