Venice, California was a beach resort town founded by the tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney in 1905. The entrepreneur and dreamer won the land in a coin toss and quickly hit upon a brilliant marketing strategy to replicate Venice, Italy.
The canals were built on what were then the Southern California wetlands and brought a taste of Venice to America.
In addition to the canals, Kinney also built a 1,200-foot long pleasure pier with an auditorium, ship restaurant, and dance hall. He also constructed a hot salt-water plunge, and built a block-long arcaded business street with Venetian architecture.
The pier unfortunately burned down a decade later but the canals became a place that people both lived and vacationed at. For all intents and purposes, it really was the Venice of America, which was Kinney’s intention all along.
The introduction of the automobile and a trend towards “modernization” led to the demise of the canals. In 1924 the city decided it needed more roads and most of canals were filled in in order to pave them. After countless court hearings from the residents about whether or not it was legal to fill them in, the Supreme Court ruled it was legal in 1928.
By the end of the year almost all of the canals were gone, except for the few that are still here to this day. Rumor has it that the remaining canals were saved by the Depression and the contractor’s bankruptcy. But in reality, the area, which was only half developed, wouldn’t have supported much housing. The lack of housing meant that there was little need for more roads, saving the remaining canals.
Today, you can take a stroll along the remaining Venice Canals. Stop in near the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Pacific Avenue, at the corner of Washington and Strongs Drive. There, under a small sign that says "Venice Canals Walkway," turn in and begin exploring.
In no time the sound of traffic will fade away and you will be blissfully transported to the Venice Canals. Walk along the water and enjoy the sights of kayaks and rowboats putting along the canal. Enjoy the sweet smell of flowers in the gardens lining the sidewalk. Take romantic photos on the Venice inspired bridges and simply enjoy a quiet day in the sun.
The walk is 2 miles long and only takes about an hour to complete the walk. Though the grand canal that spanned 16 miles is long gone, you can still get a little take of the original Venice Beach.