Monday, March 9, 2009

POSTCARD HISTORY LESSON - Two Views of the Typical Gondolas in Venice, California

Here we see two gondolas in Venice, California.
Based on the amount of open land in the background, we can assume the image comes from an earlier time, before Abbott Kinney's Venice reached it's peak - both in popularity and development.

The homes on the right that seem so cookie-cutter are the "tent houses" which were somewhat ubiquitous in the early days of the city. They were said to have been "thrown together" practically overnight to accommodate the crowds that descended upon Venice before hotels could be built to service the demand.

Such housing is known to have lined the Grand Canal (now Grand Boulevard), and some may actually still stand. I'm not certain whether this is a view of the Grand Canal. So much has changed in Venice, California since her waterways became roadways. I suspect that this was a different canal, as I would expect the "Grand Canal" to have been a bit more, well, "Grand".

Now let's take a look at the gondolas.

The first thing that jumps out, of course, is the fact that they aren't black.
Some of the gondolas in Venice, California were painted other colors.
These two were both a sort of brick red on the hull, with a tan or light brown on the decks.

Both gondolas also have a canopy known as a "felze di tela". A "felze" is a passenger cover, the "tela" tells us that it's made of cloth. Most of these canopies are lightweight, and seem to drape over a spindly box-shaped frame made of metal.

The felze in the postcard image is not as well-known in this day and age, but a century ago it was more common, but only utilized in the summer months.

Another indicator that this image came from the warmer months: white uniforms.
Both gondoliers in the shot are wearing white pants and shirts, with the standard red sash around the waist. Traditionally, Venetian gondoliers only wear white in the summer.
As an aside, whenever I walk out the door to do a cruise in a similar outfit, my wife laughs at me, saying something like "hey, are you going to a bullfight or something?" Remove the sash and I get Ice Cream Man jokes.

Like many of the gondolas in the Venice, California, these two boats had been modified to take additional passengers in the area just ahead of the gondolier.
Look closely, and you can see children in one of the gondolas reaching down to touch the water as the gondolier looks at the camera as if to say "you see what I have to deal with here?"

Lastly, that object behind the gondolier is an item that was frequently seen in Venice, California back then. It's a sort of vertical version of the US flag. They were most common around July 4th.

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