What do Baraboo, WI and Sarasota, FL have in common? Think three rings: clowns, horses, elephants, jugglers, trapeze artists – yes, the circus! John Ringling, youngest of the five brothers who began the Ringling Bros. Circus in Wisconsin, made Sarasota synonymous with circus throughout the world. The Ringling brothers had purchased the Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1907 but operated the two separately until 1919. It was at that time that the Ringlings moved their circus winter quarters from Baraboo to Bridgeport, CT where the Barnum & Bailey Circus wintered. John, the only surviving brother, then moved the winter quarters of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the Greatest Show on Earth, to Sarasota in 1927.
John Ringling and his wife, Mable, purchased waterfront property in Sarasota in 1911 and built an incredible mansion, Cà d'Zan, on the site. Their palatial home was built in the Venetian Gothic style and means “House of John,” in a Venetian dialect. We took a small group guided tour of the Ringlings' home and learned more about the couple. Apparently if a guest was not favored by John, he would make that person sit at the dining table with his back to the beautiful view of Sarasota Bay!
|Cà d'Zan has been described as the "last of the Gilded Age mansions" to be built in America.|
|Ceiling decor in one of the rooms.|
|The chandelier in the grand entrance.|
One of the prettiest parts of the 20-acre estate was Mable’s rose garden. Simple flowers, Nature’s beauty. None of the gauche trappings that could be seen in the mansion.
Probably the best part of the visit was at the Circus Museum where we learned about the world’s largest miniature circus from the creator of this work himself, Howard Tibbals, a master model builder and philanthropist. He was at the Museum for the grand opening of a wing he funded. It was pure serendipity that we happened to be viewing the miniature circus exhibit when Mr. Tibbals was explaining to a local newspaper reporter how he fashioned this model of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (circa 1919-1938) over a period of more than 50 years. Mr. Tibbals did his research from thousands of images of the circus and used glass plate negatives from our Circus World Museum in Baraboo. Rick couldn't have been more pleased to meet this incredible craftsman and asked many questions as we toured.
|Howard Tibbals with his model of the circus train.|
|Horses in the circus parade that enticed the townspeople to come to the circus.|
|Posters like these can also be seen at Circus World Museum in Baraboo.|
This is it for Florida wanderings. Next time we’ll be closer to home.