One of the most beautiful things to see in Venice California is the Venice Canals Historic District. It is one of Los Angeles’s finest residential neighborhoods and tourist attractions.Had it not been for the Great Depression creating a lack of funds in 1929 to fill them all in, they would have been lost.
Taking a stroll along the walks along the canals is something to put on your things to do bucket list when visiting Los Angeles. There is a feeling of peace and tranquility when walking the sidewalks along the canals with the homes, boats and gardens reflecting into the water that can’t be found anywhere else in Southern California.
The Venice Canal District is just south of Venice Blvd and near the beach. From Venice Blvd, turn south onto Dell Avenue and you will dive right across them. It is the only street crossing over the canals. Parking is scarce in the neighborhood but if you go during the weekdays, it can be found on the side streets in the area. There is also a lot near the corner of Pacific Avenue and Venice Blvd.
Be sure to check our post on all the other fun things to do in Venice!
History of the Venice Canal District
The man-made canals were built in 1905 by Abbot Kinney when he sought to recreate the appearance and feel of Venice, Italy, in Southern California. It was part of his Venice of America plan and the birth of the Venice Beach town and neighborhood.
Before 1929, the area covered by canals was approximately three to four times as large as today. The entire area between Abbot Kinney, Pacific, and Venice Blvd. were canals. These canals were north of Venice Blvd and are as follows:
- Coral Canal (now Main St.)
- Cabrillo Canal (now Cabrillo Ave.)
- Venus Canal (now San Juan Ave.)
- Lion Canal (now Windward Ave.)
- Altair Canal (now Altair St.)
- Aldebaren Canal (now Market St.)
- Grand Canal (now Grand Boulevard)
On the south side of Venice Blvd are that canals that exist today. There are four east-west canals (Carroll Canal, Linnie Canal, Howland Canal, and Sherman Canal) and two north-south canals (Eastern Canal and Grand Canal).
The lit canals with gondoliers and arched bridges drew widespread publicity and were a driving factor in selling lots and homes in the early days of Venice. With the birth of the automobile, the canals were viewed by many as outdated, and most of the canals were filled in 1929 to create roads.
The remaining canals were saved by the Great Depression. Los Angeles didn’t have a large enough tax base to fund it and with the economic pressures they couldn’t assess the existing canal property owners to pay for the removal and filling in of the canals.
The remaining canals fell into disrepair, and the sidewalks were condemned by the city in the 1940s. The canal district remained in poor condition for over 40 years while proposals to renovate the canals failed. In1992 the canals were drained, new sidewalks were installed and walls built. The canals re-opened in 1993 and arena one of the most desirable and expensive residential neighborhoods in the city.
The estimated costs for the improvements were 6 million dollars, and included dredging the canals and removing the soil to a class 1 toxic site, removing crumbling sidewalks, replacing new sidewalks, and rebuilding the foot bridges that go over the canals. The property owners paid for much of this through assessments.
The district surrounding the remaining canals was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Nevertheless, there has been extensive renovation work on many of the old houses, and many large, modern houses have been built.
The water enters the canals through sea gates in the Marina Del Rey breakwater, and in Washington blvd. They open at low tide to drain most of the water and at high tide they are closed, trapping the water for about three days, before being refreshed again.
If you do decide to visit the Venice Canals, do be respectful of the homeowners whose homes line the canals. After all, they are the ones that funded the improvements so you could enjoy the beauty! See our Venice Beach Vacation Guide video of all the other sights and fun things to do in Venice.
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