Saturday, March 22, 2008

POSTCARD HISTORY LESSON - white decks in Venice, California

By now my fascination with the gondolas of Venice, California is probably obvious. There aren't any there now, but in the dawn of the 20th century, the place must have been unreal. The fact that gondolas and their gondoliers were shipped from Italy by steamship to California is impressive - it must have been a long ride, especially back then.
Now consider the quantity:
thirty-six gondolas and their gondoliers.
Whether they were all on one ship or came on different ones, bringing over a fleet of that size was quite an endeavor.

Here we have a postcard image with two gondolas side-tied at the boathouse.
It's hard to tell, but there may be a third gondola in the background under a roof or awning; it looks like it's been pulled out of the water for maintenance.
Now take a look at the deck of the boat in the foreground - it has the structural elements typical of gondolas of the era, with their diagonal trim running from the rails up to the center spire.
And then there's the white; I don't know this for sure, but I'm pretty confident that these gondolas didn't come from Venezia with white paint between those diagonal trim pieces.
I've encountered several postcard images from Venice, California with white or tan decks.
Were the decks painted that way to keep them cool in the sun?
Was it done in the interest of having a clean look? After all, nothing shows dirt like a black boat.
Or was it "gondoliers gone wild" with Venetians taking pleasure in slapping paint in colors other than the black that Venetian law required?
It's hard to say.
What do you think?

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