The Santa Monica Pier is one of the most recognizable icons of Southern California. From its humble beginnings over 100 years ago as a support structure for pipes to dump treated sewage into the ocean, to today’s iteration as an amusement park and fishing venue, the Santa Monica Pier has always attracted both locals and tourists to its beautiful beach location. Although it has been slated for destruction on several occasions by the municipal government, the local citizens have always rallied to support and save the pier, which is now operated by a non-profit, the Santa Monica Pier Corporation.
The city built the original 1,600 ft. Municipal Pier (sewer pipe support) in 1909 and it was instantly a popular hit with sightseers and anglers alike. A few years later, Charles I. D. Looff visited the pier. Charles was a master carver of carousels (he built his first carousel in 1876, which is now a National Historical Landmark on Coney Island), and noting the crowds at the pier, he decided that this would be a great location for an amusement park. After obtaining a lease from the city, he constructed a shorter and wider pier adjacent to the Municipal Pier, dubbed the Pleasure Pier, and designed and built the Looff Hippodrome to house one of his carousels, which opened on June 12, 1916.
Over the years, many additional rides were added to Pleasure Pier, but the arrival of the Great Depression during the 1930’s killed off the amusement industry and the abandoned rides soon fell into disrepair. After World War II, Walter Newcomb bought Pleasure Pier (which he renamed to Newcomb Pier, as was his right), restored the Looff Hippodrome, and replaced the now decrepit Looff Carousel with Carousel #62 built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1922. That beautifully restored carousel, featured on many movies including “The Sting,” is still in use today.
The iconic Santa Monica Yacht Harbor entrance sign was erected in 1941.
In the following years, the Santa Monica Pier survived many attempts to end its existence by the city government, as they were growing increasingly tired of the expense of constant repairs to the aging infrastructure, but that problem was soon to disappear. During 1983, waves from back to back storms destroyed nearly one-third of the pier. Ironically, the removal of the old pier by the forces of nature is what ultimately saved the attraction, and restoration efforts began in 1987 and were completed in 1990.
There is some disagreement as to whether the western terminus of Historic Route 66 is where Santa Monica Boulevard dead-ends at Ocean Avenue or if it is at the intersection of Olympic Boulevard and Lincoln Boulevard. In either case, both locations are just a few blocks from the Santa Monica Pier, so today’s travelers retracing the route of the “Main Street of America” are welcome to enjoy their final kicks at the pier.
Today, the fully restored Santa Monica Pier boasts a new amusement park (called Pacific Park), restaurants, an aquarium, an arcade, and several shops to assist you with your spending needs. The pier’s main deck also acts as a venue for hosting concerts and other special events. Open 24/7 with free admission, this is a “not to be missed” Southern California destination. People still fish there, too!