Storms can be good for Santa Monica. Today, city officials cheer for rain to replenish the drought-dented water supply. One hundred years ago this month, storms brought in tourists.
“Storm scenes better magnet than summer,” reads one Los Angeles Times headline from February of 1915.
“Visions of monster breakers and a beach lined with wreckage” lured 50,000 visitors and 25,000 cars to the beaches.
Police said it was the biggest turnout of the year. The first storm of the month did little damage but did toss a foot of sand on the concrete walkway, which kept the tourists entertained.
The piers were packed after the storm and “every amusement man who was not wrecked opened with a broad smile and prepared to do business.” Turnout was compared to a summer Sunday.
The second storm of the month was less fun. Homes were wrecked by high gales. The long wharf was left sagging and avoided total destruction thanks to newly installed steel rails.
In Ocean Park, a man walked along the edge of the beach in a bathing suit, drawing a crowd.
“The beach resident plunged into the foamy brine and enjoyed a close-in bath in the surf,” the Times’ archives said. “He ducked and dove the huge rolling breakers for five minutes then sped across the sand, an up the speedway to his home, leaving a crowd of gaping on-lookers, who watched through windows and from store fronts.”
After the storm, fisherman found the body of an elderly woman on the beach.
She’d apparently fallen, or jumped, from the bluffs.
Later in the month, a storm endangered a boat called “The City of Tokyo” but it was saved by a group of fisherman who hopped aboard and steered it away from the pier, which it was knocking up against.
The Savoy Hotel, at what is now Pier Avenue and Neilson Way, burned down one afternoon in late February of 1915.
The fire, which started above the ceiling of the first floor, was believed to have been caused by faulty electrical wiring.
“Santa Monica’s two hose wagons were promptly on scene and had four streams of water pouring into the building but it was not until the Venice department came to Santa Monica’s aid with a stream of salt water from the high-pressure mains that the blaze could be put under control,” an article from the Times’ archive notes.
Damage to the three-story building totaled $20,000.
Fires were common. This was the second time this hotel, which had operated under a bunch of other names since its construction before the turn of the century, had burned.
The fire “ate its way quickly into the air, and light well and thus into the attic, where the dry rafters burned as so much tinder,” the Times’ said. “The moment a current of air struck the flames the entire upper portion of the building burst into a blaze.”
Vanderbilt Cup leaves Santa Monica
In recent years, Santa Monica has lost a slew of tech companies, including Google, to Venice.
In February of 1915, it lost the Vanderbilt Cup, a world-famous street racing contest, to San Francisco while Venice got a major race of its own.
Santa Monica officials had, in years past, found the dangerous sport to be headache-inducing. It would return to Santa Monica one last time in 1916.