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History of the Santa Monica Pier  
by Steven Chabotte

The Santa Monica Municipal Pier opened to the public on September 9, 1909 after 16 months of construction. Thousands of people attended and enjoyed a day of bands playing, swimming races and the novelty of walking the 1600 foot wooden pier. After opening day, the pier continued to be a success, drawing huge crowds every day.

The excitement and number of visitors soon attracted the attention of Charles Looff, a pioneer amusement park entrepreneur. (This is the same Charles Looff who built the first carousel at Coney Island.) He felt an amusement park at this location would be very successful and opened negotiations with the City of Santa Monica to build a second pier beside the Minicipal Pier.

Construction of Looff's pier began in 1916. During its long history, it featured the Hippodrome building - which housed a succession of carousel rides and Wurlitzer organs. Other attractions such as the Blue Streak Rader and the Whip and Aeroscope thrill rides were also added. Such was the draw of Looff's pier, that it quickly grew from its original legnth of 270 feet to a whopping 1080 feet in length.

The pier's popularity continued to grow through the decades. In 1924, the La Monica Ballroom opened and was the site of some of the nation's earliest radio broadcasts. It was also the place to go at night for dancing and live bands. In the 1930's, the pier continued to see heavy use but the elements and changing tastes began to take their toll and the pier lost much of its glamour.

As the piers continued to deteriorate due to weather conditions and lack of maintenance, the city made noises about closing it down and tearing the piers down for safety reasons. This created a backlash and the citizens formed the "Save our Pier Forever" initiative and after a long period of time, won the right to get the area declared a historical landmark and get restoration started.

In 1981, reconstruction and restoration began and despite challenges and bad weather, good news was just around the corner as in 1983, the U.S. Governemnt declared the Hippodrome and its carousel a National Historic Landmark - ensuring the pier's survival for future generations.

In 1988, the Santa Monica Pier Development Program was adopted and the rest of the pier was rebuilt in a way to withstand the violent storms that caused so much damage in the past. Added to that, a variety of food and entertainment outlets were built as well as a top rated amusement park further enhancing the modern Santa Monica Pier.

Due to the restoration and careful planning of activities/facilities, the Santa Monica pier is on an upswing again and hosts more than three million people a ywar - including its famous "Twilight Dance Series" every Thursday night in the summer that attracts upwards of 10 thousand people to listen to live bands and dance and have a good time. And along with this has come the important in town infrastrucutre, many new quality Santa Monica hotels, restaurants and shops for people to enjoy for their vacation there.

Being declared a National Historic Landmark is what saved the pier from total destruction. But it is the energy and vibrancy of the world class entertainment opportunities all year long that will ensure its claim to fame for decades to come.

About the Author

Historical DVDs and CDs at - The Historical Archive offers a large, robust library of DVD and CD based products covering a wide range of significant and interesting historical events and cultural moments through film, photos, audios, maps and other documents.