Sarasota Museum offers insight into the unique legacy of John and Mabel Ringling


With an 18th-century theater, two museums, a Venetian Gothic mansion, and a world-class art collection set on a 66-acre arboretum, the Ringling Art Museum is unlike any other museum in the Bay Area.

“This place is absolutely amazing,” Virginia Harshman told the Ringling Art Museum.

John and Mabel Ringling began traveling to Sarasota in the early 1900s and eventually bought a house where the Ca ‘d’Zan is now located.

“La Ca ‘d’Zan was their winter home here in Sarasota,” Harshman explained. “They built it between 1924 and 1926.”

A TANK TRIP: Sarasota’s Ca ‘d’Zan is filled with architectural beauty and a great love story

The Ringlings often traveled to Europe to check out circus acts, but while they were abroad, they bought works of art and antiques.

“If John and Mabel were alive today they would have an HGTV show,” Harshman joked. “They bought things from castles that were being demolished. They bought things from mansions in New York that were being demolished and a lot of those things are incorporated into the Ca ‘d’ Zan and at the Art Museum. “

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The Ringling Museum of Art officially opened as a museum in 1946. The Circus Museum also opened in the 1940s to educate and inspire.

Harshman said visitors would often comment on how strange it was to have such a unique collection in one place, but she says it was John and Mabel Ringling who tied it all together.

Mabel died in 1929 and John died in 1936, but left the property, mansion, and art collection to the people of Florida.

CONNECT: Find out more about the Ringling Museum of Art at www.ringling.org.

About Carlos V. Mitchell

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