Considered to be the last of the Gilded Age mansions constructed in the United States, the Ca d'Zan mansion, overlooks Sarasota Bay, as the former home of John and Mable Ringling, the world famous circus king and his wife. Called the "House of John" in the Venetian dialect, it would begin construction in 1924, when the Ringling Brothers circus was at the height of its fame and glory; and would take more than a year to complete in the Venetian gothic style, with a stupendous cost of $1.5 million, which was quite a sum at that time. It was designed by Dwight James Baum, a New York architect, and constructed by local developer, Owen Burns. The couple loved the city of Venice and desired to have their winter retreat resemble the numerous structures they saw when visiting the beautiful city on their numerous trips to Italy. They choose the location on Sarasota Bay because it resembled the area around the Grand Canal of Venice, with many design elements taken from the many homes and other structures they liked in that city; with Mable having a portfolio of postcards, drawings, photographs and other materials from Venice that would assist the architect in designing their magnificent mansion. It is 200 feet long, with 36,000 square feet of living space, in 41 rooms and 15 bathrooms. It rises five stories and that includes a full basement, which is very unique in the state, and the highest place of the house is the belvedere tower that is 81 feet long and contains an open-air overlook. The spectacular mansion has terra cotta T-blocks, brick and concrete on its exterior, then covered over in stucco and ornamented with bright, shiny glazed tiles. The magnificent terrace that fronts the bay is made from imported and domestic marble and the tiled roof is built using 16th century tiles imported from Spain. The interior decor is dominated by red and gold, with reproduction Louis XV furnishings purchased from the main auction house in New York, which are fantastic and beautiful showcasing the extravagance of the Gilded Age period. Almost 95% of the materials still maintained in the mansion are those original pieces that had been hand picked by Mable. There is also a great amount of artworks, inside the home, since the couple had been great collectors and admirers of art. Their collection contains more than paintings and sculptures; with many old tapestries that spread across centuries. The interiors of the closets would even be hand-painted with bucolic scenes of the Venetian countryside. Mable passed on in 1929 and John followed her in 1936, with the fabulous estate becoming the property of the state in 1946, after a lot of red tape. Sadly, the estate would remain empty until the 1990s, when it would be added to the list of the National Register of Historic Places. A $15 million rejuvenation would begin in 1996, and finished in 2002, bringing it back to its original state or as close as possible. Enterprise Rent-A-Car has many locations in the city where you can rent a vehicle to ride out and look over the estate and other attractions in the area. It is the best car rental company in the state and will do more to help you than all the others. Enterprise wants to be your rental car company.
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The state art museum of Florida is found in Sarasota, at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, started in 1927 as the legacy of the couple, for the people of the state, with the Florida State University taking over the operations of it in 2000. This fabulous facility has twenty-one galleries filled with European paintings, Asian, American and contemporary art and Cypriot antiquities. The collection houses over 10,000 objects that include many paintings, prints, photographs, decorative arts from the ancient period to the contemporary period and around the globe, drawings and sculpture. The most famous pieces of works in the museum are the 16th, 17th and 18th century European paintings that include a world famous collection of Peter Paul Rubens paintings, with more works from the likes of Gainesborough, Boudin, Marrioto di Cione, H. C. Van Vliet, Cranach the Elder and Wright of Derby. Altogether, over 150,000 square feet of exhibition space has been added to the campus that includes the Ringlings' mansion, the art museum, circus museum and Ca d'Zan, that have been restored, as well as the historic Asolo Theater. Completely new are the Tibbals Learning Center, the Miniature Circus, Visitor pavilion, the Education and Conservation complex and the Searing wing that is a 30,000 square foot gallery that is just for special exhibitions linked to the art museum. If you are visiting from another area, the finest and most comfortable way to travel the region is to rent a new model vehicle from the great folks at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Enterprise offers a complete line of rental vehicles, the best staff, knowledgeable in the region so they can help you decide what type of vehicle they might need and any other helpful hints that will make your visit the best ever.