Florida history buffs might want to borrow a truck today and head south.
Furniture and artifacts from the old Ringling Towers, built in 1926 as the El Vernona Hotel in downtown Sarasota, will be sold and auctioned today by Sarasota Architectural Salvage.
The items were removed in 1998 before the building's demolition after it was determined it couldn't be preserved. Three trailers of relics from the Towers were salvaged, recorded and packed away. They had been stored by the Ringling Museum until now.
The auction will include Spanish and Persian tiles, pecky cypress beams hand-painted by Robert Webb Jr., old steel casement windows and sections of walls.
There will be between 400 and 500 of the cypress beams offered, said Jack Rich, a sales associate with Sarasota Architectural Salvage. He said buyers can expect to pay market price for the beams, which are in the style of those now seen in the Renaissance Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg — massive cypress with faded, but colorful, stenciling. The price will be up to $1,500 for a 9- by 16-inch by 10-foot beam. But smaller and more budget conscious items are also available, and, Rich noted, you get a great deal of history for the price.
Indeed, the former hotel was designed by architect Dwight James Baum, who had been tapped by circus magnate John Ringling to design his mansion, Ca d'zan. In 1926, Baum finished the El Vernona Hotel, working with builder Owen Burns, and it opened on New Year's Eve.
Ringling bought the El Vernona and renamed it the Ringling Towers in 1929. For decades, the bustling six-story hotel catered to movie stars, politicians and European royalty. But the building lost its prominent role in Sarasota's social scene by the 1960s, and it was transformed into a humble apartment house. By 1980, it was vacant and dilapidated.