Italian American Landmarks: American Venice in Lindenhurst

This is the first in a series of posts chronicling historic landmarks with ties to the Italian American community on Long Island.

When you drive on West Montauk Highway in Lindenhurst, you might notice two tall pillars with lions on East and West Riviera drives. Those massive structures are the entrance to American Venice, a project that debuted in 1926 that ties Long Island to Venezia.

Real estate developers Victor Pisani and Isaac Meister designed waterways to mimic the canals and bridges of Venice, and the East and West bridges exist today nearly 100 years later.

At its inception, it was a classy and prominent placement. With limited real estate and no major traffic in the area, as you can see from the historic image below, the pillars and buildings that serve as an entrance to the Great South Bay look dashing and elegant. Today, a full residential neighborhood, along with boats in the canals and heavy traffic on Montauk Highway, make for a different vibe and existence. 

A century ago, you could find gondolas flitting about in the water. The north and south ends of the Grand Canal featured distinct landmarks like the gazebo named Rialto, after the oldest bridge in Venice. 

Though the bridge was damaged after Superstorm Sandy in 2012, it has been restored thanks to the work of the American Venice Civic Association, Preservation Long Island, and local politicians. The Lions have been revitalized and restored in recent years thanks to Angelo Costanza of Blue Marlin Boats, the business where the lion pillars sit at the entrance to American Venice. 

Lindenhurst may be a long way from Italy and vastly different than Venice – though they both suffer from flooding and high tides at various points of the year – but the developers who thought outside the box and connected Long Island to the City of Canals gave us a landmark for the ages.

If you have ideas for other Italian-specific landmarks on Long Island for us to explore, please email [email protected].

Words and modern photos by Chris R. Vaccaro, Executive Director of the Italian American Heritage Society of Long Island