The Villa Zorayda is hard to miss. On your way downtown, you may spot a colorful and vibrant castle at 83 King St.
The illuminating and majestic Villa Zorayda is a time capsule of an era of extravagance and magic in the ancient city. You can come by for a tour or just circle the building to immerse yourself in the impressive scale and the fascinating emblems from this 12th-century inspired classic castle property.
The Many Influences within the Villa Zorayda History
The property does not date back quite as far as many of the ancient city’s more antique landmark sites. But, it does capture the essence of the St. Augustine Renaissance by the turn of the 20th century, when big land developers, including Henry Flagler, were bringing massive wealth and community to this seaside village.
In 1883, Franklin W. Smith built the building using textile and architectural inspiration from the Moorish Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. The property was to be his personal home. This wealthy developer from Boston founded the Boston YMCA, danced at Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration ball, and collected worldwide art for his newly-built castle.
The property spent the intervening years as a museum and art collection, utilizing pieces gathered by Smith and others throughout the 20th century. In 1993, the property was officially declared part of the United States National Register of Historic Places.
The Art of the Villa
As a visitor, your main introduction to the Villa Zorayda will be through its eclectic collection of antique art and architecture. The ground alabaster is designed to authentically replicate key features of the Alhambra Palace.
Arabic script is displayed near the front entrance, similar to that of the palace. Traceries cover doorways, fireplaces, and other features of the villa, with hand-painted details meticulously crafted to embody that of Spanish and Arabic architecture. The furniture is artistically rich, directly from the 17th and 19th century.
The art is vast, displaying sincere influences from Spain, the Middle East, Egypt, and more. Art includes oriental rugs, decorative tiles, fine art, and sculptures, among many others.
After extensive renovation, the property is primarily a museum. But, it has been historically utilized as a restaurant, wedding hall, a nightclub, and a hotel. The owners may still hold the property for special events and other showcases.
Touring the Villa Zorayda
Tours are open to the public. This will give you and your family access to the bountiful collection of inspired eastern art, as well as views of the rooms and the history chronicling Franklin W. Smith and his time in St. Augustine.
Tours are $10 per visitor. Children ages 7-12 are $5 and children 6 and under are free. Senior discounts of $1.00 apply ($9 admission). The museum is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with restricted hours on Sunday to 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Villa Zorayda Museum in St Augustine is an exemplary look at high culture, integrating influences from virtually all over the world. It is one of the city’s top attractions and a draw for anyone wanting to learn more about the luxurious history behind St. Augustine’s 20th century Renaissance.
Admission at the Villa Zorayda Museum in St Augustine
Adult tickets are $10 each, tickets for seniors and military are $9 each, children age 7-12 are $5, and children under 6 years of age get in free.
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