L.A. Esoterica 1914-1926 The Al G. Barnes Circus, Barnes Zoo and Barnes City

For those who enjoyed their stay at Venice Pier and the Ship Café, if they wished, they could return toward L.A. on Washington Boulevard and stop by to see the Al G. Barnes Zoo.

Al G. Barnes Zoo

Al G. Barnes owned a circus. When Abbott Kinney invited him to bring his winter headquarters near the Venice lagoon so children could see the animals while their parents attended Chattauqua lectures, Barnes moved his circus to the outskirts of Venice. Soon he found out residents objected to braying elephants and roaring lions and their aromas.

So he bought himself the Sbacha Ranch just south of Culver City and named it Barnes City. There, he spent $76,000 to build his new winter headquarters and zoo where children could see Tusko, the world’s largest elephant and Lotus, the world’s largest hippo. Needing money, he sold lots to people who built homes who soon objected to braying elephants and roaring lions and their aromas.

Al G. Barnes Zoo

Having had enough, Al G Barnes decided to incorporate his own city with his own city council who could pass the noise ordinances he wanted. The residents were furious and claimed Barnes had allowed animals to vote in the election of his new City that they were calling “Monkeytown.” In a bid for respect, the residents approached Los Angeles and, in 1926, managed to have Barnes City absorbed into Los Angeles.

The names Barnes City and Monkeytown sank into obscurity. Barnes relocated his winter headquarters to an unincorporated tract along Valley Boulevard near Baldwin Park in the San Gabriel Valley and no longer wanted anything to do with his neighbors. In 1938 he sold his circus to Ringling Brothers.

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