If you’ve only been to the Venice Beach Boardwalk, you may have asked yourself how a neighborhood in Los Angeles could be associated with the acclaimed tourist destination in Italy. If you imagined miles of canals sweeping through the heart of the city, romantic gondola rides, and pedestrian walkways that allow homeowners to wander their streets without fear of getting hit by cars, then you’ve seen the vision of Abbot Kinney's Venice of America.
After traveling from the East Coast to San Francisco, Kinney found his way to what is now known as Venice Beach, California. Inspired to bring the Mediterranean’s Venice to California, Kinney changed the landscape of the city forever. On July 4, 1905, the seven original canals stretched across two miles and attracted some 40 to 50,000 visitors on the opening day.
According to KCET, the Golden State’s Venice canals were formed from dredged saltwater marshlands and were designed to include four islands that were only reachable by canoe or boat. The largest waterway, Grand Canal, ended at a saltwater lagoon named Bathing Lake; meanwhile, the Aldebaran, Coral, Venus, Lion, Altair, and Cabrillo Canals helped to form the neighborhood’s irregular grid pattern. But Kinney’s dream for the city didn’t end there.
He is also responsible for the giant roller coaster that once adorned the shores, the columned Italian façades near the Pacific Ocean, and the idea to hang letters spelling out Venice. Because of the popularity of the Venice Beach canals, copycats soon sprang up south of Kinney’s development. Called the Short Line canals, these six structures connected to the original Vince of America through the Grand Canal, and by 1910, homes were for sale along these man-made rivers.
Though the Venice Canals in Los Angeles were beloved in their hayday, as cars became more popular, Venice of America became less practical. By 1929, Venice was absorbed into Los Angeles, and the California Supreme Court ruled to fill in Kinney’s canals to create roadways. This change was to be funded by a levied property assessment, and since the six canals south of Kinney’s did not have a high enough population to finance paved roads, they are the only ones that remain today.
Visit the remaining Carroll, Linnie, Howland, Sherman, Eastern, and Grand Canals in Venice, but make sure to drive around town to witness what became of Kinney’s waterways. Cruise down Grand Avenue to see what remains of Grand Canal; stroll across Market Street to view Aldebaran Canal; loop around Main Street to see Coral Canal, continuing past San Juan Avenue to Venus Canal; and walk by Windward Avenue to spot Lion Canal.