Most Christmas trees are cleared out by New Year’s Day, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that Sarasota’s Ca D’Zan, the mansion where America’s most famous circus family lived, was still decked out for the holidays this week. And why not? The 36,000-sq-foot Venetian palace, which sits on the Sarasota Bay as if it were a cleaner, bluer version of the Grand Canal, certainly isn’t short on space. They can leave the Christmas decorations up for as long as they want.
Yesterday was my first time inside Ca d’Zan, which means “House of John” in Venetian dialect and was built for John and Mabel Ringling in 1925. Twice before, I had visited The Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, FL, which consists of several buildings that includes Ca D’Zan. The first time I went to the museum, in February 2009, I was very taken with the dramatic exterior of Ca d’Zan but it was too late in the day so they had stopped admitted visitors.
So I wrote this post, focusing on the amazingly intricate Tibbals Miniature Circus that’s housed in another building. The second time I went to The Ringling Museum in February 2011, I spent all of my time in the main art part, totally taken by Ringling in Bloom, an innovative exhibit where floral designers created arrangements to match the masterpieces. Three times is a charm because yesterday I finally made it inside Ca D’Zan.
I didn’t take a guided tour, so I just walked around the ground floor, where I found plenty to see — and photograph.
This Gilded Age mansion could easily compete with the Newport, RI, mansions. It would also fit right in with the mansions in Sintra, Portugal, about which I’ll be posting soon. Seems like I can’t get enough of historic mansions these days!