Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Ringling Estate and Art Museum in Sarasota

(Click on photos for larger images.)

The John and Mable Ringling Estate is a large campus that includes the Art Museum, Circus Museums, Ca d'Zan mansion and the historic Asolo Theatre. The Ringlings are famous for their part in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

The circus overwintered in Sarasota, Florida in the early 20th century. The number of people, animals, and equipment that moved with the circus was enormous. It was like moving an entire town by railroad. When you think of a circus the first thing you picture is the performers and their animals, but there was so much more going on behind the scenes. There was a different set of tented stables for the performing horses and work horses. A large group of animals was part of a menagerie kept in its own tent as a traveling zoo. There were blacksmiths, carpenters, mechanics, cooks, set designers, and costume designers to name a few skilled workers that traveled with the circus.

The calliope is a steam powered organ. It is in the Circus Museum along with a lot of other colorful wagons and animal cages that were part of circus parades.

There were trams to take you around the park. This tram stop is in front of the Ca d'Zan mansion. Ca d'Zan means "House of John" in Venetian dialect. It was the winter residence of John and Mable Ringling and was constructed in the 1920's. It is an enormous Venetian style palace by the water.

The place is so ornate that it's gaudy, but when you think of circus people living here, it fits. This photo is of a room used as a dance hall.

The ceiling depicts couples dancing. Each segment has different characters in colorful costumes. If you look closely you'll find that one of the couples is John and Mable Ringling in costume. You can tell that the mansion wasn't just for John and Mable. The rooms on the lower floors were for entertaining a lot of people.

This facade faces the waters of Sarasota bay. The floor of the terrace is made of colored marble. There are so many details to marvel at. After we left Ca d'Zan we got on a tram headed for the famous Ringling Art Museum.

We were in awe when we stepped into the Art Museum's courtyard.

Here's a gilded room in the Art Museum. As amazing as it is, we didn't make it through the entire Art Museum. There is so much to see here.

You can get a map of the grounds at the ticket counter. I recommend picking out the things you want to see most and going there first. It's hard see it all in one day. You can also plan your visit using the web site

As we were leaving I heard circus music playing in my head. I thought of a sign in one of the Circus Museum buildings that reads "May All Your Days be Circus Days."

Open Daily 7 days a week 10am - 5:30pm
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Days

Adults $20
Children (ages 6-17) $7
Children under 6 Free of Charge
Discounts for Seniors, Teachers, and Active US Military personnel

Parking is free.

More photos of the Ringling Estate and Art Museum in Sarasota, Florida

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