Dateline: Sarasota, Florida where we spent yesterday morning touring the Ringling Museum.
John Ringling, along with his passel of brothers, bought the Barnum & Bailey show in 1907, beginning a remarkable ascent to wealth and fame for Ringling and his beloved wife Mable.
In 1911 they began amassing real estate in Sarasota and moved the circus winter quarters here in 1927. Ringling was at one point the 13th wealthiest man in the country but like so many others, was doomed by the Great Depression to lose most of his wealth. He died in 1936 with only $311 in his bank account! However, he did manage to leave an incredible legacy to Sarasota when he bequeathed to the state of Florida his mansion and extensive art collection.
It is a must-see in Sarasota. Yes, the adventure is a bit steep at $25 for adults and an additional $10 to tour the mansion, but just like the circus, it turned out to be worth the price of admission.
We actually got to go for free because our dear friend Rosanne, a recent Sarasota transplant, paid our way. Rosanne and I go way, way, way back, our long friendship hallmarked by the fact that neither of us would have met our husbands without the other. Lots of good memories together. Here she is with the CE on the lovely grounds of the Ringling Museum:
We began our tour at the Circus Museum, which is chock full of memorabilia from its heyday in the early part of the 20th century.
Old as we all are, I think most of the items we saw pre-dated us, although there was a certain whiff of familiarity. I guess almost everyone has a childhood memory of being terrified by a clown, right?
Everything in the museum is on a grand scale:
It was edifying to see that chickens were apparently as entertaining back in the day as they are now:
The most impressive exhibit is a vast, impeccably accurate scale model of the Howard Bros. Circus from the 1920’s:
From the circus building, we strolled the lovely grounds for a bit
and wended our way to the art museum.
Some of the exhibits remain closed, presumably due to the impact of the pandemic, but Ringling’s impressive collection of Italian and Northern European art more than satisfied our curiosity. Front and center are the Triumph of the Eucharist paintings by Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens. My favorite was The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek:
Each room of the museum is filled with treasures.
And the grounds outside the art museum are lovely.
There is even a monumental replica of Michelangelo’s David:
After a lovely lunch at the Ringling Grillroom, we meandered over to visit the magnificent Ca’D’Zan: “House of John”.
Completed in the mid-1920’s at a cost of $1.5 million, the mansion is somewhat reminiscent of the grandeur of the “cottages” at Newport, Rhode Island, but with a definitive Italian accent.
The most stunning thing of all is its sighting at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. Just incredible! The oceanfront footage is so expansive it isn’t possible to get a representative photo. You will just have to go see it for yourself.
What a lovely time we had. I’m far too old to dream of running off to join the circus but this was a very fine substitute and all at the exquisite edge of the sea. Perfect day!