John Ringling was one of the five original circus kings of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, was blessed with entrepreneurial genius and through his success with the circus and other investments, became quite wealthy. In 1911, John (1866-1936) and his wife, Mable (1875-1929) purchased 20 acres of waterfront property in Sarasota, Florida. In 1912 the couple began spending winters in Sarasota and later decided to build a home there. Their property included a house built by one of Buffalo Bill’s circus managers, Charles Thompson. The Ringlings dreamed of helping Sarasota develop into a metropolitan boom town and they became involved in the community, bought real estate, and eventually owned approximately 25 percent of Sarasota’s total area.
The couple’s first project in Sarasota was the splendid Venetian Gothic mansion Cà d’Zan, built between 1924 and 1926 for a then staggering sum of $1.5 million. Mable had developed an affection for Venetian buildings on their travels and collected sketches and photos to incorporate into the design of the house which reflects both her and John’s taste and passion for opulence. She supervised the construction of the house with architect Dwight James Baum, designer of several New York mansions.
In the spirit of America's wealthiest Gilded Age industrialists, John Ringling gradually acquired a significant art collection, including paintings by Peter Paul Rubens, Velàzquez, Poussin, van Dyck and other Baroque masters, as well as rare antiquities from Cyprus. He built a palace for his treasures in a 21-gallery Museum of Art on his Sarasota property.
(Information came from the Ringling-Museum-of-Art website.