Many who visit the West LA area make a point of visiting the Santa Monica Pier, and for good reason. It’s simply a gorgeous and fun spot to grab a bite to eat, take the kids to the arcade, and of course, ride the world famous Santa Monica Pier carousel.
In fact, many don’t realize the carousel actually has a very unique and interesting history all its own. The following brief overview will help you better understand exactly why it’s considered such an important landmark in the area.
The History of the Santa Monica Pier Carousel: What You Need to Know
The Santa Monica Pier carousel is significant for many reasons. However, it’s primarily celebrated for being one of the first amusements that would eventually give birth to the Santa Monica Pier as we know and love it today.
Charles I.D. Looff was a carousel manufacturer who wanted to bring one of his famous attractions to the area. In 1916, he designed the Looff Hippodrome to provide a home for the new carousel. This is the same Santa Monica Pier building where the carousel now sits today.
The carousel may have been the attraction Looff was most known for. Yet, he wasn’t content to provide the city with just one fun experience. The “Looff Pleasure Pier” (as it was known) included numerous amusements that delighted both area residents and guests.
The Looff family ran the Pleasure Pier for several years following the death of Charles Looff in 1918. It remained popular for a long period of time, although there were some difficulties. Conflicts such as World War II, for instance, resulted in the pier’s popularity waning briefly.
When the war concluded, Walter Newcomb saw an opportunity. He bought the pier believing the return of servicemen from the war would result in its popularity surging one again. It’s worth noting the original carousel was removed around the time this happened, to be replaced with a Parker carousel.
The pier still struggled to attract the same degree of attention it had enjoyed in its early years. Amusement parks were starting to become more commonplace, robbing the pier of much of its customer base. Cars also made it easier for locals to travel to other attractions. Over the next few decades, numerous attractions were removed from the Santa Monica Pier. By the 1970s, the Hippodrome (and thus, the carousel) was also in danger of being demolished.
That luckily didn’t occur. Numerous residents throughout the area worked hard to ensure the site was preserved. In fact, among them were Robert Redford and Paul Newman. The duo were so invested in the attraction’s future that they even featured it in their film The Sting, although the film changes the location of the Hippodrome to Chicago, rather than Santa Monica.
Activism like this helped keep the carousel alive. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that was it was restored to its full glory. Guests can still enjoy it to this day.
As you can see, the history of the world famous Santa Monica Pier carousel is in many ways the history of the city’s evolution. Pay it a visit, and you’ll be visiting a landmark that played a major role in making Santa Monica the city it is today.