Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Manhattan Beach and Venice: Namesakes and coin tosses

I AM OFTEN struck by how vastly different Venice and Manhattan Beach are from their namesakes. The car-less maze of canals and bridges in Italy doesn’t seem much like Venice, Calif. And the laid-back, cute town of Manhattan Beach seems to have little in common with bustling New York City.

But delving into the history of each Los Angeles County town sheds light on the connection to their namesakes thousands of miles away.

According to the Manhattan Beach Historical Society’s website, the town was the result of two public transportation systems coming together. One area was named Manhattan by its developer, Stewart Merrill, after his hometown on the east coast.

Venice, as we learned in class, was developed by Abbot Kinney. Before it became the T-shirt vendor-lined muscle beach of today, it was a cultural city modeled after Venezia, complete with its own gondolas on man-made canals.

Interestingly, the history of both Manhattan and Venice involved a coin toss: To determine town’s name Merrill won his coin toss against realtor George Peck, who wanted to name it Shore Acres. According to the Venice Historical Society's website, Kinney won a coin toss to determine which half of the oceanfront land he would purchase. He surprised the four other developers by choosing the barren, marshy property that is now Venice.

We’ve discussed how Pasadena was shaped by the Midwest roots of the people who settled there: several groups of people traveling across the country to re-create their home elsewhere. But, as with Manhattan Beach and Venice, the vision of one developer can bring a piece of another city to L.A. too.

– Emily Rome
Top photo: Manhattan Beach (Credit: Mr Bulitt / Wikimedia Commons)
Bottom photo: Venice (Credit: SameerKhan / Wikimedia Commons)

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