Category Archives: History

Visiting the Maritime Museum in San Diego

I started the day meeting Diane, a former clown. We talked as she drove us to the Maritime Museum in downtown San Diego. She spoke of her experience as a clown and felt it was pretentious. In other words she felt it was pretending and not being real. I told her when I clown I am myself. I suppose reflecting on that there is a degree of acting and playing that you wouldn’t normally do, as society doesn’t give permission. She spoke the good that clowning had done for her husband who had grown in confidence in humour. They were part of a group called Clown Conspiracy who clown as volunteers to raise money for charity.

She was a very interesting lady and told me she had American Indian heritage. Her parents were teachers, her father a Principal. Her grandparents were also lovely people and they had a close family.

I learned that people could join with the tribes and they could be given an Indian name. She herself was an Indian Elder and was to give a name to her relative. Her tribe was not a big tribe but had been resurrected by others who ensured they did not lose their customs. I learned that Indian’s had made money out of Casinos.

I wondered about the African Americans and Australian Indigenous, the fact they look similar made me reflect and that there appears to be greater unhappiness in these groups. I thought of the American Indians and the Australian Aborigines being the first people and that the former did seem more accepted in the US. Although my observation is marginal and I am sure I don’t know much. I thought about class in Australia and the US. I wondered if it was the sense of inequality that was the real source of separation between people. I am not sure.

My friend indicated that she didn’t have her first home until later in life which was unsual. I wondered about housing prices, they seem high her and in Australia. Around $1600 to $2000 per month in Australia for a 2-3 bedroom. Here around $1361-$2000 was the average price of a 2-3 apartment. So not really much different. The wages for low paid workers are much lower here from $12 – $16 per hour. Note it is average not median, not always a good figure to use. It would be interested to look at median prices. I found the minimum wage is $7.25 which makes you wonder how some survive. The median average wage for non professionals in Australia is around $25.50 per hour. In both countries you can assume females earn 80% of the male wage for the same work. I’ve just checked the numbers and they are earning less. So single parents come to mind here and if they are women, earn less. So I sense here that life is actually harder for the average American citizen, even though I sense Australians do pay more across the board. Population of course is another important factor.

We stopped at the Maritime Museum where I got to view the Star of India a famous tall ship that used to take people and traded cargo to Australia and New Zealand. They would be at sea 6 months and some of the issues they faced was fresh food and scurvy, rough seas and illness. I was surprised at how large the boat was and imagined it out at sea. It was well built. Some information about the Star of India as follows:

Star of India is the world’s oldest active sailing ship. She began her life on the stocks at Ramsey Shipyard in the Isle of Man in 1863. Iron ships were experiments of sorts then, with most vessels still being built of wood. Within five months of laying her keel, the ship was launched into her element. She bore the name Euterpe, after the Greek muse of music and poetry.

Euterpe was a full-rigged ship and would remain so until 1901, when the Alaska Packers Association rigged her down to a barque, her present rig. She began her sailing life with two near-disastrous voyages to India. On her first trip she suffered a collision and a mutiny. On her second trip, a cyclone caught Euterpe in the Bay of Bengal, and with her topmasts cut away, she barely made port. Shortly afterward, her first captain died on board and was buried at sea.

After such a hard luck beginning, Euterpe settled down and made four more voyages to India as a cargo ship. In 1871 she was purchased by the Shaw Savill line of London and embarked on a quarter century of hauling emigrants to New Zealand, sometimes also touching Australia, California and Chile. She made 21 circumnavigations in this service, some of them lasting up to a year. It was rugged voyaging, with the little iron ship battling through terrific gales, “laboring and rolling in a most distressing manner,” according to her log.

The life aboard was especially hard on the emigrants cooped up in her ‘tween deck, fed a diet of hardtack and salt junk, subject to mal-de-mer and a host of other ills. It is astonishing that their death rate was so low. They were a tough lot, however, drawn from the working classes of England, Ireland and Scotland, and most went on to prosper in New Zealand. refer

We then walked over to see the USS Surprise. I could see it was a battleship with a line of cannons and hammocks for the sailors. I reflected on how difficult life would be on a battle ship at sea. The quarters were rudimentary and the ship was small and cramped. Here is some information from wikipedia…

USS Surprise (PG-63), the fourth American naval ship of the name, was the British Flower-class corvette HMS Heliotrope loaned to and operated by the United States Navy from 1942-1945 as a Temptress-class patrol gunboat. After World War II she was sold as a merchant vessel and ended her life in the Chinese navy as Lin I.

Surprise sailed from Derry, Northern Ireland on 24 April 1942 to escort a convoy to Boston, Massachusetts. After an overhaul, she proceeded south and for the remainder of 1942 escorted convoys in the Caribbean, principally between Trinidad and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In January 1943, she extended her range into the South Atlantic and, into 1944, performed escort runs between Trinidad and Recife, Brazil.

Surprise then returned to the United States. In May 1944, she returned to the North Atlantic and, until after the end of World War II in Europe in May 1945, rotated between Newfoundland, Greenland, and Iceland convoy runs and weather patrol duty.

Surprise was decommissioned on 20 August 1945 at Chatham, England, returned to the Royal Navy on 26 August, and struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 17 September.

We then walked over to look at a Russian Submarine. I have to say I was amazed at how long this sub was, and again, the cramped conditions. Even a woman crawling through the tubes is tight, I wondered at bigger men and how they managed to squeeze from one section to another, what happens in emergency situations. Many would have bumped their heads I reacon. The electronic devices and technology was evident all over the sub, such skills and knowledge would be required to run the ship. I also reflected on being under water for such long periods, how psychologically they handled it being in close confines with other men and so on. Here is some information from wikipedia…

One of a fleet of diesel electric submarines the Soviet Navy called “Project 641,” B-39 was commissioned in the early 1970s and served on active duty for more than 20 years. 300 feet in length and displacing more than 2000 tons, B-39 is among the largest conventionally powered submarines ever built. She was designed to track U.S. and NATO warships throughout the world’s oceans. B-39, assigned to the Soviet Pacific fleet, undoubtedly stalked many of the U.S. Navy’s ships home ported in San Diego. Now, less than 20 years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall signaled the end of the Cold War, she is berthed on San Diego Bay amidst her former adversaries. Soviet Project 641 submarines, classified as “Foxtrot” by NATO, are essentially larger and more powerful versions of German World War II era U-boats. Low-tech but lethal, she carried 24 torpedoes while she was on patrol-some capable of delivering low-yield nuclear warheads. B-39 carried a crew of 78 and could dive to a depth of 985 feet before threatening the integrity of her nickel steel pressure hull. The Soviet and then Russian Federation’s navies deployed these submarines from the mid 1950s through the early 1990s. They played a part in many of the Cold War’s most tense moments including the Cuban Missile Crisis.

After the Maritime Museum we went to Anthony’s Seafood restaurant where I was treated to clam chouder. I had a lovely salad. It was lovely looking out of the restaurant window at the bay. Beyond the bay is the Pacific Ocean.

I looked into the distance and could see Point Loma where I am living. Just up from where I am living is the Point Loma Naval Base. Here is some information about this facility from Wikipedia.

Located in Point Loma, a neighborhood of San Diego, California, Naval Base Point Loma (NBPL) was established on 1 October 1998 when Navy facilities in the Point Loma area of San Diego were consolidated under Commander, Navy Region Southwest. Naval Base Point Loma consists of seven facilities: Submarine Base, Fleet Antisubmarine Warfare Training Center, Fleet Combat Training Center Pacific, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), SPAWAR Systems Center, the Fleet Intelligence Command Pacific and Naval Consolidated Brig, Miramar. These close-knit commands form a diverse and highly technical hub of naval activity. The on base population is around 22,000 Navy and civilian personnel.

Los Angeles: Canters Deli A Historic Icon

Photos below.

Canter’s Deli has been an LA Landmark since 1931 We are a family owned and operated delicatessen for 3 generations and take great pride in offering an authentic deli-style experience, unparalleled anywhere on the west coast

Canter’s Deli is one of California’s oldest delis. Located in Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile District – the heart and soul of the entertainment industry – Canter’s Delicatessen is a third- generation family-run business whose owners have an intense pride in their deli and a hands-on work ethic.

It all began in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1924. After losing a deli in the 1929 stock market crash, Ben Canter and his two brothers moved to California with just $500 in their pockets. Eager to succeed, they opened up a Canter Brother’s Delicatessen in 1931 in Boyle Heights, the Jewish center of Los Angeles.

When the character of the neighborhood changed, Ben Canter’s daughter, Selma Udko, and her then husband, Harold Price, partnered with Ben Canter and his wife, Jennie, to purchase a prime location at 439 North Fairfax Avenue. And instead of calling it Canter’s Brothers they called it Canter’s Fairfax.

In 1953 this new team purchased the old Esquire Theatre at 419 North Fairfax and moved Canter’s Deli just up the street to the larger location.

For over seventy-five years now this third- generation family-owned business has served food to locals, tourist, and celebrities alike. With its Art Deco décor and its trademark autumn leaves ceiling, this hangout has hardly changed in its over half century at its current location.

As Sheryll Bellman wrote in her book, Americas Great Delis:

“You wouldn’t think that Los Angeles could have a deli rival to New Yorks, but for those who know and love the deli culture and appreciate all that it evokes, this place is heaven. Voted the #1 Best Pastrami by the Los Angeles Times, Canter’s Deli sandwiches are always served on rye, unless you ask for something else, but dont do that! Made famous for its corned beef and pastrami sandwiches Canter’s Deli boasts of serving the best quality food at reasonable prices. Tour buses stop here, and many tourists eat here as well, but the real heart and soul of this deli are the locals who have never moved from the neighborhood and the stars who slip in here incognito for a late night nosh. Canter’s Deli is a place of solace, and they come for the old-fashioned Jewish food that reminds them of their past. Open 24 hours and only closed on Jewish holidays, you can come here anytime for a delicious taste of yesterday.”

Canter’s has also become a favorite whistle stop for hot political contests. Mayor Bradley, Governor Deukmejian, Rudy Giuliani, and Bill Simon have gone from booth to booth introducing themselves to our customers. And with CBS studios just up the block, celebrities frequent Canter’s every day. Our catering department caters to many television shows and movies, as well as catering their wrap parties.

Over the years, many celebrities have passed through our doors. In the 50s Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller ate here, as did Jack Benny and Elizabeth Taylor. Other celebrity noshers include Sydney Poitier, Mel Brooks, Wilt Chamberlain, Charlene Tilton, Brooke Shields, Jacqueline Bisset, Catherine Oxenberg, John Travolta, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Buddy Hackett, Olivia Newton John, Muhammad Ali, Monty Hall, Bill Cosby, David Brenner, Rodney Dangerfield, Dick Van Dyke, Shelly Winters, Elizabeth Montgomery, The Cars, Henry Winkler, and Greg Morris. The producer of Miami Vice, Michael Mann, wrote here for hours at a time when he was writing for Vegas. The Neil Simon movie, “I Ought to be in Pictures”, with Walter Matthau was filmed here. Many celebrities who prefer to go “incognito” sneak in around 3:00 am for a late night nosh!

Canter’s is also part of the larger Los Angeles community having received numerous awards from such institutions as the City of Hope, appreciation letters for outstanding and dedicated service, and letters from Jerry Lewis and the Muscular Dystrophy Association thanking Canters for donating food.

Canter’s Delicatessen continues to be a Los Angeles landmark and late night hot spot, and, with the 2003 addition of Canter’s Deli at Treasure Island in Las Vegas, we are committed to bringing the best delicatessen food to our noshers on the famed Las Vegas Strip and to Dodger fans at Dodger Stadium.

Significant Dates in Canter’s History:

  • 1924 Canter’s begins as a family-run
    business in Jersey City, New Jersey
  • 1931 Canter Brothers move themselves
    and their business to Boyle Heights, a suburb
    of Los Angeles.
  • 1948 Canter’s moved to the Miracle Mile/
    Fairfax district of Los Angeles
  • 1953 The Esquire Theater is transformed
    into the current location of Canter’s
  • 1959 Canter’s grows and expands into
    another room
  • 1961 The Kibitz Room opens, adding a full
    cocktail lounge to Canter’s Delicatessen.
  • 2003 Canter’s expands across state lines
    with a Canter’s Deli opening in Treasure
    Island Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada.
  • 2008 Canter’s continues to expand with a
    stand opening at Dodger Stadium.
Click the picture to view enlarged.
Original Canter Bros. Location Original Canter Bros Interior. Canters Relocated in 1948 Canters Purchased Esquire Theatre in 1953 and Relocated To Their Current Location
Interior of Canters at their Current Location in 1953 Bakery at Canters in 1953 Canters Meat Counter at their Current Location in 1953. Canters Nightlife 1960s
Founder Ben Canter with Several of his Favorite Waitresses Founders Ben and Jennie Canter Canter Family at Hollywood Park with winning horse Hoist Bar in 1965 Canter Family at Hollywood Park with winning horse Win Shane in 1966

Rotary Club of Point Loma: Jewish Holocaust Survivor Tearing Down the Walls

‘Tearing down the walls’ is Survivor’s answer to the Holocaust

‘Tearing down the walls’ is Survivor’s answer to the Holocaust


Frances Gelbart at Point Loma Rotary Feb. 8, 2013

By Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO — The contrast between the speaker’s surroundings and her subject matter was vivid on Friday, Feb. 8, at a Point Loma Rotary Club meeting.  

The weekly get-together was held in an upstairs room of the San Diego Yacht Club, with header beams above the windows festooned with burgees from yacht clubs around the world and the glass cases filled with trophies celebrating the victors in such contests as “Largest Game Fish,” “Largest Yellowtail,” “First Gamefish of the Season” and “Largest Marlin by a Woman Angler.”

Frances Gelbart, today a resident of suburban Carlsbad, California, was there to tell about her experiences as a 10-year-old child from Krakow, Poland, who survived five concentration camps, including Auschwitz, before her liberation from Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria.   Sixty-eight years after her liberation, she said she still doesn’t like to talk about what happened to her, but added that she feels an obligation to the women in the camps who mothered her, gave her extra bread, helped her in assemblies and marches to remain inconspicuous, and urged her to “live” and “to tell the world what happened.”

At least the weather on Friday afternoon–gray skies with intermittent rain– matched the mood of her subject,  the Holocaust being one of the gloomiest periods of modern history.

Born Francheska Immerglȕck, she said her maiden name was a source of amusement to Nazi guards because translated from the German it means “always lucky.”  During a selection at Auschwitz, she was asked “is it true you are always lucky?” and she responded “I hope so.”  The Nazi sent her to the right — to a work camp — instead of the left, to the gas chambers,  where most children were sent soon after arrival.

In a calm, soft, slow voice, she recounted the outrages that she saw, heard and experienced during the Holocaust.  She said her job at Auschwitz was to segregate and fold the clothes stripped from Jewish inmates to be sent to Germany.   Near her barracks was the facility where she heard screaming and crying — the place where medical experiments were performed on twins.   She was told that contained in the meager meal portions including insufficient portions of bread,  watered coffee, and grass soup  was something to prevent women from menstruating.  Her clothes worn year round were a striped jacked, striped shirt and wooden shoes.   Like other prisoners at Auschwitz, she had an identification number tattooed on her arm — and today when she mentions this at schools, she hears from students such questions as “couldn’t you have refused?”

From Auschwitz, she was moved during winter in an open wagon to another camp, stopping for three days at a railroad siding to permit German troop trains to go through.  There was nothing to eat,  she was covered in ice and snow, and two of her toes became gangrenous, she related. 

Even after all these years, she said, she can never forget the sight of Nazi soldiers killing babies, taking them “by their feet and hitting them against walls…. Now, as an adult, I can’t imagine any human being could do that.”

Pausing for a moment, she said, she doesn’t hold the German people responsible, but rather the SS and the Gestapo.  “Personally,” she said, “I have nothing against the German people.   It’s too bad that history is following them.”

I was sitting at a table with Nestor Suarez, principal of Cabrillo Elementary School,  which is located just a few blocks from the San Diego Yacht Club.  We acknowledged each other’s thoughts.  Cabrillo has a “sister school” relationship with a school in Neuahus an der Oste, Germany,  the hometown of Louis Rose, who in 1850 was San Diego’s pioneer Jewish settler.  In 1869, he became founder of the “Roseville” area of San Diego’s Point Loma neighborhood where the Yacht Club is located. 

The sister school relationship has evolved into Cabrillo Elementary School offering a German language program to its students from kindergarten through fourth grade, all the better for them to be pen pals with their counterparts in Neuhaus, a town close to the North Sea.

Gelbart said the only answer to the Holocaust is for people to “love each other.”

“We are trapped together on this planet,” she said.  “We have to be good to each other. … Tear down the walls.”

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  He may be contacted via

Old Town San Diego is the birthplace of California

Old town is a neighborhood of San Diego.  I visited the Old Town State Historical Park.  Here is a profile on both.,_San_Diego

Old Town is a neighborhood of San Diego, California. It contains 230 acres (93 ha) and is bounded by Interstate 8 on the north, Interstate 5 on the west, Mission Hills on the east and Bankers Hill on the south.[1] It is the oldest settled area in San Diego and is the site of the first European settlement in present-day California.[2] It contains Old Town San Diego State Historic Park and Presidio Park, both of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.



The Serra Museum in Presidio Park marks the original site of the Presidio and Mission

The San Diego Presidio and Mission San Diego de Alcalá were founded in 1769 by Gaspar de Portolà and Junípero Serra on a bluff at the western end of the San Diego River valley. The Presidio and Mission constituted the first Spanish settlement in Alta California, the present day state of California. After five years the Mission moved to a location several miles upriver, while the Presidio on its hill remained the primary settlement. In the 1820s the town of San Diego grew up at the base of the bluff, at the site commemorated by Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, while the Presidio fell into disrepair.[3]

In 1834 the Mexican government granted San Diego the status of a pueblo, or chartered town. However, the population of the town declined so much that in 1838 its pueblo status was revoked. One problem was the town’s location far from navigable water. All imports and exports had to be brought ashore in Point Loma and carried several miles over the La Playa Trail to the town.[4]

The Casa de Machado y Stewart, an 1830s adobe house in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

When California was admitted to the United States in 1850, San Diego (still largely limited to the Old Town area) was made the county seat of San Diego County, even though the town’s population was only 650.[5]

The Old Town area remained the heart of the city of San Diego until the 1860s, when a newcomer to San Diego named Alonzo Horton began to promote development at the site of present-day Downtown San Diego. Residents and businesses quickly abandoned “Old Town” for Horton’s “New Town” because of New Town’s proximity to shipping. In 1871, government records were moved from Old Town to a new county courthouse in New Town, and Downtown permanently eclipsed Old Town as the focal point of San Diego.[6]

Class 1 Streetcar homes in the Old Town neighborhood of San Diego, California.

In the 1910s, Old Town became one of the many San Diego neighborhoods connected by the Class 1 streetcars and an extensive San Diego public transit system that was spurred by the Panama-California Exposition of 1915 and built by John D. Spreckels. These streetcars became a fixture of this neighborhood until their retirement in 1939.[7][unreliable source?]


Church of the Immaculate Conception (built 1917).

The Old Town neighborhood has nine hotels, 32 restaurants and more than 100 specialty shops.[8] There are 12 art galleries and 27 historic buildings and sites, including Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, Presidio Park, Heritage Park (a collection of Victorian homes), and the Mormon Battalion Visitor Center. A major government building is the District 11 headquarters of Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation.[9]

Annual events

San Diego’s Cinco de Mayo celebration is held in Old Town every year.[10]

The Old Town Art Festival takes place in October of each year.[11]

Fiesta Navidad is a two-day Christmas festival in December, highlighted by the Mexican tradition of Las Posadas, which re-enacts the story of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem for the first Christmas.[12]

Community organizations

The Old Town Community Planning Committee advises the city on land use and other issues. The Old Town San Diego Chamber of Commerce promotes business interests and tourism.[13] Local service organizations include a Kiwanis club.


Old Town Transit Center

Houses in Old Town

The Old Town Transit Center is a major intermodal transportation station where travelers can transfer between city buses, the San Diego Trolley, and the San Diego Coaster, the regional rail system of Amtrak.[14]

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, located in the Old Town neighborhood of San Diego, California, is a state protected historical park in San Diego. It commemorates the early days of the town of San Diego and includes many historic buildings from the period 1820 to 1870. The park was established in 1968.[4] In 2005 and 2006, California State Parks listed Old Town San Diego as the most visited state park in California.

Old Town, San Diego

Old Town, San Diego

In 1969, the site was registered as California Historical Landmark #830.[2] Then on September 3, 1971, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places as Old Town San Diego Historic District.[1]



The first European settlement on the West Coast of the present-day United States was the San Diego Presidio, a military outpost of Spanish California, founded by Gaspar de Portolà in 1769. Mission San Diego de Alcalá was founded by Father Junípero Serra the same year. The Presidio and Mission were originally built on a bluff, Presidio Hill, which is now the site of the city-owned Presidio Park and which is immediately adjacent to Old Town State Historic Park. After 5 years the Mission moved to a location several miles upriver. Presidio Hill remained the primary settlement for several decades because it was defensible against attack by European enemies or hostile Indians. As the need for defense decreased, settlers preferred to live at the base of the hill because of greater convenience. In the 1820s the town of San Diego grew up at the base of the bluff, at the site commemorated by Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. The Presidio was abandoned and fell into disrepair.[5]

During the pueblo period following Mexican independence, the Old Town area was the commercial and governmental hub of the region, even though its population was never more than a few hundred. San Diego during this period is vividly described by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. in his classic book Two Years Before the Mast. In 1834 the Mexican government granted San Diego the status of a pueblo or chartered town; however, its pueblo status was revoked in 1838 due to declining population. One problem limiting the town’s growth was its location far from navigable water. All imports and exports had to be brought ashore in Point Loma and carried several miles over the La Playa Trail to the town.[6]

When California was admitted to the United States in 1850, San Diego (still largely limited to the Old Town area) was made the county seat of San Diego County, even though the town’s population was only 650.[7]

The Old Town area remained the heart of the city of San Diego until the 1860s, when a newcomer to San Diego named Alonzo Horton began to promote development at the site of present-day Downtown San Diego. Residents and businesses quickly abandoned “Old Town” for Horton’s “New Town” because of New Town’s proximity to shipping. In 1871 government records were moved from Old Town to a new county courthouse in New Town, and Downtown permanently eclipsed Old Town as the focal point of San Diego.[8]

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park preserves and recreates Old Town as it existed during the Mexican and early American periods, from its settlement in 1821, through 1872 when it lost its dominant position to Downtown.


Five original adobes are part of the complex, which includes shops, restaurants and museums. Other historic buildings include a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, San Diego’s first newspaper office, a cigar and pipe store, houses and gardens, and a stable with a carriage collection. There are also stores, with local artisans demonstrating their craft. There is no charge to enter the state park or any of its museums.

The museums include:

  • Casa de Estudillo, a National Historic Landmark in its own right
  • Whaley House, a museum and historic landmark, believed by some to be haunted
  • Black Hawk Smithy & Stable, which features blacksmith demonstrations
  • Casa de Machado y Stewart, a restored 19th century adobe
  • First San Diego Courthouse, a reconstructed mid 19th century courthouse
  • Mason Street School, the first public school house in San Diego[9]
  • Racine and Laramie Store, a reconstructed mid 19th century period general store
  • San Diego Union Museum, a mid-19th century period newspaper office and print shop
  • Seeley Stables, a reconstructed mid 19th century stable and barns that feature horse-drawn buggies, wagons, carriages and western memorabilia
  • Sheriff’s Museum, with police equipment, uniforms, patrol car, helicopter, motorcycle, a jail cell and courtroom

Living history demonstrations and free tours are regularly scheduled. Historical interpretation is primarily carried out by park employees and volunteers, and the Mexican Commercial corner is host to several locally based small businesses and artists.

Adjacent attractions

Adjacent to the state park is Heritage Park Victorian Village, run by San Diego County. It houses seven buildings from the 1880s and 1890s which have been moved there from elsewhere in the city. Also nearby is the Mormon Battalion Monument and Visitor Center. The city-owned Presidio Park, site of the original Presidio of San Diego, is on the adjacent hill.

Restaurant in Old Town, San Diego

The Old Town area is a popular tourist destination, known especially for its Mexican restaurants. The state park itself hosts several eating establishments, and other restaurants and gift shops are found in the surrounding neighborhood.

Recent changes

The commercial facilities in Old Town State Park, such as restaurants and gift shops, are managed by an outside contractor. For more than 30 years the contractor was Bazaar del Mundo (“bazaar of the world”), run by San Diego businesswoman Diane Powers. In a controversial move, the state park agency did not renew her contract but awarded it to Plaza del Pasado (“plaza of the past”), run by Delaware North Companies, in 2005.[10] The state’s goal was to create a more authentic and historically correct understanding and appreciation of life and commerce in San Diego as it was from 1821 to 1872. However, revenue plunged under the new management.[11] In spring 2009, Delaware North withdrew from its contract with the state and management changed hands to the Old Town Family Hospitality Corporation, headed by local restaurateur Chuck Ross.[12] The commercial area is now called Fiesta de Reyes (“festival of the kings”).


Los Angeles: Visiting Venice Beach

My friend brought me to this place.  I loved the canal systems and homes with little boats out the front.  Someone put a sign up saying something like ‘not selling eat your heart out’.  It was funny but thankfully I don’t desire to live there.  I just appreciated the beauty of it.  The beachfront prominade was very ecclectic with a wide range of people there and street performers.  I loved the mountains in the background.  Apparently you can drive along the coast to San Francisco.

Venice is a beachfront neighborhood on the Westside of Los Angeles, California, United States. It is known for its canals, beaches and circus-like Ocean Front Walk, a two-and-a-half-mile pedestrian-only promenade that features performers, fortune-tellers, artists, and vendors.[2] Venice was home to some of Los Angeles’ early beat poets and artists and has served as an important cultural center of the city.[3]



Venice, originally called “Venice of America,” was founded by tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney in 1905 as a beach resort town, 14 miles (23 km) west of Los Angeles. He and his partner Francis Ryan had bought two miles (3.24 km) of oceanfront property south of Santa Monica in 1891. They built a resort town on the north end of the property, called Ocean Park, which was soon annexed to Santa Monica. After Ryan died, Kinney and his new partners continued building south of Navy Street. After the partnership dissolved in 1904, Kinney, who had won the marshy land on the south end of the property in a coin flip with his former partners, began to build a seaside resort like its namesake in Italy.[4]:8

When Venice of America opened on July 4, 1905, Kinney had dug several miles of canals to drain the marshes for his residential area, built a 1,200-foot (370 m)-long pleasure pier with an auditorium, ship restaurant, and dance hall, constructed a hot salt-water plunge, and built a block-long arcaded business street with Venetian architecture. Tourists, mostly arriving on the “Red Cars” of the Pacific Electric Railway from Los Angeles and Santa Monica, then rode Venice’s miniature railroad and gondolas to tour the town. But the biggest attraction was Venice’s mile-long gently sloping beach. Cottages and housekeeping tents were available for rent.

A gondolier on the Venice Canals, 1909.

The community seceded from Santa Monica in 1911.[4]:8 The population (3,119 residents in 1910) soon exceeded 10,000; the town drew 50,000 to 150,000 tourists on weekends.

Attractions on the Kinney Pier became more amusement-oriented by 1910, when a Venice Scenic Railway, Aquarium, Virginia Reel, Whip, Racing Derby, and other rides and game booths were added. Since the business district was allotted only three one-block-long streets, and the City Hall was more than a mile away, other competing business districts developed. Unfortunately, this created a fractious political climate. Kinney, however, governed with an iron hand and kept things in check. When he died in November 1920, Venice became harder to govern. With the amusement pier burning six weeks later in December 1920, and Prohibition (which had begun the previous January), the town’s tax revenue was severely affected.

Windward Ave. in 1913.

The Kinney family rebuilt their amusement pier quickly to compete with Ocean Park’s Pickering Pleasure Pier and the new Sunset Pier. When it opened it had two roller coasters, a new Racing Derby, a Noah’s Ark, a Mill Chutes, and many other rides. By 1925 with the addition of a third coaster, a tall Dragon Slide, Fun House, and Flying Circus aerial ride, it was the finest amusement pier on the West Coast. Several hundred thousand tourists visited on weekends. In 1923 Charles Lick built the Lick Pier at Navy Street in Venice, adjacent to the Ocean Park Pier at Pier Avenue in Ocean Park. Another pier was planned for Venice in 1925 at Leona Street (now Washington Street).

Canals with roller coaster in background, 1921.

For the amusement of the public, Kinney hired aviators to do aerial stunts over the beach. One of them, movie aviator and Venice airport owner B. H. DeLay, implemented the first lighted airport in the United States on DeLay Field (previously known as Ince Field). He also initiated the first aerial police in the nation, after a marine rescue attempt was thwarted. DeLay also performed many of the world’s first aerial stunts for motion pictures in Venice.

By 1925, Venice’s politics became unmanageable. Its roads, water and sewage systems badly needed repair and expansion to keep up with its growing population. When it was proposed that Venice be annexed to Los Angeles, the board of trustees voted to hold an election. Annexation was approved in the election in November, 1925, and Venice was formally annexed to Los Angeles in 1926.[4]:8

Los Angeles had annexed the Disneyland of its day and proceeded to remake Venice in its own image. It was felt that the town needed more streets – not canals – and most of them were paved in 1929 after a three-year court battle led by canal residents. They wanted to close Venice’s three amusement piers but had to wait until the first of the tidelands leases expired in 1946.

In 1929, oil was discovered south of Washington Street on the Venice Peninsula. Within two years, 450 oil wells covered the area, and drilling waste clogged the remaining waterways. It was a short-lived boom that provided needed income to the community, which suffered during the Great Depression. The wells produced oil into the 1970s.

The canals of Venice, Los Angeles

Los Angeles had neglected Venice so long that, by the 1950’s, it had become the “Slum by the Sea.” With the exception of new police and fire stations in 1930, the city spent little on improvements after annexation. The city did not pave Trolleyway (Pacific Avenue) until 1954 when county and state funds became available. Low rents for run-down bungalows attracted predominantly European immigrants (including a substantial number of Holocaust survivors) and young counterculture artists, poets, and writers. The Beat Generation hung out at the Gas House on Ocean Front Walk and at Venice West Cafe on Dudley. Police raids were frequent during that era.[3]

Venice and neighboring Santa Monica were hosts for a decade to Pacific Ocean Park (POP), an amusement and pleasure-pier built atop the old Lick Pier and Ocean Park Pier by CBS and the Los Angeles Turf Club (Santa Anita). It opened in July 1958, in Santa Monica. They kept the pier’s old roller coaster, airplane ride, and historic carousel but converted its theaters and smaller pier buildings into sea-themed rides and space-themed attractions designed by Hollywood special-effects people. Visitors could travel in space on the Flight to Mars ride, tour the world in Around the World in 80 Turns, go beneath the sea in the Diving Bells or at Neptune’s Kingdom, take a fantasy excursion into the Tales of the Arabian Nights on the Flying Carpet ride, visit a pirate world at Davy Jones’ Locker, or visit a tropical paradise and its volcano by riding a train on Mystery Island. There were also thrill rides like the Whirlpool (rotor whose floor dropped out), the Flying Fish wild mouse coaster, an auto ride, gondola ride, double Ferris wheel, safari ride, and an area of children’s rides called Fun Forest. Sea lion shows were performed at the Sea Circus.

Since attendance at the park was too low to justify winter operation, and with competition from Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Marineland, it was sold after two seasons to a succession of owners, who allowed the park to deteriorate. Since Santa Monica was redeveloping the surrounding area for high-rise apartments and condos, it became difficult for patrons to reach the park, and it was forced into bankruptcy in 1967. The park suffered a series of arson fires beginning in 1970, and it was demolished by 1974. Another aging attraction in the 1960’s was the Aragon Ballroom that had been the longtime home of The Lawrence Welk Show and the Spade Cooley Show, and later the Cheetah Club where rock bands such as the Doors, Blue Cheer, & many other top bands performed. It burned in the 1970 fire. The district around POP in the southside of Santa Monica is known as Dogtown. It is a common misconception that Dogtown is in Venice, but the original Z-boys surfing and skateboarding shop was and is still on Main St. in Santa Monica. Venice and Santa Monica were home to pioneering skateboarders the Z-Boys, as profiled in the documentary film, Dogtown and Z-Boys. It is little-known that POP pier was actually completely in Santa Monica; it started at the end of Ocean Park Blvd and extended to the line where Venice meets Santa Monica.

Binoculars Building (originally Chiat/Day Building), 340 Main Street. Frank Gehry, Architect. The binoculars, which house a conference room, were designed with help from Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The building is now Google’s LA office. It is a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.

Producer Roger Corman owned a production facility, the Concorde/New Horizons Studio, on Main Street, where many of his films were shot. This facility was razed to build the Venice Art Lofts and Dogtown Station lofts.


As of 2008, the population is estimated to be around 40,885. The median household income is $67,057, making it one the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city. The racial and ethnic composition in Venice is White (63.9%), Latino (22.2%), African American (5.6%), Asian (3.7%), and Other (4.6%).[5]

Attractions and neighborhoods

Venice is today one of the most vibrant and eclectic areas in Los Angeles and it continues a tradition of liberal social change involving prominent Westsiders. Venice Family Clinic is the largest free clinic in the country.

Abbot Kinney Boulevard is considered the nucleaus of the area, with retail stores, restaurants, bars and galleries lining the street. Previously “a derelict strip of rundown beach cottages and empty brick industrial buildings called West Washington Boulevard”,[6] community groups and property owners pushed for renaming a portion of the street to honor Abbot Kinney in the late 1980s.[7][8]

The Venice Farmers’ Market, founded in 1987, operates every Friday morning from 7–11 a.m. on Venice Boulevard at Venice Way.

72 Market Street Oyster Bar and Grill was one of several historical footnotes associated with Market Street in Venice, one of the first streets designated for commerce when the city was founded in 1905. During the depression era, Upton Sinclair had an office there when he was running for governor, and the same historic building where the restaurant was located was also the site of the first Ace/Venice Gallery in the early 1970’s[9] and, before that, the studio of American installation artist Robert Irwin.

The former Venice Post Office, a red-tile-roofed 1939 Works Progress Administration building designed by Louis A. Simon[10] on Windward Circle, has been another fixture in Venice. The lobby features a mural painted by Modernist artist Edward Biberman in 1941 with the coastal community’s developer Abbot Kinney at its center[11], surrounded by beachgoers in old-fashioned bathing suits, men in overalls, a wooden roller coaster representing the Venice Pier and the oil derricks once ubiquitous in the area. .[12] In 2012, the post office was closed. Shortly after, movie producer Joel Silver unveiled plans for revamping the building as the new headquarters of his company Silver Pictures.[13]

Many of Venice’s houses have their principal entries from pedestrian-only streets and have house numbers on these footpaths. (Automobile access is by alleys in the rear.) However, like much of Los Angeles, Venice is also well known for traffic congestion. It lies 2 miles (3.2 km) away from the nearest freeway, and its unusually dense network of narrow streets was not planned for modern traffic. Mindful of the tourist nature of much of the district’s vehicle traffic, its residents have successfully fought numerous attempts to extend the Marina Freeway (SR 90) into southern Venice.

Venice Beach

Streetballers at the Venice Beach basketball courts.

Venice Beach includes a the beach, the promenade that runs parallel to the beach (“Ocean Front Walk” or just “the boardwalk“), Muscle Beach, the handball courts, the paddle tennis courts, Skate Dancing plaza, the numerous beach volleyball courts, the bike trail and the businesses on Ocean Front Walk. The basketball courts in Venice are renowned across the country for their high level of streetball; numerous NBA players developed their games or are recruited on these courts.[14]

King Solomon the Snake Charmer on the Venice Boardwalk.

Along the southern portion of the beach, at the end of Washington Boulevard, is the Venice Fishing Pier. A 1,310-foot (400 m) concrete structure, it first opened in 1964, was closed in 1983 due to El Niño storm damage, and re-opened in the mid-1990s. On December 21, 2005, the pier again suffered damage when waves from a large northern swell caused the part of the pier where the restrooms were located to fall into the ocean.

Waves at the Pier, December 21, 2005

The pier remained closed until May 25, 2006, when it was finally re-opened after an engineering study concluded the pier was structurally sound.

The Venice Breakwater is an acclaimed local surf spot in Venice. It is located north of the Venice Pier and Lifeguard Headquarters and south of the Santa Monica Pier. This spot is sheltered on the north by an artificial barrier, the breakwater, consisting of an extending sand bar, piping, and large rocks at its end.


The Oakwood portion of Venice, also known as Ghost Town and the “Oakwood Pentagon,” lies inland from the tourist areas and is one of the few historically African American areas in West Los Angeles; however, Latinos now constitute the overwhelming majority of the residents. During the age of restrictive covenants that enforced racial segregation, Oakwood was set aside as a settlement area for blacks, who came by the hundreds to Venice to work in the oil fields during the 1930s and 1940’s. After the construction of the San Diego Freeway, which passed through predominantly Mexican American and immigrant communities, those groups moved further west and into Oakwood where black residents were already established. Whites moved into Oakwood during the 1980’s and 1990’s and Latinos moved out.[15]

The Venice Shoreline Crips and the Latino Venice 13 gangs, which are under a shaky truce, continue to remain active in Venice. By 2002, numbers of gang members in Oakwood were reduced due to gentrification and increased police presence. According to a Los Angeles City Beat article, by 2003, many Los Angeles Westside gang members resettled in the city of Inglewood.[16]

By the end of the 20th century, gentrification had altered Oakwood. Although still a primarily Latino and African-American neighborhood, the neighborhood is in flux. According to Los Angeles City Beat,[17] “In Venice, the transformation is… obvious. Homes are fetching sometimes more than $1 million, and homies are being displaced every day.” In 2012, an article in the Los Angeles Times predicted that the wine shops, cafes, restaurants and other businesses opening on Rose Avenue — adjacent to Oakwood — would soon lead to the other streets of Venice being transformed into upmarket areas.[15] Author John Brodie challenges the idea of gentrification causing change and commented “… the gunplay of the Shoreline Crips and the V-13 is as much a part of life in Venice as pit bulls playing with blond Labs at the local dog park.”[18] Xinachtli, a Latino student group from Venice High School and subset of MEChA, refers to Oakwood as one of last beachside communities of color in California. Chicanos and Latinos of any race make up over 50% of Venice High School’s student body.[19]

East Venice

East Venice is a racially and ethnically mixed residential neighborhood of Venice that is separated from Oakwood and Milwood (the area south of Oakwood) by Lincoln Boulevard, extending east to the border with the Mar Vista neighborhood, near Venice High School. Aside from the commercial strip on Lincoln (including the Venice Boys and Girls Club and the Venice United Methodist Church), the area almost entirely consists of small homes and apartments as well as Penmar Park and (bordering Santa Monica) Penmar Golf Course. The existing population (primarily composed of Caucasians, Hispanics, and Asians, with small numbers of other groups) is being supplemented by new arrivals who have moved in with gentrification.

A housing project, Lincoln Place, built by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles is currently in the midst of an extensive legal battle between past and present tenants and the owner, AIMCO. The developer, which acquired the property in 2003, plans to demolish it and build a mixed-use condominium and retail structure on the site. As of 2010, the housing developer AIMCO has settled with tenants and agreed to reopen the project and return scores of evicted residents to their homes and add hundreds of below-market-rate units to the Venice area.[20]

Venice and art

Palm trees along the Venice Boardwalk

Venice has always been known as a hangout for the creative and the artistic. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Venice became a center for the Beat generation. There was an explosion of poetry and art. Major participants included Stuart Perkoff, John Thomas, Frank T. Rios, Tony Scibella, Lawrence Lipton, John Haag, Saul White, Robert Farrington, Philomene Long, and Tom Sewell.[3] In the 1970’s, prominent performance artist Chris Burden created some of his early, groundbreaking work in Venice, such as Trans-fixed.[21] Originally located at the Venice home of Pritzker Prize–winning architect and SCI-Arc founder Thom Mayne, the Architecture Gallery was in existence for just ten weeks in 1979 and featured new work by then-emerging architects Frank Gehry, Eric Owen Moss, and Morphosis.[22] In 1994, sculptor Robert Graham designed a fortress-like art studio and residence for himself and his wife, actress Anjelica Huston, on Windward Avenue.[23] Other notable artists who maintained studios in the area include Jean-Michel Basquiat[24], John Baldessari, Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, Dennis Hopper, and Ed Ruscha.[25] Designers Charles and Ray Eames had their offices on Abbot Kinney Boulevard from 1943 on, when it was still part of Washington Boulevard; Eames products were also manufactured there until the 1950s.[26] Organized by the Hammer Museum over the course of one weekend in 2012[27], the open-air Venice Beach Biennial (in reference to the Venice Biennale in Italy) brought together 87 artists, including site-specific projects by established artists like Evan Holloway, Barbara Kruger as well as boardwalk veteran Arthure Moore.[28]

The canals of Venice

Government and infrastructure

Local government

The Los Angeles Fire Department operates Station 63, which serves Venice with two engines, a truck, and an ALS rescue ambulance.

Los Angeles Police Department serves the area through the Pacific Community Police Station at 12312 Culver Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90066, and a beach sub-station at 1530 W. Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90921.[29]

Los Angeles County Lifeguards

Venice Beach is the headquarters of the Lifeguard Division of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. It is located at 2300 Ocean Front Walk. It is the nation’s largest ocean lifeguard organization with over 200 full-time and 700 part-time or seasonal lifeguards. The headquarter building used to be the City of Los Angeles Lifeguard Headquarters until Los Angeles City and Santa Monica Lifeguards were merged into the County in 1975. The department is commonly referred to by Angelenos as Baywatch Lifeguards.

The Los Angeles County Lifeguards safeguard 31 miles (50 km) of beach and 70 miles (110 km) of coastline, from San Pedro in the south, to Malibu in the north. Lifeguards also provide Paramedic and rescue boat services to Catalina Island, with operations out of Avalon and the Isthmus.

Lifeguard Division employs 120 full-time and 600 seasonal lifeguards, operating out of three sectional headquarters, Hermosa, Santa Monica, and Zuma beach. Each of these headquarters staffs a 24-hour EMT-D response unit and are part of the 911 system. In addition to providing for beach safety, Los Angeles County Lifeguards have specialized training for Baywatch rescue boat operations, underwater rescue and recovery, swiftwater rescue, cliff rescue, marine mammal rescue and marine firefighting.

County, state and federal representation

The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services SPA 5 West Area Health Office serves Venice.[30]

The United States Postal Service operates the Venice Post Office at 1601 Main Street and the Venice Carrier Annex at 313 Grand Boulevard.[31][32]

Education and libraries

Public schools

Venice is served by many Los Angeles Unified School District schools. The area is within Board District 4.[33] As of 2009 Steve Zimmer represents the district.[34]

The neighborhood is served by Coeur d’Alene Avenue Elementary School, Westminster Avenue Elementary School, Short Avenue Elementary School, and Broadway Elementary. Students go on to Mark Twain Middle School. High school students attend Venice High School, which is actually in the adjacent neighborhood of Mar Vista.

Private school

Saint Mark Elementary School is a private school in the area, as is First Lutheran School of Venice.

Public libraries

The Los Angeles Public Library operates the Venice – Abbot Kinney Memorial Branch.[35]

Parks and recreation

Venice Beach Recreation Center

The Venice Beach Recreation Center comprises a number of facilities sprawling between Ocean Front Walk and the bike path, Horizon Ave to the north, and N.Venice Blvd to the south. The installation has basketball courts (unlighted/outdoor), several children play areas with a gymnastics apparatus, handball courts (unlighted), tennis courts (unlighted), and volleyball courts (unlighted). At the south end of the area is the famous muscle beach outdoor gymnasium. In March 2009, the city opened a sophisticated $2,000,000 skate park on the sand towards the north. While not technically part of the park the Graffiti Walls on the beach side of the bike path in the same vicinity.[36]

The Oakwood Recreation Center is located at 767 California Ave. The center, which also acts as a Los Angeles Police Department stop-in center, includes an auditorium, an unlighted baseball diamond, lighted indoor basketball courts, unlighted outdoor basketball courts, a children’s play area, a community room, a lighted American football field, an indoor gymnasium without weights, picnic tables, and an unlighted soccer field.[37]

The Westminster Off-Leash Dog Park is in Venice.[38]

Venice in film

Dozens of movies and hundreds of television shows have used locations in Venice, including its beach, its pleasure piers, the canals and colonnades, the boardwalk, the high school, even a particular hamburger stand.[39] While it is neither possible nor desirable to list every movie which features scenes shot in Venice, the following films show views of the neighborhood which are interesting in the context of its history and culture: