The Gondolas

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The Gondolas

Postby threeats407 » Nov Tue 10, 2020 6:19 pm

Was searching around for something and one thing leads to another. I think Aux mentioned pits by Half Day road and I started wondering what the pits were from. Next thing ya know I'm on a site about Half Day which led me to a great Chikawgo history site and you know how that goes.... I'm sure many know about The Villa Venice story and if you have paddled near the Milwaukee Road overpass you have seen the remains of the cement steps. I finally found a picture of the actual gondolas they used to board there!
ImageVilla Venice Northbrook, Il by Glenn Hanson, on Flickr
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Re: The Gondolas

Postby RonG » Nov Tue 10, 2020 7:47 pm

Very cool!

Most don't know that Trout Park in Elgin used to have a decent sized amusement park.

troutpark.gif



The coasters may be gone, but I still get my amusement there.

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Re: The Gondolas

Postby catchafew » Nov Tue 10, 2020 8:08 pm

Yeah I heard Mo and Phyllis McGuire enjoyed going on those Gondola rides. Was that place near the Chicago Hilton hotel off of Winklemen rd? Nice find.
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Re: The Gondolas

Postby threeats407 » Nov Tue 10, 2020 9:20 pm

catchafew wrote:Yeah I heard Mo and Phyllis McGuire enjoyed going on those Gondola rides. Was that place near the Chicago Hilton hotel off of Winklemen rd? Nice find.
Yes. Just a bit upriver from the Allison Woods boat launch.
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Re: The Gondolas

Postby joetrain » Nov Wed 11, 2020 5:29 am

catchafew wrote:Yeah I heard Mo and Phyllis McGuire enjoyed going on those Gondola rides. Was that place near the Chicago Hilton hotel off of Winklemen rd? Nice find.


^^^That’s some old stuff there.

Waiting for Rambler to chime in about the time he took a raft down the Colorado river. :D :D
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Re: The Gondolas

Postby Rambler » Nov Wed 11, 2020 8:01 am

When we were kids back in the 60s my best friend & I canoed the DPR several times & would paddle past Villa Venice. The gondolas were tied up there & we always thought it would be a cool prank to cut the ropes. One time we stopped to look the situation over & a big, meaty-looking guy on the steps told us to get moving. Didn't know until years later the place was a mob hangout.

joetrain wrote:Waiting for Rambler to chime in about the time he took a raft down the Colorado river.

Never did the Colorado. But in April 1980 my GF (now wife) & I had an early honeymoon rafting the San Juan (a Colorado tributary) with a bunch of friends. One of the highlights of my life.

Here's a shot of everyone standing around the campfire at the end of a wonderful day of paddling.
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Re: The Gondolas

Postby Aux Pleins » Nov Fri 13, 2020 3:27 am

Great post. Did you snowball down the history of the villa Venice and all the gangsters and stars it hosted?
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Re: The Gondolas

Postby threeats407 » Nov Fri 13, 2020 5:31 pm

Aux Pleins wrote:Great post. Did you snowball down the history of the villa Venice and all the gangsters and stars it hosted?
Some. All I ever read about in the past was that Rat Pack visit. I vaguely remember the old entrance/checkpoint. From what I understand they had shuttle bus that would haul the folks to another place nearby that had gaming tables.
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Re: The Gondolas

Postby cyanatic » Nov Sat 21, 2020 11:56 am

Very cool find! I haven't been up to that part of the DPR, but it looks like that land is just vacant overgrowth now? Makes me want to do my own research into the Villa Venice. It's funny how you can start looking up one thing and end up going down a rabbit hole, finding things you never even knew about.

Rambler wrote:When we were kids back in the 60s my best friend & I canoed the DPR several times & would paddle past Villa Venice. The gondolas were tied up there & we always thought it would be a cool prank to cut the ropes. One time we stopped to look the situation over & a big, meaty-looking guy on the steps told us to get moving. Didn't know until years later the place was a mob hangout.


Lucky he didn't catch you guys in the middle of cutting the ropes :lol:

Totally Off Topic, but the Colorado River and RonG's Elgin bronzeback reminded me. The only time I caught smallmouth bass was on a trip with some buddies from San Diego to the Colorado near Yuma in the early 1980's. We camped at a site right on the river. At the time, that section was very gentle and there was a broad beach at the river there. During the day people would wade and float in it. Woke up the first morning close to dawn to hear popping sounds coming from the river. One of my buddies grabbed one of my rods and tied on a little fly rod popper I had in my tackle box. (No idea why I ever bought a fly rod popper for a spinning rod.) He came back all excited and had caught a smallmouth, even though he wasn't much of a fisherman. That got me out of my sleeping bag in a hurry! I went rummaging through my tackle box and found another fly rod popper. I tied it on and waded into the middle. I opened the bail, and free lined the popper, letting it drift downstream. As soon as I closed the bail and started retrieving the popper, it made a little V in the water and the smallmouth would immediately hit it. Caught quite a few smallmouth that way over the next couple of days. Four or five years later, I went back to look for that spot with another buddy. I don't know what happened but there must have been a huge flood at some point over the years. The campground was now buried and at the bottom of a steep and inaccessible canyon that the river had carved out. What had been a broad and gentle stretch of the river was now a much narrower torrent roaring past. The only thing left of the campground was the very top of the concrete blockhouse of the bathrooms they had there. Buried to the roof in sand and silt. Very disappointing because it had really been a nice campground and a great place to fish.
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Re: The Gondolas

Postby Rambler » Nov Sat 21, 2020 3:29 pm

cyanatic wrote:I don't know what happened but there must have been a huge flood at some point over the years. The campground was now buried and at the bottom of a steep and inaccessible canyon that the river had carved out. What had been a broad and gentle stretch of the river was now a much narrower torrent roaring past. The only thing left of the campground was the very top of the concrete blockhouse of the bathrooms they had there. Buried to the roof in sand and silt. Very disappointing because it had really been a nice campground and a great place to fish.

Steve - I think the flood you're referring to was the "Fools Flood" of 1983. For some reason the people who run Glen Canyon dam on the Colorado at Page, AZ tried to add to the depth of Lake Powell by increasing the height of the dam with sheets of plywood. I believe Edward Abbey wrote about it in one of his books but can't remember which one - sorry.

There was record snow runoff from the Rockies that year & the plywood gave way causing a torrent to fly down the river. I could be wrong but it seems to me some backpackers in the Grand Canyon drowned. Anyway, it was a complete catastrophe - lots of damage to all sorts of stuff downstream.

On the other hand, the Colorado used to flow into the Gulf of Cortez. The delta was a magical jungle where jaguars roamed. Once Lake Mead & Lake Powell were created & the water siphoned off to Phoenix & L.A. the river dried up & no longer makes it all the way to the sea. Aldo Leopold visited the delta back in the 20s or 30s & wrote about it - I think in A sand County Almanac - but again, not sure if that's where it's mentioned. I think there are efforts now to try to bring the delta back.
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Re: The Gondolas

Postby Islandfisher » Nov Sun 22, 2020 8:31 am

Awesome story all around! Showed my wife the post, her first comment was "I bet there were a lot less shopping carts in the river back then".

That, being said, love to learn new bits of history.
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Re: The Gondolas

Postby cyanatic » Nov Sun 22, 2020 7:39 pm

Rambler wrote:Steve - I think the flood you're referring to was the "Fools Flood" of 1983. For some reason the people who run Glen Canyon dam on the Colorado at Page, AZ tried to add to the depth of Lake Powell by increasing the height of the dam with sheets of plywood. I believe Edward Abbey wrote about it in one of his books but can't remember which one - sorry.

There was record snow runoff from the Rockies that year & the plywood gave way causing a torrent to fly down the river. I could be wrong but it seems to me some backpackers in the Grand Canyon drowned. Anyway, it was a complete catastrophe - lots of damage to all sorts of stuff downstream.

On the other hand, the Colorado used to flow into the Gulf of Cortez. The delta was a magical jungle where jaguars roamed. Once Lake Mead & Lake Powell were created & the water siphoned off to Phoenix & L.A. the river dried up & no longer makes it all the way to the sea. Aldo Leopold visited the delta back in the 20s or 30s & wrote about it - I think in A sand County Almanac - but again, not sure if that's where it's mentioned. I think there are efforts now to try to bring the delta back.


You just solved a nearly 35 year old mystery for me! The timing is just right. I would have been there prior to 1983 and the return trip wasn't until around 1985 or 1986. I always wondered what kind of flood could have buried that entire area and carved those bluffs. Plywood!? Really? On a body of water as huge as Lake Powell? Some engineers they had working there!

I just looked up Edward Abbey, I wasn't familiar with him. I'm not sure which book you're referring to, but he wrote a fair amount, fiction, essays, and semi-autobiographical from what I can see. Sounds like he was quite the environmentalist and very much opposed to the "technocratic, military-industrial state". At least that's what I get from culling through the summaries of some of his books. Interesting fellow.

It's scary what I don't know. I never looked into the building of dams on the Colorado, but if they wiped out an entire delta by backing it up to get water for LA and Phoenix!? And that delta was in another country? Kind of like the water hoarding of "Chinatown" on a global scale.
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Re: The Gondolas

Postby Rambler » Nov Sun 22, 2020 8:48 pm

Abbey was a genius. Started out as a social worker in NJ. Took a summer ranger job at Arches Nat Park & wrote Desert Solataire based on the experience. Wrote The Brave Cowboy & sold the film rights to Kirk Douglas who made it into Lonely Are The Brave - great film.

Recommend you read Desert Solataire and his masterpiece, The Monkey Wrench Gang.
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Re: The Gondolas

Postby Rambler » Nov Mon 23, 2020 5:51 pm

BTW Steve, this has got me thinking about Abbey, dams & other stuff. I suspect it's part of getting old - beginning to dwell on things from the past. I'm going to write some more on the subject but moving it over to Windy City Tavern - in case you're interested.
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