Along with visiting some friends on the way home from Florida we wanted to stop in Sarasota and see The Ringling where the Circus Museum is. The Ringling is the name for the acreage that contains the home of Mable and John Ringling, the Ringling Art Museum and the Circus Museum. We arrived at the gate about 9:15 in the morning and were one of the first in when the grounds opened at 9:30.
The gardens are available for viewing early but the museums don't open unti 10. We wandered pathways that were peacefully shaded by huge banyan trees. Banyan trees develop roots that actually grow from their branches down to the ground. They are called prop roots because as the tree spreads out, the roots keep the branches from breaking off. The roots become so numerous and large on the older trees that sometimes it's hard to figure out which is the original trunk.
On to way to the mansion called Ca' D' Zan or House of John, we happened upon Mable's rose garden and I stopped to take a few pictures of the blooms glowing in the morning sun. Mable loved roses and the garden is well kept in her honor.
A secret garden bordered a walkway nearer the mansion and behind the garden that bedded a variety of blooming plants, were the graves of the Ringlings. I would have lingered a bit to read the headstones but a two foot long black snake slithered across the walkway and ruined my appreciation of the secret garden. I gingerly walked back to the main walkway.
The Ca' D' Zan sits on the water's edge and its resemblance to Venice and all things Italian is no accident. The Ringlings, and mostly Mable, loved Italy. They visited often and searched for the things they wanted to include with their mansion. While it was called the house of John, it was really Mable's and if I remember correctly, was deeded to her.
Our time there would not be long enough to tour the mansion but we walked around the outside and admired the stained glass windows, the huge terrace overlooking the bay and across from the city of Sarasota, and the magnificent entry doors and facade. Mable spent years decorating and putting the finishing touches on the thirty-two room and fifteen bathrooms. I'm sure it was quite spectacular inside. Unfortunately Mable would only get to live there a few years before she died.
The story of John and Mable Ringling is fascinating and deserves more exploration. I did not realize he was an art collector and a real estate developer in addition to having a diversified collection of investments as well as the famous circus begun by him and his brothers. The death of his wife and the stock market crash of '29 all but wiped him out. He continued however the construction of the art museum the couple had wanted to leave as a legacy and even though he was counseled to sell the collection when he fell into debt, he managed to finish the museum and in 1936 upon his death, the museum along with the other property was willed to the state of Florida.
If we ever get back to Sarasota, we need to put the art museum and the mansion on the schedule to visit. This trip, though would be dedicated to visiting the Circus Museum.