The Venice Canal District is likely one of Los Angeles’ best kept secrets. While other spots like the infamous boardwalk and the eternally hip Abbott Kinney Blvd. seem to attract thousands of tourists each year, the canals remain somewhat of a secret.
Developed back in 1905 by Abbot Kinney as part of his “Venice of America” theme park, the canals were designed to mimic the feel of their namesake, Venice, Italy. Its funny to think back to a time when Venice and Los Angeles in general needed promotion to attract home buyers, but in the early days Kinney was desperate to draw publicity and capital to his new residential project.
During the year of its opening, Mr.Kinney promoted his new undertaking by heavily decorating the newly dug canals with twinkling lights and costume clad gondoliers. Ironically the homes themselves actually played second fiddle to the main theme park-like attraction. Lucky for Kinney, the premiere gained widespread publicity and the project ended up being a major success. Today the canals function similarly as a destination for locals and tourists alike but the story doesn’t end there.
Interestingly the canals we know today are in fact only a fraction of the original construction site. While the canals were an overnight success in the early part of the 20th century, they remained so only for a short time.
By the time the automobile came to dominate as the chosen form of transportation in the 1940s, most of the canals were filled in order to allow vehicle access. Only four remain today, and for decades the canals fell into great disrepair.
Throughout the 70s and 80s, various councilmen argued over the fate of the once glorious canals until finally in 1991 the City of Los Angles settled on the decision. The new proposal was a 20 month long, 6 million dollar renovation of the historic site.
At first locals were less than thrilled. The project was not only time consuming, it was loud and unsightly. Various home owners in the canals look back on the project as a difficult time but in the end admitted the restoration was worth the wait.
Today in 2016, the canals look more beautiful than ever. The median price for a home on the canals is roughly 2.8 million, and thats only if you are lucky enough to be in the market at the appropriate time.
But seeing is believing. Here is a collection of then and now images which document the many changes over the years.