IMAGERY – The Celery Merchants of Venice

You might not know this… but Venice, California was once a landscape of fields called “The Venice Celery District.”

CLICK ON IMAGES FOR LARGER VIEWS (Note: The captions you will see below were the original captions written for the photos when they were archived.)
©USC Digital Archive

Photograph of the ideal field of summer celery in the Venice Celery District, just before applying blanching paper, April 12, 1927. The rows of thick leaves of the celery plants form a congested square at center with a dark irrigation ditch in the foreground. A darker field lies on the far edge of the celery field on the right while another field lies on the far left. Hills stand in the background on the right while electrical poles spot a clearing of grass in the background on the left. “Note the regularity of the plant foliage.”

©USC Digital Archive

Photograph of a celery patch in Venice Celery District, April 12, 1927. Men wearing hats and overalls stand in the field at center with unearthed stocks of celery lying in rows in the foreground and the still-planted celery behind them. What appears to be a small, wooden table stands on the right while crates are scattered throughout the ground behind it. Two dark horses pull a wagon of filled crates to the right of the workers while grassy hills stand in the background.

©USC Digital Library

Photograph of Ross H. Goot bunching carrots in Venice Celery District, April 12, 1927. Rows of unearthed carrots lie in the soil as Goot ties them together at center. He wears dark pants and a lightly-colored shirt as he squats down and carefully bunches the carrots at his knees. A crate sits in the soil just behind him on the left. What appears to be an empty field of sifted soil lies in the background just beyond the edge of the carrot field at center.

©USC Digital Archive

Photograph of harvesting and packing summer celery in the Venice Celery District, April 12, 1927. The remains of celery plants lie in the foreground while the unearthed celery is stacked in two parallel rows of crates at center. Men in overalls and hats examine the crates while crops of celery wait to be pulled on the far left. Several homes can be seen beyond a row of electrical poles in the background.

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16 Responses to “IMAGERY – The Celery Merchants of Venice”

  1. Carolyn says:

    Thanks for sharing this….very interesting; I didn’t know. My dad came to Southern California in the 1930s and loved to point out that as far as the eye could see around Crenshaw Bl & Santa Barbara Av (now Martin Luther King) there were bean fields. And at night it was pitch black except for a few scattered lights out in the fields in the worker’s houses or “shacks” (as he called them).

  2. David Ewing says:

    Okay, now we know all about growing celery, except where it was being done in these pictures. Yeah, the Venice Celery District, but where the hell was it? Give us an intersection, GPS coordinates, something to locate it in present day Venice.
    What’s there now? My imagination is only half fed.

    • lynnster says:

      Again, those are the official captions for the photos from the USC Digital Archive. I am sharing the photos that I find interesting but sometimes the details are simply not available. So would you rather I not share them if I don’t know everything? I think that would be a shame. Sometimes details are simply lost over time but the photos are still amazing.

      Here’s some detective work done by our Facebook fans:

      The last field to go — in the early 1970′s as I recall — in the Venice-Marina area was on the south-west corner of Lincoln and Jefferson where the new Playa Vista nature sanctuary now extends. However, something in my admittedly faulty memory suggests it may have been broccoli not celery.

      It was a variety of foods. Howard Hughes allowed Lopez Ranch – located further down Jefferson to grow crops there. Corn, tomoatoes, green beens, and a lot more. Lopez ranch grew their own strawberries, pumpkins, peaches, and who knows what else. I just remember going there (I grew up by Jefferson & Mesmer) all the time and getting our fresh … See Morefruit & vegetables as a kid growing up. FYI – The area where the post office and Home Depot are now were also growing fields. The entire area east & west of Lincoln on the north side of Jefferson were crops grown by Lopez Ranch. The area on the south side of Jefferson was all Hughes Aircraft & Helicopter & on the west side of Lincoln (where the Ballona Wetlands are now) was a “ditch” area for the planes & helicopters being tested by Hughes – no crops were grown there (at least as far as I can remember). There was also fall out bunkers on both sides of Lincoln. Lopez Ranch was bringing their crops in from other areas after the Suma Corporation sold the property. Lopez Ranch was located where the Self Storage facility is on Jefferson. They were still there in to the 90′s – my son used to go there for “Pumpkin Patch” when he was little. I was sad when I realized that the “house” wasn’t even there anymore.

      Does that help?

    • veronica lopez bruce says:

      Hi Lynnstar,
      My grandpa, Elueterio Lopez purchased 100 acres on Jefferson for $100 in 1923 from the Machado family. Elueterio and Arcadia Cruz came from La Piedad, Michoacan with 8 children and some $ in pursuit of the American Dream. Elueterio, being illiterate signed the contract in the wrong corner. This became a huge lawsuit about ownership. Their wealth came from contracting with the US Goverment during WWII selling the troops green crates of green beans. I was born in 1954 to this clan of wealthy, wonderful, loving people. By the time I was 14 in 1968, grandpa died in 1967, there were 5 attorney’s that eventually gave the entire estate to Cressy, the oldest son. This is why Culver City named no streets after the Lopez family. I will write and publish the lawsuits that caused the death of my Aunt Magdalena who was co owner with Cressy, who quit claimed the entire ranch to him after he strong armed her on her death bed in 1971. Meningitis of the brain from an unknown cause and to this
      day we believe that Cressy hit her on the head so he would get it all.
      I believe though that the real message here is this. A Man Cannot Have Two Masters. Who is your master? Money or God. I feel that I have really won because I have 84 cousins, 32+ aunts and so many more loving relatives while Cressy’s kids are heroin addicts and one of the kids is in jail for murder. God Blessed Us All When He Took Away This Curse!! We won the virtues. Vern

  3. Stupid Post says:

    Notice, your comments are WAY over the top. I find your blog totally uninteresting, from the black borders on the sides, the lower case letters in the proper noun Los Angeles, the central white square with the orange RSS feed at the top, etc. Explaining any further of what any idiot can obviously see just seems like a waste of time to me so I will stop now. Do you write your explanations so when blind people come to your blog they will be able to know what is in the pictures? (I hope you are picking up on the sarcasm.)

    • lynnster says:

      Awwww, someone needs a hug.

      BTW… those are the official captions from the USC Digital Archive. I don’t write them, they were written by the staff of the LA Examiner newspaper. I included them because I was crediting the source of the photos verbatim.

  4. erin miller says:

    The bean fields mentioned above were actually in Playa del Rey, not the Marina or Venice both of which are north of the Ballona Creek Channel. Nor were they in Playa Vista, which is east of Lincoln.
    The remediated wetlands are also in Playa del Rey. The remediation was done by the developers of Playa Vista as part of the deal that enable developers to build the environmental heartbreak of Playa Vista, aka Spanish for “gridlock” — but that’s another story.
    You can get a clear view of the un-remediated remains of the bean fields, just go up to the frontage road at the top of the hill above the eucalyptus grove and gas facility. You can’t get to that hill top from Jefferson. You have to access it from the other side of Playa del Rey, either from Manchester Blvd or from the One West Bluff development entrance on Lincoln near the Loyola Marymount fountain entrance. When you’re on that hill, you’ll see a couple acres of the furrow lines — clear remnants of the decades when the wetlands were used for agriculture extending from the hill to Jefferson.

    • lynnster says:

      Sounds like you’ve got a strong knowledge of the local landscape. All I can say is that the caption written was what was on the back of the photograph as recorded by the photographer and the USC Digital Archive.

    • Diego Lozano says:

      As far as I can remember, that entire area was always generically called Venice. When those images were taken, there was no Marina del Rey, Hughes Aircraft nor Playa Vista…maybe Playa del Rey but that was most likely referring to the lagoon area.

  5. [...] IMAGERY – The Celery Merchants of Venice – Hidden Los Angeles. This entry was posted in History and tagged "Southern California", Agriculture, Celery, history, photograph, Venice. Bookmark the permalink. ← Reseda and Sherman Way/Late 1950s. [...]

  6. Kelly says:

    Wow, these are really cool pictures – I’ve spent a lot of time talking to my grandparents about the way L.A. looked when they moved here, and it’s great to actually see pictures of it. (I even enjoyed the cations, as unpopular as they seem to be). Wonderful site.

  7. Nancy Impastato says:

    Thanks so much….I love seeing pics of old LA.

  8. Maddalena says:

    Cool photos. Its interesting name “Venice”. I dont nothing about this thnks for sharing this photos. They are beutiful. I never been in L.A so For me its realy interesting that you have that kind of places in your country:). Shared this photo with people from different countries by add photos and tex likes this to
    See Ya

  9. hiromi says:

    My grandfather, whom I have never met, fled Japan to work in the celery farms here in Venice (probably late 1920-mid 1930′s. He was probably faced with anti-asian discrimination and with war WWII approaching he took his family and went home only to be drafted and killed (Japan side). I wish he had the hindsight to stay and go to the camp…then maybe somehow he could have lived and continue to be a celery farmer in the later years…if they would have let him buy property.Thanks for the photos…I’ve always wondered what it looked like.

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