Step inside a real Castle and visit the Villa Zorayda! The Villa Zorayda Castle or Zorayda Castle as it is sometimes referred to is a beautiful, historic mansion located in the old district of St Augustine FL. Built by Boston millionaire Franklin Smith in 1883, the Zorayda Castle was designed to resemble a smaller version of a larger 12th century Moor palace, Alhambra Palace, located in Granada Spain. Smith had made his fortune selling hardwares and had moved to Florida upon hearing from a doctor that the warmer weather and leisure lifestyle might be a cure to his liver ailments. He had long been a dreamer and a follower of architectural design. Smith used his creatively and designed Villa Zorayda; he named the Castle after characters from Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra and this is how the Zorayda Castle began. Today the Villa Zorayda Castle is open for tours and is filled with unique antiquities from around the world.
In 1904 the Villa Zorayda became the Zorayda Club and, much like other clubs in the area at the time, it catered to the rich upper class that visited the city during that time. Today, visitors can see the original bone china that patrons to the club used during this time. In 1913 it was purchased by prominent citizen A.S. Mussallem and in the 1920s it became a popular resort for casino gambling. A decade later however, it had been transformed into the museum that it is today, and since then the renowned Castle has served as a resting spot for the collections of both Franklin Smith and A.S. Mussallem, and it has undergone extensive renovations. In addition to housing priceless items including Oriental rugs, fine art, Egyptian artifacts including a 2,400 year old “Sacred Cat Rug” that is made from ancient cat hair from Egypt, the castle also offers guided tours.
The Villa Zorayda Castle is just one of many great local Attractions situated in the historic district. Places like the Old Jail, Old Towne Village, and the Lightner Museum are fascinating attractions that everyone should visit. When you stay in one of our featured B&B’s, it’s easy to hit them all. Plan a fantastic Vacation and browse the information on our site.