Ringling and His Extended Family: A Journey Through Ca d’Zan

From Derrida we learned that an archive should not maintain an agenda, nor should it push for a particular journey for those who wander through it; it should be largely unconcerned with what those wanderers find within. An archive, we learned, is not meant to be a story. This not does mean, however, that we can’t take a reprieve from our fevered discoveries within the archive and step into a new kind of trove: the homes of the archive’s creator, and the very personal, human stories that can be found there. As we were led through each room of the Ringlings’ Ca d’Zhan–and the houses that flank it on both sides–we learned about the people who had lived in them, and gained rare insight into the family that stretched for miles and miles across the Sarasota bayfront. Our zealous guide gave to us information we would never have found anywhere else: a collection of interweaving stories and dramas preserved inside the beautiful Venetian style columns of Mable’s cherished Ca d’Zhan. It is one thing to learn about the Ringlings as a power family, a circus family, collectors of rare art and givers to the Sarasota community, but it is another to see the homes they built for each other, the spaces they used to gather together. The houses on this bayfront, home to not only John and Mable, but also their siblings, their nieces, nephews, and distant relations, were built with a deep love for family, and a desire to keep close to each other as they raised their children, collected their art, and stretched their influence. It is not only beautiful because of the divine aesthetics and tasteful design, it is beautiful because it was home to a close family who lived beside each other for many years, changing and growing together.

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–Katia Diamon-Sagias

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