The Ringling Story.

John Nicholas Ringling is the best known of the seven Ringling brothers, five of whom merged the Barnum & Bailey Circus with their own Ringling Bros World’s Greatest Shows to create a virtual monopoly of traveling circuses and helped shape the circus into what it is today.

In 1909, John Ringling and his wife, Mable began spending their winters in Sarasota. The couple bought bay front property from Mary Louise and Charles N. Thompson, another circus manager who engaged several members of the Ringling family in land investments on the Florida Gulf Coast. Ringling commissioned a 30-room mansion which was inspired by the Venetian Gothic palaces, designed by New York architect Dwight James Baum, and built by Owen Burns, It was completed in 1926 and named Cà d’Zan, “The House of John” in the Venetian dialect of Italian.

Later a museum was built on the grounds of the estate for their art collection. Because of their investments in real estate and the later development of the circus winter quarters as a tourist attraction, John and his brother, Charles are seen as pioneers in the development of Sarasota. After some 40 years in the entertainment business, along with his ownership of railroads, oil field and ranches John had became one of the richest men in the world.