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The History of The Ringling


Self-made multimillionaire and circus magnate, John Ringling (1866-1936), was one of the early 20th century’s most prolific art collectors. The Ringling is his legacy.



In 1905, Ringling married his soul mate, Mable Burton (1875-1929), a woman who shared his love for travel, art and culture.



Soon after their marriage in NJ they became fixtures in New York’s art auction scene, buying paintings, furniture and tapestries for their own growing collection.


In 1911, John and Mable purchased 60 acres of waterfront property on Sarasota Bay. In the ‘20s, they became active in the community and purchased more than 25 percent of Sarasota, including St. Armand's Circle, Bird Key and Lido Key.


In 1923, they commissioned society architect Dwight James Baum to build their dream home. The 36,000 square-foot, 4 story estate with 32 rooms and 15 bathrooms, was completed in 1926 and soon became the site of lavish garden and dinner parties frequented by New York politicians and Hollywood stars.



The iconic winter home was called Ca’ d’Zan, Venetian for “House of John”, however, it was really, as one writer later observed, truly “John’s love letter to Mable.” The house's beauty remains a testament to Mable’s determination and style.


In 1925 John hired architect John H. Phillips to design and build a U-shaped pink palace museum with 21 galleries which now houses rare antiquities alongside ancient and modern masters of art including Rubens, Rembrandt and Duchamp.



In his will Ringling bequeathed his museum to the people of Florida, a gift he hoped would achieve his vision of creating a cultural and educational center in Sarasota.


Governance of the Museum was passed to Florida State University in 1992 and has become the renowned state art museum of Florida.


Together forever in eternity, John and Mable Ringling’s grave sites now reside in Mabel’s coveted Secret Garden on the estate.


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