by Marty Schatz, Board Member Emeritus
WINDWARD AVENUE AND PARTS OF OCEAN FRONT WALK ARE STILL DECORATED BY ROWS OF COLUMNS…
supporting the 115 year-old arcades from Abbot Kinney’s architectural wonder, Venice of America. The arcades, which provided walkways and protected Victorian crowds from the sun, became a symbol of the city. The capital of each column was decorated with compelling reliefs of two faces, one male and one female.
Cast from both iron and aluminum, the sculptures were created by Felix Peano, an Italian sculptor whose work achieved more than a modest degree of fame worldwide at the turn of the last century. Peano, who eventually returned to Italy, was employed by Abbot Kinney to add embellishments to the Venetian theme, including decorative elements on the buildings and bridges of early Venice.
The faces on the columns are classical in style, easily traceable to the influence of ancient Rome. Yet Peano did not reach back in time for his inspiration. Instead, he found a young girl for his model. Her name was Nettie Bouck. She was 17 and lived with her family on the ocean front in 1904.
As for the male face, Peano’s inspiration remains a mystery. With an impressive mustache, and aquiline nose, the commanding visage resembles a dashing musketeer.
Today, only a couple of original arcades span Windward Avenue. But fortunately, with renewed community interest, there’s a movement to replace the lost arcades, bringing back the graceful ambiance of early Venice of America.
The Venice Heritage Museum hopes to incorporate these iconic Venice capitols into the architecture among the museum’s campus.