Santa Monica Pier’s History
Original Post by Andrew Renslow
Southern California has no shortage of beautiful beaches. Possibly the most iconic beach landmark in the LA area is the Santa Monica Pier. The pier has been a popular vacation destination for over a century bringing in nearly 7 million tourists annually. Over the years, as neighboring coastal piers closed down, the Santa Monica Pier remained open but not without a number of obstacles.
Around the turn of the 20th century, pleasure piers were common on the west coast. Santa Monica first built a municipal pier which was used to pump treated sewage out into the ocean…kinda gross, it was a different time. People gravitated to this municipal pier which led to the construction of a second amusement pier featuring carnival rides, arcades, a dance hall, and yacht harbor. When Route 66 was completed in the mid 20s, Americans now had a direct path through much of the country leading to Santa Monica. Next to the pier, Muscle beach brought in famous weightlifters and spectators. With so many people swimming on the beach, they had to have top notch lifeguards on duty. At the Santa Monica Lifeguard headquarters, Preston “Pete” Peterson developed the Peterson lifeguard tube which is the modern tube most lifeguards use today. Tourists and casual vacationers flocked to the beaches of Southern California and the Santa Monica Pier was the epicenter of tourism.
When the great depression hit, the tourism industry came to a screeching halt. The pier was losing its prestige, many storefronts couldn’t make enough many to stay open and some even converted into apartments. A notorious gangster named Tony Cornero Ported his casino boats right off the coast which had water taxis bring people from the pier aboard to illegally gamble away what little money they had saved. The pier was becoming a seedy part of town, definitely not a place where you wanted to take the family during spring break.
In the 70s, the pier was designated a historic landmark. The city was set to renovate the decaying pier in the late 80’s however a horrible storm in 1982 destroyed one third of the pier and caused them to start construction ahead of schedule. If that wasn’t bad enough, a few months into the construction, an equally bad storm hit the coast again further damaging the pier as well as the equipment. The city was facing a tough decision, scrap the project or spend more money to complete the pier. At this point, it wasn’t a guarantee that the pier would be as popular as it was when it first opened so this was a big gamble for the city. Thankfully for us and the city, the pier was completed and the gamble paid off big time.
It’s hard to imagine the west coast without this iconic pier. With its rides, arcade, restaurants, vendors, and buskers, the Santa Monica Pier is a must see highlight of the greater Los Angeles area. We at LA Tour 1 take our guests to the pier on our Highlights Tour along with many other hotspots this city has to offer so book with us and come peer the pier!