(1890 - 1906) - (1907 - 1929) - (1930 - Present)

View of the Lick / Ocean Park Piers from the Ocean Park Bathhouse. - 1926

Venice, The Coney Island of the Pacific (1907-1929)

As the town was taking shape, Kinney felt the need to consolidate power and gain control of many of the concessions. And as expected, lawsuits followed, but Kinney persevered and won the majority of the cases. In 1907, Kinney faced a new battle when the Trustees who owned the rival Ocean Park Pier refused to issue him a building permit for his proposed ocean front bathhouse and Plunge. An outraged Kinney took matters into his own hands and began pouring the concrete foundations. The Sheriff attempted to dynamite the concrete foundation, but succumbed to the pressures of the woman's Pick and Shovel Club when they picnicked on the site. The pool eventually opened in August and was free to the public.

View of the Abbot Kinney Pier shows the Auditorium, Ship Cafe and Dance Hall - 1907
In January, 1909, the Venice Aquarium opened on Kinney's pier. It featured some of the finest marine specimens on the West Coast. A fish hatchery and seal lions were located in the rear of the aquarium. The aquarium later became the official marine biological station for the University of Southern California.

For the next few years construction of new attractions and theaters vitalized the area. A Scenic Railroad ride beside the Abbot Kinney Pier was built where the riders were surrounded by mountainous terrain and rode through a scenic tunnel. The Pier was widened and Kinney added a Dentzel carousel, a Japanese Tea House and an Ocean Inn Restaurant. Other new rides included a Ferris wheel and a Rapid's ride where a dozen people at a time made their way in a boat through a serpentine canal. The surrounding walls depicted scenes from an Irish castle, the Panama Canal and a view of the western frontier.

Fraser's "Million Dollar Pier" was located between Pier and Marine Avenues in Ocean Park. - 1912
The Fraser's Million Dollar amusement pier also opened claiming to be the largest in the world at 1250 feet long and 300 feet wide. The pier housed a spacious dance hall, two carousels, the Crooked House fun house, the Grand Electric Railroad, the Starland Vaudeville Theater, Breaker's Restaurant and a Panama Canal model exhibit.

Fraser's Pier burns to the ground after being open only a year
Business was booming until a fire ravaged the Fraser Pier and five square blocks of Ocean Park's business district. 700 fire fighters from 12 companies did all they could but were unable to contain the flames. The winds finally shifted and nearby Venice was spared. It was a 2.5 million dollar loss and a major setback for the area. Unfortunately, nearly all of the loss was uninsured.

A typical Sunday afternoon at Venice Beach in 1926
During the teens, Venice obtained a professional baseball franchise, built a new Fraser Pier, hosted a Gran Prix automobile race, and formed an aerial police force. The first bathing beauty contest, sponsored by the Los Angeles Examiner took place in 1912. By 1920, Venice's population reached 10,385 residents. Despite Prohibition, Venice increased it's growth with new and improved attractions on both the Abbot Kinney Pier and the Ocean Park Pier. Speakeasies also emerged in basements of businesses along Windward Avenue. Liquor supplies were smuggled through tunnels leading from the beaches to hotel basements.

In the 20's, bathing beauty contests were the rage in Venice
Sadly, on November 4, 1920, tobacco baron, Abbot Kinney died of lung cancer from years of heavy smoking, leaving his eldest son, Thornton, to take over the business. One month later, his amusement pier burned to the ground. The only attractions spared by the fire were a new roller coaster and the bandstand tower. Six months later, the pier was rebuilt and operating. In 1924, the Ocean Park Pier experienced yet another devastating fire that destroyed the entire complex and the adjacent Licks Pier. Both piers reopened in 1926.

Continued: Venice History, Part 3

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