A Fabled Florida Circus Estate Hits The Market

Circus Magnate John Ringling made Sarasota, Florida the winter home of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, bringing development and wealth to what had been a sleepy Gulf Coast town. He bought St. Armand’s Key, an island in Sarasota Bay, and turned it into an upscale neighborhood surrounding a central shopping and dining circle. Then he built a causeway leading to it, naming it – of course – the John Ringling Boulevard. Wealthy snowbirds flocked to the chic enclave and, in the 100 years since then, its status as a desirable residential location has not diminished.

The fifth home erected on St. Armand’s Key is an Italian Renaissance mansion built for Lavoris Mouthwash co-founder Charles Leigh in 1936, the year Ringling died. His daughter, Marion, took over the house in the 1950s with her husband, Joe McKennon. We can only imagine the scandal that boiled when she, a high society lady, married him, a circus roustabout. 

Nonetheless, they were married for 54 years and lived at the house on St. Armand’s Key until they passed away, Marion in 1998, Joe in 2001. At that time, new owners purchased the house and named it Casa del Carnavale.

Recommended For You

Now Casa del Carnavale is for sale for $12.750 million.   

The house, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018, underwent an extensive renovation that expanded the home from 4,000 to almost 10,000 square feet.  It has five bedrooms, 6½ bathrooms and 171 feet of water frontage, including a private dock and expansive views of Sarasota Bay.

“When the current owners added to the house, they spared no expense to assure that the old and the new were in harmony,” says listing agent Lisa Rooks Morris of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty’s Sarasota – Downtown office. “They are passionate about historic houses, and they carefully used the best and most appropriate materials.”

Multiple terraces on both levels offer both private retreats and ideal outdoor entertaining spaces, all enhanced by the beautiful water views. An elegant central courtyard features a 65-foot Romanesque pool, which has arched spraying fountains and iridescent glass tile. A three-car garage, elevator, and maid’s quarters ensure premium lifestyle conveniences. Further luxuries include a wine room, billiard room and arched windows with custom impact glass specially designed for unobstructed views. Kitchen features include premium finishes and chef-grade appliances, including a Thermador gas range, double ovens and Sub-Zero refrigerators. Throughout the home, exposed beams, warm wood tones and natural stone complement custom ironwork and lend an intimate feel to generously apportioned rooms. The interior has been expertly curated with custom tapestry, textiles, mosaics, antiques and artwork, and the house is offered fully or partially furnished.

“Casa del Carnavale is the rare estate that brings together area heritage, historic design, privacy and luxurious surroundings with the best of modern amenities and conveniences,” Lisa Rooks Morris says. “Homes like this come onto the market only once in a very great while.”

Comments are closed.