The History of the Tokio Substation on the Venice Short Line
Venice of America opened its doors to the world in 1904, and founder Abbot Kinney, knew that his renaissance city didn’t have a chance of succeeding without access to electric train service. It’s been rightly noted that “The development of Los Angeles (and of the West) was based on the expansion of the train system. That’s the real story of Los Angeles.”
The Venice Short Line was the train one took to reach Kinney’s Pacific dreamland. It began service in 1903, from downtown L.A. at 4th and Hill streets. The route was almost 15 miles to Windward Avenue, taking 38 minutes. And that’s how most of the 40,000 plus people arrived on the city’s opening day, July 4, 1905.
In the Spring of 1907, when the citizens of Venice passed a bond issue to finance construction of a City Hall, Abbot Kinney offered several land parcels that would have been centrally located in the community. Instead, the City Trustees accepted a ten-acre site in Venice’s outback. The land was so far from the center of business, City Hall was later dubbed the ‘Tokio Palace’ because citizens perceived it being as far away as its Oriental namesake. The Pacific Electric substation, enhanced by a pagoda roof, took on a similar themed name.
In 1911, Venice finally seceded from the Ocean Park section of Santa Monica, becoming its own city. The City Hall became Venice’s own City Hall. That is, until 1925 when the voters decided to consolidate with Los Angeles. Alas, the City Hall remained as a sub-station for the city, until it was taken over by Beyond Baroque in 1979. Luckily, it was named as a Los Angeles Historic Monument in 2003, so we’ll have this historic building around for a long time.
The original Tokio substation building was razed in 1950, when the Red Line was converted to bus transportation.
Our Venice Heritage Museum campus, including a somewhat larger, modernized representation of the old Tokio Red Line stop, complete with its distinctive pagoda roof, is planned for Phase II of the museum project.