In the Old Days:
Arielle Haze views
Unpainting the Town:
Helen K. Garber photos
Art at the Rose Cafe'
New Venice Sign
In the Old Days:
Card postmarked 1910
Some time later
Beyond the breakwater, USS Pennsylvania and USS Maryland
Looking inland, from the breakwater, card postmarked 1914. Johnson Captive Airplane Ride on the right.
The pier very early in its history
Pier entrance, with signs for the Cafeteria and Auditorium
On the left side, the Dance Hall. In the middle, the Racing Derby. Date, said to be 1921.
Pier parking - this seems to have been taken from up in one of the masts of the Cabrillo
Fire at the Venice Amusement Pier, Dec. 21, 1920. The arrow points to "life lost by falling wall"
Pier fire December 1920
The new pier
Noah's Ark with three different roller coasters in background - Giant Dipper, Bobs, and Some Kick. Around 1925.
Card postmarked 1937; Jeffrey Stanton dates this view as 1928 and names the tall structure as the Dragon Bamboo Slide. On the left is the Funhouse.
The very first (Abbot Kinney) Venice pier was never even used, because the winter storms of early 1905 totalled it. 1000 laborers were set to work around the clock to rebuild in time for the rescheduled July 4 opening. 1200 feet long (a hundred feet had been added in the revised plan), the pier was rebuilt at the foot of Windward Ave.
The pier held the Auditorium, the Dance Pavilion, the Funhouse, the Virginia Reel, a tea garden,a zoo, a roller rink and a bowling alley, as well as attractions and vendors' stalls. There was an Aquarium, and a stand that sold fresh fish. An American Indian village was touted as "life in a teepee," and sold arts and crafts. At one early pier concession, a French woman would embroider your initials on a lace-trimmed hankie. In 1915, entrepreneur Louis Klein built a concession that represented the sinking of the Lusitania, which opened only days after the event took place. Above the ostrich farm was an observation tower, where the visitor could look through a telescope at the coast and ships.It was run by Edward A. August, who was blind. There was a child-care center called the "Baby Bank."
A few days before Christmas in 1920, a devastating fire wiped out the Pier. Fortunately, Abbot Kinney did not have to bear the sight, having died a month and a half earlier. The Giant Dipper was the only thing to survive. Of course the Pier was rebuilt, with attractions that focused less on art and culture, more on lowbrow fun and commercialism. The Auditorium was not rebuilt. Although the new pier opened for business on May 28, 1921, the official opening was held later, on the 4th of July.
The Cabrillo Ship Cafe', which had been parallel to the pier, was reoriented perpendicular to the pier.
In the 1930s a Chinese junk, the Ning-Po, staffed by costumed Chinese, was tied up next to the Pier. There was a Coal Mine attraction, and something called the Skooter, along with of course many other things to see and do. After the official closing in the spring of 1946, this incarnation of the Pier burned also, in 1947, while in the process of being torn down. In the 1950s, all remaining vestiges of the Pier were removed from the beach.
The Venice Pier in Fiction
In Inside Daisy Clover, published in 1963 by Gavin Lambert, Daisy records songs in a booth on the old Venice Pier (the first step toward an eventual fabulous career in the movies).
In Lions and Gondolas by Laura Shepard Townsend, Anne works in a game concession on the Pier. The book ends with the 1920 fire.
In Ray Bradbury's Death is a Lonely Business, all the Pier people take their last roller coaster ride and witness the demolition of the theater.
Looking north 1913-ish
Looking south 1937-ish
© 2004 - 2012 Pat Hartman