Venice Beach

Venice , CA

Contributed by Project for Public Spaces

Once a renaissance resort and amusement park, Venice Beach is famous today for its street artists, vendors, musicians, body builders, palm readers, and roller skaters.

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Why It Works

In an interesting exhibition of the endless diversity of humankind, Venice Beach in Los Angeles offers a public stage for artists, religious preachers of every stripe, and of course, half-naked muscle-bound exhibitionists headed for the beach. The street markets add a whole other dimension of social contact and exchange. "A human circus where no one holds back," says Fred Kent.

History & Background

In June, 1904, Abbot Kinney, a wealthy tobacco mogul, realized his dream of building a renaissance resort and amusement park, culturally reminiscent of Venice, Italy, complete with canals, gondolas, amusement piers, hotels and Venetian-styled structures. Venice opened to the public on July 4th, 1905. Residential lots sold quickly, and Venice grew at an enormous rate. Imported gondolas and a miniature railroad carted people around the town. A variety of new attractions, including out-of-town sideshows, the Venice Aquarium, and amusement park rides further vitalized the area.

The 1920s were disastrous years for Venice. Residents voted to be annexed to the City of Los Angeles, and the city started to dismantle the amusement industry. The miniature railroad was removed and the majority of the canals were filled in to accommodate increased automobile traffic. The canals South of Venice Boulevard, however, were spared, and remain intact today.

The Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Department declined to renew the Kinney Pier lease in 1946. The city widened the beaches and removed the piers. Venice plunged into decay; ocean front and historic buildings were demolished. During this time, the Beat generation found a home in Venice, and flower children of the 60's flocked to the beach during their "summer of love".

In 1972, the city constructed an 18-mile bicycle path adjacent to Ocean Front Walk. Local residents riding bikes brought new life to Venice. In the mid-70ís, outdoor skating became the rage, and Venice's became an ideal location for skating. Vendors, tourists, street performers, and sidewalk artists soon followed. In the late 70's and early 80's, artists began painting murals on buildings all around Venice. With an onslaught of street artists, vendors, musicians, body builders, palm readers and live television coverage during the 1984 Summer Olympics, Venice became a major tourist attraction again.

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