Santa Monica has had several piers over the years; however, the current Santa Monica Pier is actually two adjoining piers that long had separate owners. The long, narrow Municipal Pier opened September 9, 1909, primarily to carry sewer pipes beyond the breakers, and had no amenities. The short, wide adjoining Pleasure Pier to the south, a.k.a. Newcomb Pier, was built in 1916 by Charles I. D. Looff and his son Arthur, amusement park pioneers. Attractions on the Pleasure Pier eventually included the Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome building (which now houses the current carousel and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places), the Blue Streak Racer wooden roller coaster (which was purchased from the defunct Wonderland amusement park in San Diego), the Whip, merry-go-rounds, Wurlitzer organs, and a funhouse.
The Carousel was built in 1922 on what was often referred to as a Pleasure Pier and features 44 hand-carved horses. It was rebuilt in 1990 inside the Hippodrome. A calliope provides musical accompaniment.
The La Monica Ballroom opened on July 23, 1924. Designed by T.H. Eslick with a Spanish façade and French Renaissance interior, it was the largest dance hall on the west coast, accommodating 5,000 dancers on its 15,000-square-foot (1,400 m2) hard maple floor. Country music star Spade Cooley began broadcasting his weekly television show from the ballroom in 1948, where the enormously popular program remained until 1954. In the summer of 1955, the Hollywood Autocade opened at the La Monica with one-hundred famous and unusual cars, including Jack Benny’s Maxwell and a Rumpler Drop Car. From 1958 until 1962, the ballroom served as a roller skating rink; first as Skater’s Ballroom, and later as the Santa Monica Roller Rink, where the speed skating club won many state and regional championships. The La Monica Ballroom was demolished in 1963.
The Pleasure Pier thrived during the 1920s but faded during the Great Depression. During the 1930s, the pier was mainly used as a ferry landing, while most of the amusement park facilities were closed down and its attractions sold off.
The bridge and entry gate to Santa Monica Pier were built in 1938 by the federal Works Project Administration, and replaced the former grade connection.
The Newcomb Pier was privately owned until it was acquired by the city in 1974. During the 1960s and 1970s various plans were proposed that would entail removal of the pier. The strangest one called for the construction of an artificial island with a 1500-room hotel. It was approved by the City Council, but citizens formed “Save Santa Monica Bay” to preserve the pier.The outstanding order to raze the pier was revoked by the city council in 1973. Within that same year, the Carousel and Hippodrome were memorable sets featured in the film The Sting, although the story was set in Chicago.
In the 1950s, Enid Newcomb suggested to family friend Morris “Pops” Gordon that his two sons, George and Eugene, purchase and operate the Pier’s arcade. It didn’t take much persuasion, for the Gordons instantly took to the Pier and ultimately made Playland Arcade into the Pier’s longest running enterprise offering the day’s contemporary games alongside those of yesterday, providing inexpensive entertainment to a diverse crowd. George’s daughters Marlene and Joanie have kept the business within the family, and the next generation of Gordons is already in training to maintain the family tradition.
In 1983, the Santa Monica Pier experienced a significant loss. On January 27, there were reported swells of 10-feet during this winter storm. When the storm was over, the lower deck of the pier was destroyed. The City of Santa Monica began repairs on March 1, 1983, when another storm rolled in. A crane which was being used to repair the west end was dragged into the water and acted as a battering ram against the pilings. Over one-third of the Pier was completely destroyed.
The City of Santa Monica created a non-profit in response to the damage and called it Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation (SMPRC). SMPRC conducted the daily operations of the Santa Monica Pier, such as managing events, filming, promotions, tenants, and street performers. To date, SMPRC has produced the Santa Monica Pier Paddle Board Race and the Twilight Summer Concert Series. Also, in 2011, SMPRC changed the company name to the Santa Monica Pier Corporation (SMPC).