Friday, October 24, 2008


Most of the postcards we've examined here have been retouched color photos or fully illustrated artist's renderings.

Once in a while I get to post an actual monochrome photograph postcard from "way back when".

Better still, I have for you today, a unique opportunity to see a bridge and waterway right after they were built, and then again, just before they disappeared.

The waterway featured here is the Coral Canal and Venice Lagoon, and the bridge is the Coral Canal Bridge which was located next to Venice's famous bath house.

Here's the black-and-white photo postcard, which is postmarked 1905:

The Lagoon and some of the freshly dug and cemented canals of Abbott Kinney's Venice were first flooded with water from the Pacific at the end of June, 1905.
The first gondolas were launched in July of that same year.
So the image we're looking at may be one of the very first photos published of gondolas on the water in Venice, and possibly all of Southern California.

Take a look at those gondolas.
they were fresh off the steamship when this photo was taken.
Chances are that the gondoliers rowing them were scratching their heads in amazement as the city and her canals developed around them.
To borrow a phrase: Venice wasn't built in a day.
Each canal segment was dug or dredged before becoming part of the existing network of canals.
Coffer dams were implemented to allow workers to complete each segment before the water came in.
The complete waterway was finished in September of 1905.

By the time this photo was taken, the gondoliers, who had been hired in Venice along with their boats, were probably itching to row after having their gondolas out of the water for so long.
Nobody knows exactly how old each of the gondolas were when they were brought to California.
All told, there were about three dozen Venetian gondolas in this "new Venice".
Knowing a thing or two about Venetians, I think I can safely assume that they obsessed over their gondola's appearance, and while waiting to launch, made sure every detail was either perfect, or "painted over".

Here's a close-up of the two gondolas:
They did look good.

Now imagine you're on the shore to the very far left of the shot, looking towards the bridge.

Are you there?

OK, now travel through time a hundred years, imagine that the canals have all been filled in and paved over, the bridge has been removed and the bath house replaced with eclectic Venice Beach businesses.


Here's what it looked like about two months ago from that spot:
The wide road in the immediate foreground was never part of the waterway.
The canal shoreline was where the long crosswalk is today.
The lone woman walking with swinging arms is headed towards where the bridge used to be.
The bath house was on that corner.
The two people waking away from the camera are in a crosswalk that roughly mirrors where the bridge used to be.
I'd imagine that most people whomake that walk have no idea that there used to be a bridge there.

Now here's another photo of the same bridge much later:

The photo is said to originate from the 1930's, but that date would be impossible since the waterways in this photo were filled in and became roadways before the end of 1929.
My guess is that the photo was taken between 1927 and 1929.
Take a look at how the bridge has aged over twenty-plus years.
What really interests me is the condition of the gondola.
It appears to be getting toward the end of it's life.
The ferro is either so bashed up that it hangs over to one side, or more likely, the metal ferro has been replaced with something more flimsy.
Check out the rather non-stock tail decoration.

Some day I'd like to find out where some of those gondolas ended up.
I don't know if there's anyone who was around "way back when" who might still be alive.

Venice, California may not have been in her prime for very long, but during that time, it must have been amazing.

She has left an enduring legacy - with canal neighborhoods and Venice-themed malls and casinos in so many places.

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