By Nikki Gilbert
Eighty years after the last canals were drained, filled in and paved to make way for automobiles, the iconic symbol of Venice has returned to its rightful location, the Grand Lagoon.
On Friday, July 1, a replica of an historic gondola was installed at Windward Circle, which was the site of the lagoon and the central nexus of the canal system.
A group of volunteers, made up of lifelong Venetians from the Venice Historical Society transported the gondola to its new home.
The gondola was originally varnished, bringing out the beautiful colors of the wood. It also came with its distinctive oarlock, called a forcola, and its signature long, single oar.
Over the years the oar has disappeared, the normally open gondola was covered over from the seat to the bow to protect it from the elements and somewhere along the way was painted the light blue it wears today.
It was built from original plans by Arthur L. Reese, who designed the gondolas that cruised the canals back in the early 1900s.
In the 1960s Home Savings Bank contacted Reese to obtain the plans so they could build a replica to exhibit in front of the bank at Lincoln and Milwood.
The bank’s current occupant, Chase, donated the boat to the Venice Historical Society.
Because it is a replica and somewhat fragile, it bears a sign warning people not to climb upon it, and security cameras have also been installed in the area to prevent vandalism.