Posted: Tuesday, Dec 28th, 2021
15 Fascinating Facts About the Ventura Pier
The Ventura Pier is, in many ways, Ventura’s centerpiece. Pronging out into the Pacific at the base of our folded hills, the Ventura Pier is visible from almost any high point in town. Walk Ventura’s beaches and, in the distance, it wavers like a child’s matchstick project. Sit on the sand at its base (on a calm day) and it whispers a lovely song any ocean (and pier) lover knows; quiet sighs and eternal lappings that are salve for the soul.
The Ventura Pier is living history, front and center. It is a fine thing to know where we came from.
But there’s a lot about the Pier you may not know.
So here are a few Ventura Pier facts. Maybe even enough to make you a Ventura Pier expert.
Just don’t be annoying.
In the beginning
The Ventura Pier was built in 1872. Construction took five months and the Pier came in at 1,200 feet long. Cost, $45,000. At the official Pier opening ceremony, the Ventura Signal newspaper reported that “sparkling champagne was uncorked…flowingly”
Why build the Ventura Pier in the first place?
In the 1860s, dirt roads linked the city of San Buenaventura to the outside world. When severe winter rains came, those roads were mud-slogging, axle-snapping nightmares. Added insult, the Ventura and Santa Clara Rivers, to the north and south of the city, often became impassible. The arrival of the railroad was still 20 years away, so passengers and freight came to Ventura mostly aboard ships. But with no wharf or pier, those ships anchored offshore, unloading and loading passengers and cargo aboard small barges called lighters. During heavy swells and weather this could be a hair-raising enterprise.
During its heyday from 1872 until roughly 1914, the Ventura Pier was a critical lifeline
Ships would arrive at the pier every ten days or so, offloading and loading goods. Chief products shipped from the pier: wheat, citrus, lima beans, seaweed, cattle, pigs, and crude oil. Chief products off-loaded onto pier: lumber, bricks, and cement.
The last time cargo was unloaded on the Ventura Pier?
A load of lumber in 1940. Fact is, lumber, in the beginning hauled into Ventura by horse-drawn wagons, was the biggest import. That lumber built Ventura.
At one point (1938) the Ventura Pier had the distinction of being the longest pier on the West Coast
… attaining that honor at 1,958 feet, the longest length the Pier achieved.
But the Ventura Pier has received numerous pummelings
The most notable in recent years occurred in December of 1995, when swells up to 18 feet high clawed away some 420 feet of the pier, blithely removing at least 22 horizontal support beams and 150 pilings, along with an $80,000 copper public art sculpture called “Wavespout” installed at the ocean end of the pier. The San Francisco artist who designed “Wavespout” told a reporter his goal was to “directly link the ocean and its rhythms to man.” In this he was wildly successful.
The Pier’s biggest enemies
… fire, wayward ships, waves and beach erosion.
The Pier’s smallest enemies
… shipworms (boring clams) and gribbles (tiny crustaceans) that dine on wood pilings
Near misses and dead on hits
In 1874, the schooner Lucy Ann went aground near the Pier. A spring storm in 1876 sent the steamships Kalorama and Crimea ashore (both vessels immortalized as Ventura streets). In 1917 the S.S. Coos Bay, achieved what the other vessels had not – cutting the Pier in half when a storm her into the structure.
How deep are the timber and steel pilings driven into the ocean floor?
Twelve to 20 feet for the timber pilings; 30 feet for the (more recent) steel pilings. Owning up to the power of the sea, the newer steel pilings are 72 to 80 feet long, 16 inches in diameter, and weigh between 6,400 and 6,600 pounds.
When fishing from up on the Pier wasn’t enough
Was a time when Ventura fisherfolk climbed down dicey rope ladders to rowboats, where they fished the shallows around the Pier for Pacific mackerel, calico bass, yellowtail, croaker, white sea bass, barred perch, Pacific halibut, shark, corbina, smelt and even barracuda. .
Restaurants (and other enterprises) that have made their home on the Ventura Pier
… the Seaview Cafe, Eric Ericsson’s Fish Co., the Ventura County Boat Club, the Sea Scouts, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the Civil Air Patrol. Currently aboard the Pier: Beach House Fish, Beach House Tacos, and MadeWest Brewing Company.
Not exactly mountain climbing
… but as you walk from its foot to its end, the Pier rises four feet.
Is there a better place to watch a sunrise or sunset?
Nope. Go see for yourself.
Who looks out for the Pier (and, with that, Ventura)?
Unlike much of history, the Ventura Pier will not disappear into the mists of memory because somebody is looking out for it. In 1993, a group of community leaders created Pier into the Future, a non-profit group that has since worked tirelessly to preserve, maintain, and enhance the Pier. The finest kind of community undertaking, they continue to raise money – and they can always use help. Please visit www.pierintothefuture.org for more information.
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