Venice of America: Jeffrey Stanton | KCET
Venice of America: Jeffrey Stanton
The rich history of Venice has fascinated many, yet due to its complexity, only a few can be considered aficionados. Self-appointed historian Jeffrey Stanton is one of those few. Part eccentric, part encyclopedia, Stanton has self-produced a handful of publications about Venice's history, including a hard-bound book. In 1978, he learned of the amusement parks that once existed, and acquired an annexation map from 1925. His profound interest led to what is now a collection of over 40 years' worth of information.
Stanton's eyes grow wide as he tells of the amusement piers. His enthusiasm would suggest he was descending the Giant Dipper, a twister-style coaster found on the Venice Pier in 1923, right before your eyes. His revelry, however, is short lived and he quickly diverts, talking about the business and politics that he feels ruined Venice's charm. Stanton's stories are a hotbed of information about Venice's annexation, the destruction of Winward Avenue, the filling of the canals and the rapid overgrowth of oil wells. Stanton believes that certain things that made Venice great died years ago, yet he still hangs on, reliving its heyday through his research.
"By 1903 they were at odds with each other on how they were going to develop the marshy undeveloped section which is now Venice. They had a coin flip and Kinney chose the undeveloped area because he envisioned a canal network."
"Where we are standing is the hub of the canal network. Between 1904 and 1929 all these streets, Main, Windard and Grand, were waterways."
"On a weekend, they would have about 300,000 people down here. And each of these people would spend on an average of $3. So on Monday morning, the bank deposit was a million dollars in the summer. And that's a lot of money back in those days."
It's a Business
"As one pier got new attractions, the other expanded. It was a constant competition between the two groups. Kinney built Venice as a real estate development, Don't kid yourself that he had any other real reason for it. I mean yes, he had the aesthetics to build something nice... and it had a theme. But it was really a real estate development."
"Venice was a very dysfunctional community probably because they had various business districts."
"Venice was the 6th largest oil field in California at the time. But the consequence is that the area became heavily polluted with oil, fires, explosions all the time. The place wasn't livable. People leased out their properties to the oil companies and moved somewhere else."