History of Venice Beach, California

Venice, California was the dream of Abott Kinney, a wealthy cigarette manufacturer who wanted to re-create Venice, Italy next to the Pacific Ocean. At the beginning of the 20th century he created a beach-side community — complete with canals, cheap hotels, bars and restaurants, and theaters — that was tagged the “Coney Island of the Pacific.” Known as Venice of America, the city first opened on July 4, 1905.

Kinney ran Venice with an iron fist and kept everything in check until his death in 1920. Los Angeles county annexed Venice in November 1925. The community experienced a short-lived economic boom during the Great Depression when oil was discovered in the ocean. However, the city of Los Angeles neglected Venice for many years afterwards and by the 1950s it had become known as the “slum by the sea.” The low-rent area was, and still is, attractive to European immigrants and counterculture artists, writers and poets. The 1960s hippie crowd breathed new life into Venice, though the continued lack of funds meant that the town fell further into disrepair.

Venice Beach Today

Venice’s popularity was so great that the town drastically increased in size over the last 100 years and now pushes up against Santa Monica in the north, Marina Del Rey in the south and Los Angeles to the east.

Now Venice is one of the most popular and vibrant areas of Los Angeles and definitely makes the list of things to see and do. The basketball courts on the boardwalk are known for the talent of the street-ball players and numerous NBA players were recruited off these courts. Jim Morrison had an apartment in Venice for two years, during which time he met Ray Manzarek and together they formed the Doors. The filmmakers of Hollywood have discovered Venice and it is a popular spot featured in many films, TV shows and video games including Lords of Dogtown, NCIS: Los Angeles and Tony Hawk 2. As it became more and more popular during the 1990s, several actors and actresses owned homes in Venice, including actress Julia Roberts who lived here until moving to Malibu in 2024. Lindsey Lohan, Angelica Huston from Adam’s Family and Isaiah Washington from Grey’s Anatomy are all current residents.

Continuing the spirit of the past, Venice is known for its tradition of progressive social change and fighting commercialism. The Venice Community Housing Corporation, a nonprofit organization, actively focuses on preserving the economic, racial and social diversity of the Venice area.