Venice was the creation and dream of one man, Abbot Kinney. Kinney was an investor who built a sort of recreation of Venice, Italy including a massive system of canals and a huge entertainment complex that opened in 1905 and became very popular.
The overly ambitious canals were mostly filled and made into streets in 1929. A few of the canals survive and are lined with funky, expensive, and architecturally diverse urban homes. A stroll along a couple of the remaining streets is a lesson in architectural eclecticism.
Kinney's huge Pacific Ocean Park entertainment complex survived until the mid-1960s, eventually succumbing to competition from Disneyland and others. The spirit of his seaside entertainment complex however, still pulses in Venice's captivating Boardwalk.
In the 1950s and '60s, Venice became a center for the Beat generation. There was an explosion of poetry and art. Major participants included Stuart Perkoff, John Thomas, Frank T. Rios, Tony Scibella, Lawrence Lipton, John Haag, Saul White, and Philomene Long. Jim Morrison of The Doors also lived in Venice and wrote much of his poetry and song lyrics here.
In the late '60s, Venice became a center for radical activism, including a Black Panther chapter, a Free Venice (from Los Angeles) movement and many other activities opposing various urban renewal plans. Venice, today, is a community in the throes of gentrification but maintains a strong identity and progressive political posture.
More than one hundred years after Kinney's debut, Venice remains unique and well worth the visit.