Friday, November 09, 2007

The OTHER Ringling Mansion in Sarasota

(NOTE: Please forgive the poor photographs. I hadn't brought my camera when we stumbled across this and I only had my cell phone with me)

A couple of months ago, my parents, myself, and Sonosaur went to the beautiful and fascinating Ringling Museum in Sarasota, FL. I have plenty of pictures from the trip, and I will eventually share them with you. We've been going there on pilgrimages at least once a year for my entire life.

But on this last trip, we discovered something that none of us had known before. Apparently John Ringling's brother lived in a mansion on a piece of property next door to the Ringling Mansion and although it's been kept up by the local university, it is not part of the tour. Remember that they all got their money from the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus, so there were many brothers who did quite well, although it was John who 'discovered' Sarasota in the early 1900s and attempted to entice people to build vacation homes there.

During our exploration, we found that the front door was unlocked, and I am going to show you the pictures of THIS place first (they're not the greatest because I only had my cell phone with me at the time).

The home is built lavishly, according to Ringling standards, but is more of a true home than the schmaltzy John & Mabel Ringling home. Sadly, it's been converted to offices for the local college, so many rooms were inacessible or altered. Perhaps some day they'll refurbish this mansion, and include it in the tour.

I'll start out by telling you about the marvellous wrought iron entrance, concealing massive wooden doors:

Here are the doors as seen from the inside of the mansion:

This is an exterior shot of the mansion, showing the color of the stone:

These are pictures of the backside of the mansion. Note there are actually two homes. We now know that John Ringling housed family on his grounds, but I'm not certain as to who owned the mansion on the right. Both mansions are conjoined by a covered walkway that is original to the structures:

This is what you see when you first enter the front doors of the rosy mansion on the left:

Here is a close-up of the fireplace in the front entryway:

This is a view to the left of the front doors:

This is a view from the mansion, looking out the front doors:

If you have just entered the doors, and you look to your right, here is what you'll see:

And if you keep going to the back of the room, there is an entryway on each side that leads to a back porch. This is what you see:

If you're standing in the entryway again, and you go to your left, you will walk through some massive mahogany doors and down a couple of steps into the ballroom, which is made of polished mahogany.

If you look up, this is what you'll see:

Look at the handpainted ceiling details (I truly regret that I didn't have my camera with me that day).

On the side adjoining the house is a built-in pipe organ (below). Interestingly, there was a side door open as we went down the steps, and we peered in to see a pit that descends below the house, with a ladder. It's apparently there so that the pipe organ can be easily maintained from behind the scenes. However, we didn't venture down into the pit so we have no way of knowing. What's odd is that in Florida, we have a high water table, so I'm not sure how it could stay dry down there.

The room takes up the entire side of the house, from front to back. Here is a shot of the other side of the ballroom:

We did go upstairs, but rooms are locked and as I said before, they are all now being used as office space. There were some marvellous views over the water, and it seems such a shame to waste all this on a handful of faculty members and the occasional janitor. They include the family bedrooms and servant's quarters, and I sincerely hope that the university there has not altered this mansion from it's original schemata.

I understand that not much of this mansion is truly used, and so perhaps there are plans to bring it back to it's original splendor with furnishings and paintings and the opulence that the Ringlings loved.


M@ said...

Yeah, I rented a place like that in college.

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

That place is beautiful, and does make a statement.

Looking at mansions can be so much fun, and if you are anything like me, it is an opportunity for one's imagination to take over and dream too.

Love those windows and arch-ways.

Three Score and Ten or more said...

I always carry my camera (except when I am going somewhere REALLY interesting and beautiful). I really enjoyed your pictures. I have toyed with the idea of a cell phone camera, but am haunted by the realization that, since I am usually without my camera when I see something interesting, I'm afraid that I would end up without my phone too. ;->

The Lazy Iguana said...

Neat. If I were the university president - guess where I would be living?

The place will probably never get restored due to cost concerns. The furnishings may have been sold off, or the place could have been empty when the university took it over.

mckay said...

fabulous pictures, cell phone or whatever. you certainly captured the feel of this beautiful place. thanks for showing me something i may never see in person.


United We Lay said...


Anonymous said...

its weird- i was writing about a mansion and i wanted to look up info about them but i didnt hav time so i waited until later and this is exactly how i pictured it for my book, amazing

Anonymous said...

yeah I go to this school. We use this building for classes as well as faculty offices. And no the president doesn't live in College Hall, his office is in the white building which was the daughter's house (Cook Hall). They did actually refunish the place for Christmas one year, apparently it was amazing. But it does indeed belong to New College and we like it.

Marco said...

The Charles Ringling residence (mansion) was a secret to me as well, and I grew up in Sarasota. I only discovered it in 1996 when I was commissioned to paint the Grand Staircase mural for the Mistletoe Ball
benefiting a local charity. The acoustics are fantastic all through the building, and the Music/Ballroom was used quite regularly by its residents and invited musical afficianados. Truly a hidden treasure.
Thanks for showing it, and 'good job with your phone!
Artfully yours, Marco Bell

Anonymous said...

I got married and had my reception here. Only cost $500 to rent if you or a person you know is a studedent there. I think we were the last wedding to be able to use the dinning room of the house. Great place! Needless to say our wedding pics came out GREAT!

Anonymous said...

I had my wedding and reception here. Only cost $500 to rent if you or someone you know is a student. I think we were one of the last renters to be able to use the dinner room of the house. Needless to say we have some GREAT wedding pictures!

Anonymous said...

I went to school here and got married here. The building is used for offices, classrooms (which is fantastic for the students), weddings, and many other events/ I don't think there is anything wrong with that. There are many opportunities for the public to attend concerts, lectures, and fancy parties at the mansion. It is a beautiful place for students to study and many of us have presented our Thesis in this building. Much more practical, cost-effective and flexible than being turned into a dusty old museum. How many museums let you walk around for free?

bokeelia said...

Thank you so much for sharing these pictures. I never knew about this mansion. Hopefully, it will one day be restored to its full glory.