The Venetian and The Palazzo Las Vegas are celebrating the spirit of Venice with a new seasonal display that features one of the world’s oldest Venetian gondolas (Pictured: This antique was thought to be built as early as 1815, but clues from its design led appraisers to conclude it was actually constructed around 1850).
The historic gondola, thought to be constructed around 1850, is considered by experts to be one of the best surviving examples of Venetian gondolas from that time period. The impressive specimen spans 36 feet and is nearly 5 feet wide.
“The gondola is the icon of Venice, and some argue the most recognizable boat in the world,” said George Markantonis, president and chief operating officer of The Venetian, The Palazzo, and Sands Expo. “We have a piece of history on display – one of the oldest gondolas in the world – for our guests to discover while exploring our resort.”
On display in the resorts’ impressive waterfall atrium, guests can walk around the boat and read story of this well-preserved wonder and learn about the gondola, the boat that symbolizes Venetian culture. The vessel’s elaborate wood carvings indicate that this gondola was likely used for weddings and special occasions. It has its original paint finish, black, the color mandated by Venetian law passed in 1562, and still current to this day. The gondola also includes a felze – or cabin – that was used to provide privacy as well as protect travelers from the weather. The windows of the felze would be closed with louvered shutters, or what is now known as Venetian blinds. The original 1800s furniture is still featured on the gondola, as well as a 19th century etched glass windows and hardware.
The antique was once thought to be built as early as 1815, but clues from its design led appraisers to conclude it was actually constructed around 1850. According to gondola historians, the asymmetrical design of the boat came about in 1850, affording the gondolier with better balance while rowing.
The gondola was purchased by Las Vegas Sands, the parent company of The Venetian Las Vegas, from the private collection of Dr. Lonnie Hammargren, a retired brain surgeon and former Nevada Lieutenant Governor, who has made a lifelong hobby out of collecting unique and historic objects to display at his Las Vegas home. He purchased the antique from the personal collection of William Harrah, who had proudly displayed it alongside his historic vehicle collection in Reno and Lake Tahoe. It is not known how Harrah acquired the gondola for his collection.
The only other historic Venetian gondola on display in the United States is at the Maritime Museum in Newport News, Virginia. The gondola, very similar in age and form but in lesser condition, is promoted as one of the oldest gondolas in the world.
To commemorate the artifact’s arrival to the resort, the gondola is displayed among a collection of hundreds of flowers in the atrium gardens, affording great “Instagrammable moments” around the gondola. After the seasonal display concludes, the gondola will return to the resort’s archives until a future display location can be determined.
Each year more than half a million guests experience a gondola ride at The Venetian Las Vegas on one of the resort’s replica gondolas. The Venetian pays tribute to the spirit of Venice with its gondola experience, giving visitors the opportunity to float down the Grand Canal without making the trek to Italy. Additionally, guests can learn to be a gondolier through the Gondola University program. For more information visit venetian.com or call 877-691-1997.