John Nicholas Ringling

• John Nicholas Ringling was born May 31, 1866, in McGregor, Iowa, and died December 2, 1936.
• He was the son of a German immigrant harness maker, the second youngest boy in a family of seven brothers and one sister.
• In 1882, when John was 16 years old, the Ringling family moved to Baraboo, Wisconsin.
• In 1884, five brothers (including John) joined with an experienced circus showman to create “Yankee Robinson and Ringling Bros. Double Show.”
• In 1885, the Ringling brothers became the sole proprietors of the “Yankee Robinson and Ringling Bros. Double Show.”
John was the “advance man;” he scheduled, contracted, and arranged circus bookings.
• In addition to the circus, John Ringling invested in railroads, oil wells, real estate, and theaters. In his heyday, his estimated worth was $200 million in capital assets.

Mable Burton Ringling

• Mable Burton Ringling was born March 4, 1875 in Moons, Ohio, and died on June 8, 1929.
• Little is known about Mable during her youth.
• On December 29, 1905, John and Mable were married in Hoboken, New Jersey. She was 30, and he was 39.

The Sarasota Years

• In 1911, the Ringlings purchased 20 acres of waterfront property in Sarasota, Florida. This included a house built by one of Ringling’s circus managers, Charles Thompson.
• The Ringlings began spending winters in Sarasota in 1912. They became involved in the community, bought real estate, and at one time, owned approximately 25 percent of Sarasota’s total area.
• In 1927 John Ringling moved the winter quarters of the circus from Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Sarasota.
• John Ringling intended to build a Ritz-Carlton on Longboat Key. During his travels to Europe, he began collecting stone, columns, fountains, bronze copies of antique and Renaissance statuary, and barrel roof tiles for the hotel. His plan never succeeded and many of these elements appear today on the Museum complex and Cą d’Zan.
• An art dealer from Münich named Julius Böhler often accompanied the Ringlings in their travels. He became John Ringling’s consultant in buying art (later to be housed in The Ringling Museum of Art).

Cą d’Zan

• In 1924, construction began on the Ringling’s new Sarasota home, Cą d’Zan, which means “House of John” in Venetian dialect. The house was completed just before Christmas 1925, at a cost of $1.5 million and the Ringlings moved in during November of 1926, just before the death of Charles Ringling that occurred on the neighboring estate on December 3, 1926.
• Dwight James Baum of New York was the architect and Owen Burns was the builder.
• John and Mable Ringling greatly admired the unique architectural style of the Danieli and the Bauer-Grunwald hotels, and the palaces (palazzos in Italian) that face the canals in Venice, Italy. The architectural style is called Venetian Gothic.
• Mable had an oilskin portfolio filled with postcards, sketches, photos and other materials that she gathered on her travels to aid the architect with his design.
• The house is on a site 1,000 feet long (waterfront property on Sarasota Bay) and 3,000 feet deep.
• Cą d’Zan is a 200-foot long mansion encompassing approximately 22,000 square feet with 32 rooms and 15 bathrooms.
• The structure has four stories. The main floor includes living, entertaining and dining areas. The Ringling’s private bedrooms as well as five guest rooms encompass the second floor. The third floor consists of a game room and bath, and the fourth floor is a great, beamed guest room and bath with windows on all four sides. The pinnacle of the structure is a 61-foot tower with an open-air landing and a high domed ceiling.
• Cą d’Zan is constructed from terra cotta “T” blocks, concrete, and brick, covered with stucco and terra cotta, and embellished with glazed tile.
• Decorative tile, medallions, balusters, and ornamental cresting in soft red, yellow, green, blue and ivory complement the pink patina of the stucco and terra cotta exterior.
• The terra cotta molds came from the molds and kilns of Oram W. Ketchum of Pennsylvania.
• Mable personally supervised the mixing of the terra cotta and the glazing of the tiles.
• The original roof was made from 16th century Spanish tiles imported by the builder Owen Burns.
• The entrance door is fashioned in a Renaissance style. The exterior is weathered walnut and the interior is faced with polished mahogany. A copper and wrought iron screen designed by Dwight James Baum covers the outer door.
• The Court, which was originally planned as an open court, was used as a living room by the Ringlings. It measures 50 x 65 feet with a 30-foot ceiling.
• Furnishings and decorative objects from the 17th through the 19th centuries were installed including:
      • A dining room table accommodates 22 chairs and 20 leaves.
      • A crystal chandelier from the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York hangs in the Court
      • An Aeolian organ in the Court has 2,289 pipes and is installed in a chamber hidden by tapestries on the 2nd-floor balcony.
      • A plaster dining room ceiling, painted to look like wood, is decorated with designs from unset cameos belonging to Mable.

• The bayfront terrace is made from domestic and imported marble; the steps are veined English marble.
• John kept his yacht, Zalophus, docked at the bayfront terrace. A gondola for Mable was docked at a small island (that no longer exists) just off the terrace.
• Paintings in the home are by Flemish/Dutch, Italian, Spanish, and French artists including Langetti, Sorine, Devouge, and a collaboration between Mazo and Velązquez.
• John Ringling died in New York in December 1936. Although he willed his residence, the Museum of Art and his art collection to the State of Florida, legal battles went on for a decade until the title to the property finally passed unencumbered to the state. Cą d’Zan was closed during this time.
• The mansion reopened to the public December 1946.
• In 1996 the restoration and conservation project began on the exterior; the mansion was closed in January 1999 for the interior work to be completed. In April 2002 the mansion reopened.
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, in its affiliation with Florida State University, is the largest museum/university complex in the nation. It preserves the legacy of John and Mable Ringling, educating and enabling a large and diverse audience to experience and take delight in a world-renowned collection of fine art; Cą d’Zan, the Ringling historic mansion; the Circus Museum; the Original Asolo Theater; and historic architecture, courtyard, gardens and grounds overlooking Sarasota Bay.


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