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A change in latitude


I’ve been vacationing in Venice, Florida for a week now – I left Teague behind to toil in the basement while I bummed around an RV park with my parents and grandparents. As you may recall, my parents are full-time RV’ers and their “home” is a Mandalay coach parked about 15 minutes from Casey Keys. It’s been real rough – long days at the beach with sunny 70’s weather every single day. I haven’t been outside for more than a few minutes since last spring, so the sun and fresh air is exhausting!


Today, we toured a mansion that would make any house voyeur smile. It was Cà d’Zan (“House of John”) – the Ringling Estate, built by John and Mabel Ringling of the famed Ringling Brothers Circus. The house is gorgeous, as are the grounds and their large art collection (mostly Renaissance) which is housed in a museum there.

The mansion is a 22,000 sq. foot “winter retreat” – Venetian Gothic, with a Turkish flair. It sits on the Sarasota Bay, with a large marble “loggia” (I’d call it a patio) for dancing and entertaining. Every window in the place, including those in servants quarters, is made up of colored glass in 4 different jewel-toned colors. The ceilings are impressive, with different painted finishes in each. My favorite was the ballroom ceiling, where each panel featured a different painting of dancers in native costumes. The Ringling’s style was eclectic, to say the least – very colorful and somewhat over the top. There are over 30 types of marble found within the house; there’s a green chandelier in the breakfast room; John bought the interior of his favorite bar and had it repurposed as his cocktail room. It’s decor is meant to surprise and impress, and does it’s job well. But how could you expect any different from circus folks?

My grandmother remembers visiting the estate many years ago, when the Ringling circus was still in full swing. It was winter, the off-season, and the entire circus troupe was wintering nearby – zoo animals, freaks, geeks, and all! It must have been quite the scene.

If you’re ever near Sarasota, I highly recommend a visit – for $15, you gain entrance to the house tour, the art museum, Mabel’s rose garden, and two museums dedicated to circus memorabilia. All fascinating in their own right.

You can also tour Cà d’Zan online:

When I get home, I’ll post some photos of the exterior and the grounds – including some very large banyan trees gifted to them by none other than Thomas Edison. It’s a place that really makes you want to zip back to the Roaring Twenties!

Comments, Thoughts, and Feedback

cole had this to say on 04.04.06:

Oh, I love, Venice, FL that is my favorite vacationing spot and we always stay right at Casey Key!

I hope to go this summer. I guess the world is a small place!

I live in FL.

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