Manhattan Beach, CA or Manhattan, NY? It’s a pretty simple decision if you ask me! I’d choose rolling hills of beachy estates that flow into the two miles of blue coast. I’d choose the volleyball nets sprinkled in soft sand and the Manhattan Beach Open. I’d choose screaming seagulls that shamelessly steal the contents of your beach bag. Most importantly, I’d choose the 928-foot historic landmark, the Manhattan Beach Pier.

A pier has always been the focal point of Manhattan Beach. The first pier was constructed in 1897 by The Potencia Town Company when Manhattan Beach was developing as a resort town. This pier was destroyed in 1913-1914 by storms, and wasn’t immediately rebuilt due to delayed plan approval, financial deficits and WW1. The second concrete pier was constructed in 1920 and was a trendy location for social outings and fishing.

Courtesy of Manhattan Beach Historical Society

Courtesy of Manhattan Beach Historical Society

The pier’s gradual deterioration wasn’t a concern until 1984 when a 150-pound chunk of concrete fell on a jogger, paralyzing him. However, no drastic actions were taken until after the El Niño storm of 1988. The cumulative erosion caused the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the Manhattan Beach Council to strategize on rebuilding a new, safer pier.

Courtesy of Manhattan Beach Historical Society

Courtesy of Manhattan Beach Historical Society

The original design for the 1920 pier served as the inspiration for the year-long renovation that began in 1991. The pier deck, the roundhouse and the lifeguard station were replaced. In addition, the pier was rounded at the end, aiming to preserve the pier longer by exposing the pilings to fewer waves.

The pier itself has numerous unique features. Visitors can admire the “Volleyball Walk of Fame,” that features bronze plaques set in the pier deck, commemorating winners of the Manhattan Beach Open volleyball tournament.

The end of the pier houses a cafe and the Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium; admission to the aquarium is free, but there is a suggested donation of $2.00 per person or $5.00 per family.

Qualities such as these make it easy to understand why the pier became a state historic landmark in 1995… and why I prefer an afternoon at Manhattan Beach over an afternoon in NYC any day.

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