Sport Fishing * Boating
~~ The Santa Monica Pier Sign ~~
The Santa Monica Pier opened to the public on September 9, 1909 (California Admission Day). The pier's opening day attracted thousands of people who participated in swimming races, enjoying concerts and the thrill of being able to walk out 1,600 feet into the Pacific. The concrete pier's ability to draw the masses started to attract the attention of pioneer amusement entrepreneur, Charles Looff.
Looff was the man who had built the first carousel on Coney Island as well as a nearby carousel factory. At the time, Southern California was an area ripe for successful ventures, and Looff was not blind to that. In 1910 he packed up and moved his operations to Long Beach. In 1916 after lengthy negotiations with the city of Santa Monica, Looff started construction on a pier next to the original. When it opened the Looff's original pier sported the Hippodrome building with its merry-go-rounds and Wurlitzer organs, the Blue Streak Racer wooden roller coaster and the Whip and Aeroscope thrill rides, as attractions were added on, additional space was needed. So, the pier was added on to and is now 270 x 1080 feet.
The pier's success continued well into the 1920s with the 1924 addition of the ornate La Monica Ballroom, home to many early national radio and television broadcasts as well as nightly dancing.
By the 1930s however, the pier was in decline, storms had wreaked havoc on the Looff's and the municipal pier. Changing tastes were also turning people away from the once popular attractions as well. In 1930 the Blue Streak Racer was demolished.
Now, the pier that Charles Looff had built was never under the control of Santa Monica. It was always privately owned, this all changed in 1953 when the city purchased it and then contracted out. Eventually the lack of revenue and the city's unwillingness to maintain something without a economic benefit (The La Monica Ballroom closed in 1960) was probably a leading factor when, in the 1970s the city ordered the demolition of the historic piers.
Angry citizens formed a "Save Our Pier Forever" group to help raise money for the piers' reconstruction and renovation. The city reconsidered and in 1981 started a task force to refurbish the decaying structures. A 1983 storm that washed away part of the pier would obviously not help the efforts, but it was soon decreed a National Historical Landmark.
In 1988 the Santa Monica city council established a program to help retrofit the aging and now landmark piers against further storm damage. The pier's amusement park was rebuilt and is now a popular tourist attraction, helped considerably as it lies on the western end of Route 66.