In 1905, a millionaire land developer named Abbot Kinney (1850-1920) opened the "Venice of America" beach resort about 15 miles from downtown Los Angeles. To create Venice, Kinney drained the marshland in the area and built a network of canals, a giant amusement pier, and a mini-railroad. Gondolas traveled up and down the new waterways and the main canals were lined with arched Italianate buildings. Visitors could get to Venice from downtown LA and Santa Monica by railroad and rent cottages and tents in Venice for the night.
The 2003 mural "Remembering Venice, 1913" at Windward Circle by artist David Legaspi III depicts Venice of America as it looked in 1913. At that time, the wide streets that radiate from Windward Circle were large canals:
The city of Los Angeles annexed Venice in 1925 and paved over the majority of the canals in 1929. Venice entered a decades long decline and by the 1950s was known as the "Slum by the Sea." In the 1950s and 1960s, beatnik artists and hippies were drawn to Venice by the cheap rent and appealing climate. Venice continued to be an artists' neighborhood through the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but now housing costs have increased substantially.
Although the majority of the canals were paved over in the 1920s, a 3 mile network of canals remains intact in one residential neighborhood. The canals are lined with little pathways, pedestrian bridges, and houses of all different styles:
Venice has a number of very picturesque hidden little pedestrian streets called "Walk Streets" that are also lined with houses of varying architectural styles and charming, overgrown gardens:
A muted modern house next to a bright purple craftsman bungalow:
Here is a 2004 mural on Venice Boulevard and Pacific Avenue by Venice artist Rip Cronk depicting Venice's founder Abott Kinney:
On the map below, I have highlighted in blue the Venice Canal neighborhood, the Walk Streets, and Abbot Kinney Boulevard (a fancy street with coffee shops, restaurants, and expensive clothing stores).
The Walk Streets (Nowita Place, Marco Place, Amoroso Place, and Crescent Place) are difficult to spot - the pedestrian streets are called "Places" and the service alleys for cars are called "Courts" so you want to find "Nowita Place" not "Nowita Court."
I recommend avoiding the Venice boardwalk and beach area (the highlighted red shape on my map) because it is crowded and tacky.
View Larger Map