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The Santa Monica Pier Turns 110

Published on September 1, 2019

On Monday, September 9th, the Santa Monica Pier celebrates 110 years of operation over the waters of the Santa Monica Bay. Guests can enjoy a free ride on the classic merry-go-round, enjoy a free game at the midway inside Pacific Park, and be the first to see the brand-new digital installations inside the Looff Hippodrome that will feature images and information about the Pier rich and colorful history.


First opened in 1909, the Santa Monica Pier was constructed as part of the City’s wastewater infrastructure. In just a few years, developer Charles Looff expanded the Pier and developed the entertainment destination for which the Pier is now known. The wooden horses that dance around the Merry-Go-Round are housed in the oldest building on the Pier, the Hippodrome, which was designed and built by Looff in 1915.


Over the last century the Pier has been home to many attractions and colorful characters. Looff’s amusement park boasted a wooded roller coaster, fun house, and billiard hall. Years later, it saw the opening of Sinbad’s night club and the famed La Monica Ballroom in the Roaring 20s. Santa Monica Pier fisherman Olaf Olsen was the legendary inspiration for the Popeye the Sailorman comic strip, and beach volley ball was born on the sand right by the Pier. Even the Looff Hippodrome became home to some of the biggest artists to come out of the 1960s, including Joan Baez and Jane Fonda.


During the 1970s, City leaders decided to demolish the Pier, following the example of other cities in the South Bay. Piers require constant maintenance to offset the damage of the salt water and seasonal storms, and the Pier was not the fun and family-free destination it is today. However, many members of the community understood the importance of the Pier and potential of this unique destination. Neighbors and business owners pulled together and voted to save the Pier from the wrecking ball. Over the next two decades, the Pier was reimagined and rebuilt.


Today, the Santa Monica Pier is now one of the most popular entertainment destinations in Southern California. An estimated 10 million guests will visit the Pier this year to fish off the edge of the board walk, enjoy a piping-hot Funnel Cake, or take a ride on the merry-go-round. Come celebrate the Pier’s rich history on Monday at the Looff Hippodrome!


Free Ride on the Merry-Go-Round

The historic merry-go-round will be open 11 AM – 5 PM. Normally $1 for children and $2 for adults, the carousel will be free for all ages on Monday, September 9th.


Free Game Play at Pacific Park

Each guest who rides the merry-go-round on Monday will receive a game card for Pacific Park’s midway. The card is good for one try at any of the amusement park’s 14 games like Whac-a-mole and Ring Toss.


See the Brand-New Digital History Installation

Before leaving the Hippodrome building, be sure to check out the new digital display boards. These permanent fixtures next to the merry-go-round will feature rotating displays of the Pier history then and now. See photos and exhibits from the Pier’s extensive historical record. Meet the faces of colorful Pier characters like Joan Baez and Olaf Olsen. See photos of the Pier’s construction and numerous re-constructions. Learn more about the community’s efforts to save the Pier from destruction back in the 70s.


Watch ‘Save the Pier’ and Learn More About the Effort to Prevent the Pier’s Demolition

On Sunday & Monday, the Pier Players will be performing ‘Save the Pier’, a condensed history of the effort made to save the Pier from being demolished in the 1970s by developers. The play is written by Pier historian James Harris, and directed by Paul Sands. These free performances will take place at the West End viewing deck, just past Mariasol’s Cantina.

  • Sunday, September 8th – 7:30 PM
  • Monday, September 9th (Pier’s “birthday”) – 6:00 PM and 7:30 PM (two shows!)


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