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Ca' d'Zan

Ca’ d’Zan, the mansion of the circus king and his wife, a pair from modest midwestern beginnings, is a testimony to the Roaring Twenties American Dream. This beautiful palace home, inspired by and created in the Venetian Gothic style of the palazzos that surround the Venice canals, wonderfully evokes the magnificence and romance of Italy the Ringlings so adored. In honor of its owner, they called it Ca’ d’Zan, which means “House of John” in the Venetian dialect.  For almost 25 years, the Ringlings had been traveling around Europe, collecting circus performances and paintings. The architectural style of Venice’s Ducal Palace, Ca’ d’Oro, and the Grunwald Hotel were all favorites of theirs. The Ringlings were inspired by these palazzi when they chose to build a mansion in Sarasota, Florida, where they had been winter residents for several years. They used Sarasota Bay as their Grand Canal. The Ringlings commissioned Dwight James Baum, a well-known New York architect, to design the residence, and Owen Burns to construct it. Mable, on the other hand, watched every phase of the building, from the terracotta mixing to the tile glazing, and had preserved an oilskin portfolio packed with postcards, sketches, and pictures she had acquired during her travels. Mrs. John Ringling was so involved in the project that it was dubbed “The Residence of Mrs. John Ringling” in the original architectural blueprints. The Ringlings, one of America’s wealthiest couples, began construction on Ca’ d’Zan in 1924 and finished it soon before Christmas in 1926 for a magnificent amount of $1.5 million. Sadly, their enjoyment there was short-lived, as Mable died of Addison’s illness and diabetic complications only three years after it was completed. The 36,000-square-foot home is situated on a 1,000-foot-long and 3,000-foot-deep waterfront lot. It has a complete basement and is five floors tall. It’s made of terracotta “T” blocks, concrete, and brick, and it’s stuccoed and terra cotta-covered with glazed tile. The pink patina of the stucco and terracotta facade is highlighted by decorative tile medallions, balustrades, and ornamental cresting in soft red, yellow, green, blue, and ivory. The bayfront terrace was built with native and imported marble and was originally roofed with 16th-century Spanish tiles purchased by the builder. Ringling’s boat, Zalophus, was anchored there, and he frequently hosted Roaring Twenties luminaries such as comedian Will Rogers and New York Mayor Jimmy Walker. Today weddings, business events, and a variety of popular meetings, such as Yoga on the Terrace, are all held on the terrace. The main floor of the house has living, entertaining, and eating facilities. The servants’ quarters, as well as the Ringlings’ private chambers and five guest bedrooms, are located on the second story. A gaming area and a bath are located on the third level. A large beamed guest room and bath with windows on all four sides may be found on the fourth level. An 82-foot-high tower with an open-air landing and a high-domed roof stands at the property’s apex. According to legend, John loved taking visitors up to the tower to show them his Sarasota property holdings, which at the time stretched nearly as far as the eye could see.

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