Friday, January 14, 2011

The World's Oldest Gondola Goes to Washington

Most gondolas don't live past twenty-five or thirty years.
In Venice, if your boat is coming apart, you can replace her with a new one from a squero that's a short row away.

When a gondola is removed from La Serenissima, she becomes exotic.
Not surprisingly, most of the oldest gondolas still afloat...are floating in places far from the Grand Canal.
Here in the US we probably have half a dozen gondolas over fifty years old - I've got two here in Newport.
But as proud as I am of my "classics", in the category of well-preserved gondolas there's one boat that's got them all beat.
The "Oldest Gondola in the World" resides in the United States.

Like many others that came later, she was brought over, treated as a special boat, and has survived well because of it.
I had the opportunity to see this historic gondola in 2007, while consulting for Moondance Gondolas in Virginia Beach.  My family and I drove up to the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia, and got to spend a little time viewing and photographing this magnificent vessel.

In April of 2008 I published a blogpost on the gondola entitled
"The Oldest Gondola in the World", complete with photos and commentary of our adventure.

Boats of this significance, and boats of this, shall I say..."vintage" don't get moved around much, so I was surprised to find out that she's making a trip to the capitol.
Complimenting a display of Canaletto paintings which are coming to D.C., the "Oldest Gondola in the World" is making a short journey from her home in Newport News to spend a few months in the National Gallery of Art.

To read more about the gondolas' move, here's a brief article that sums it up.
I know some of you will welcome the chance to see such a boat, and if you're a true "gondola fanatic", you really must see her if you're in the area.

Chances are you'll stand there and wonder the same thing I did,
the same thing gondolier John Synco posted here on the blog:
"I wonder who the last person to row it was."


Tamás said...

> Who was the last person to row it?

Maybe it wasn't such a long time ago. The Newport Gondola went to Venice in 1998 for a restoration (more like a rebuild) at the Tramontin squero.

Apparently there was no way into the yard, but on water, so she was wrapped in plastic sheets and floated. Maybe someone even climed aboard for a few strikes with the remo to align her?

Also, I can't image the Browning gondola wasn't trialled at the conclusion of the repairs.

For the historical aspect of this boat, Gilberto Penzo has a short research posted near the end of this page

Gondola Greg said...

I get what you're saying Tamás.
If I were involved with the restoration, and could take a few strokes, I surely would.
This boat may have been restored with museum display in mind though, in which case they probably wouldn't focus so much on seaworthyness.
If shw was wrapped in plastic, and if putting pressure on the forcola didn't threaten the structural integrity of her ancient frame, then maybe someone did row her.