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Santa Monica Pier celebrates 100 years

September 9, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Celebrations were held all day long at the Santa Monica Pier, which turned 100 years old on Wednesday.The centennial festivities included a multi-faith blessing and a rededication and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The party on the pier also included music, food and the first fireworks display in the area in more than 18 years.

The 1,600-foot-long pier opened on September 9, 1909, with swimming and boating races. It has long defined the spirit of Santa Monica.

"It's beautiful, it's great to see. You know, my mom played here when she was a kid, my grandmother took us when we were kids," said Robert Apple.

"Everyone who's anyone comes here just to get away from the city and look at the beautiful view," said Cherish Waters.

The pier has had many different looks over the years, built originally as a means to dump sewage out in the sea. It later evolved into an amusement pier, one of several in Santa Monica, in the early 20th century.

"Back in the 1920s there were actually six amusement piers in Santa Monica Bay," said Jim Harris, a Santa Monica Pier historian. "And one by one they began to disappear. And this is the last one surviving. And it's actually something that took a rally of the people to insure that it would survive."

The Santa Monica Pier also served as a containment center.

"It was the town jail for a little while and actually had a couple of jail breaks," said Harris.

Harris says the beloved pier was not always so loved. Back in the 70s, the Santa Monica City Council wanted to tear it down. Local pier lovers were able to save it from the politicians, but had little clout in the weather department.

"Ten years later Mother Nature effectively did what the city council tried to do and two storms destroyed a third of the surface of the pier and the entire west end," said Harris.

The pier was rebuilt and reopened in 1990. Once a broken-down, eyesore targeted for destruction, the pier is now a 100-year-old icon.

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