Santa Monica was developed in 1875 by Senator John P. Jones who sought to create an oceanside resort town. This year, Los Angeles’ beach city is celebrating the anniversaries of many beloved icons that make the destination popular to travelers around the world. Here are the landmarks being celebrated in 2019 in ‘age’ order.
Santa Monica Pier – 110th Anniversary
On September 9, 2019, the well-known Santa Monica Pier commemorates its 110th anniversary. The first concrete pier on the West Coast, the pier originally opened in 1909 to transport sewer pipes. It wasn’t till nearly a decade later that the spot became a hub of activity with the opening of a pleasure pier and quickly gained a reputation among locals as the best fishing spot in town. Charles Looff who built Coney Island’s first carousel saw the potential of the Santa Monica Pier as a momentous attraction and began constructing his pleasure pier. Looff’s pier opened in 1916 and featured the remarkable Hippodrome building, now a national historic landmark. Today, the Santa Monica Pier serves as a city icon and features year-round free programming for travelers and locals alike including the outdoor concert series Twilight on the Pier, yoga classes and the beloved children’s experience Wake up with the Waves.
Santa Monica’s Clock Tour Building – 90th Anniversary
The Bay Cities Guaranty Building, known locally as the Santa Monica Clock Tour Building, turns 90 years old this year. Visible from many parts of the city, the 12-story Art Deco tower is Santa Monica’s most prominent designated landmark. The building, built by prominent architectural firm Walker and Eisen, was the only high-rise in the city for over forty years. A recent renovation has restored much of its former integrity, allowing the tower to reclaim its rightful place at the heart of the downtown business district. Today, the ground level of the building is home to The Misfit Restaurant and Bar, a lively farm-to-table restaurant and bar, popular for weekend brunch and happy hour.
Miles Memorial Playhouse – 90th Anniversary
Located in Reed Park, the Miles Memorial Playhouse is a hidden cultural gem located eight blocks from the Pacific Ocean. Designed in 1929 by prominent local architect John Byers in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, the playhouse has entertained audiences with music, dance and theatrical performances for nearly a century. The building’s sponsor, J. Euclid Miles, was a leading citizen in the development of Santa Monica. In his will, Miles left $25,000 to the city to erect a theater for Santa Monica youth as a memorial to his daughter, Mary A. Miles. Since then, it has presented annual cultural programs as well as ongoing public performances by renting nonprofits.
Hotel Shangri-La – 80th Anniversary
Built in 1939, Hotel Shangri-La is a full-service Art Deco landmark hotel that features ocean views and 70 stylish room and suites. Evoking the form of a grand ocean liner, the seven-story structure was constructed by architect William E. Foster in the Streamline Moderne style with characteristic details including stucco exterior surfaces, emphasis on curvilinear walls, horizontal accents, and flat roofs. Since opening 80 years ago, the property has functioned both as an apartment and a hotel. Hotel Shangri-La even served as a rehabilitation station for the United States Army Air Force during World War II. Today, Shangri-La’s rooftop bar ONYX is known as one of the best places to catch the sunset with a bespoke cocktail menu and uninterrupted views of the ocean.
Aero Theatre – 80th Anniversary
The Aero Theatre was built in 1939 by Douglas Aircraft Company, a Santa Monica-based airplane manufacture, to serve its factory employees. During World War II, the Aero showed movies round-the-clock, to accommodate the three-shift Douglas Aircraft manufacturing activities. Designed by R. M. Woolpert, the Streamline Moderne-styled Aero is an anchor of the Montana Avenue neighborhood and is the only movie theatre in northern Santa Monica to this day. The Aero Theatre is currently operated by the nonprofit American Cinematheque and offers daily screenings of classic Hollywood, foreign, and art films at the theater.
Chez Jay – 60th Anniversary
Chez Jay on Ocean Avenue has been serving locals, celebrities, and visitors since 1959. Known as a celebrity hangout and “dive bar” over the decades, Chez Jay is one of the best steak and seafood neighborhood restaurants in all of Southern California. Chez Jay became the social crossroads of an incredible cultural revolution that has impacted movies, television, music, art, and politics. In recognition of its importance, Chez Jay was declared a Santa Monica Historic Landmark in 2012. Chez Jay’s free peanuts are famous as well, with one of them traveling to the moon with Alan Shapard. It became as Jay called it the first “Astro-nut” and still resides in the Jay family safe. For the whole story, you will need to visit first hand.
Third Street Promenade – 30th Anniversary
Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica’s car-free shopping district, celebrates 30 years since opening to pedestrians. Third Street had long been the city’s main commercial strip, but by the late 1950s, it was struggling to compete with the newer regional shopping centers. In 1959, dozens of cities across the U.S. began closing their main shopping corridors to vehicles hoping to attract customers with “traffic-free shopping.” In 1959, merchants first proposed closing Third Street to cars and by 1965 the controversial plan had overcome all its legal and political obstacles. On April 22, a three-minute blast of car horns marked the beginning of construction and by November 8, Third Street reopened — to pedestrians only — as the Santa Monica Mall. Today, Third Street Promenade continues to innovate by offering original programming to serve the next generation of shoppers. Now through September 30, Third Street Promenade is offering free daily activities including salsa lessons, comedy nights, fitness classes and live music.
18th Street Arts Center – 30th Anniversary
18th Street Arts Center has been bringing unique and groundbreaking work to Santa Monica for 30 years. But this isn’t your average gallery. The exhibits here are often socially conscious and spark conversations about progressive issues. The 18th Street Arts Center is also the largest artist residency in Southern California, including a program for Los Angeles-based artists who have the opportunity to rent a workspace at a subsidized rent. Since its inception, 18th Street Arts Center’s visiting artist residency program has hosted more than 500 artists from dozens of countries around the world.
Bergamot Station – 25th Anniversary
Occupying what was once a trolley station, Bergamot Station is Southern California’s largest art gallery complex and cultural center. Celebrating 25 years of serving the Santa Monica arts community this year, Bergamot features a collection of 30 esteemed fine art galleries and creative businesses from artists all over the world. Rich in history, the site’s warehouse buildings housed various factories throughout the years before the City of Santa Monica purchased the property. Santa Monica approached Wayne Blank, developer and co-owner of the Shoshana Wayne Gallery and asked him to conceive of an artistic use for the property. Blank established Bergamot, which opened in 1994. Bergamot Station is also home to Bergamot Café, a hip eatery located atop an old loading dock that serves healthy American fare for breakfast and lunch.