A charitable gift by Gulf Coast donor and history lover Julia Cousins Laning would enable the City of Venice to purchase and renovate a building to serve as the permanent new home for the Venice Archives.
Subject to Venice City Council approval and completion of the purchase, the single-story building on Milan Avenue will be converted into a much-needed, state-of-the-art facility for housing the City’s extensive collection of historical records and properties. The location would keep the Archives connected to Venice’s Cultural Campus, home to the historic Triangle Inn, which will continue to operate as the City’s historical museum.
“Venice and my family have a shared history. My parents helped hold this City together during the dark days of the Depression,” said Mrs. Laning, who first lived in Venice as a young girl in the 1920s and ’30s and returned for good in 1970. “I want to ensure that the stories and archives of this City that I love are protected for future generations.”
Once renovated, the new facility will enable the City to consolidate an archival collection that is currently spread across multiple facilities. It is anticipated that the building will provide both storage of and public access to the archives.
“The acquisition of this property and proper restoration of the Triangle Inn would relieve concern about the City’s archives, which are now housed in three or four different locations,” said City Manager Edward Lavallee. “Mrs. Laning’s primary interest is preserving the archives, and this is a wonderful opportunity to meet that intended objective. We are so grateful for her vision and generosity.”
Laning—who actually lived in the Triangle Inn when it was operated as a boarding house by her mother in the 1930s and who volunteered there in later years—made a historic, $1-million gift in 2011 for the purpose of expanding the archives. While some of that contribution has paid for a feasibility study and other planning for a potential new history museum annex to the current Venice Museum and Archives, the opportunity to immediately secure an available home for an appropriate archival facility was too good to pass up.
With the support of the City’s Department of Historical Resources and the historical preservation nonprofit Venice Heritage, Inc., Laning has directed the necessary funds from her original gift to be used to purchase and renovate the building. The funding will be paid as a grant from Laning’s charitable fund at Gulf Coast Community Foundation to the City of Venice.