While building his dream resort, Venice of America, Abbot Kinney hired numerous artisans to bathe the city in both folk and classic art.
Over the years, the folk art took over as Venice was resurrected from a lavish oasis that took a fall into desertion and squalor, and emerged as a bohemian babylon.
While the extravagant Italian-inspired Venice of America is long gone, a closer look past the tie-dye colors, surf culture and vivid psychedelic murals reveals echoes from the opulent past. One of the most recognizable relics of Kinney’s Venice are the sculptures by Felix Peano that still top the pillars of buildings long-since painted over.
Created in 1904, the faces sculpted in the pillars were inspired by the classic style of Rome. An artist originally from Parma, Italy, Peano was Kinney’s first choice to add the Italian decadence the developer was looking for. While shadowing the style of the Italian greats, Peano’s faces were all-American, many of them the likeness of a local Venice girl named Nettie Bouck, and Kinney himself can be seen looking over the modern embodiment of his seaside getaway.
Many of the faces have been stolen or sold, but several can still be viewed on the pylons of Danny’s Deli on Windward.
Visit California with Atlas Obscura Trips
Hip-Hop, Hippies, and Robots: Invention and Reinvention in San Francisco
We'll set out together, September 19-21, to explore unusual galleries, test our cocktail-making skills, and visit the city's best unofficial museum.