Venice at 90: A Retrospective
The city of Venice is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. On May 9, 1927, the State Legislature changed the designation of Venice from “town” to “city” by amending the enabling legislation and the Venice Charter. The photographs and items on display at the VMA present an overview of the development of Venice over the course of the city’s history. Along with the museum’s permanent exhibits, this temporary exhibition provides a glimpse of the forces, people and organizations that were instrumental in creating the city of today. The exhibition includes information and photographs on the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the Kentucky Military Institute, the Venice Army Air Base, and the Winter Quarters of the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus, as well as other influences. It provides images and objects that capture the changes that took place to create contemporary Venice, with reminders of its past still prevalent.
Burnin’ Rubber: Auto Racing in Venice from 1953 to 1960 explores Venice’s role in early auto racing in Florida and its impact on the local community during the 1950s. The exhibit features historic photographs of micro midgets, hot rods and sports car races at the Venice Municipal Airport, hot rod magazines, vintage automobile parts, and Venice Vagabonds memorabilia.
Like a drag race, Venice’s auto racing history was quick but powerful. It formally began in 1953, with the first sanctioned races held at the former Venice Army Air Base (present day Venice Municipal Airport). Two micro midget races that year set in motion the possibility of other legitimate racing events at the airport. It would take five years of perseverance from a local hot rod club, known as the Venice Vagabonds, to make it happen.
The Venice Vagabonds sponsored more than twenty monthly drag racing events during the brief period of 1958 to 1960. Venice’s legacy as a racing venue was cut short when the newly formed Federal Aviation Administration no longer permitted these types of events at the airport by the summer of 1960. The Vagabonds’ commitment to public service, however, continued after the races ended. The Venice community valued the organization for its focus on highway safety. Club members offered roadside assistance to motorists in need and conducted local safety checks for hazards in cars, such as faulty headlights, brakes and tires. With the insatiable need for speed, the Vagabonds continued competing at other tracks on Florida’s west coast during the 1960s. Today, the club has informally reorganized with past members to swap stories about the good ol’ days of racing in Venice.
Design for Living
The Venice Museum & Archives honors the innovative city planner, John Nolen, and his 1926 plan for Venice in its newest exhibit Design for Living: John Nolen and the Renaissance of New Urbanism. The exhibit is a collaborative effort between the VMA and Rollins College, located in Winter Park, Florida. Students from Dr. R. Bruce Stephenson’s Traditional Town Planning course visited Venice in February of this year to experience John Nolen’s plan firsthand. Photos taken during their walking tour, historical photos from the VMA’s collection, as well as the students’ research on Nolen and New Urbanism were incorporated into the display panels.
Historic Eagle Point: A Legacy of ‘Old Florida’ in Venice (1916-2016)
The Venice Museum & Archives is partnering with Eagle Point Club to celebrate this Venice community’s 100th anniversary in 2016. The exhibit will provide a time-line, along with numerous photographs and objects that trace what originated as Camp Eagle Point, in 1916, on 24-acres of property owned by Mrs. Potter Palmer and designed as a “near-to-nature” resort catering to wealthy investors, businessmen, sportsmen, and their families. Hundreds of prominent guests, mainly from the Chicago area and Northeast, enjoyed the low-keyed ambiance of what eventually became known as Eagle Point Club. It operated continuously until 1989, never marketed to the general public. The residential community today retains an historic clubhouse, cottages, water tower, and other Old Florida features. A district at Eagle Point is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Onsite Past Exhibits 2013-2016
• VABI Knits a Community (Venice Area Beautification Inc. organizational history and current projects)
• Kentucky Military Institute: Celebrating 37 Years in Venice (1933-1970)
• Designer Holiday Showcase 2013 (featuring local interiors designers and decorators)
• Digging Up Discoveries: Southwest Florida Fossils
• Journey Into the Wild Frontier: Venice Area Early Settlers and Industries (1867-1921)
• Making Waves: Venice Area Beaches Then and Now (February 2- July 29, 2015)
Venice Performing Arts Center (November 2014-present)
On with the Show: Photographs of Venice Area Performing Arts
Travel through time and enjoy performance photographs from the permanent collection of the Venice Museum & Archives on display at the Venice Performing Arts Center. Venice has an enduring and proud history of performing arts, both professional and amateur, from the 1930s until today. Audiences have been entertained by a variety of musical, theatrical and dance performances ranging from concerts by the Kampus Kats of the Kentucky Military Institute, plays at the Venice Little Theatre, to circus performers dazzling audiences at the Venice Circus Arena. On with the Show was created to celebrate the 2014 addition to our area’s cultural heritage—the Venice Performing Arts Center, which will be making performance history of its own.
Venice Centre Mall — Historic San Marco Hotel (May 2014-present)
Kentucky Military Institute: Winter Quarters in Venice (1933-1970)
As visitors stroll through the Venice Centre Mall, they are walking in the footsteps of thousands of KMI cadets who hurried to class in that building and slept in dorm rooms upstairs. This exhibit was made possible in 2014 thanks to the generous support of Legacy of Valor, a campaign created by The Patterson Foundation, and a collaborative partnership between The Venice Centre Association, Inc. and the Venice Museum & Archives. All objects and photos on display in the Mall are part of The Venice Centre Association’s KMI Collection.