Villa Zorayda Museum Saint Augustine Reviews
Villa Zorayda, the Alhambra in Florida Mar 23, 2011
The Villa Zorayda was built as the winter residence of Franklin W. Smith, an associate of Henry Flagler. Built in 1883, construction of "Zorayda Castle" began St. Augustine's revival and transformation into a resort city. As with many other historic house museums in St. Augustine, the structure itself is as important and interesting as the contents on view.
Smith was an avid traveler and loved Spain, North Africa, and the Near East. He determined his winter home would represent a 1/10 scale copy of the Alhambra Palace in Granada. He took extensive photos of the Alhambra to guide his designers and builders. The resulting structure began the Moorish Revival/Mediterranean Revival architectural movement in Florida and later California.
Today, visitors can see the house and its varied contents. The house became the Zorayda Club in 1904 and a casino and then, appropriately, the home of Abraham Mussallem, a Syrian-American dealer in Middle Eastern carpets, antiquities, and objects d'art. Mussallem opened Villa Zorayda as a private museum in 1934 and it is operated by his descendants today.
On display in the various plushly decorated rooms are antiques and art objects collected by Smith and Mussallem. The rooms are arranged around a central courtyard. The interior does follow the Alhambra's architectural details down to the design of the columns. Smith's Middle Eastern travel photos are on display. They are excellent by today's standards! But, the object all visitors want to see is the Sacred Cat Rug. Hanging on a wall in a separate room, the rug is said to be 2400 years old and made from the hairs of Egyptian cats. (The figure of a striped tomcat dominates the carpet.) Mussallem acquired the carpet from his contacts in Cairo.
Admission includes an audio tour. (We usually avoid audio tours, but we did this one and found it very informative.)
Admission is $10. Photography is not permitted. You must see Villa Zorayda!
Villa Zorayda is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Part of the Spring in the Southeast 2011 travel blog
Part of the list Historic Houses
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