This floating castle appears to be from an enchanted fable, but in actuality it is Europe's best preserved Renaissance water castle.
This intricately tiled building dubbed “Ca’ d’Zan” was the winter home of the American Ringling Circus owner John Ringling and his wife Mable. Both admirers of the Venetian aesthetic, the home is designed in the Veneitan Gothic style and its name translates to “House of John” in the Venetian dialect.
After years of traveling abroad, the Ringlings decided to purchase land in Sarasota, Florida to build a permanent winter home that would serve as both their home and a museum for their collection of art and artifacts. Inspired by Venice’s Ducal Palace, Ca’ d’Oro, and the Grunwald Hotel, the couple commissioned New York architect Dwight James Buam to design the home.
At five stories tall and more than 36,000 square feet, Ca’ d’Zan reflects every bit of the opulence of the Roaring Twenties. Decorative tile medallions, balustrades, and ornamental cresting highlight the pink patina of the stucco and terra cotta exterior. Spanish tiles from the 16th century lined the roof, and its bay-front terrace was built with imported marble. Ultimately the lavish estate would cost more than $1.5 million to build – the equivalent of around $22 million today.
Mable was heavily involved in the design and construction of the home, offering a portfolio of postcards, sketches and photos collected during her travels as reference material. She oversaw every aspect of construction, and was so involved that the original architectural plans referred to the home as “The Residence of Mrs. John Ringling”.
Sadly, Mable passed away three years after its completion in 1926. When John died a decade later, he left the estate to the people of Florida, but lack of funding led to its eventual deterioration. Conservation efforts in the 1990s restored the house to its former glory, and today Ca’ d’Zan is considered one of America’s architectural treasures.
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