Lost New England Goes West: Venice, California

Looking east on Windward Avenue in Venice, around 1912. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

Venice was founded in 1905 as a beach resort town just west of Los Angeles. Its developer, tobacco company owner Abbott Kinney, envisioned it as the “Venice of America,” complete with canals, gondolas, and Venetian-style architecture. Among the architectural features in the first photo are the arcades, or arches, along all of the buildings here on Windward Avenue. The building on the left at the corner is the Hotel St. Mark, which was built in 1905, and beyond it are a number of other matching buildings. On the right side, many of the buildings are not yet completed, with a row of columns marking where arches would eventually be built.

When the first photo was taken, Venice had already become a popular tourist destination. The white sign in front of the hotel advertises some of the city’s attractions, including the aquarium on the pier (admission 10 cents), the scenic railway, gondolas and boats on the canals, and the Venice Plunge, which was a heated indoor salt-water pool on one of the piers.

The city was successful in attracting tourists, but politically it was unable to support itself, so in 1926 the residents voted to be annexed by Los Angeles. This brought some major changes, which included filling in most of the canals and building roads on top of them. Venice’s decline continued during and after the Great Depression, and by the 1950s it was in serious decay. The piers were demolished by the 1960s, as were many of the historic buildings here along Windward Avenue and elsewhere in Venice.

Today, Venice is known for its unique countercultural aspects, including artists, street performers, and an inordinate number of medicinal marijuana dispensaries. A number of small shops now occupy the space where the Hotel St. Mark once stood, but a few of the buildings from the first photo still remain, including the one in the center of the photo and another further down Windward Avenue. Over the years, Venice has been used as a filming location for many movies and television shows, several of which feature this particular view here. The opening scene of Orson Welles’s 1958 film Touch of Evil shows the St. Mark a few years before its demolition, and a 2003 episode of Gilmore Girls includes several scenes from this section of Windward Avenue.

This post is part of a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.

Lost New England Goes West: Farmers Market, Los Angeles

The Farmers Market at the corner of 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles, around 1953. Image courtesy of the University of Southern California Libraries and the California Historical Society.

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The view in 2015:

The Farmers Market in Los Angeles opened in 1934, and since then it has become a major landmark in the city. Originally, it consisted of a few farmers who parked their trucks here on the property and sold produce, but over the years it grew into a permanent facility as seen in these two photos. The property was owned by Earl Gilmore, the son of Los Angeles oil magnate Arthur F. Gilmore, who also built the nearby Gilmore Stadium and Gilmore Field in the 1930s. The light towers of Gilmore Field can be seen in the distance on the left side of the first photo; it was home to the Hollywood Stars minor league baseball team from 1939 until 1957, and was demolished in 1958 after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and brought Major League Baseball to the West Coast.

Because of its proximity to Hollywood, the Farmers Market has attracted its share of celebrities. Around the time that the first photo was taken, stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Ava Gardner as well as Dwight D. Eisenhower all made appearances here, and this trend has continued over the years. Today, the market’s exterior appearance has not changed significantly since the first photo. With a variety of restaurants and other vendors, it is a popular tourist destination, and is in many ways comparable to the much older Quincy Market in Boston.

This post is part of a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.