In May of 2018 restoration of the swimming pool in front of Ca’ d’Zan began. This project was a dream of long-time Keeper of the Ca’ d’Zan, Ron McCarty.
“Visitors viewed a completed restoration of a world famous structure, Ca’ d’Zan, with a sinking swimming pool as their approach to the front door!” McCarty lamented. “The pool was the first thing you saw, and now it will match the beauty of the setting that Mable Ringling had planned in 1924.”
The restoration was generously funded by the David Bolger Foundation, and at the Bolger Family’s request it is named in honor of McCarty, who retires this August. “I am so very thrilled to be part of this project,” McCarty said, “And to have it dedicated to my 38 years of service was the kindest thing ever done for me during my years here.”
The 70 by 36 foot swimming pool, designed by Ca’ d’Zan architect Dwight James Baum, was built in 1924, concurrent with the mansion. The sides of the pool were lined with white marble, while the exterior, crescent-shaped bench, and diving stand were adorned with Spanish-style hand-painted tiles.
After John Ringling’s death in 1936 Ca’ d’Zan fell into a state of disrepair. A $15 million dollar restoration overseen by McCarty began in 1996. International Fine Arts Conservation Studios (IFACS) and preservation specialists Stevenson Architects were brought in for that initial restoration, and both have been involved with ongoing projects at The Ringling, including the swimming pool. “They were so wonderful to work on Ca’d’Zan’s restoration with since 1998, when we started the interior restoration of the mansion, and have become family to me,” McCarty shared.
“We were awarded the Swimming Pool Restoration Project in January 2018, with the proviso that we couldn't commence the work until Antiques Roadshow finished filming and the wedding season had finished,” IFACS CEO Geoffrey M. J. Steward said. “The project was commenced on the 7th of May, to be completed by August 20th, 2018.”
The swimming pool could not be restored following its original design due to safety considerations for visitors, so instead it has become a shallow reflecting pool. The pool had been filled for many years with soil and mulch for visitor safety. During early excavations in May of this year, beautiful sky-blue ceramic tiles were uncovered on the pool’s floor. These tiles have been replicated for the newly raised floor of the reflecting pool.
Mable Ringling, highly involved in every aspect of designing Ca’ d’Zan, placed the swimming pool in full view of the Solarium. This room, off the north side of the mansion, is where visitors enter for tours of the Ca’ d’Zan today. In the Ringling’s time the windows were not glassed in but open, and from this cool, tiled space John and Mable’s family and guests could watch over bathers in the pool.
A beautiful white marble replica of the ancient Greek statue Venus D’Medici has been restored to its original place as the focal point of the swimming pool. The Ringling welcomes over 400,000 visitors each year; now, they will see this stunning water feature on their approach to the one-of-a-kind 1920s mansion. Not just Mable’s, but Ron McCarty’s vision for the house is finally complete.