The Big House

Secrets of the Ca d'Zan

Curator Ron McCarty on what may surprise you about John and Mable Ringling's Italianate mansion.

By Ilene Denton April 8, 2016

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Ron McCarty, curator of the Ca' d'Zan, John and Mable Ringling’s regal Italianate mansion on the grounds of the Ringling Museum, will share “Secrets of an American Palace Revealed” at 7 p.m. this Tuesday, April 12, at the Historic Crocker Church. His talk is part of the Conversations at the Crocker series sponsored by the Historical Society of Sarasota County, free for members and students and $10 for nonmembers.

McCarty has been a Ringling Museum employee since 1980 and in charge of the Ca' d'Zan for the past 17 years. He oversaw the seven-year, $15 million restoration of the Ringlings’ magnificent House of John. (Fund raising began in 1995, and the home reopened in 2002). 

We asked him what three things about the Ca’ d’Zan would surprise most people.

  1. “The size is always shocking: 36,000 square feet. When you see the house you don’t automatically think of it as so immense, but when you’re touring it, you realize it’s a lot larger than you imagined. [John's] brother Charles’ house just to the north of it [on the New College campus] is a little over 18,000 square feet.”
  2. “The home cost $1.5 million to build. In today’s dollars, that’s over $100 million. Construction was completed in 1925 and Mable decorated through 1926. It’s the most important historic house on the west coast of Florida.”
  3. “We just found out The Ringling was No. 2 in the country for adult tours for museums in fiscal year 2015. [The Ringling conducted 9,052 adult tours last year, everything from free docent-led tours of the Ca d’Zan to the “Private Places” tour for an extra fee.] Only the Metropolitan Museum gave more adult tours in 2015.”
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