Once home to the largest ballroom in the world, Santa Monica’s iconic Pier celebrates its 100th birthday this month and – quite a milestone for one of the planet’s most exciting event locations.
A grand old lady: Santa Monica Pier
Back in 1909, when the Pier was first built, not many could have imagined that the Pier would survive to greet its 100th birthday. It certainly has had more than ‘nine’ lives. The Pier has stubbornly remained a constant, weathering the ferocious power of storms unleashed by Mother Nature, ravages of change and progress and economic hardships – but it survived.
To the delight of national and international tourists, enthusiasm for the pleasure pier has never abated. A pivotal feature of everyday city life, every year the Santa Monica Pier attracts millions of annual visitors and hosts countless events and product launches.
“The Pier today remains an icon – a single remnant of history on a coast that was once peppered with piers,” says Santa Monica Pier Restoration Company executive director, Ben Franz-Knight.
“It offers nostalgia for yesteryear, yet remains a commanding presence on the national landscape and a vibrant entertainment center that embraces the culture of today. It deserves the birthday celebration of a century.”
The Pier’s history is storied. First came the Hippodrome in 1916, a mixture of Byzantine, Moorish and California architecture, fascinating onlookers with its inside carousel of a circling menagerie of wooden animals. Among the last of its kind, the Hippodrome was adopted into the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
And eight years later, in 1924, the La Monica Ballroom opened – a vast and ornate palatial-like structure, floating magically above the sea on the Santa Monica Pier built with a footprint of more than 40 thousand square feet – the largest ballroom in the world – in an era when ballroom dancing had reached a fevered pitch.
The ballroom was also the site of the famous Dance Marathons in the 1930s that offered cash prizes during the brutal early 1930s, a ray of hope for out of work people.
The Pier was, and is today, a magnet for Hollywood. A staple in a number of popular Hollywood pictures including ‘Funny Girl’ (1968), ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’ (1969), ‘The Sting’ (1973), ‘Forrest Gump’ (1994) and ‘The Majestic’ (2001).