Closed from 2000-2008, the Villa Zorayda Museum has undergone an extensive renovation and is once again open to the public as a museum. On the National Register of Historic Places, it was built in 1883 as the winter residence of Franklin W. Smith utilizing his method of construction of poured concrete and crushed coquina shell. It is built 1/10th the scale of a section of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. This building set a precedence for St. Augustine and began the Moorish Spanish Revival style of architecture that is seen throughout the city today. In 1904 it became the Zorayda Club. On display for the first time ever is the custom made bone china made exclusively for the Zorayda Club.
In 1913 it was purchased by Abraham S. Mussallem, an authority on Oriental rugs, fine arts and Egyptian artifacts. In 1922 it became one of the most fashionable places for casino gambling. Then, in the mid 1930s, it was opened as a museum featuring the priceless antique collections of both Franklin Smith and A.S. Mussallem which are still on display today. The 45-60 minute tour gives an in depth look at the historical significance of the building to the City of St. Augustine, the magnificent architecture, as well as descriptions of the many exquisite pieces you will see. On display is the “Sacred Cat Rug” over 2400 years old and made from the hairs of ancient cats that roamed the Nile River. Taken from a pyramid in Egypt it is said to possess a curse for anyone that walks on it!
If you are interested in more information on the most interesting Franklin W. Smith you can read more details on his life here.
Recent restoration of the Villa Zorayda Museum