Sunday, April 7, 2019

C' d'Zan Mansion

Ca' d'Zan, was a Venetian Gothic residence in Sarasota, Florida, which was the winter home of the American circus owner, developer and art collector John Ringling and his wife Mable. They had been traveling throughout Europe for nearly 25 years, acquiring circus acts and art. They both greatly admired the architectural style of Venice’s Ducal Palace, Ca’ d’Oro and the Grunwald Hotel. When they decided to build a home in Sarasota, Florida, where they had been winter residents for a number of years, The Ringlings took these palazzi as their inspiration, and Sarasota Bay as their Grand Canal. Ca’ d’Zan, means “House of John”, in the dialect of their beloved Venice.

One of America’s wealthiest couples, the Ringlings started building Ca’ d’Zan in 1924 and completed it shortly before Christmas in 1926 at the then princely sum of $1.5 million. Mable, who had kept an oilskin portfolio filled with postcards, sketches and photos she had collected during her travels, oversaw every aspect of the construction. The home was built from terra cotta “T” blocks, concrete and brick, it is covered with stucco and embellished with glazed tile. Decorative tile medallions, balustrades and ornamental cresting in soft red, yellow, green, blue and ivory highlight the pink patina of the stucco and exterior.

Sadly, only three years after its completion, Mable died from Addison’s disease and the complications of diabetes. When John Ringling died in December of 1936 he bequeathed his estate to the people of Florida, but legal wrangling with his creditors went on for a decade until the property finally passed unencumbered to the state. During this time Ca’ d’Zan remained closed. Finally, in 1946 it was reopened to the public, but still in a state of disrepair. It was so run down it was used as Miss Haversham's Mansion in the 1998 production of Great Expectations.

Restoration of the home was finally completed in 2002, at a cost of $15 million, ten times that of the original house, Ca’ d’Zan was returned to its former glory and reopened as the grandest mansion on Florida’s sun coast. Today it stands as one of America’s architectural treasures.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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