100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Pier Fire Destroys Beach Resort In California

Abbot Kinney was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1850. At age 16 In 1874 he became rich in the tobacco business and moved to California in 1880. He was a conservationist who built the first forestry station in Rustic Canyon, California. In 1886 Kinney built a summer home in Santa Monica.

In 1891 Kinney and a partner bought Pacific Ocean Casino and a tract of land along the Santa Monica beach. They built a pier, golf course, horse-racing track, boardwalk and other resort amenities. When the partner died she sold her interests to partners that Kinney did not like. He concentrated on the southern end of the property and built Venice of California in 1905 to resemble Italy complete with beautifully lit canals, gondoliers and arched bridges and offering a summer series of educational lectures by historians, evangelists, poets and authors in his 3000 seat auditorium. The public did not warm to this imitation of European culture and by 1906 Venice joined Ocean Park to become part of a popular amusement park which had a miniature steam railroad ran on a 21⁄2-mile track.

One of Kinney’s former partners sought to cash in on the area’s popularity and built Frasier’s Million Dollar Pier extending 1,000 feet into the ocean. It opened in July 1911 featuring the Starland Theater, a Crooked House and many rides, restaurants and amusements. It also featured Infant Incubators where premature infants received free care by trained nurses showing off the cutting edge medical technology not available in many hospitals.

Frasier’s Million Dollar Pier
Ocean Park, California

On September 3, 1912 diners in the Casino restaurant noticed smoke as flames from the kitchen erupted through the roof. A strong late afternoon breeze fanned the flames and over 1,000 visitors fled the pier. The fire consumed the entire five city block business district. 700 fire fighters worked 3 1/2 hours before the fire was out. 225 structures burned, 2 people died, 75 people were injured and 800 people were homeless.

Frasier’s Million Dollar Pier on fire
September 3, 1912

 

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