Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Greetings from Tampa/ St Pete

Welcome to Florida, sunny, hot, and not so humid, for right now Florida. I have come to take care of some business and in the process visit a few cousins in the Tampa/St. Pete area. This area has grown remarkably in the ten or so years I have been away. For right now, however, we shall go to old Florida and to neighboring Sarasota to visit John and Mable Ringling's little Venetian Palace home - The Ca de Zan on Sarasota Bay.

I am not going to get into all details but suffice to say that it was completed in 1926 when there were no taxes and the Circus still was a major form of entertainment. John bought a chunk of this area (66 acres remain) and now as the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art http://www.ringling.org/ adjacent to a complex of Florida State University, it functions as a cultural complex for Sarasota.

Ca de Zan entry gate

House approach
Detail of tiled compass
Main house was designed by NY architect Dwight James Baum and built in two years! Main Patio Courtyard. Designed to resemble the outdoors with furnishings from major NY properties such as the chandelier from the Old Waldorf Astoria (currently the site of the Empire State Building).
Terrace Surrounding House where major parties were held.
With my cousin Marilyn on the stairs to the boat dock where Mr. Ringling's yacht and Mrs. Ringling's Gondola used to dock.
The old swimming pool now filled in as a garden.

One of many Banyan Trees, Ficus benghalensis (native to Asia), originally gifted by Thomas Edison who lived down the road in Fort Myers. Eighty plus years since they were planted they are massive trees with buttressing branches throughout the grounds.

The Flamboyant Tree or Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia). Native to Madagascar and widespread in all tropical climates because of its glorious scarlet flowers and elegant shape.

Guess what? Another AARS Rose garden part of Mable's historic garden.

Besides the home and lush grounds there are numerous other buildings displaying Circus memorabilia, a fabulous miniature display built by a man named Howard Tibbals that comprises thousands of figurines evoking a full circus complex, and a traditional art museum with yardage of religious Renaissance art. This museum includes paintings by everyone from Titian, Velazquez and numerous other well and lesser known artists. It is not the Uffizi. On a high note, there were great traveling contemporary exhibits, in particular "Picturing Eden" a photographic exhibit.

The 18th Century Asolo theater appears to be a gem transported here from Italy in the early 1950's. A Royal Theater created to honor the memory of the Queen of Cyprus, Caterina Cornaro, is used today to show films and live performances. I say appears, because I did not see it. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I don't usually take no for an answer to matter of this nature, but all the charm and deviousness I could muster did not get me in.

Circus memorabilia: the Fabulous Flying Zacchini Cannon for human cannonballs

Detail of Tibbals Big Top Miniature
Ringling Museum of Art Italianate Courtyard

John and Mable and John's sister now are lulled by the condenser units a neighboring mansion's air conditioning. They must have been located elsewhere as the stones indicate they were interred here in 1991. What an inglorious place to finish one's stay when they gave so much to entertain so many. Below, a gardenesque vista on the property that might better serve should anyone want to relocate them again.

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