Venice was founded in 1905 as a seaside resort town. It was an independent city until 1926, when it merged with Los Angeles. Today, Venice is known for its canals, beaches, and the circus-like Ocean Front Walk, a two-and-a-half-mile (4.0 km) pedestrian promenade that features performers, mystics, artists and vendors.
Venice, originally called “Venice of America,” was founded by tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney in 1905 as a beach resort town, 14 miles (23 km) west of Los Angeles. He and his partner Francis Ryan had bought two miles (3.24 km) of oceanfront property south of Santa Monica in 1891. They built a resort town on the north end of the property, called Ocean Park, which was soon annexed to Santa Monica. After Ryan died, Kinney and his new partners continued building south of Navy Street. After the partnership dissolved in 1904, Kinney, who had won the marshy land on the south end of the property in a coin flip with his former partners, began to build a seaside resort like the namesake Italian city.
When Venice of America opened on July 4, 1905, Kinney had dug several miles of canals to drain the marshes for his residential area, built a 1,200-foot (370 m)-long pleasure pier with an auditorium, ship restaurant, and dance hall, constructed a hot salt-water plunge, and built a block-long arcaded business street with Venetian architecture. Tourists, mostly arriving on the “Red Cars” of the Pacific Electric Railway from Los Angeles and Santa Monica, then rode the Venice Miniature Railway and gondolas to tour the town. The biggest attraction was Venice’s mile-long gently sloping beach. Cottages and housekeeping tents were available for rent.
Venice is bounded on the northwest by the Santa Monica city line. The northern apex of the Venice neighborhood is at Walgrove Avenue and Rose Avenue abutting the Santa Monica Airport. On the east the boundary runs north-south on Walgrove Avenue to the neighborhood’s eastern apex at Zanja Street, thus including the Penmar Golf Course but excluding Venice High School. The boundary runs on Lincoln Boulevard to Admiralty Way, excluding all of Marina del Rey, south to Ballona Creek.
Designers Charles and Ray Eames had their offices at the Bay Cities Garage on Abbot Kinney Boulevard from 1943 on, when it was still part of Washington Boulevard; Eames products were also manufactured there until the 1950s. The brick building’s interior was redesigned by Frank Israel in 1990 as a creative workspace, opening up the interior and creating sightlines all the way through the building.
Originally located at the Venice home of Pritzker Prize–winning architect and SCI-Arc founder Thom Mayne, the Architecture Gallery was in existence for just ten weeks in 1979 and featured new work by then-emerging architects Frank Gehry, Eric Owen Moss, and Morphosis. Constructed on a long, narrow lot in 1981, the Indiana Avenue Houses/Arnoldi Triplex was designed Frank Gehry in partnership with artists Laddie Dill and Charles Arnoldi.Frank Gehry has designed several well-known houses in Venice, including the Jane Spiller House (completed 1979) and the Norton House (completed 1984) on Venice Beach. In 1994, sculptor Robert Graham designed a fortress-like art studio and residence for himself and his wife, actress Anjelica Huston, on Windward Avenue.