September 16, 2009

Santa Monica Pier Centennial

Recognisable through its cameo appearance in countless films and TV shows, in September 2009 the Santa Monica Pier celebrates its first century as one of California’s most iconic attractions.

Back in 1909, when the Pier was first built, no one 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.

Ben Franz-Knight, executive director of the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Company said, “The Pier today remains an icon – a single remnant of history on a coast that was once peppered with piers. 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). Celebrity sightings run the gamut from Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus to US Congressman Kucinich and Hall of Fame basketball player Wilt Chamberlain.

About the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation
The Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation (SMPRC), established in 1983, is a non-profit, public benefit corporation made up of business and community leaders who represent the full range of community interests. It was created by the Santa Monica City Council to preserve and enhance the pleasure pier experience for people of all ages and for future generations and is funded by the City of Santa Monica. For more information, visit,

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