Spanning a period of 64 years (1936-2000), the estate once owned by John Ringling, The Circus King, has become a museum in every sense of the word. Originally intended as a place to display his art collection, the home and grounds were willed to the State of Florida in 1936. After many court battles, the property became the responsibility of Florida State University in 2000 paving the way for much-needed restoration and preservation.
Construction began in 1925 for Ca'de'Zen (House of John)consisting of 41 rooms and 15 bathrooms. Occupying five stories above a full basement, this 36,000 square foot structure is filled with the finest furnishings and architectural features of the world including the original sixteenth century Spanish tile roof.
Beginning at the courtyard, visitors are treated to a sculptural recast of Michelangelo's David and three replicated fountains of Rome. In addition to 21 original galleries, a new wing was built in 2000 devoted to a special collection of Asian art. Adjacent to the courtyard are the rose gardens created by Mable Ringling in 1913. Today, this Italian-inspired, 27,000 square foot garden contains roses of many colors and descriptions. 2006, saw the gardens designated as #1 Public Rose Garden on the All American Rose Selections listing.
No Ringling tour would be complete without visiting the Circus Museum. Begun in 1948, the museum contains exhibits of original wagons, costumes and other circus paraphernalia including, the railroad car used for travel by John Ringling and his wife. This 79-foot coach, built by Pullman, was designated Wisconsin, for John Ringling's home state. The Tibbals Learning Center area contains the world's largest circus in miniature. Carefully constructed over a period of 50 years, this ¾ inch-scale exhibit contains tents, animals, performers and the 57-car train used to transport the circus all around the USA.