Wednesday, March 18, 2015

You Are Forgiven If You Arrive Fashionably Late

(The last of my 3-part series on the Ringling Brothers Circus.)  The main house on the John Ringling estate is quite a eye opener.  John and his wife never had children, but they loved to entertain and this house was designed by and constructed with the oversight of his wife.

John Ringling and his four brothers living in Wisconsin on a farm would tour towns as jugglers and skit performers.  They were very good businessmen and soon built an entertainment empire.  Each brother had a job and John was in charge of transportation. They worked fairly and split the money equally and soon had the largest entertainment enterprise in the 1880s.

In 1905 he married Mable Burton.  It is my understanding that he gave her full reign in the construction of the house.  It was named Cà d'Zan, "The House of John" in the Venetian dialect of Italian.  Easy to see the strong influence of European design and architecture...mostly Italian baroque..  Personally I think the 30 room mansion is a little over the top for my tastes.  Yet, I am sure others find it a lovely home.  As it sits right on the water, you can imagine the terror that the curators face every time Florida gets a warning of a hurricane!

You may just be able to see the houses and keys in the distance on the horizon in this photograph above.

Does the maintenance alone not boggle your mind?  Most of the staff are volunteers.  Perhaps history or archeology or architecture or art students at Florida State University?

You do not arrive at dinner here under dressed and without grand expectations.

I think this place tries very hard to capture the elegance of Europe but ends up looking like a dictator's ego-filled palace.

But, again, I must remind myself that these people made their wealth from the entertainment industry...from the circus.  Why should I be surprised that this place has that atmosphere.  Note John Ringling's portrait behind that large brown organ.  He was a very good business man and created a wealthy life with his talent.


  1. The museum is certainly over the top---big top in this instance. I know there are a few absolute masterpieces in this collection. I recognize a Velazquez portrait in one of the pictures, probably worth around forty million.

  2. I flat out love these pictures. Thank you....yes, I bet architecture majors for sure. Have you been to Hearsts Castle yet. The two houses have a lot in common.

    That place is so much fun to visit. Barnum and Bailey moved to the west coast. Did I ever tell you my mother's maiden name? Grandfather denied that we had anything to do with any other Barnums....mother said we did. LOL

  3. I just can't imagine living in such a place but I'd sure enjoy a visit. I wouldn't say no to the train in the previous post, though. Loved that.

  4. Yes, Stephen, the art building was absolutely flat out stunning. I had never seen so many masterpieces together like that. We spent an entire afternoon and only got through two wings!

  5. ..from the circus...

    that says it all, doesn’t ?
    A grand mixture of Kitsch and art, with the Kitsch slightly predominating.

    You have to be a whip-cracking circus director to be able to live here.

  6. Perhaps the Old World style just doesn't transfer so well to the New World.

  7. When you think of the smelly old circus with all it's animals and strange people, that someone would make a fortune from it. I've mentioned before that I have a friend whose family was involved in the circus, and she gave me a whole new perspective.

  8. Garish comes to mind. It's ironic what some find desirable in a home. I can't even imagine wanting such a home-- more like living in a hotel. As you said, their life was very different.

  9. Good Lord! What a monument to bad taste!

  10. Oh yes! I can see that Venetian influence. That is an incredible looking, palatial estate.

  11. It's fantastic but, yes, more of a palace than a home.


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