The Lost Canals of Venice of America
Secreted away from the hustle and bustle of the famous boardwalk, the picturesque canals of Venice, California, are one of the seaside community’s hidden charms. But in Venice’s early years, the canals that survive today were only a sideshow. The main attraction – the original canals of Abbot Kinney’s Venice of America – are lost to history, long ago filled in and now disguised as residential streets.
In planning Venice of America, Kinney incorporated several references to the community’s Mediterranean namesake, from the Italianate architecture to his fanciful notion of launching a cultural renaissance there. But Venice of America would not have lived up to its name were it not for its canals.
When it opened on July 4, 1905, Venice of America boasted seven distinct canals arranged in an irregular grid pattern, as seen below in Kinney’s master plan for the community. Totaling nearly two miles and dredged out of former saltwater marshlands, the canals encircled four islands, including the tiny triangular United States Island. The widest of them, appropriately named Grand Canal, terminated at a large saltwater lagoon. Three of the smaller canals referred to celestial bodies: Aldebaran, Venus, and Altair.