When entrepreneur Abbot Kinney opened his "Venice of America" on July 4, 1905, thousands clamored to enter the gates of the new resort community of canals and gondolas, pavilions and cafes.
In less than 19 months, Kinney had transformed an idle backwater into a vast entertainment playground filled with wild rides, sideshows and carny concessions. Within a few years, additional homes began to spring up around the popular attraction, giving rise to this famous and funky beach community.
As Venice turns 90 this Independence Day, thousands are expected to celebrate the creative, independent and free-spirited legacy of one of Los Angeles' great early visionaries.
Alliance for Survival, a local peace and environmental organization, plans to host a large birthday and dance party on July 4 at the popular Venice nightspot, St. Mark's.
Michael Benner, radio personality at KLSX (97.1 FM), is set to host the affair, which begins at 7 p.m. Scheduled performers include the band Strawberry Alarm Clock, which will perform its 1967 No. 1 hit "Incense and Peppermints"; political humor by Paul Krassner, poetry from Linda Albertano and special guests the Venice Beach Boardwalk Street-Performer Review.
Local boardwalk artists, hair decorators, clowns, Tarot card readers and psychic healers will also be in attendance. Admission is $10 in advance and $15 at the door. A special ceremonial lighting of a large birthday cake will highlight the event.
The Venice Area Chamber of Commerce will sponsor a three-day celebration July 7, 8, and 9 featuring continuous entertainment, vintage car displays and historic slide shows near Windward Avenue and Ocean Front Walk.
On Aug. 21, the Venice Historical Society will join in the celebration of the 90th anniversary by sponsoring a fund-raising auction of enlarged historical postcards for the new Venice Library. Admission will be $25 and all funds will go toward the $3,300 cost of purchasing the complete microfilm of The Vanguard, the local Venice paper published from 1911 to 1962. An additional $3,000 is needed to buy a reader machine for the film.
For some historians, the 90th birthday celebrations come at an important time.
"Venice is being eaten away by developers, picks and shovels and it is important to remember the unique history Venice represents in the beginnings of Los Angeles," said Elayne Alexander, an archivist for the Venice Historical Society.
"Venice put Los Angeles on the map," Alexander said. "People came from all over the world to see this town. No one had even heard of Los Angeles in those days, which was then just a dusty outpost--they came to see Venice."