Important information regarding Stop #20 closure and Ghosts & Gravestones boarding location:
Our Welcome Center, Stop 20, is temporarily closed. The St. Augustine Ghosts & Gravestones boarding location has changed temporarily to the Old Town Trolley Welcome Center at 1305 N. Ponce de Leon Blvd. These changes will remain until the construction of our new Welcome Center at 27 San Marco is complete (Spring 2019).
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Villa Zorayda Museum: History is Just Around The Corner

st augustine villa zorayda museum

Built in 1883 as the winter residence of Franklin W. Smith, an eccentric Boston millionaire, the Villa Zorayda Museum became one of the most fascinating places to visit in northeast Florida. Modeled after a section of the grand Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, this once lavish home now serves as a museum and is open to the public. Also known as Zorayda Castle, this unique structure has a long and colorful history. Today, Villa Zorayda continues to inspire the local architectural landscape.

St Augustine Villa Zorayda Lions Courtyard side viewBuilt in 1883 as the winter residence of Franklin W. Smith, an eccentric Boston millionaire, the Villa Zorayda Museum became one of the most fascinating places to visit in northeast Florida. Modeled after a section of the grand Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, this once lavish home now serves as a museum and is open to the public. Also known as Zorayda Castle, this unique structure has a long and colorful history. Today, Villa Zorayda continues to inspire the local architectural landscape.

St Augustine Villa Zorayda Lions Courtyard straight downIn 1913, Smith sold the home to Abraham S. Mussallem, an authority on Oriental rugs, fine arts and Egyptian artifacts. In the 1920s, Mussallem turned it into a speakeasy-casino. In the 1930s, it was opened as a museum featuring priceless collections of antiques that are still on display today.

Smith, a wealthy merchant, extensive traveler, and student of history an architecture, had the house built according to his detailed plans using his unique method of construction of poured concrete and crushed coquina shell. It is built 1/10th the scale of a section of the magnificent Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. In 1904, the building was turned into a popular club known as the Zorayda Club, featuring fine dining and dancing. In 1922, it became one of the most fashionable places for casino gambling. Realizing the building’s historic significance, Mussallem opened it as a museum in 1933. The tour gives an in-depth look at the historical significance of the building to the City of St. Augustine.

There are magnificent architectural details, such as walls made of plaster ground with alabaster using the same molds that were carved by the Moors in the 13th century for the Alhambra Palace, hand-pierced brass lamps, hand-painted tiles, exquisite furnishings, artifacts and priceless antiques from countries around the world from the collections of Franklin Smith and A.S. Mussallem.

Court of the Lions

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A Collection Obsession

Posted on March 19, 2018

Villa Zorayda Museum, a Moorish-Spanish Revival architectural gem, is a wonderful example of the obsession with the collecting of exotic artifacts by people of means during the Gilded Age.

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