In the late 1960's, Disney began clearing land on the east side of the Seven Seas Lagoon, across the water bridge from the Contemporary. The Venetian was going to complement the Asian Resort, which was to be built across the lake. Here is the plan for the two resorts on the lake:
The Venetian was going to be a series of canals and buildings to imitate Venice, Italy. It was going to possess a glass ceiling lobby to let sunlight in. The resort's central figure was to be a replica of the campanile of St. Mark's Square. The transportation boats to take guests to the Magic Kingdom would roll through the canals of the resort and take hotel guests on tours of the replica city.
The idea for the resort never came to fruition, for two main reasons. First, the land on that spot was determined far into the project to be unsuitable for supporting buildings. Foundation would be laid and sink into the unstable ground. One will notice that to this day, there is nothing at all built on the land between the Transportation and Ticket Center and the Contemporary Resort. It is one of the few blank spaces visible in Walt Disney World. In addition, the oil crisis of 1973 put a hold on Disney's construction of all kinds, most especially hotel ground-breaking.
The savvy reader will notice that the idea of a Venice-themed area did not disappear forever. Today's Italy pavilion at Epcot is very close to the idea of the Venetian Resort. Even the idea for canals and boat tours was seriously considered as an attraction for the Italian Pavilion. The boats on the waterfront were originally built to be part of this attraction. As they say, a good idea at Imagineering never truly dies.