The city of Santa Monica is celebrating the 114th anniversary of its legendary pier. The one locally known as the “Pier” of Santa Monica is a global icon whose appearances in films, commercials and television clips are countless. Halfway between the beach and the ocean, the Santa Monica Pier has no equal in terms of experiences: permanent amusement park, souvenir shops, restaurants and musical entertainment overlook the Pacific and punctuate the destination for over a hundred years. An open-air site steeped in history that attracts millions of visitors each year.
Pioneer of entertainment and sustainability
Built in 1909, the Santa Monica Pier was a pioneer, being the first pier on the west coast of the United States. From its inception, it enjoyed instant success, attracting thousands of visitors to discover its unique views of the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Monica coast, Catalina Island, Malibu and the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
The pier attracted notable entrepreneurs such as Charles Looff, who was credited with building the first carousel on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York. Having seen the potential of the Santa Monica Pier, he began building his marina there in 1916 called Loofs Pier which housed a racetrack, Wurlitzer organs and a wooden roller coaster the “Blue Streak Racer”. Loof & Pier flourished in the 1920s and in 1924 the La Monica Ballroom opened to become the site of many national radio and television broadcasts.
Pacific Park, the Pier’s amusement park, was installed in 1916 within the Santa Monica Pier. After several decades of closure, the park reopened brilliantly in 1996, revealing its Ferris wheel, which has since become a true symbol of the city. Moreover, it is the first and only solar-powered wheel in the world.
A foolproof story
The Great Depression came to play spoilsport. The Santa Monica Pier faces extreme weather and new entertainment trends. As a result, the Blue Streak Racer roller coaster was demolished in 1930 and the La Monica Ballroom closed. In 1941, the famous “Santa Monica Yacht Harbor” sign was installed at the entrance to the pier, seven years after construction of the port was completed. Shortly thereafter, the port was used by the United States Navy during World War II as a delivery point for large quantities of fish to feed the troops.
After a difficult time in the 1960s, Santa Monica residents rallied to “Save the Pier” and defeated several plans to demolish the site. Legendary figures like Jane Fonda and Joan Baez frequented the area, helping to revitalize the image of the then-struggling pier.
Another significant downturn came during the storms of 1983 which destroyed more than a third of the Pier.
But once again, the resilient and loyal Santa Monica community rallied to create a stronger, more viable site for residents and tourists.
When Jim Harris started working for the pier in 1989, there were 2 million visitors a year, rising to around 12 million today. Having grown up alongside it, Harris knows well the importance of the pier to the city of Santa Monica. The pier is a great outdoor venue open all year round, which if you look around the world is pretty rare… other areas have the ocean and the beach, other areas have piers, but it there is no pier like ours. It has survived these 114 years and is thriving today more than ever. She is aging very gracefully,” said Jim Harris, director of the Santa Monica Pier.
An anniversary that shines on a global scale
To celebrate this 114th anniversary, the Pier will showcase the transportation that was booming in 1909, hosting the third annual Santa Monica Classic Car Show. More than 200 cars dating from the 1930s will be on display. Presented by Pico Youth Family Center, all proceeds from the event benefit youth services and after-school programs in Santa Monica and Los Angeles County.
While the majority of tourists have left, the sunny days remain! The Pier is now local. The coming weeks will be animated by “Locals’Nights”, a series of events intended for Santa Monicans, every Thursday, from September 2023 to February 2024. The opportunity for everyone to discover a multitude of activities between creative workshops for children, live concerts, shows and dance classes or even yoga sessions on the beach to practice mindfulness facing the Pacific Ocean. An inclusive city, Santa Monica obviously invites all visitors to live like the locals!
For more information on the destination: www.santamonica.com