(323) 422-7147 Juliette.Hohnen@elliman.com

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Oh, those Venice Canals (A Brief History)

Oh, those Venice Canals (A Brief History)

Who doesn’t love the Venice Canals?  Yes of course the ones in Venice, Italy, but what about the ones in OUR Venice, that house stand up paddle boarders, homemade rowboats, boats in the shape of a swans and a plethora of bikes and pedestrians? Lined with California-style bungalows, renovated boat houses, and now state-of-the-art modern homes that were originally designed as beach cottages, this area is one of the most sought after locations to live in Los Angeles.

But why are there canals in Venice, California and do they have any link to the ones in Italy? Is that why Venice California shares it’s name with it’s Italian counter part? Over 100 years ago, developer Abbot Kinney conceived the wild concept of building a “Venice of America,” complete with canals, gondolas and imported Italian gondoliers. This idea quickly failed and the gondoliers flew home, but, the canals remained, creating a breeding ground for Southern California culture.


Originally it was a 7 mile long loop, with seven main canals arranged in an irregular grid pattern encircling 4 islands. Six smaller canals, known as the Short Line canals, were later added and are the only canals that exist today, the rest filled in with sediment and asphalt.

As part of Abbot Kinney’s original canal concept, he also wanted to provide transportation on a miniature railroad. There is no sign of that idea today!

By the 1920′s people started the process of filling in the canals to make roads for automobiles, however many residents resisted this move due to fear of losing waterfront property value and many community members questioned keeping the name Venice with no canals.

By the 1950′s, Venice was known as the “slum by the sea” and it wasn’t until the 1990s that a much needed restoration project was funded by the city.

The Venice canals have been the back drop of all kinds of shenanigans both on and off camera: Jim Morrison lived at 213 Sherman Canal, which was demolished and rebuilt in 2004 (I sold the house a few years ago). Bobby Klein did a famous promo shoot of The Doors along the canals and on some of the bridges in the 1960’s. One of the canals white-trellised bridges was featured in A Nightmare on Elm Street where Johnny Depp and Heather Langenkamp were seen overlooking the canal as they discussed the Balinese way of dreaming. Nely Galan’s bright canary yellow Venice canal home, designed by arguably Venice’s most famous and beloved architect Steven Ehrlich, was once (and could still be) the most popular home posted on Instagram. Other famous residents have included Julia Roberts, Kate Beckinsale, Tim Robbins and Nicolas Cage.


One of the most fab things to do in Venice is watch the Christmas parade of boats, decorated in brightly colored Christmas lights. The canals are also a designated wildlife preserve where you can see Herons, Egrets, Sea Gulls, Pelicans, and the occasional domesticated Mallard ducks. Every so often a seal pops up or leopard shark will accidentally swim into the canals during mating season.

Next time you are biking or kayaking in the canals, bring along a headset and click here to listen to my latest monthly playlist.

If you are interested in becoming part of the Venice Canal history we will be listing fabulous modern house on Grand canal next month. In the meantime contact me about any other home in the Venice or LA area.


Juliette Hohnen

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