Brother in the Shadow: Charles Ringling

The next Conversation at the Crocker event will be spectacularly interesting, coming as it does on the heels of the talk and booksigning by Michael Lancaster, author of The Last Laugh, on December 4.

Charles Ringling, a major influence in Sarasota County FLWhat influence did Charles Ringling, John’s less public brother, have on the economic and cultural development of Sarasota?

Two curators from the Ringling Museums, Ron McCarty (Ca’ d’Zan) and Deborah Walk (Circus Museum) will present an inter-active talk about the life, times and influence of Charles Ringling on Tuesday, December 11 at 7 p.m. at the Crocker Memorial Church in Pioneer Park at 1260 12th Street, Sarasota.

Deborah Walk of the Ringling Museum will appear at the Historical Society of Sarasota County's Conversation at the CrockerIn 1912, with the Ringling Bros. Circus in its heyday, Charles Ringling came to Sarasota to visit his more famous and flamboyant brother John in Sarasota. Subsequently, Charles and his wife Edith Ringling fell in love with the town, moved into a house and later in 1925 built a Georgia pink marble mansion on 40 acres on bayfront just north of John’s home. Eventually, the Charles Ringling mansion became the centerpiece of the New College bayfront campus as the school’s first library. Today it is called College Hall.
While in Sarasota, Charles Ringling purchased land and donated significant parcels to the newly created county. He owned 52 commercial lots and a 33,000-acre ranch. Charles Ringling developed the 10-story Sarasota Terrace Hotel and 150 Spanish-style homes. He founded the Ringling Bank and he donated land for a courthouse for the newly created Sarasota County.

Ringling Boulevard, the street between the courthouse and his hotel, was named for Charles Ringling.

When Charles Ringling died in 1926 in Sarasota at the age of 63 he was a working president of the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.
Ron McCarty is a director of the Historical Society of Sarasota County“We will be focusing on Charles Ringling, of course,” said the Ca’ d’Zan curator Ron McCarty. “But we will also be including lots of information about John and their sister Ida Ringling North to provide insight into their family holdings in Sarasota and their investments in Sarasota’s future. Truly,

the Ringling family members developed so much of what we enjoy today in Sarasota.”

The Charles Ringling event at the Crocker Memorial Church is the third in a series of year-long panel discussions organized by the Historical Society of Sarasota County and sponsored by SARASOTA Magazine. Conversations at The Crocker events highlight specific aspects of Sarasota’s past and examines pivotal events and people who have influenced Sarasota today.
All Conversations take place at The Crocker Memorial Church and proceeds from this panel discussion series help to maintain the Historical Society’s two heritage properties at Pioneer Park – the Bidwell-Wood House (1882, Sarasota’s oldest private residence) and the Crocker Memorial Church (1901). Docent-led tours of both buildings are available an hour before each of the Conversations at The Crocker events.

6 thoughts on “Brother in the Shadow: Charles Ringling

  1. The Charles Ringling family’s long-time cook, Jensie Davis, now frail and in her mid 90s, is a resident at a local nursing home. A trained chef, she has many tales to tell of the years of traveling with the family: their embracing her as a member of the family; staying only where she, a negro, was welcomed; being taken on tours of new towns with the entire family…etc. “They loved my cooking. I went everywhere with them. I had a very happy life.” A gently smiling, modest, unmarried lady, she raised the sons of her closest friend when the friend died. The surviving son is her sole visitor. She seems to have been forgotten, or is unknown to the ‘old guard’ circus folk still alive. She would be a treasure chest of memories if approached at the right time and in the right way. She is quite willing to talk about those happy times, but her strength is limited and memories need to be slowly and gently coaxed from the torpor of extreme old age.

    • D.A., thanks for your input. Our project at HSoSC, Local Historians, has filmed and saved memories from Sarasotans, but I’ll make sure our “film crew” knows of Ms. Davis. Alas and alack, there’s less than $92 left in the budget for filming. While everyone’s a volunteer, it still costs more than that to edit and reproduce a final product. Know of any folks who’d like to finance this?

      • Perhaps the simple expedient of using a cell phone would assure posterity of Jensie’s remembrance. She speaks extremely softly, and gathers her thoughts very slowly, so I’d put the $ emphasis on good sound equipment and go with still shots, or a brief action bit. To make the most of her stories, bring a stenographer with good hearing. She usually wears an old fashioned, frilled ‘bag’ cap covering her head. Her loving nature radiates around her, even in the bleak nursing home atmosphere. Don’t wait too long: her memory gets shorter and also her health. D.A.

        • Thanks, D.A. May I suggest that you contact our Site Manager, Linda Garcia, any weekday between 10 and 2, and she will be happy to get you in touch with our Local Historian chairperson. Your ideas are great, and I am sure your time and effort will be welcomed, especially since you have the all-necessary contact! Our office phone is 941-364-9076.

        • Hi D.A…. my reply is right above this. Perhaps the internet hiccuped while you were reading…. at least it’s visible on mine! I was just suggesting that you get involved with this suggestion, since you have the needed knowledge. Looking forward to it!

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