Where’s an Austin gondola when you need one?

At times, gondoliers have glided by on Lady Bird Lake.


Recently, a study put the kibosh on the idea of suspended gondolas as a means of group transport in Austin. Still, the subject inspired a few of my colleagues to rummage around for remembrances of gondolas past.

“Indeed, it was the aerial gondola scheme that triggered my memory of the guy who wanted Austin City Council approval in the early 2000s to open a gondola-ride concession on Town Lake,” wrote American-Statesman managing editor John Bridges in an email. “I don’t recall whether the guy ever made a business of it, but I did find some photos from (2001) of him tootling around the lake in a gondola. His name is Paul Parma.”

That same online pursuit led Bridges inevitably to tales of the Gondolier Hotel, a white, modernist inn that perched on a crest above the lake at East Riverside Drive and Interstate 35. It went by several names before it was demolished. The Riverview apartment towers stand there now.

DETAILS:No green light for gondolas above the streets of Austin

Columnist Ben Wear added more about gondolas and the hotel when the idea of aerial gondolas came up. And over the years, gondoliers have given demonstrations to bring attention to various causes.

Somewhere in my personal archives — meaning a disorganized box in the garage — is a postcard from my maternal grandmother who stayed at the Gondolier Hotel.

In Don Martin’s slim volume, “Austin: Postcard History Series,” he explains that the Gondolier, built around 1960, was later a Sheraton Hotel. We can guess that opening date from a promotion that boasted it was five minutes from “Austin’s fabulous new Auditorium and Convention Center.”

Later called Palmer Auditorium and still later remade into the Long Center, it opened in 1959.

“The hotel actually offered simulated gondola rides on Town Lake,” Martin writes. “(It) was later turned into student housing for several years, then a limited-service hotel and was eventually shuttered.”

Wear, who has lived through his share of local history, added in an email: “When that hotel debuted, it was considered quite snazzy for little old Austin.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Prosecutors seek limits on ex-Akins student accused of plotting attack
Prosecutors seek limits on ex-Akins student accused of plotting attack

Travis County prosecutors Sunday were seeking to add conditions to the release on bond of a former Akins High School student who is charged with threatening the South Austin campus. Amid concerns from parents, school leaders and law enforcement, officials questioned the decision by a magistrate judge to set the bond for 17-year-old Ariel Alex Ramirez...
Bishops urge Catholics to fight for ‘Dreamers’
Bishops urge Catholics to fight for ‘Dreamers’

On Sunday, many Catholics in Austin and across the U.S. were handed a call to action with their usual church bulletin. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is pressing Catholics to take part in a “Congressional call-in campaign” on Monday to urge members of Congress to find a “common sense and humane solution” for...
8-year-old boy robbed at gunpoint, New Orleans police say
8-year-old boy robbed at gunpoint, New Orleans police say

Authorities are investigating after an 8-year-old boy told New Orleans police he was robbed at gunpoint Saturday, according to multiple reports. The boy told police he was approached by a man who demanded his keys, NOLA.com reported. The man pulled out a gun after the boy refused, according to the news site. “Give me the keys or I will kill...
Pedestrian killed, Round Rock officer hit — and then lightning struck
Pedestrian killed, Round Rock officer hit — and then lightning struck

Within a five-hour span along a single stretch of Interstate 35, a pedestrian was killed by a car, a Round Rock police officer was seriously injured by another car, and three investigators were treated after a lightning strike. The unusual chain of events began about 5:30 a.m. Sunday, when Round Rock officers responded to a call about a pedestrian...
British police report ‘major incident’ after explosion in Leicester
British police report ‘major incident’ after explosion in Leicester

British police responded to a "major incident" Sunday night following reports of an explosion in Leicester, according to multiple reports.
More Stories