As a California girl who has spent most of my life in SoCal I was shocked, shocked to find out the canals of Venice had eluded me until now. Granted, when you grow up in Orange County, L.A. and its environs can seem a world away but during my marketing careeer I was in Santa Monica at least once a week and was within a stone's throw of Venice dozens of times. I knew Venice Beach for its circus-like boardwalk frequented by amusing performeers, fanatic bodybuilders, sexy skaters and wide-eyed tourists, but little did I know a fascinating piece of its history quietly resided just blocks from the hustle and bustle of the coastline. Less than a mile southeast of the crazy boardwalk scene is a neighborhood of tranquil canals surrounded by upscale homes, thriving gardens and glimpses of whimsical art, perhaps giving a nod to the colorful decades of the past. To find this magical neighborhood is like stumbing upon a secret garden which may be why this little eden had eluded me all these years.
The six canals - Carroll, Linnie, Howland, Sherman, Eastern and Grand - are all that remain of the original 16 miles of canals dug in 1904 and completed in 1905 just in time for a Fourth of July celebration to showcase the former marshland into the "Venice of America." The canals were part of the grand plan of visionary Abbot Kinney to create a resort town reminiscent of Venice, Italy. The plan included a casino, amusement piers, miniature train, hotels, Venetian-styled structures and canals complete with gondolas.
When Venice was annexed to the City of Los Angeles in 1925 most of the canals were filled in to accommodate the increase in motor traffic and in the 1960's it became the hangout for beat poets, artists and musicians including Jim Morrison of The Doors. The residential area surrounding the canals has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the canals offer quaint walking courts joined by wooden bridges and foot paths.
Now that I've found this little wonder I want to share it with everyone. It's worth a short side trip next time you visit the L.A. area.