Week 179: Santa Monica

July 14, 2019

Rain or Shine, the Santa Monica Pier is a Memorable Stroll, 1.89 miles

Sweat? Not us, not today. When the weather gets hot, Barbara and I inevitably head for the beach. This week a new approach to an old favorite—the Santa Monica Pier, thanks to Charles Fleming's January 12, 2019 post in the Los Angeles Times. We began at a never-saw-this-before historic landmark: Santa Monica City Hall on Main Street at Olympic. Built during the depression, the 1939 PWA Moderne Architecture (Art Deco + Art Moderne) building historically, culturally, and architecturally earned a place on the California Register of Historic Resources. We headed across Main Street to Tongva Park, named for the original native inhabitants of SoCal. In 2013, the city of Santa Monica converted a 6-acre parking lot into a very cool, ocean-adjacent park complete with fountains, an amphitheater, playground, and picnic area, plus two overlooks of the ocean and pier. Exiting the park at Ocean Avenue, we walked down Pacific Terrace to the sand and the site of the original Muscle Beach (1930s to 1958), birthplace of the physical fitness boom. In the distance, the 1916 Looff Hippodrome—a National Historic Landmark—with its famed carousel, (the second to live there.) Santa Monica Pier is, of course, a Santa Monica Historic Landmark and movie, TV, and video star, including Forrest Gump (could not resist a pic on Forrest's bench in front of Bubba Gumps) and Iron Man. The hippodrome and its carousel played a memorable role as Paul Newman's hideout in The Sting, a reminder of the type of buildings that used to populate the pier, including the La Monica Ballroom (1924-1963). At one time La Monica's 15,000 sq.ft. dance floor was the biggest in the world, hosting Depression-era dance marathons that inspired They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and the site of the first variety show televised live (1948.) Barbara's and my early start time let us stroll the pier pretty much to ourselves, avoiding crowds, cheap shops, and junk food. Instead, we read plaques featuring pier history including former pier eateries with names like Sinbad's (1918), Hoyt's Chesapeake Café (1925), and Moby's Dock (1970s.) We poked around Pacific Park (1996), gawked up at the Ferris wheel, then walked to the far west end of the pier where anglers were hooking their bait for the day's catch before we headed back to Tongva Park and our starting point. The End of Route 66 with all the kitsch in the world—110 years of history surrounded by views of the coast and the glorious Pacific Ocean. Just a fun, nostalgic way to exercise the limbs and beat the heat. 


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