House museum SarasotaLet me warn you that Sarasota, in addition to being home to some of the finest museums & house museums & gardens in the United States, is well-populated with an abundance of the best antique stores in the country. I have made many happy purchases there! (Hubby says, “Too many!” but really, what does he know?)

Some town history- in 1763, the area was dubbed, probably by the Spaniards, as “Zarazote.” The town was incorporated in 1902 & then as a city around 10 years later. There is a definite ambiance of age everywhere you go in the city.

When I want to expand my Florida house museum experiences outside Tampa Bay, it is a delightful day trip. If you are taking the kids (or yourself) to Disney in Orlando, it is just over 2 hours. But check Google Maps. There’s almost some bit of construction slowing things down to a crawl.

If you want to make a longer trip of it, you can lie on Sarasota’s white sand beaches.  Visit the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium with more than 100 species of marine animals. Touch a stingray. Their shark tank is enormous with over 100,000 gallons of water!

For those of you who prefer mammals, there’s also Big Cat Habitat where you can do yoga with tigers.


And well, yeah, the antique shops. So, let’s hop in the old Caddy & go.


The Ringling is a 66-acre complex of attractions, each one extraordinary in its own right. I’ll start with the Museum of Art. Completed in 1930 as a gift to the people of Florida, Ringling, an avid collector of art, sought to widen the knowledge & curiosity of the wider world. Please read the history of the museum on its page on the site so that you can understand the true magnificence of this gift.

Walking through the courtyard that joins the galleries you are transported to a world in which beauty reigns supreme & you get a glimpse into the genius & sheer vitality of Ringling.

Circus Museum

Ringling museum sarasota elephant ladyIn 1927, Ringling made Sarasota his winter headquarters & many performers relocated there, generously donating costumes & other memorabilia from the earliest years of the circus here.  Again, view the website for images of the museum displays. There you are transported to an era when the circus announced its coming with colorful posters & when the train arrived, gathered the town for a circus parade down Main Street complete with a brass band, elephants blanketed in spangles & bejeweled carriages pulled by horses  wearing headdresses.

As a child, until I attended school, I wore only costumes, refusing to appear in regular clothing. I was a ballerina, a mermaid, a bride, a tightrope walker, draped with all sorts of ornamentation that my dear mother cheerfully provided for her imaginative daughter.

In this museum I saw what my little girl self had so clearly imagined when she adorned herself in her mother’s cast-offs- hoop skirts & sparkles & tassels & feathers & tutus & shoes that laced to the knee. After hearing my mother’s stories of her own childhood in the early 20’s, seeing these colorful, period items were a fantasy come true.

You can also see a real circus wagon complete with calliope that was used in the parade when they arrived in town to invite everyone to come to the Big Top!

Wait, there’s more. There’s a miniature circus complete with the circus train that runs through old towns to arrive at its destination. You see tiny people who set up the tents, the bleachers, the mess area. Again, the early world of my mother tales which made it all the more wonderful for me.

Please let me know about your visits to the museum in the comment section below. I hope it touches you as it did me.

Ca’ d”Zan
(House of John)

Ringling Muesum House SarasotaThat’s the Venetian. In Italian, it would be Casa di Giovanni. Much less exotic, they made the right choice!

Ca’ d”Zan is John & Mable Ringling’s 36,000 square foot home, modeled on the great architecture of Venice. It displays a number of architectural styles, including that of Venice, Italy, Spain & the Moors from different historic periods. The Venetian Gothic influence predominates. The style is likely to have originated in the 13th Century & experienced a revival in the 19th Century inspired by the writings of my buddy, John Ruskin whose quote about the nature of the home introduces the blog.

As amazing as the architecture & interior features are, the furniture & décor are astonishing in their beauty & opulence. The Ringling’s were world travelers & collectors & every piece was chosen to enhance the beauty of the house.

I am not a big fan of displays of wealth, but I have to admit that house museums, from modest settler houses to grand mansions are my favorite places to visit. Again, look at the website to see images of this amazing house but realize, it doesn’t compare with what will what you will experience gazing at the ceiling of any one room.

Bayfront Gardens

Ringling museum woman in the gardenThis garden, completed in 1913 under the watchful eye of Mable Ringling, has everything I love, rose gardens, banyans & a Dwarf Garden. My mother & grandmother grew roses & you already know how I feel about them! I love banyan trees because they are so Florida & so ancient. Though native to India & Pakistan, they escaped cultivation & in all of North America, they grow only in this state.  Their branches grow roots that grow down into the soil & these roots can become as large as trunks, making a single tree look like a thicket.

Here I am in my favorite overalls, having a lovely respite in the garden after a day of being bedazzled by the museum. The statuary is extremely lifelike & adds an intriguing bit of life to the gardens.

Historic Asolo Theatre

By the time I made my way to the theatre, I was completely exhausted! So, just see what the website has to say about it.

Please let me know about your experiences in these places that are so dear to me. Feel free to comment below!


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Florida-historic-carFlorida’s history museums & historic museum houses tell a 3D tale of the state & the land boom of the 20’s that cannot be fully expressed in any book, though I have to admit that I did a pretty good job in the historic documenatry film I produced!

The financial momentum of the times was astonomical! I am not trying to lure you away from my blog, but this page clearly explains the culture of the times. It is a fascinating & enlightening read.

Welcome back!

A great many of these homes were bungalows, a style not too different from the houses built by the early settlers, with deep porches, prominent overhangs & an abundance of large windows. After several years of coaxing, American Bungalow Magazine came to Florida & featured homes in 4 neighborhoods in the central part of the state. You can read about them on my Instagram page.


Dunedin-Florida's-history-museumDunedin History Museum
“Where History Comes Alive”
I love this friendly, quirky little museum. The last exhibit we saw there was “Jagged Lines: America’s Tattoo Tradition,” focusing on the evolution of tattoo art.

The Museum collections contains approximately 2,000 artifacts, 2,500 photographs, & a library of 200 volumes of local & State history. Their permanent exhibits feature statewide topics such as the railroad & citrus industries, but the best ones are regional topics such as Dunedin’s multicultural origins, pioneering families, & even the story of the development of the alligator tank used by the U.S. Marines during WWII in the Pacific.


Largo-Florida's-historic-house-museumHeritage Village
Explore this 21-acre living history museum located in its natural pine and palmetto landscape. Included amongst the structures & exhibits is the Turner House, built in 1915, of the Florida vernacular bungalow style of that time period.

The house was bequeathed to the County, along with $100,000 in moving costs & the contents of the 1915 bungalow. Now let me explain when I say contents- 6 pages of documented items, including: “furniture, accessory items, lighting, artwork, mirrors, wall pieces, toys, school memorabilia, linens, clothing, shoes, hats, costume jewelry, kitchen furnishings, tableware, cameras, clocks, radios, fans, china sets, glassware, serving pieces, decorative glass, pottery, vases, figurines, Belleview Biltmore items, sporting goods & more.

Some of the notable items include an 1860 quilt, silver plate flatware set from 1921, state license plates from 1949-1953, a child’s pedal car from 1933 and a 1940 Clearwater High School class ring.”

These items are on display at the museum of the grounds & sweep you into the life of this family whose story is told in photos, maps & sign around the museum. The house is not yet open, needing much work to make it safe, so stop by & pitch in a nice donation so that you’ll be able to actually tour the house in the future.

Tampa-Bay-Florida's-history-museumTampa Bay History Center
A Smithsonian Affiliate museum, the History Center includes three floors of permanent and temporary exhibition galleries in 60,000 square feet, focusing on 12,000 years of Florida’s history, heritage & culture, focusing on Tampa Bay.

It offers many permanent & changing exhibits as well as activities in which you can learn about the area, including:
Docent-guided walking tours of Tampa’s historic sites and neighborhoods,
A monthly book group focused on Florida literature. The event is free with registration,
Florida Conversations is a free, monthly lecture series highlighting research into Florida history,
As well as many activities for children & teens.

Tampa-Florida's-historic-house-museumCracker Country
I discovered Cracker Country, a living history museum of old rural buildings from the late 19th Century, which were relocated to the Florida State Fairgrounds when we had come to see the fair, but I was much more interested in the old buildings & demonstrations of early settler skills than in rollercoaster rides. (Well, not really. I was there for the gardening displays, the crafts & the corn dogs.)

The key features of living in Florida are the heat & humidity & the resultant awful creatures. The homes of Cracker Country display great ingenuity of design in creating dwellings in which people could experience some degree of comfort through shade, ventilation & elevation.

You can see the bungalow in these early designs. Our homes tend to have large porches, & deep overhangs, tall windows & lots of ‘em.\

Tarpon-Springs-Florida's-historic-house-huseumThe Safford House Museum
Although the main draw in Tarpon is the sponge docks & commercial/tourist area, I enjoy trotting around the historic downtown area & driving through the old residential areas built in the late 1800- early 1900’s.
A great attraction is the 1883 Safford House Museum, restored to its original Victorian splendor, which was the home of one of the city’s original developers. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the house is a fine example of late 19th century Florida vernacular architecture, & complete with period furnishings & family possessions, it provides the full flavor of upper-class living in the state as it was developing.

Take the opportunity to visit Florida’s history museums & historic museum houses. It’s the only way to discover the true flavor of the Sunshine State.

If you’re a local, all these museums & homes need your volunteer skills. Your participation will provide you with a great learning experience & reward you with warm friends as mine did.


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