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.

Authorities were working to determine the cause of a large fire that broke out on the Ocean Park pier a century ago this month.

Witnesses described “two mysterious men in a boat” close to the pier’s dance pavilion before flames erupted in the early hours of Dec. 27, 1915, burning bowling alleys, a roller coaster and other attractions, according to a Los Angeles Times article.

The blaze, which was spurred on by a 100-gallon fuel tank, caused estimated damages of approximately $140,000 (nearly $3.3 million in 2015 money).

“Thousands of persons from neighboring places and as far away as Los Angeles rushed by automobile to watch the play of the flames,” the article reads.

Santa Monica and Venice firefighters responded to the scene. Los Angeles authorities brought additional equipment and assisted with crowd control.

Ocean Park was still planning to hold its midwinter fiesta, according to the article.

Water bond defeated

Santa Monica voters failed to pass a ballot measure approving the city’s purchase of four water plants 100 years ago this month, according to a Times brief.

Supporters outnumbered opponents of the $712,500 bond (nearly $17 million in 2015 money) at the polls, but they fell a few dozen votes short of the necessary two-thirds requirement.

The measure was “hotly contested” and caused “much bickering” in the six voting precincts, according to the brief.

Before the election, the president of the state’s railroad commission had urged voters to support the city’s purchase of the four water systems.

“I would say unhesitatingly that in my opinion the people of Santa Monica would do well to acquire these properties,” Max Thelen said, according to a Times brief.

Double duty?

In an attempt to save the city money, a public official named himself Santa Monica’s police chief a century ago this month.

After being elected as the city’s public safety commissioner, Samuel L. Berkley said he would run the police department if Ellis E. Randall was no longer interested in serving as police chief.

“I merely desire to eliminate that extra expense,” Berkeley said, according to a Times brief. “If I cannot handle this work with my other duties I shall appoint a Chief of Police.”

The change took effect Jan. 1, 1916, following Randall’s resignation.

“Under the new form of government which is to go into effect with the new year the office of Chief of Police is vested in the Commissioner of Public Safety,” Randall said, according to a Times brief.

Berkley also planned to reduce the city’s police force by three men.

Net loss

Santa Monica High School did not field a basketball team in the 1915-16 season due to lack of interest, according to a Times brief.

The announcement came 100 years ago this month and followed news that Redlands High School was skipping its basketball season for the same reason.

Alhambra took Santa Monica’s place in the city section of the Los Angeles County High School Athletic League, according to the brief.

jeff@www.smdp.com