Venice Of America

You could walk right by the Venice Canals without realising they’re there – they are that hidden. But stray just off the beaten track and away from the busy thoroughfares of Washington and Venice Boulevards and you’ll be amazed at the tranquillity that lies here. Of course it’s not Venice as we know Venice, but an American interpretation on a much smaller scale, now just a city block containing six canals – Grand Canal, Eastern Canal, Carroll, Linnie, Howland and Sherman. 

Venice of America was founded by tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney in 1905, broadening his real estate investments by the toss of a coin, with the winner having the choice of the Ocean Park development or an undeveloped area of swamp to the south. Remarkably, Kinney chose the swamp and set about draining the marshes and building a residential beach resort town and fulfilling his dream of bringing a taste of Venice to California. Alas, by the mid 1920’s the city decided it needed more roads, so most of the canals were filled in, save one city block – which if truth be known was actually saved by the Depression, the contractor’s bankruptcy and ultimately, the lack of need for any more roads. 

Today, this quiet hamlet sits paradoxically next to the hustle of the Venice Beach Boardwalk and the homeless tents along South Venice Boulevard, just a few metres away. As I said earlier, you’d never know it was here. There’s hardly anyone walking around or any sign of the residents, save a few people gardening and only a smattering of tourists checking out the hood – and oddly, they all sounded British. The only other sound you hear is from the ducks that call this place home. 

The architectural styles here are mindboggling – many of the houses are huge and appear to be half or even full blocks, complete with gardens and roof terraces. There’s everything here from huge modernist glass blocks to Italianate-style ‘Venetian’ Palazzos (LA style), to humble shingled shacks, and everything in between, and I mean everything! There’s a real sense of nature and nurture here. Small neat gardens spill over fences to hedged canal sides with playful pontoons and garden chairs perilously perched awaiting launch. Every house seems to have a flotilla of dinghies and canoes at the ready – not that they’re going to get very far. 

Interestingly, the backs of these properties have wide service roads and parking bays, allowing residents and services easy access to the canal system. 

When we were here the water level was extremely low and we wondered why, so when a resident passed by we asked. Turns out that the water is allowed to drop so that the algae can be removed, then twice a week the water is flushed from two huge tidal gates at Marina del Rey. “Come back Saturday” she said, “It’ll be gloriously full then, in its prime”. Shame we’ll miss this, we’ll be on our way to Mexico City. Stay tuned…

One Comment Add yours

  1. Bevanlee says:

    This felt like the sequel to your English tow path canal blog of your Christmas jaunt. You ones seem to have an ability to sniff out hidden waterways 🤗


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