Saturday, February 09, 2019

Frogma Goes to Florida Day 4 - Ca D'Zan, the Ringling mansion in Sarasota

Tuesday and Wednesday were our coldest days in Florida - all the way down in the low 60's (brrr break out the sweaters!), so a great day for some historical house/museum-seeing. Unfortunately our mom had ended up having a bout with food poisoning overnight (pretty sure it was the portobello burger she had for dinner because we'd been doing a lot of sharing of food during the day, that was the only thing she'd eaten that nobody else had tried, and the rest of us were fine), she'd been up all night and although she was through the worst by the time my sister and I were getting up, she was too wiped out for sightseeing, and our dad of course wanted to stick around to keep her company while she recovered. They'd both visited our day's destination, The Ringling, on other trips to visit the old friends whose invitation had brought us to Florida, so of all the things we did while we were there, this was actually probably the best day for them to take a quiet day at the lovely little VRBO on the canal while my sister and I visited John and Mable Ringling's glorious winter home and some related exhibits.

I didn't know ANYTHING about the relationship between Sarasota and the Ringling Brothers, but I do remember that there were 2 things that caught my eye just as we were leaving the airport - a wood stork standing by a drainage pond (5 minutes outside of the airport and already a cool bird!) and then just few minutes later a GIANT CIRCUS BIG TOP! A quick Google tonight after recalling that finds that that's the home of the Circus Arts Conservatory, and this is part of a major tradition in Sarasota, which calls itself The Circus Capital of the World. Hmm, interesting, I googled that too to make sure I was getting the phrase right (I was thinking it might be "of the USA" but then if it's the circus it's gotta be superlative so of course it's OF THE WORLD, duh!) and apparently Peru, Indiana also lays claim to that...well, I'm not going to chase that down tonight but there may be 2 circus-related books I need to read sometime - one about Peru and then a biography of John Ringling. Haven't picked one out yet but I don't think I've ever come away from visiting one of these open-to-the-public historic mansions with near as much interest in learning more about the lives of the people who had it built.

It was just so much fun, over the top, and loudly gorgeous. I bet there were plenty of rich people at the time it was built who looked down their patrician noses at the Ringlings and their Gulfside Italianate palace (I can just imagine some dusty old corners of Old New York sniffing "Hmph! Circus people! Gaudy!") but at the same time all but the snootiest must have had some little corner in their heart that maybe envied the Ringlings for the sheer verve they had in the way they spent their money. Kind of like Malcolm Forbes Sr. used to do with his motorcycles and his hot-air balloons - I do think income inequality is a problem in this country today, but for all that, I have a certain admiration for somebody who has that much just flat-out fun with their money. Not so much "If you've got it, flaunt it" as "If you've got it, ENJOY it". Know what I mean?

The glory days of "The House of John" were long gone when John Ringling passed away, but I'm so glad that the mansion was restored and remains open to the public today. We of course also went to the Circus Museum and the astounding Howard Brothers Circus Model (the world's largest miniature circus) but I'll save those for another day. Here are a few shots of the exterior of Ca D'zan. The roses and the  banyan tree other day were all from the grounds here. Like to read more about the place and how the Ringling Brothers became such a household name? Here's a good piece about that that I found while looking up some stuff for this post. I think you'll see why I'd really like to read a biography of John Ringling - it's quite a story.

Only photos after this, click for a slideshow view. Sadly, no photos allowed inside (worth googling if you're interested though, a search for "Ca D'Zan interiors" will find you plenty). Enjoy these, though! 


songbird's crazy world said...

Great photos

bonnie said...

Thanks! The place was just so beautiful!

Haralee Sleepwear said...

Very Cool. I had an old college boyfriend who dropped out of college to become a circus clown. He went to the Ringling Clown college in Sarasota. I met him years later when the circus was in town. He married a trapeze artist!

bonnie said...

So many of us imagine we'd like to run off and join the circus - takes real dedication to actually do it though!

Rebecca Olkowski said...

I know circuses are getting a bad rap these days but they were fun when we were young. What a fun place that must have been. Gaudy for sure but that's part of the charm.