Saturday, August 14, 2021

Venetian Gardens

I’m riding over the wooden bridges from island to island in Venetian Gardens where Leesburg residents come to enjoy nature, feed the many varieties of birds and look for alligators. But the idea of the gardens wasn’t to feed the birds but to feed Leesburg residents. It was one of Roosevelt's WPA projects to get America back on its feet.

With the country reeling from the Great Depression following the stock market crash of 1929, Venetian Gardens was a place where men went to work to put food on their families’ tables. “My dad worked down there,” said Gordon Dorris and “I guess half of Lake County worked there. Times were pretty hard.” His father took home $7 a week. 
By WW2 the physical labor had turned the swampy land into a community park with connected islands, boat docks, a ball field, swimming pool and landscaping which included rock gardens with waterfalls. Since then much of this has changed with a new community center replacing the swimming pool and the gardens have  become home for the indigenous flora and fauna.

[[Aside: Times were tough but my grandfather managed to beat the 1929 stock market crash – he went broke in 1928]

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