Editor’s note: This monthly feature uncovers Santa Monica’s history by compiling notable city happenings from a century ago. The stories are found in old newspaper archives.


Was Santa Monica designed to be a second Atlantic City?

That’s how it was described a century ago as development along the beach gained momentum.

E.P. Benjamin and B.M. Moss began unveiling details about their plans for “a high-class amusement resort” along the Santa Monica coast between Pico and Wilshire boulevards, according to an article in Los Angeles Times archives.

Work crews “appeared on this part of the Crescent Bay beach and began to transform the entire topography of the ground lying between the Santa Monica municipal pier and Seaside Terrace, and extending back from the ocean promenade to the Ocean avenue viaduct,” the article reads. “All Santa Monica saw and wondered.”

The development followed Benjamin’s purchase of former railroad property and was slated to include the widening of the ocean promenade and improvements along Appian Way.

A 200-by-700-foot “pleasure pier” was also in the plans for development, which aimed to create a “‘second Atlantic City rather than a new Coney Island.'”

Water battle rages on

Think water is a big issue now? It was the subject of much controversy in Santa Monica a century ago this month.

The Santa Monica Water Company was resisting orders from the state railroad commission to supply water to the residents of the area east of 7th Street and north of Wilshire Boulevard, according to a Times article.

“The territory in question is a large one and not densely populated,” the article reads. “There is a house here and there. The tract was until recently a bean field, but when it was subdivided, although the streets were paved and sewers installed, the water company did not lay mains.”

The water company alleged that the revenue from potential customers in the area wasn’t worth the infrastructure costs.

Meanwhile, voters in the city were preparing to consider bonds for the purchase of four privately owned water plants “with a view to joining them in one municipal system,” the article reads.

Valuable fruit picked in Santa Monica

The fruit of a rare and valuable plant was picked in Santa Monica a century ago this month.

The Feijoa sellowiana, also known as pineapple guava or guavasteen, was harvested from the Bartlette experimental gardens four years after being planted, according to a brief in Times archives.

The seed was commonly sold at a rate of $6 per gram, the equivalent of $141.57 in 2015 money, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The seed was reportedly worth $2,500 per pound in 1915, the equivalent of nearly $59,000 today.

The first specimens of the fruit were brought to California in 1901, according to the brief.

“The fragrance of the ripened fruit may be said to be an indescribable combination of banana, pineapple and strawberry,” the brief reads.

Pico extension project placed on ballot

A slew of road bonds placed on a special election ballot by the county Board of Supervisors a hundred years ago this month included the extension of Pico Boulevard to the beach.

There were $2.85 million in road bonds up for voter approval, according to Times archives, the equivalent of about $67.2 million in 2015 money.

The proposed improvements included the completion of Pico Boulevard from Los Angeles to Santa Monica.

The estimated cost of the 4-mile project was $50,000, or roughly $1.18 million today.

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, jeff@www.smdp.com or on Twitter.

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